John 11: 1 – 16

11 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

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11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

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The opening sentence of John chapter 11 is quite brief and to the point, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  It almost sounds very impersonal, like some kind of fictional story.  It might go like this: “There once was a man called Lazarus.  He was a very sick man.”  That sounds more like a fable than a historical narrative, doesn’t it?

To make sure that his readers knew we are dealing with a real story, John gave us some important historical context as background to this story.  We learn that Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary, the latter sister being well known by early Christians as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her hair and her tears.

We also learn that Jesus loved this man Lazarus.  Not in a bad or inappropriate way, but as one who had become a very dear and close personal friend, along with his two sisters.  It is in light of this close personal friendship that Jesus had with this family that makes some of Jesus’ words and His actions so strange, and yet also so wonderful and miraculous.

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You would think that once Jesus received the news that Lazarus was deathly sick that He would immediately set out to go and be with the family.  Instead, He states that his sickness would not end in death, and He delayed His departure for two more days.

The second incredible thing that Jesus said was that out of this situation both God the Father, and He, God the Son, would receive glory out of what was happening.  And what exactly does that mean?  Probably a better way to translate this is to say that people would give praise to God and His Son because of what was happening and what was about to happen.

Wow!! How contrary this is to how many of us respond to sickness and death today.  Isn’t it true that when we or someone we care about gets extremely sick that we quickly send frantic worried messages to others and ask people to fervently pray?  Now don’t get me wrong, we do need to pray for one another, and ask God for their healing.  But sometimes we come begging for God’s help, and acting like sickness and death are the worst things that can happen to us.

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Jesus blows this idea right out of the water though.  Jesus knew what was going to happen.  He was in control of the situation, rather than the situation controlling Him.  And Jesus called death “sleep”, for He saw that death is simply a passing from this life of pain and suffering into a new and glorious life with God forever.  We will all “wake up” one day after dying in this temporary world and enter into the eternal world

And so Jesus went back into Judea, where all His religious enemies were waiting for Him.  Jesus, whom we know from John 8:12 and 9:5 as “the light of the world”, would only have a short time to complete His work on Earth.  This helps explain verses 9 and 10.  Jesus wanted to show clearly to His followers that He possessed power over death itself and that by conquering death, His disciples would more fully put their faith in Him.

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And what about you my friend?  How do you view death?  Is sickness and death something to be feared?  Or do you see them as a normal part of our lives which allows us to step through the door of this life and enter into the glorious life that God has in store for those who believe in Jesus.

I pray that you will be ready to stand before God when your day should arrive when death comes to you.  I know I am ready, and I give praise to Jesus for this hope of faith that I have in Him.

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