The Raising of Lazarus, Part III, John 11:16-25
Jesus has remained at the Jordan for two days after hearing of the dire sickness of his friend Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.
During this time of delay Lazarus has died and now lays in the tomb.
Our Lord Jesus knows that Lazarus sleeps and He has made it plain to the disciples that Lazarus is indeed dead.
But He has also made the astounding statement that he is glad that he was not at Lazarus’ side to the intent that his disciples believe.
When Jesus speaks he speaks the language of heaven, a spiritual language, when the disciples speak, they speak a natural language, a language of earth.
All that Jesus did and said was to the intent that his disciples believe His word, that his disciples have faith for he knew that His Father has so ordained it to be impossible to please Him without faith.
Faith is indeed the victory that overcomes the world.
This is the purpose of God that you may believe and all that occurs in life, trials, tribulations, joys or sorrows, is toward this end.
But Thomas has a problem with this for he looks upon the events of this life and forgets to look upon the one who said He is the Life.
Jesus in all his actions will bring glory to the Father.
But Thomas in his natural state is the dream killer.
He is the one who will bring down anything that another lifts up.
Dream killers are very adept at weeping when they ought to be rejoicing.
Thomas was the one who refused the rejoicing due the resurrection of Jesus Christ and instead brought doubt into the victory over death.
We begin to see his nature here in:
John 11:16, Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Jesus plainly said that Lazarus had died so that his disciples may believe.
But Thomas, unfortunately tagged forever as the Doubting Thomas, not hearing Christ but reaches into his mind and says that the result of Lazarus' death will be the disciple’s death including his.
We see Thomas not exhibiting faith but exhibiting fear and thereby he leans to his own understanding!
Note that Thomas said this to his fellow disciples rather than to the Lord, perhaps leaning to them with quiet speech as we are so prone to do that those whom we may offend will not hear.
It is our nature to be indirect so as to avoid face to face confrontations.
Few of us express ourselves directly to the person who offends us.
Instead for our own safety we hide and chose to murmur to others.
Now the meaning of Thomas and the meaning of Didymus in Aramaic and Greek respectively is “twin.”
He had a twin personality as do most of us appearing before some as one and to others as another.
Our sinful nature is to be double minded!
Thomas's personality is revealed here as pessimistic but mixed with loyalty and faith.
He says here that going to Judea will no doubt result in the death of Christ, but he is willing to go die with him.
Thomas, Pessimist, but also loyalist. Weak faith, strong affection.
How human of him.
Had not Christ said, I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep?
How difficult it is for us to believe the clear word of God.
Later in the Book of John we see how Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ.
However when he was convinced of the miracle he made an historic confession of faith.
So Thomas reveals himself here as loyal to the person of Jesus Christ but despondent and despairing of a long life with him.
Are we any different on a day by day basis?
Do we at all times exhibit faith in God or are we also like Paul who said in:
Romans 7:19, For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Like Thomas we are prone to have weak faith at times.
But by faith we know that it is God who will deliver us from this body of death.
So Thomas expressed his fears and the journey to Bethany was begun and in John 11:17, ……when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
Jesus knew when Lazarus breathed his last breath.
He knew that he had died four days prior on the day he received the message from Mary and Martha.
Most likely, as was the habit of the Jews, Lazarus was buried on the day he died for there was no delay in matters of death.
John continues in John 11:18,19, Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Jerusalem was only 15 furlongs away, about a mile and three quarters.
A furlong is a measure of distance equal to one-eighth of a mile, equivalent to 660 feet or 220 yards. In Chicago the city blocks are in furlongs, eight blocks to a mile.
Bethany was a stop along the way and news of Lazarus' death attracted Jews from Jerusalem to Bethany to comfort the sisters.
These were friends of the family.
They came to speak tenderly, they came to console Martha and Mary in their loss.
This is the only thing we can do.
We can comfort, we can console, we can weep with those who weep.
We cannot raise someone from the dead for there is only ONE who is the Resurrection.
They came to honor someone dead and in the tomb four days.
Not only dead but as we say in the south, plum dead proved by a body already stinking and not fit to be around.
He had to be put away.
There was absolutely no hope in human terms.
Only God could help.
All around was sorrow but Jesus delayed his coming that God would be glorified.
Remember what he had told his disciples?
This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
This was the exact time that the Father planned for his son to be here.
God is never in a hurry but he is always on time.
He wanted four days to elapse so that all hope was gone and there was no doubt that Lazarus was dead.
Human help was of no avail.
God had prepared the way for his Son to be glorified.
Enough time had elapsed to guarantee that many people would be there from Jerusalem, providing many witnesses to this resurrection of Lazarus.
This last and greatest sign of his deity was accomplished before these many witnesses for the stage was carefully set by the Father, a stage right on the doorstep of the headquarters of Judaism.
They would return to Jerusalem and pronounce the news of another miracle by the man Jesus.
All of this had been timed in Heaven for Jesus Christ does not operate in the world of chance!
All things are done decently and in order by Christ Jesus!
John 11:20-22, Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
We see Martha in her characteristic role.
She is not out of the character that the word of God describes her to be in other parts of the Bible.
Jesus is not yet in Bethany yet she goes to meet him.
Yet John describes Mary as sitting still in the house.
Mary enjoyed sitting still.
Perhaps she was praying, perhaps she was meditating.
But she does not follow her sister as she advances to meet Jesus.
Remember how Luke's account showed Martha?
Luke 10:40-42, But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
John seems careful to show the same characteristics of Martha and Mary in this passage.
Martha, much cumbered about with service, active, busy, unable to wait on the Lord, and Mary sitting still waiting on the Lord.
Martha, beware of the barrenness of a busy life for many a busy life neglects time for God.
But Martha does express faith in Christ. Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
She knew that he had raised others from the dead but she conditioned it upon Jesus being in Bethany.
She did not understand that Jesus delayed his coming on purpose.
She did not understand that he had allowed her to grieve and mourn and sorrow on purpose that God might be glorified.
Don't be so quick to complain against God when distress comes into your life.
Don't be so quick to murmur against God when troubles come into your life.
Remember Martha and Mary and the four days that they suffered.
Jesus allowed that to happen that He and His Father might be glorified and that his disciples might believe.
Remember all things work together for good, not just yours!
John 11:23, Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Jesus is about to give beauty for ashes.
He is about to give the oil of joy for mourning.
He arrives in Bethany and his first words are of the resurrection of Martha's brother.
It is a place of mourning but Jesus does not mourn.
Instead He encourages hope.
Lazarus was one of his and Jesus will never leave his even in death.
John 11:24, Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
She understands these words that He has uttered.
These are the words that we hear at a funeral.
She understands them as being a future happening for her brother.
Yes, I know that my brother was God's child and that God will raise him at the last day.
She knew Job's words in her Bible:
Job 19:25,26, For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
But Jesus wanted her to know by whose power this would take place.
He wanted her to know more than general knowledge that a resurrection would take place.
He wanted her to know that by him the resurrection would come so He tells her clearly in:
John 11:25, …… I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
Martha, the resurrection will take place by my power.
Martha, I have mastery over death.
Get your eyes off of a future event and put them on me.
The resurrection is not an event but a person.
I am the resurrection, Jesus says.
Certainly we are to look forward to the time of the resurrection.
But it is not future events that we are to occupy ourselves with but with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second coming event is only important because it is when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to this earth.
He is the "I am" he says. He deals with the present for he is the eternal present.
Martha, This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24