AFTER LAZARUS’ DEATH, JESUS ARRIVES
“THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”
Coming from Perea, Jesus arrives at the outskirts of Bethany, a village about two miles (3 km) east of Jerusalem. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, are mourning his recent death. Many have come to console them.
Then someone tells Martha that Jesus is approaching, and she hurries to meet him. Martha tells Jesus what she and her sister have likely been thinking for four days: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” However, it is not that she has no hope. “I know that whatever you ask God for, God will give you,” Martha says. (John 11:21, 22) She feels that Jesus might yet help her brother.
Jesus responds: “Your brother will rise.” Martha concludes that he is referring to a future resurrection on earth, the hope that Abraham and others had. And she expresses her belief that this will surely occur: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
Yet, could it be that Jesus can provide immediate relief in this case? He reminds Martha that he has God-given power over death, saying: “The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”
Jesus is not suggesting that his disciples then alive will never die. Even he must die, as he has told his apostles. (Matthew 16:21; 17:22, 23) Jesus is stressing that exercising faith in him can lead to everlasting life. For many, such life will be gained through a resurrection. However, faithful ones alive at the end of this system may never have to die at all. In either case, everyone who exercises faith in him can be sure of never facing permanent death.
But can Jesus, who just said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” help Lazarus, now dead for days? Jesus asks Martha: “Do you believe this?” She answers: “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” With faith that Jesus can do something that very day, Martha hurries home and tells her sister privately: “The Teacher is here and is calling you.” (John 11:25-28) At that, Mary leaves the house, soon to be followed by others, who assume that she is going to Lazarus’ tomb.
Instead, Mary goes to Jesus, falls at his feet weeping, and repeats the sentiments her sister expressed: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Moved at seeing Mary and the crowds weeping, Jesus groans, becomes troubled, and even gives way to tears. That touches the onlookers. But some ask: ‘If Jesus could heal a man born blind, could he not prevent this one from dying?’