Jesus had escaped out of the hand of the Jews who attempted to seize Him, and He remained in the region beyond the Jordan where John had been baptizing at first. Many people, recalling John’s testimony about Him, came and believed in Jesus. News of Lazarus’ sickness reaches Jesus, and it brings Jesus back to Judea again. Here, in Bethany, Jesus performs the last sign before His death, a sign that results in His own glorification.
Did You Know...?
1. Bethany (11:1) was a village less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Jerusalem ( Jn 11:18). Jesus would spend the night here when He came to Jerusalem (Mt 21:17; Mk 11:11). It is to be distinguished from the Bethany beyond the Jordan (cf. Jn 1:28).
2. “In the tomb four days” (11:17): “Later Jewish sources attest the rabbinic belief that death was irrevocable three days after a person had died.”1/2:108–109 [ref]
3. “The Jews who came with her weeping” (11:33): “The present heart-breaking scene would have been preceded by a formal funeral procession including burial, in which wailing women and flute-players as well as shouts of grief from the men in the procession punctuated laments sung in the house of death, on the way to the tomb, and during the burial itself ” (cf. Mt 9:23).1/2:111 [ref]
- Report of the Illness of Lazarus (11:1–6)
- Jesus’ Conversation with His Disciples (11:7–16)
- Martha Met Jesus (11:17–27)
- Mary Met Jesus (11:28–37)
- Raising Lazarus to Life (11:38–44)
Record the statements of Jesus that revealed His supernatural knowledge.Hide Answer
See verses 4, 14, and 23.
Identify each of the instances in which Jesus was concerned about the faith of people.Hide Answer
1. Jesus delayed His trip to Bethany for the sake of His disciples, that they might believe (14, 15). 2. Jesus proclaimed the promise of life to whoever believes in Him, and He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” (26). 3. Jesus reminded Martha of the necessity of faith in order to see the glory of God (40). 4. Jesus prayed to the Father so that the people might believe that the Father had sent Him (42).
Why does the narrative highlight Jesus’ late arrival and the fact that Lazarus had been dead for four days (17, 21, 32, 39)?Hide Answer
From a human standpoint, had Jesus arrived sooner, He would have been able to save Lazarus; now that Lazarus had died for four days, it was already too late for Jesus to do anything. But this is precisely what the author wants to impress upon the reader—Jesus is able to do what is humanly impossible. He has power over even death, something no human being can ever prevail against (cf. Ecc 8:8).
Observe the comments about Jesus’ love for this particular family. How is this love different from the love we usually associate with?Hide Answer
We see at least two contradictory thoughts. First, the one whom Jesus loved was sick. Ordinarily, if we have the power to prevent sickness, we use that power to protect our loved ones. But Jesus, who had authority over illnesses, did not do anything to prevent Lazarus from getting sick. What is even more startling is that, right after it states that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (5), the narrative tells us, “So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days…” (6). In other words, Jesus deliberately delayed His journey to Bethany because He loved them. This is contrary to how we normally define love, i.e., we rush to the aid of the person we love. Whereas human love is shown in caring for the present and physical needs, Jesus’ love for this family is seen on a deeper level. He loved them by letting Lazarus die so that they may all take part in God’s greater plan and grow in faith as a result.
What does this teach you about the Lord’s love for you when you are suffering?Hide Answer
As difficult as it may be for us to grasp, God sometimes lets us suffer because He loves us. God has a greater purpose which we may not be able to perceive, but His concern is always the ultimate good of those He loves (Isa 43:1–4; Jer 29:11; Rom 8:35–39; Heb 12:5–11; Jas 5:10, 11).
How did Lazarus’ sickness serve a higher purpose?Hide Answer
Jesus stated explicitly that Lazarus’ sickness was for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it (11:4). By raising Lazarus to life, Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of God who had power to grant eternal life. This great sign also led to Jesus’ death, through which He would be exalted and receive even greater glory (Jn 12:23, 24). Therefore, on the surface, Lazarus appeared at first to be a victim of misfortune, but in reality, he was chosen to participate in God’s glorious work of salvation. In the process, many came to believe in the Lord, and the faith of those who already believed in Him also increased.
What does Jesus mean by walking in the day?Hide Answer
There is light during the day. Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). To walk in the day means to trust the Lord Jesus as our guide and follow His word (Isa 2:3–5; 50:10; Jn 8:12; Rom 13:12, 13; 1 Jn 1:5–7).
How is the light of the world also in a person (10)?Hide Answer
The light that shines in the world of darkness must be grasped and received (cf. Jn 1:5, 11). If we receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts and our lives, He will illuminate our inner being, give us a new life, and enlighten our spiritual eyes so we may know God and see the way of life (Jn 1:12, 13; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor 4:6).
How does the analogy of day and night relate to the context of this story?Hide Answer
The disciples were surprised that Jesus chose to return to the vicinity of Jerusalem when the Jews there had just wanted to stone Him. The point of Jesus’ reply is twofold: 1. Despite the forces of darkness ahead of them, it was necessary for them to follow the will and guidance of the Lord. Doing so would ensure their spiritual well-being. On the other hand, those who choose rather to practice ungodly deeds (such as those who persecuted Jesus) would do so to their own ruin. 2. While Jesus was still with them, the disciples ought to submit to the will of God and join the Lord in carrying out His mission (cf. Jn 9:4, 5). For the same reason, everyone must heed Jesus’ voice and make a decision to accept Him before He returns to His Father.
Explain why Jesus was glad (15).Hide Answer
Jesus’ deliberate delay was to manifest His glory by calling Lazarus back to life even after his body had begun to decay. His aim was to lead the people to believe in Him and to strengthen the disciple’s faith in Him as the Lord of life. Jesus was glad that He yielded to the Father’s plan and timing, an act of obedience that would greatly benefit the disciples.
What did Martha believe about Jesus?Hide Answer
1. Jesus would have been able to prevent Lazarus’ death (21). 2. God would give Jesus whatever He asked (22). 3. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world (27).
What was lacking in her faith (cf. 40)? What can we learn from this?Hide Answer
Although Martha believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, she was not able to fully trust Jesus. When He commanded that the stone be removed from the tomb, she tried to deter Him. This is often the irony we see in ourselves. We confess that Jesus is Lord and that He is able to do all things, but when His word contradicts our common sense, rationale, or desires, we are unable to take that step to trust that He is always right.
What kinds of life and death did Jesus speak about in verses 25 and 26?Hide Answer
By “though he may die” (25), Jesus was speaking about natural death. Believers also go through physical death. On the contrary, he who believes in Jesus shall never die (26) in the sense that they will never experience the second death, i.e., the final, spiritual death. “Whoever lives” (26) refer to those who are physically alive, whereas the words “he shall live” (25) are with respect to eternal life. Combining these thoughts, we understand that if we believe in the Lord Jesus in this life, the death we experience will be only physical and temporary, and the spiritual life we receive as a result will last to eternity.
What kinds of resurrection can we infer from the words, “I am the resurrection and the life”?Hide Answer
Jesus’ raising of Lazarus demonstrated that He was able to resurrect those who are physically dead. On the last day, even the wicked will be raised from the grave at Jesus’ command (Jn 5:28). But the deeper significance of the sign is that Jesus will raise believers to life spiritually now and grant them the life that will not end (Jn 5:25). At the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked on the last day, those who have believed in the Lord Jesus while they were alive would be transformed and caught up to be with the Lord forever (Rom 6:5, 8; 8:21–23; 1 Cor 15:50–57; 2 Cor 5:1–5; Php 3:20, 21; Col 3:4; 1 Thess 4:16, 17). This is the eternal life promised by Jesus that is given today and will be fulfilled on the last day (Jn 5:29).
What does it mean to you personally that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
The word for “groan” (33, 38) connotes indignation or displeasure. What was troubling Jesus?Hide Answer
Mary said the same words as her sister, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then Jesus groaned in the spirit when He saw Mary and the Jews weeping (33). Later, He groaned again in Himself after some of the people asked if Jesus could not have prevented Lazarus’ death (37, 38). Although the passage is not explicit, we may infer that Jesus was disturbed by the people’s lack of faith in Him. They, including Mary, believed Jesus only as far as reckoning that He could heal the sick, but did not recognize that He was the Lord of life who had the power to restore even the dead to life. It is also probable that Jesus was indignant of seeing the despair and spiritual wretchedness of the unbelieving world.
Why do you think Jesus wept?Hide Answer
Jesus was not weeping the same way Mary and the Jews were weeping (the Bible uses two different Greek words to distinguish Jesus’ action and that of Mary and the Jews). He was not weeping over the death of Lazarus, for He knew all along that his sickness was not unto death, but that Lazarus would rise again. Rather, He empathized with the human race, which is under the shadow of the power of sin and death. The lament of Mary and the Jews who were with her vividly portrayed this common plight of men. Jesus wept with them because He felt their pain and knew the helpless state of human beings.
How does the fact that Jesus wept say about His relationship with us?Hide Answer
Our Lord Jesus, who was once in the flesh, understands and feels the sorrow that we experience (Heb 2:14–18).
What did Jesus’ prayer to the Father reveal about Him?Hide Answer
The Father always hears Jesus because Jesus is one with His Father (Jn 10:30). Even though He had taken on the form of a man, Jesus was in constant union with the Father in a way which no other human being can lay claim to. This shows that He was indeed the Son of God, whom God had sent into the world (cf. Jn 11:27).
What did the resurrection of Lazarus reveal about Jesus?Hide Answer
By raising Lazarus to life, Jesus substantiated His proclamation, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). Because He has life in Himself and has power over death, we may have complete trust in His promise that through Him we shall live forever (11:25, 26).