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 11:38-44 NIV)
After receiving word that Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick, Jesus and His disciples travel from the wilderness in Jordan to Bethany to spend time with Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha. While everyone believed that Jesus could heal sick people, no one believed that Jesus could bring back someone from the dead. Lazarus had been dead four days. He was gone. There was no hope.
Their world was about to get turned upside down.
As we begin today’s passage, we see John laser-focused on Jesus, capturing not only what He did, but also how He felt. In verse 38, like verse 33, John again says that Jesus was “deeply moved” (Greek – “embrimaomai“). This word conveys a deep groan, coming from the depths of one’s soul. Was Jesus deeply saddened by the death of His friend Lazarus, and the pain of His friends Mary and Martha? Yes, without question. But Jesus already knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Was there something deeper going on here? Could it be that Jesus was experiencing so much more, even the fall of humanity, all the way back to the Garden of Eden?
Jesus, Mary, Martha, the disciples, and other friends were standing nearby the entombment site. There were likely many tears, fond remembrances about Lazarus, and words of comfort to the sisters.
But the mood would change in an instant, from sadness and loss to shock and horror when Jesus did the unthinkable. “Take away the stone”, Jesus ordered. Martha, in her shock and practicality, immediately objects. Jesus reminds her of her confession and belief expressed just a few minutes earlier (v. 27).
Jesus says a quick prayer, not for Lazarus, but for the onlookers gathered there, that they would believe that He is, in fact, the Messiah sent from God the Father.
With no further ceremony or explanation, Jesus simply calls Lazarus to come forth from the grave. When Lazarus stumbles out of the tomb, Jesus orders the bystanders to set Lazarus free from the grave clothes that are restricting his movement.
As we consider today’s passage, there are so many faith lessons to learn:
- The glory of God revealed through Jesus as God’s Son. Only God has the power over life and death, as Jesus demonstrated.
- Our practicality and pragmatism are often constraints that keep God’s glory from being displayed, just as Martha’s objection was to Jesus’ command to take away the stone. May we have faith that God can overcome the impossible, give up our control, and give Him the glory when the miracle happens.
- The power of prayer, not for the miracle itself, but for the glory of God displayed. Every miracle brings glory to God and every miracle is an answer to prayer.
- Jesus, by raising Lazarus from the dead, prophetically demonstrated His death and resurrection to His friends and followers gathered at the tomb.
- Remember in John 10:27 when Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”? Jesus moved His previous teaching from analogy to reality when He called Lazarus from the tomb. And so it will be for us one day when Jesus calls us home.
- Just as Jesus ordered Lazarus to be set free from the grave clothes that bound him, so Jesus orders us to be set free from the penalty and power of sin over our lives when we profess our faith in Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord.