Friday 4 April 2014

JOHN 11. v 1-45
The Gospel passage is the story about Lazarus, and John’s gospel is the only one which tells it. The story begins with a desperate plea for help from his two sisters Martha and Mary to Jesus with whom there was a close relationship.

These verses tell us Christians may become very ill as much as others for we live in a world full of disease. When Lazarus became so ill his sisters first thought was to call on Jesus. When our loved ones become unwell we are encouraged to seek medical help, but at the same time to call on the Lord to be with us.

When Jesus heard their call He said this illness will not lead to death in the sense that it did not lead ultimately to death, but it did lead through death in order to being raised a few days later. This was so that God would show His glory by working through Jesus to bring back to life. This would prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God and prepare for acceptance of our Lord’s own resurrection which would take place later.

Jesus then waited two days to allow His friends to go through the sorrow of the death and to mourn because He loved them and wanted them to witness a spectacular demonstration of His power over death, thus seeing His glory as that of the only Son of God.

Jesus told His disciples that He was going to the family home in Bethany and they were shocked and concerned for His safety, for on a previous visit to the area where they lived His life was threatened. Jesus answered their concern by saying, ‘are there not twelve hours in the day, anyone who walks in the day does not stumble because he sees the light of this world.’

The Jewish day was divided into twelve hours, and the day ran according to the sun with the hours varying in length from 9minutes 48 seconds, to 14 minutes and 12 seconds. Jesus was meaning anyone who walks during the daylight won’t stumble, and be able to do so before darkness comes. Therefore, Jesus being the light of the world, anyone who walks in the light Jesus gives, walks in fellowship with Him obeying, in contrast to anyone who does not follow Jesus.

Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep and that He would go and awaken him. The death of true Christians is sleep, from which one day they will be awakened, so when we lose someone dear, they will go to the grave just as Jesus did and one day also rise again.

Thomas was particularly fearful when Jesus said He was going back to Judea and anticipated they might all die. This shows all Christians are subject to doubt at some time and view things differently, and we must recognise varying characters as each serves the Lord. It has been said that anyone who has never had doubts has never had any thoughts.

Jesus made the journey of about 25 miles from wherever He was at that time, we are not told where He was, and by this time Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Jewish belief was that though burial followed soon after death the soul hovered over the body for three days hoping to re enter it, then gave up and departed.

On arriving at their home Martha and Mary were with friends who had come to comfort them. It was common for Jews when friends and neighbours died to gather at the home of the deceased to mourn and comfort the relatives.

Here again we see different temperaments of believers when Martha rushed out to meet Jesus when she hears He has come, whilst Mary sat still; but the Church must be ready to receive all, we need Marthas and Marys, Peters and Johns.

Martha revealed her feelings of love and faith when she told Jesus she wished He had been there sooner, for she was confident Jesus could have kept her brother alive, but she still believed even then in the power of the Lord to do something beyond what might be otherwise expected.

The first words of Jesus are the promise that Lazarus would come back to life. Martha believes Lazarus will rise, but misunderstood the full meaning of Jesus’ promise thinking He was merely speaking of the final resurrection, whilst Jesus meant much more. Jesus was making the tremendous statement that He is the resurrection and all who believe in Him will not die for ever, but will be raised to glory their soul living on eternally. Belief in Him implies personal trust in Christ; lives refers to those who have spiritual life now.

Martha having confessed Jesus as the Christ the Son of God went to tell Mary that Jesus was calling her. The friends who did not have faith thought Mary was going to the grave, but by following her were able to witness a great miracle. Mary fell at Jesus feet and expressed the same feeling that Martha had used.

The reaction of Jesus when He saw Martha and Mary crying depicts the true human side of His nature. We are told Jesus was deeply moved, which means He felt deeply and strongly with profound sorrow at the death of His friend, and at the grief that his other friends had suffered in addition, and also with a deep sense of awe at the power of God which was about to flow through Him to triumph over death. The fact that Jesus wept shows that deep feeling is something of which we should not try to hide. If the Son of God could feel such sorrow for His friends, we can turn to Him in our hour of need.

The final verses tell of one of Jesus’ great miracles and reveal His divinity. When Jesus told them to take away the stone He was both involving people, who could then become witness to His greatness, and the same people would be able to verify there was indeed a dead man there.

Martha protested when Jesus ordered the stone away fearing the consequences of a dead body being removed, so Jesus had to remind her that He had told her this was for the glory and power of God to be revealed. Like Martha we can all lose faith when placed under distress. When all is going well it is simple to be strong, but our faith inevitably is tested when things are not going as we hoped

Finally Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven and gave thanks and praise to His Father publicly so that those standing around would hear and know that Jesus was sent by God. He then gave the command to Lazarus to come out and he did so and was seen bound with linen strips.

The wonder of this raising needs faith in Jesus in order to believe. The non believer cannot understand, and will not believe this story because it is supernatural and beyond the minds of those who turn away from the Lord.

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