THE RAISING OF LAZARUS : What it tells us about Jesus (Part 1)

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
John 11:32-35

The Gospel of John was written and structured to answer the question “Who is Jesus?’ Its purpose is that the reader or listener might reach the same conviction  as the apostle : that Jesus is ‘the eternal Word that became flesh’ (Jn 1:14). The author’s  intent is made explicit  when he says that “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God , and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn 20:31). 

The raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-46) comes towards the end of the progression of “signs” in the book to point us to Jesus’ true identity and what He came to do.

Jesus reveals that the living God of the universe is in touch with our deepest pains. Jesus wept as He proceeded to the tomb where Lazarus had been laid four days earlier ( 11:35 ).  He burst into tears as He entered the sorrow of Lazarus’ two sisters and those bitterly mourning the premature death of Lazarus. 

The passage indicates that Christ was already provoked to intense indignation and was deeply troubled by what, we have good reason to believe, was the misery and darkness of death in the scene before Him. Darkness and death, brought about by human sin and its power exacerbated by Satan the destroyer, marked the human condition that Jesus had come to deliver us from. The raising of Lazarus would demonstrate that. But even so, Jesus was not so battle-charged that He could not share the deep sorrow of the people He was with. His love for them flowed through His tears. 

Christians also grieve at the loss of loved ones. If the loved one belongs to Christ , we grieve but not as those without hope ( 1 Thess ) . This is because we know that Christ has conquered death and that those who trust Him are alive in God’s glorious presence when they close their  eyes on this side of eternity. What the narrative on the raising of Lazarus is teaching us is that “hope-filled grief is still grief.” To our great comfort, both Christ and our Father in heaven share that grief with us. 

What do you do with the deep pains in your life? Do we deny them ? Do we avoid encountering the pain by staying as busy as we can ? Are we liable to find  comfort through the harmful means of drink , drugs and illicit sexual relationships? On the other hand, there is positive help to be received through Christian counselling and care. Without pitting God and the sound means by which He helps us , the point of this Scripture passage is that we are invited to bring our deepest pains in life to Christ. This is because He shares our sorrow and the deep pain of our woundedness. The hymn writer who wrote “ What a Friend we have in Jesus” was spot on! 

There is more to what the record on the raising of Lazarus is conveying to us about Jesus. Jesus is a ‘Divine’ Friend in every sense of the word . More of that in the Part 2  instalment next week . 

For now , as we enter Holy Week and behold our Saviour taking those final steps to the  Cross which will lead to His own empty tomb, let us adore Him who weeps with us in our pain but whose love will transform our sorrow into joy. Its only a matter of time. Drink deeply then from the well of His love at the foot of the Cross. 

The love of Jesus is deeper than our deepest pain!

Rt Rev Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat 

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