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John 11: 33 When Jesus saw [Mary] 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?’ (NIV-UK)
In this account of the raising of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, we see that He groaned inwardly and cried. In His tears we witness His heart-wrenching compassion for the bereaved sisters, the wider family, the friends of Lazarus, and His extraordinary empathy for the whole human family – not only those alive at the time, but for the generations past and those yet to be, for He is the Saviour of all humanity, by virtue of His ransom sacrifice. In the tears of the Son we see the tears of the Father, who sent His only-begotten to die for all (1 Tim. 2: 5, 6).
Some of the mourners, looking on, exchanged oblique and whispered reproofs: If He is such a wonder-worker, why did He not keep Lazarus from dying in the first place? It is an ancient conundrum. How often in our private moments we wonder why Providence allows us or those close to us to suffer and die.
When Jesus asks ‘where have you laid him?’ it is not because He sought information. He who discerned from a distance that Lazarus had already died, would surely know where the dead was buried. Rather, He chooses to direct the attention of the sisters and their fellow-mourners to the event at hand — the thing for which He has come, that which is to glorify the Father through the Son.
In asking them to guide Him to the place, the Master engages with their sorrow, a companion in grief.
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 believed, you would 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.’
Addressing His Father in heaven in that special way which only Jesus as the uniquely-begotten and dearly-loved Son could do, Jesus commands the dead to walk and to come out! No need to command the heavy stone to roll away — the friends of Lazarus could do that. But only Christ, working as the instrument of God’s power, could make the dead live.
And so the stupendous miracle was accomplished, and hearts and attitudes altered, in more ways than one. As for Martha and Mary, and all of the friends of Lazarus, what joy! The brother, the friend, returned to home and hearth, alive and well. Such was the celebrity of Lazarus and such was the fame of the miracle that not long after, on the strength of it, crowds of people cheered Jesus as King on His triumphant ride into Jerusalem (John 12: 9, 17, 18). True to form, the Pharisees did not join in the cheering. Instead, they decided that they must not only kill Jesus, but must get rid of Lazarus too! (John 12: 10, 11.) There’s no evidence they succeeded.
What became of Lazarus after his resuscitation? The Scriptures do not say, but we surmise that he lived on and then died in the normal way, for he had received merely an extension of his ordinary existence, not a resurrection to eternal life. This permanent resurrection is still future, and we await Christ’s worldwide kingdom on earth to make it a physical reality. Nonetheless, it remains true that all who believe in Christ as Saviour and King are now justified by faith, and in that sense have passed from the state of being dead in trespasses and sins, to forgiveness and life in the Beloved, in whom there is no condemnation.
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