John 11:1-44

The death of Lazarus
11 Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’

8 ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?’

9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the day-time will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.’

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’

12 His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus comforts the sisters of Lazarus
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’

23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

24 Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

27 ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.

‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’

37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’

40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’


This passage shows such a complex side of walking with Jesus. The disciples and Mary and Martha, who walked physically alongside him had a sense of peace and reassurance in his presence, by this point in time they had seen a recent history unfold of his miraculous healings. There was an expectancy of his healing and a dependence on this presence.

We see the deep sadness and the regret felt by Mary and Martha who lost Lazarus to illness in the absence of Jesus’s presence. They sent word for him to come, yet he arrived too late. Surely they were confused, why didn’t Jesus come more quickly? They had faith that had he arrived on time Lazarus would be alive. Why wasn’t he there at that critical time? Then Lazarus would have been saved.

The disciples too might have been perplexed, witnessing Jesus saying "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe”. Jesus intentionally stayed two days behind to allow this to occur so the glory of God could be made known, to increase faith in the disciples.

How do we digest this then, as people who long for healing and depend on Jesus to arrive when we need him? Most of us have had times of desperation, on our knees heavy with the burden of sick family members, financial impossibilities or emotional pain all laced with immense amounts of waiting

Why did Jesus decide to delay his arrival, why did this healing story involve waiting?

When Jesus did arrive to Mary and Martha he was met before entering the town by their grief, their sobs and wails, their laments. He knew what was to happen next in his grand plan yet that didn’t stop him from feeling the pain his friends felt. He stopped and I can picture him crumpling down, shoulders shaking and crying over his brother. Crying with the mourners, crying over the pain of Lazarus no more.

Jesus demonstrates his humanity and that even when healing does come, as we see in this passage, he longs to be with us in the pain to mourn and comfort us.

Fully God fully man means that while Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise he still felt the pain of him leaving.

It’s hard to know why some people were healed one way and others were healed another, the New Testament is full of different examples, but here Jesus wanted to demonstrate his resurrection power. It was a foreshadowing what was to come, but I also think he wanted to demonstrate how in the pain and suffering and the waiting when there seems to be no sign of hope he comes to mourn with us, he weeps and he understands that pain.

Are there places in your life that you feel desperate for an answer, a healing or a solution? We’ve been praying corporately during the lead up to Pentecost and you may feel disappointed that still there are some big unanswered prayers.

Jesus’s resurrection later leaves us with the promise of healing and new life but sometimes that doesn’t look how we expect it to and it may not fit into a timeline that makes sense.

But while you wait I encourage you to invite him into the waiting. He’s the victor he brings the resurrection but he’s there ready just to weep with you in the waiting, he knows that pain and he’s the ultimate comforter.
Kate Jones is married to Eliot.
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