Greater Love Has No Man
The gospel writer John does such a beautiful job painting a picture of the human side of Jesus, the one with whom we can relate, while still maintaining the deity of Christ. In chapter 11 John gives us a very personal glimpse into Jesus’s life. On an interesting side note, John is the only one who records this story.
When chapter 11 opens, Jesus receives a message from some close friends of His concerning a man named Lazarus (we know they are close because they are mentioned more than once, Jesus visits them often, and Lazarus is referred to as “he whom you love”). Lazarus is sick. We know this isn’t just a simple cold since Mary and Martha found it necessary to seek Jesus out wherever He was in order to tell him of it.
Even though this is a serious illness, Jesus remains where He is for two more days. We might not understand why Jesus made this decision, but if there is anything we have learned about Him so far it is that Jesus works with purpose. He is keenly aware of God’s timing and regardless of personal preference, works within that timing and purpose. This illness of Lazarus, like the blind man’s infirmity in chapter 9, is going to be used for the glory of God.
Now, Jesus had been avoiding Jerusalem and the area surrounding it because of the enmity between Him and the religious rulers in Jerusalem. However, when He discovers Lazarus is ill, He risks His life to go to be with His friends. Later on, He makes this statement:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).
Jesus constantly puts His life on the line for others. His love and compassion are so great that there is never a thought for Himself, only for others and the mission of His Father. What an amazing example for us!
This illness of Lazarus costs him his life when Jesus finally decides to go to Bethany. Interesting enough, when the disciples are certain that death awaits them all in Jerusalem their attitude is summed up in “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 ESV). And yet, in the Garden when Christ is arrested and death is coming, they desert Him.
By the time Jesus makes it to Bethany, Lazarus has been buried for four days. At this point, people have lost all hope. The consensus held by most is “If You had been here…” things would have been different, but now…
The thing is, it’s never “too late” for God. Nothing is too far gone, too lost for God to redeem, for Him to restore. After all, isn’t that the underlying message of the love story of the Bible? We were a people too far gone, hopeless on our own, yet God breathed new life into all of us through Christ. And how glorious is that life!
Martha, the sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus as He arrives in Bethany. Jesus explains to Martha that all hope is not lost and that Lazarus will live again. Her reaction is similar to what our’s might be if we were told something like that:
“Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'” (John 11:24 ESV).
But Jesus has something to teach here:
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:15 ESV).
Martha says she believes, but I think she had a similar dilemma we have sometimes, we want to believe, but don’t really know what it is that we are believing.
When Jesus heads to Lazarus’s tomb, there are many people around Him all mourning the death of Lazarus. Even though Jesus knows what is going to happen, He is overcome with emotion and He weeps. “Jesus wept” may be the shortest verse in the whole Bible, yet it is so full of meaning, it could fill volumes. Jesus was not just a detached observer with eyes only for His agenda. He was (and still is!) a part of the lives around Him and He cared for them just as deeply or more so than the rest of us. How encouraging to see this side of Jesus, the Savior who not only knows of our hurts but also hurts with us.
All of this culminates in Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Death has no hold over those who are in Christ. He is the resurrection and the life. Without Him there is only death.
The Plot Thickens
Raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead for four days was an extremely powerful sign in establishing Jesus’s identity and Who sent Him, which you can probably guess was pretty worrying for religious rulers among the Jews. This act was one of the final straws that “broke the camel’s back”. They now fully intend to get rid of this Jesus once and for all. Because of this, Jesus has to return to out of the way places for a while until the right time for Him to fulfill His mission. Remember, it’s all about timing…