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John 11:17-37

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going 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?”
(John 11:17-37 NIV)

Jesus has been spending time with His disciples and a small band of faithful followers in the wilderness beyond the Jordan River, where John the Baptizer formerly ministered.  In yesterday’s passage, Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus let His disciples know, and informed them that they would experience God’s glory despite this bad news.  Jesus waits another couple of days, then begins the journey back across the Jordan and to the little town of Bethany just outside Jerusalem.

In today’s passage, Jesus arrives on the outskirts of Bethany.  Word gets to Mary and Martha that Jesus is coming.  Martha leaves her home and goes to speak with Jesus while Mary stays home.

In ancient Jewish culture, when someone died, the only time the immediate family members left their home during the first week after the death was to attend the funeral.   The rest of the time, the immediate family spent together in their home.  Others came to the home to minister to them and spend time mourning with them.

In verses 18 – 19, John gives us a “behind the scenes” side note that many of the family friends had made the short trek from Jerusalem to Bethany to be with the sisters.  Martha broke social protocol and went to meet Jesus rather than waiting for him to come to their home.

When we first encountered Mary in Luke 7:36-50, we saw her come to faith in Christ and receive forgiveness and eternal life.  Today is Martha’s day to do the same.

In verses 21 – 27, John records the conversation between Jesus and Martha.  In verse 22, Martha shows a glimmer of trust when she says that God can do great things through Jesus.  In verses 25 – 26, Jesus explains that He is the promised source of resurrection and eternal life.  Jesus’ question to Martha is simple and to the point:  “Do you believe this?”  Martha’s response in verse 27 reveals her step of faith and confession of Jesus as Messiah and keeper of eternal life as she puts her trust in Him.

In verses 28 – 32 we see Jesus’ encounter with Mary.  In verses 33 – 35 we see Jesus’ humanity and compassion spill forth.  John captures Jesus’ heartfelt response to Mary and the other friends mourning Lazarus’ death.  John carefully picks his words to describe the responses of Mary and Jesus.  John uses the word “weeping” (Greek “klaiō“) to indicate mourning and a flood of tears when describing Mary and her friends.  John uses the word “wept” (Greek “dakryō”) to show a single tear rolling down one’s cheek when describing Jesus.

Was Jesus mourning Lazarus’ death and feeling the pain of His dear friends Martha and Mary?  Absolutely.  John captures this in the crowd’s comments (v. 36).  But Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  So why was Jesus sad?  John records in verse 33 that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”  Could it be that Jesus was experiencing so much more, even the fall of humanity, all the way back to the Garden of Eden?

John is also careful to capture the fact that while many believed that Jesus could perform miracles, no one believed that Jesus could raise someone from the dead (verses 21, 32, 37).  Their world would soon be turned upside down.

Jesus’ statement/question to Martha in verses 25 – 26 is His same promise to and inquiry of us.

What is our response?


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