2.14 John -- Lazarus (John 11)
This chapter tells of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the political aftermath. This miracle has no specific racial teaching, but it does follow the pattern of the encounter with the Samaritan woman and the argument with his own followers. In order to talk privately with the Samaritan woman, he sent his disciples away. In this case, after hearing of his friend's illness, Jesus intentionally delayed his visit:
when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days (Jn 11:6).
Clearly, he intended for Lazarus to die. After he finally showed up, he engaged one of Lazarus' sisters in a conversation, meant to lead her to a point of decision and provide an opportunity for revelation. Martha came out to meet him, and greeted him with a statement that is half-reproach and half-faith:
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask" (Jn 11:21-22).
She had not lost hope, even yet. Jesus' reply continued to test her:
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again" (Jn 11:23).
This could be taken either as a word of comfort, or a promise of a miracle. Martha chose the former:
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (Jn 11:24).
This was a "safe" reply. Like the Samaritan woman's "our fathers worshipped on this mountain," it was a polite way to deal with disorientation. "Yes, I believe in miracles in the bye-and-bye. Would you kindly say a few words at the funeral service?"
This is when Jesus delivered the punch line that was the point of the entire event. It was not about Lazarus or Martha, but an opportunity to reveal who he really was and the purpose of his coming:
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11:25-26).
Resurrection is not an end-time doctrine, a distant hope, an impersonal creed. He was saying to her,
"Resurrection is a Person, it is now, it is for you. If you believe, you can enter the Kingdom of God now. I, Jesus, the light of the world, am also the Resurrection. Wherever I go, I impart a life that never ends."
And then he challenged her: "Do you believe this?" Earlier, his followers had not believed he was the bread of life, and had taken up stones to throw. This was her moment: she could have burst out screaming at him. But she assented:
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world" (Jn 11:27).
Her response opened the door to the miracle that followed. But he had to help her out. Later, she objected to removing the stone from the tomb, because she thought the corpse would stink. Her brain got in the way of her faith. Jesus reminded her,
"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (Jn 11:40).
The deed sealed the word. The raising of Lazarus proved the revelation, removing it from the realm of doctine and theory. This is exactly what God had done ever since Old Testament times: proclaiming that He was the deliverer by bringing Israel out of Egypt. He does what He is -- the two are in agreement:
"believe me for the sake of the works themselves" (Jn 14:11).
The revelation of the person and mission of Jesus to Martha was not meant for herself alone -- it was another "whoever" promise that reached to all levels of Jewish society and beyond. It has been a theme of this Gospel: "whoever" believes receives the specific promise -- gains eternal life, is not condemned, comes to the light, will never hunger or thirst.