- John 11:1-54
Jesus had three friends who were brothers and sisters, Mary, Martha and Lazarus who apparently lived in the town of Bethany, which is about 2 miles from Jerusalem. (Note: This is likely the same Mary and Martha referred to in Luke 10:38-42 where Martha wanted Mary to help her prepare the meal, but Mary was sitting listening to Jesus instead. John 11:2 tells us it was this same Mary who had anointed Jesus' head with oil, which is recorded in John 12. This Mary is not, however, believed to be the same woman who wept at Jesus' feet in Luke 7 while in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Mary's anointing of Jesus occurred six days before His death.)
Lazarus got very sick and was near death. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus while He was in the region of Perea that Lazarus was very ill. Jesus, upon hearing the news, announced that the final result of Lazarus' illness would not be death, but that the glory of GOD would be revealed through Jesus. Jesus purposefully delayed there in Perea 2 more days. Jesus told His disciples He was going to Judea where Lazarus was, but they were afraid and suggested He not do that since the Jews had already attempted to kill him. Jesus then announced that Lazarus was indeed dead but that the disciples would see and believe.
When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was told Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days. Many Jews had gathered with Mary and Martha to comfort them. When Martha heard Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary remained behind at home.
21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Martha then returned home and told Mary privately that Jesus was just outside of town. Mary left in a hurry to go to Jesus. Many of the Jews who were in the house followed her, assuming she was headed 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?”
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 odor, 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 around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
(John 11:32-44 NIV)
Many of the Jews who witnessed this believed on Jesus, but some went and reported what happened to the Pharisees. The chief priests, Pharisees and the Jewish high court called the Sanhedrin called a meeting where they began plotting to kill Jesus.
I don't know if there is a section of scripture which offers more insight into the mind and heart of GOD than this. Jesus knew Mary, Martha and Lazarus closely, and He loved them dearly. They were His friends. Jesus seems to indicate in John 11:15 that if He were present when Lazarus was sick, His compassion would have moved Him to heal Lazarus. Jesus was obviously disturbed by the sadness from Lazarus' death, because He wept with the Jews who were there, including Mary and Martha. Jesus experienced the human emotion of grief just like you and I do—and He loves His disciples as much as He loved Lazarus (recall that Jesus calls us His friends [John 15:14-16]).
But Jesus is also, at the same time, GOD, which means that He has infinite wisdom and knowledge of all that was happening, would happen, and what would be best for everyone involved. He felt the need to demonstrate the glory of GOD and to emphasize that He has the power to raise people from the dead.
When you combine the emotions, the wisdom and the love which concerns itself with another's best interests, Jesus decided it was best to allow Lazarus to die so that He could demonstrate a great miracle as a blessing to all who saw it physically, and all who see it by faith as we read John's recorded account of the events. And truly He accomplished this; what a faith-building lesson!
The resurrection of Lazarus provides us with a beautiful preview of that day when the Lord would return in judgment and all those in the grave would arise and stand before the Lord Jesus to receive their reward of eternal life or eternal punishment.