John 11 (NRSV)
The Death of Lazarus
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”
9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”
12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”
To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act Three, scene 1
13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
I remember years ago reading a sermon by Peter Marshall, when he was Chaplain to the United States Senate. He told of a boy of 12 who knew he was dying. The boy asked his father, “What is it like to die?” His father said to him, “Son, do you remember when you were little how you used to come and sit on my lap in the big chair in the living room? I would tell you a story, read you a book or sing you a song and you would go to sleep in my arms, and when you woke up you were in your own bed. That is the way death is.” When you wake you are not where you were. You are in a place of security and safety and beauty and rest. That, Jesus declares, is what death is. All through the account of the gospels we get this, so that even the apostles pick it up later and say, “Them that sleep in Jesus will Christ bring with him when he comes” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus the Resurrection and the Life
17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
25Jesus said to her, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Look at the icon above, and see Mary and Martha kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Despite their profound sorrow at their brother’s death, they are worshiping the Lord.
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
35Jesus began to weep.
Hebrews 4:15 (NLT)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life
Lazarus raised from the dead today — and in just a few days — JESUS!
38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone.
Look at the icon above, and see one man struggling to roll the stone away.
And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.
Look at the icon above, and see Jesus, strong and sure, the resurrection and the life forever.
43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Look at the icon above, and see the man covering his nose at the stench of death, while another man is already beginning to take off Lazarus’ grave cloths.
From the 80’s — Carmen sings “Lazarus, Come Forth.” What a great way to tell the story!!
(From his website: Carman Domenic Licciardello is an enigma in Christian music, often described as part evangelist, part Vegas Showman . . . If there is any original trademark to Carman’s repertoire, it is what we could only identify as a ‘story song’. A combination of drama, rock, comedy, funk, satire, acting, singing, and preaching, all woven together by an unpredictable wit that can only be described as a full length feature film in 7 minutes.)
The Plot to Kill Jesus
45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
Of course, the irony here is that the Romans came and did just that, in AD 70.
49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53So from that day on they planned to put him to death. 54Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
55Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Put picture of Jesus here.
1) Read John 11:1-16 again. What clues foreshadowing Jesus’ own death do you see?
2) How hard it is for us when God does not do what we want him to do, or what we think he should do! What can Mary and Martha teach you about faith in Jesus through this story?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.