It was the winter of A.D.30 – just months before Jesus’ triumphal entry and his own crucifixion that we read the story of when Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. The story is one of devotion and destiny – not only Jesus’ but also of Lazarus, his sisters, and the disciples – especially Thomas.

Audio: Coming soon


Section 118a | Sickness and Death of Lazarus

John 11:1-16
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus1 from Bethany,2 of the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. 2 It was that Mary who had anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair,3 whose brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 The sisters therefore sent to him, saying, “Lord, behold, he for whom you have great affection is sick.”4 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that God’s Son may be glorified by it.”5  5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When therefore he heard that he was sick, he stayed two days in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let’s go into Judea again.” 8 The disciples asked him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”6 9 Jesus answered,“Aren’t there twelve hours of daylight? If a man walks in the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world.7 10 But if a man walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light isn’t in him.” 11 He said these things, and after that, he said to them, “Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep.”12 The disciples therefore said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep. 14 So Jesus said to them plainly then,“Lazarus is dead. 15 I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let’s go to him.” 16 Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go also, that we may die with him.”8 

Section 118b | Lazarus Raised from the Dead

John 11:17-44
17 So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days9 already. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia away.10 19 Many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to console them11 concerning their brother. 20 Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house.12 21 Therefore Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”13 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies.14  26 Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe15 that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.”16 28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary, her sister, secretly, saying, “The Teacher is here and is calling you.” 29 When she heard this, she arose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha met him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house and were consoling her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep17 there.” 32 Therefore when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.18 36 The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” 37 Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have also kept this man from dying?”19 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Free him, and let him go.” 45 Therefore, many20 of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in Him.21


Group dialog:

  1. What are the disciples reactions to going back to Judea? (v. 8, 16)
  2. Jesus waited two more days (vs 6) before leaving to help or comfort his friends. What can we learn about God’s love, timing and intentions from this story?
  3. What did Jesus mean by: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”?
  4. How was Jesus glorified (more) by waiting until Lazarus had died?
  5. What do Martha and Mary’s reactions and dialog with Jesus show about their knowledge of Jesus’ power, their relationship with him and their faith in Him?
  6. How do imagine the conversation and mood of those gathered changed after Lazarus came out of the tomb?
  7. Think of a time that a friend let you down, and yet remained your friend… What choices did you make to sustain the friendship and what blessings have came about since?
  8. John 12:9-11 tells a bit more of Lazarus’ story. What would you do if you were granted an extension on life here?
  9. How is faith formed? In your own experience do you gain more by others stories or by your own trials and troubles?

Study Notes:

  1. More about the life and legends of Lazarus can be read here.
  2. John enumerates in his Gospel seven significant miracles or “signs”. This is the seventh sign that reveals another important truth about Jesus. Each of the following passages:  Jn 2:1-11; 4:46-53; 5:1-29; 6:1-14; 6:16-24; 9:1-12 and this passage lead his readers (and us today) to easily accept his own resurrection and message. All Jesus’ miracles are signs of who he is and for what purpose he has come – to give life eternal and abundant (Jn 10:10).
  3. John is not writing of the time back in Section 59 recorded in Lk 7:36-50 but rather the future event recorded by Matthew, Mark and John in Section 141 of which his readers were familiar as it was the last of the four canonical Gospels to be written (AD 90-100).
  4. Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters – along with his love for humanity and devotion to the do the will of his Father God inspired his courage and timing. Jms 5:14-15 Urges us to call together believers who faith is strong when there is someone who is sick, yet certainly not all who are ill or dying are healed or spared. As we examine the miracles of Christ and the book of Acts  and the Epistles we can see that God’s will plays as much a part as does the faith and action of those doing the asking and praying. Divine healing is most certainly possible but not always providential. When ill pray and invoke other to pray with you. If there is a word of prophecy ensuring that it is the will of God to heal an individual then pray with faith that God will be certain to accomplish his work as promised. If there is no prophetic word, then pray for healing, comfort, learning and blessed intimacy then if there is no healing you will have been blessed by all the other mercies of God (Phil 1:20; 1Pt 4:16; Rm 5:5; 2Tm 4:6-7; 1Ths 5:23; Rm 14:7-9.
  5. Some scholars suggest that this phrase is not so much about sensationalism as it is John’s literary transition from the “The Book of Signs” (chapters 2-12) to the “the Book of Glory” (chapters 13 -20)
  6. Most recently this was in John 10:31,39, Section 111 and also Jn 8:59 (Section 99b) but John 5:18 say that they had already determined in their hearts to kill Jesus. Over time we see three basic reasons as to why they wanted to kill Jesus: 1) He violated their religious Sabbath traditions (healing, eating with sinners, not cleansing himself first); 2) He claimed to be God, the anointed Messiah; 3) Jesus declared that his life and salvation was not only being offered for the Jews, but for the whole world.
  7. Jesus is the light and life of the world (Jn 1:4), the creator redeemer and sustainer of life itself and every soul. Just as a daytime traveler is safe, they would be safe as they traveled with the ‘Light of the World’ in the Father’s will.
  8. While some make a point here that Peter was not present and therefore Thomas spoke up , it seems more likely that John intends to make a point that Thomas was devoted and wanted to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (Section 178). The Gospels are not a book of history, but of people relationship and encounters with Jesus. John’s desire that all who read the stories will place their full confidence and faith in Him (1Jn 5:13).
  9. There was a midrashic teaching that existed in the 3rd century (and may have emerged earlier) asserting that the soul of a dead person remained near their body for three days, but on the fourth day it was released to for judgement (Leviticus Rabbah 18.1). Since John doesn’t add to this aspect of the story, perhaps John’s point here is primarily that Jesus’ authority extends to both the earth and heaven itself. If Martha’s point was nothing more than the odor, it would be no less a miracle – convincing many (vs45).
  10. That is about 2 miles away. See the Harmony Bible Map using the legend to locate Bethany on the map by selecting Section 118b.
  11. How important it is for us to be available, helpful and present with our friends who are grieving (1Ths 5:11; 2Cor 1:3-4; Rm 12:15).  See also John Gill’s commentary on the Jewish customs concerning comforting those who are mourning as presented by ‘Maimonides‘ the Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, one of the greatest Jewish teachers in the Middle Ages.
  12. Here we see the same behavioral traits seen in the story of Lk 10:38-42 (Section 104), Martha comes out to meet Jesus, while Mary stays in the house.
  13. Large or small Jesus has taught us to make our requests known to Him. In this manner we will both maintain our relationship with him not hardening our hearts to him, but if it is the will of God, our prayers may be be given a reply similar to that which he gave Martha (Phil 4:6; Mt 6:25-33, 7:7-8; Prov 3:5-6; Eph 6:18; 1Ths 5:17-18; 2Cor 1:11.
  14. Jesus was able to grant this prayer without asking the Father, for it is in his authority to do so. The Gospels tell of 3 other instances prior to this that Jesus raised a person from the dead (see Jesus the Healer and His Miracles) as we will see when it is time for his own Resurrection.
  15. There is in her statement another hint revealing her character and behavioral style. We must remember that not all people come to Salvation or maturity in Christ the same manner – but for the grace of God. CR John 4:42; 6:69; 20:28-31; 1Jn 5:1; 1Tm 1:15-16.
  16. Let’s not forget the introductory statements of John (John 1:1-14).
  17. Weeping is more than sorrow, tears, or a sentiment – its a word for wailing and lamentation for the dead.
  18. Here is another scene expressing the full extent of God’s incarnation that Jesus’ bonds of friendship moved the Creator to tears.
  19. This is such a common question in the face of suffering of those we love. God does have a plan, and a purpose for our lives. To die young is not that the Lord has more need of you, nor that he needs another angel (we don’t become angels – they are unique in the creation). In your grief and presence with those who are grieving remember that ‘God is there’. He’s weeping with you just as we are called to weep with those who weep (Rm 12:15)./note] 38 Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?” 41 So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. 42 I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude standing around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”[note]The disciples had already stated and shown their belief, and had been sent out as ambassadors of Christ – yet their understanding of who Jesus is – his nature, omnipotence and all other facets of his being God the Creator, Messiah and King was always being challenged, embraced and celebrated.
  20. Like in other instances of his miracles, not all believed.
  21. Thomas and Gundry include vs 45 in section 119. It seems more fitting for the purpose of our study today which stops here, to include the verse in today’s reading as well.