Resurrection and Life – John 11

03 Apr

Charles Hodges made this statement when beginning a discussion of John 11: “Take off your shoes, for John 11 is holy ground.” This is a “Hall of Fame” chapter. It requires the heart as well as the head. John 11 reveals the heart of Jesus.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead was not our Lord’s last miracle before the Cross, but it was certainly His greatest and the one that aroused the most response both from His friends and His enemies.

John selected this miracle as the seventh in the series recorded in his book because it was really the climactic miracle of our Lord’s earthly ministry. He had raised others from the dead, but Lazarus had been in the grave four days. It was a miracle that could not be denied or avoided by the Jewish leaders.

If Jesus Christ can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing.

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1 Cor. 15:19). Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), but Jesus Christ has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.

1. THE FAMILY (read John 11:1-8)

Jesus had family and made disciples. John 11 reveals this “special family.” Bethany was a quiet suburb about two miles outside Jerusalem.

Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:3, 5, 36) So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

We usually think the reverse: “We love Jesus.” This is crucial. It is not our love for Christ; it is His love of us!

The sisters did not manipulate, obligate, or threaten Jesus with, “You know what he has done for You.” No! They knew Jesus loved him.

If only we could grasp this. The issue is not “self esteem.” The issue is “Jesus loves me.” This also touched John! Five times John entitled himself, “The disciple Jesus loved.

This does not suggest “a pet” or “special disciple.” This really grabbed John! Jesus loved him! This will change your life too. Do not brag only about how much you love Jesus; grasp how much He loves you!

Then Jesus stayed away! This is shocking! He healed strangers but not His best friend! No doubt the disciples were perplexed about several matters. First of all, if Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He permit him to get sick? Even more, why did He delay to go to the sisters?

For that matter, could He not have healed Lazarus at a distance, as He did the nobleman’s son? (John 4:43–54).

God’s love for His own is not a pampering love; it is a perfecting love. The fact that He loves us, and we love Him is no guarantee that we will be sheltered from the problems and pains of life.

After all, the Father loves His Son: and yet the Father permitted His beloved Son to drink the cup of sorrow and experience the shame and pain of the Cross. We must never think that love and suffering are incompatible. Certainly they unite in Jesus Christ.

He saw in this sickness an opportunity to glorify the Father. It is not important that we Christians are comfortable, but it is important that we glorify God in all that we do.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “Let’s go.” They thought it was too risky and too dangerous. Then they thought that if Lazarus had merely “fallen asleep” it meant that he would get well.

Jesus said, “Lazarus is dead! This totally shocked them! Jesus let His best friend die without any effort to aid! Read verse 37: 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Here is one insight: Martha had many friends. People like Jesus make friends. Many came to mourn.

2. MARTHA and MARY. (read John 11: 17-27).

Martha was quick to affirm her faith in Jesus Christ vs. 22), and Jesus responded to that faith by promising her that her brother would rise again. He was thinking of the immediate situation, but she interpreted His words to mean the future resurrection in the last day.

Our Lord’s reply is the fifth of John’s “I AM” statements. It is important to note that Jesus did not deny what Martha said about the future resurrection. The resurrection of the human body is a cardinal doctrine in the orthodox Jewish faith.

But in this I AM statement, our Lord completely transformed the doctrine of the resurrection and, in so doing, brought great comfort to Martha’s heart.

* To begin with, He brought the doctrine of the resurrection out of the shadows and into the light. The Old Testament revelation about death and resurrection is not clear or complete; it is, as it were, “in the shadows.” There are some passages in Psalms and Ecclesiastes that almost make one believe that death is the end and there is no hope beyond the grave.

* By His teaching, His miracles, and His own resurrection, Jesus clearly taught the resurrection of the human body. He has declared once for all that death is real, that there is life after death, and that the body will one day be raised by the power of God.

* He transformed this doctrine in a second way: He took it out of a book and put it into a person, Himself. “I am the resurrection and the life”! (John 11:25) We realize that we are saved by the Redeemer and not by a doctrine written in a book.

When we know Him by faith, we need not fear the shadow of death.

Jesus Weeps (John 11:28-35).

Martha cried over Lazarus; she also cried over Jesus. She rebuked Him; yet she still trusted Him. One must not determine the actions of Jesus. One must allow Him freedom to do His divine will. One cannot dictate to leaders. One must give leaders room to breathe.

It was not abstract theology; it was personal. Lazarus had to die for death to be grasped. A week prior to this, Jesus could have lectured to Martha about death. He could have diagrammed it on the blackboard. It would have meant little.

Our Lord’s message to the sisters did not say that their brother would not die. It promised only that death would not be the ultimate result, for the ultimate result would be the glory of God.

He wanted them to lay hold of this promise; in fact, He reminded Martha of this message when she balked at having the tomb opened (vs. 40).

When we find ourselves confronted by disease, disappointment, delay, and even death, our only encouragement is the Word of God. We must live by faith and not by sight.

Their situation seemed hopeless, yet the sisters knew that Jesus was the Master of every situation.


John 11:25 (ESV) : Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus affirmed that believers would one day be raised from the dead. Then He immediately revealed the added truth that some believers would never die (and it is a double negative, “never never die!”) (vs. 26).

How is this possible? The answer is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 18. When Jesus Christ returns in the air to take His people home, those who are alive at His coming shall never die. They shall be changed and caught up to meet Him in the air!

This is the greatest statement on immortality: Jesus is the resurrection and the life! Jesus is not saying, “I will be resurrected.” He said, “I am resurrection.”

Lazarus was resuscitated or reconstructed. Time came, and he aged and died.

Jesus is resurrection. Lazarus had to die before Martha could wrestle with resurrection.

Then comes that million-dollar verse: “Jesus wept.” Jesus cares! He saw the hurt in Martha and Mary that He could have prevented. His friend lay a corpse. Others mourned.

“Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners.

But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11).

Our Lord’s weeping reveals the humanity of the Savior. He has entered into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. In fact, being the perfect God-Man, Jesus experienced these things in a deeper way than we do.

His tears assure us of His sympathy; He is indeed “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

Today, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest, and we may come to the throne of grace and find all the gracious help that we need.

We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven.

Perhaps Jesus was weeping for Lazarus, as well as with the sisters, because He knew He was calling His friend from heaven and back into a wicked world where he would one day have to die again.

Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew what Lazarus was leaving behind.

Jesus sensed His mission—life in the presence of death.

Jesus could cry! We need shepherds who can cry! We need ministers who can cry! We need a church who can cry!

The church must not be suspicious of emotion. Look at the pathos, the profound humanity of Jesus! John 11 exposes the depth of Jesus!

3. Lazarus (Read John 11:38–44). Lazarus was dead! Since Palestine is hot without embalming procedures, the dead were buried quickly. To Jews the spirit also departed on the fourth day. Lazarus was dead! No question about it. This was the seventh miracle or sign of Jesus in John.

Jesus prayed. He preached in prayer. He gave thanks, and then He “hollered.”

Jesus “hollered” eight times in the New Testament (six times in John). From the depths of His soul, He cried with authority! Jesus is life! His best friend, Lazarus was held by death! You find, literally, life face to face with death.

Jesus saw the entire focus of His life and ministry. He called Lazarus back with profound fervor. The raising of Lazarus not only reveals how Jesus thinks but also how He feels.

A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not named Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery!

Jesus called Lazarus and raised him from the dead. It was an unquestioned miracle that even the most hostile spectator could not deny.

Lazarus was raised from the dead by the power of God, and all who trust Christ have been given new life and lifted out of the graveyard of sin (see John 5:24).

Because of the great change in Lazarus, many people desired to see him; and his “living witness” was used by God to bring people to salvation (John 12:9–11).

There are no recorded words of Lazarus in the Gospels, but his daily walk is enough to convince people that Jesus is the Son of God. Because of his effective witness, Lazarus was persecuted by the religious leaders who wanted to kill him and get rid of the evidence.

The “trigger” to the cross was the resurrection of Lazarus, the seventh sign! The life of Lazarus is the death of Christ!

CONCLUSION. There are so many lessons in John 11:

When delays occur, God has a better time and a better way.

When death occurs, God has a better plan and better place.

A man is not ready to live until he is ready to die.


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Posted by on April 3, 2023 in Resurrection


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