THE RAISING OF LAZARUS : What it tells us about Jesus (Part 2)

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John 11:21-27 (ESV)

A blessed and joyous Easter to one & all! Resurrection Sunday is our day of JOY! We are celebrating the glorious and absolutely stunning victory of God in Jesus Christ for all creation. It is a victory to be experienced more fully in our lives and a victory to be shared more widely with the world (Jn 3:16). 

In the first part of our meditation on the ‘raising of Lazarus’ last week (BFOJ, 25 March 2024), we noted that the Gospel of John was written and structured to answer the question “Who is Jesus?’ We focussed on the words “Jesus wept” (v35). In His bursting into tears as He shared in the mourning of the sisters and the gathered people, Jesus reveals that the living God is not remote from our lives. God’s appointed  Saviour is empathetically in touch with the deepest of human pains. Jesus experiences our pain in this fallen world , comforts us in our sorrows and is well able to transform our sorrow to joy in His time.

In this week’s meditation, our focus is on the conversation (11: 21-27 ) that our Lord had with Martha when He first arrived on the scene. We observe that Martha believes in the power of Jesus’ prayer   but she is yet to realise the power of Jesus’ personhood : “ Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died, even now I  know that whatever you ask from God , God will give you.” (v 21-22). 

Jesus then encourages her up the ladder of faith by saying: “ Your brother will rise again.” (v23) . To which, Martha confesses the belief she holds with many pious Jews that there will be a general resurrection of the dead at the end of this age, and those found to be righteous with God will live forever in God’s perfect kingdom (Dan 12:2-3). 

At which point, Jesus presses His claim to be co-equal with God as the Giver of life when He says : “ I AM the resurrection and the life … everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (v25-26). That is to say, that all who personally trust Jesus will not taste death in any final, foreboding sense even though they physically die. This is because those who trust Him as Saviour & Lord are given ‘eternal’ life – the life of the glorious, unending age to come which begins now in the believer! 

“Do you believe this?” (v26) – Jesus is asking not just of Martha but of each one of us today.

 And ‘the sign’ given to the sisters and the people at Lazarus’ tomb is that He will raise Lazarus back to this life again. Although Martha has a high view of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world,” (v 27) , it appears that she has not yet come to the confessional height of faith that Jesus is the  ‘divine Son of God’, the One eternally begotten of the Father (Jn 1:1-14) who has authority over life and death. That is why Martha is the first to protest when Jesus commands that the stone at the entrance of the tomb be removed (v39). She does not expect Jesus to raise her entombed brother  then & there. 

In raising Lazarus from the dead , Jesus demonstrates His authority as the unique Son of God. When He says to Martha that “you would see the glory of God” (v40) , it would seem that Jesus meant more than seeing the glory of God in raising her own brother from the dead , she and we too would see the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead points to and is surpassed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the progression of “the signs” that knits the gospel of John together , it could well be that the beloved disciple intended the bodily resurrection of Jesus to the unending, consummated life of the age to come to be the final sign of who Jesus is and the seal of God’s victory on His finished work on the Cross. 

As we put the two parts of this devotional on John 11 together, we can sing again with radiant faith and joy that poignant hymn ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’ , knowing that the Friend we have along life’s journey is no one less than the DIVINE SON OF GOD who loves us and for whom nothing is too difficult. We go beyond this to recognise that our Friend is also the appointed LORD OF THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. 

And so may it be that this Easter , we cherish Jesus afresh through songs of adoration  and proclaim Him in unmuted word and deed to our community and to the ends of the earth. Endless glory be yours Lord Jesus Christ , in the unity of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit! You are our Comfort, our Joy and our Testimony! 

Rt Rev Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat

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