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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Jesus And Lazarus
Gospel Analysis

Lent 5A

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2008. Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 221-222.

#259. The Raising Of Lazarus   
John 11:1-44

We recall that the Gospel of John is called the Book of Sign because Jesus did several “signs” within the story. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was his greatest "sign." The word, “miracle,” is not used in the Gospel of John. These unusual events are always called "signs."   The seven "signs" in the Gospel of John are:

  1. Changing water into wine at Cana (2:1-11)
  2. Healing the official’s son (4:46-54) ) “Now this was the second sign”
  3. Healing of the lame man who had been lame 38 years (5:2-47)
  4. Feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-15)
  5. Walking on water (6:15-21) (Not called a sign in the gospel.)
  6. Healing the man born blind (9:1-41)
  7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-45)

-Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. Jesus came back from his four months in the Jordan wilderness where John the Baptist had baptized people near a wilderness village named Bethany (John 1:28). We will call that Bethany in the wilderness, "Bethany 1." After about four months in the wilderness near “Bethany 1,” Jesus came to another village called Bethany, which we are calling “Bethany 2.” It was located two miles from Jerusalem. This Bethany was the village of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. This second Bethany was near the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane.

We recall a previous story about Mary and Martha from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus came to visit their house one day and Martha did all the work and Mary did all the listening.

-It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair whose brother Lazarus was ill. We will study this story later in this course. We recall that in the Gospel of John's account of this event, Mary was the one who anointed Jesus' feet with expensive oil.

.-So the sisters sent to him saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” Circle the word, “love.” Jesus “loved” Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. This story is the only instance in the New Testament where Jesus was said to have loved one particular human being. In other words, Jesus had deep feelings of affection for Lazarus and we will see examples of this as the story of Lazarus unfolds.

We remember that the author of John’s gospel was called “the beloved disciple.”

We remember that the word, “love,” is a favorite word of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  We hear the word, “love,” 47 times in the Gospel of John and this gospel explodes with the word, “love,” especially in chapters 13-15. We will study Jesus’ commandment of love in those chapters. We remember John 13:1, “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another.” Jesus' commandment to love is still the first and basic of all God's commandments for the human race.

-When Jesus heard of it (Lazarus’ illness), he said, “This illness is not unto death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.” This reminds us of the story of the healing of the man born blind. That is, the glory of God was shown both in the healing of the man born blind and in Lazarus’ being raised from the dead. The ultimate purpose of this event was the glorify Jesus as the source of resurrection and the gift of eternal life...for Lazarus and for you and me.

Circle the words, “the Son of God.” Wow. Jesus was openly called “the Son of God” in this statement, which is a summary statement. We also remember the conclusion of John’s gospel which wants us to come to “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31

All four gospels clearly testify that Jesus Christ was/is the Son of God.

The Gospel of John was always clear about its fundamental belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Jesus is called “Son of God” eight times in John’s gospel:

Joh 1:34 - And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

Joh 1:49 - Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

Joh 3:18 - Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Joh 5:25 - "Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Joh 11:4 - But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

Joh 11:27 - She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

Joh 19:7 -The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Joh 20:31 - But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

-Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Circle the word, “love.” Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. This is the only time in the New Testament where the Scriptures tell us that Jesus loved particular people such as Lazarus, Mary and Martha.

Importantly, Jesus stayed two more days in Bethany near the Jordan River and Dead Sea. Why? Why did Jesus delay in coming? So that the truth about Jesus of Nazareth could be known to the whole world, that he had the power to give life and eternal life. That is what Jesus came to give: live and eternal life and that is what all human beings want. The fullness of life here on Earth and eternal life beyond the grave. We human beings are all the same. That is, we all want the fullness of life here on this Earth and eternal life in the future to come.

-Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." Jesus said to his disciples, “It is time to go up to Jerusalem again.”

-The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?"
The disciples remembered the incidents in the temple where the Jewish authorities wanted to kill him after Jesus healed the man born blind.

-Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. We all know that it is wise to get work done during the daylight hours when our eyes can see. We get work done during the day and we rest at night. We know the phrase, “make hay when the sun is shining.”

-But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." People often stumble at night. Jesus then begins to teach metaphorically and we realize that he is teaching about having the light of Christ within us at all times. Disciples then and now need the light of Jesus Christ living inside of them to guide our way so we do not stumble and fall.

-After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him."

-The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." The disciples take Jesus’ words literally, that Lazarus had actually fallen asleep.

-Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. This is an interesting euphemism for death which the Apostle Paul uses in his epistles.

-Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. Jesus wants his disciples to know that Lazarus was dead.

-For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Jesus knew how this story was going to end. Jesus’ goal is always to have disciples in every generation believe in him, including his first disciples in Jerusalem.

-Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Thomas, who later will be labeled as “Thomas the Doubter” knew the fate of Jesus and themselves. They were all going to Jerusalem to die.

-When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Lazarus had been dead a long time.

-Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, This is the second Bethany in Jesus’ life. Jesus had just returned from the first Bethany which was located out in the wilderness where John the Baptist had baptized himself and others. The author of the Gospel of John is persistently giving us specific historical details about the life of Jesus.

-and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. People always want and need good friends and family to console us/them during moments of death.

-When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Once again, we meet busy Martha who seemed to be proactive in everything that she did. We recall the story about Mary and Martha, how Martha was busy in the kitchen and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened.

-Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Talk about getting in Jesus’ face. Martha called a “spade a spade.” Jesus, if you would have been here, my brother (and your best friend) would not have died.

-But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him."
Yet Martha also believed that God would grant Jesus whatever Jesus asked. 

-Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Jesus spoke the truth.

-Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Martha believed that Lazarus would be raised on the last day, but Martha wanted her brother alive now, at this moment in time. Martha had the right answers. That is, she believed in the resurrection of the dead, as Jesus had taught and as also the Pharisees believed.

-Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?  Underline these sentences. Highlight them. Memorize them. “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” What a great proclamation. An Easter proclamation. We human beings all know that we will all physically die but here Jesus immortalized the truth of the gospel: WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS? We all need to know this phrase from John 11:26.

This is one of the seven “I am” teachings in the Gospel of John. In John’s gospel, there are seven signs and there are seven “I am” teachings.

On the way, strong, assertive, “take charge” Martha came out to meet Jesus and gave him an earful.  “Jesus, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said:  “He will rise again.” And Martha testily responded:  “I know he will rise again at the resurrection of the dead, but what good does that do us now?” 

Then Jesus gave a word that has become one of his most treasured teachings: “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever lives and believes in me will never die!”  Will never die!  It is one of the great lines of the Bible. Then Jesus asked one of the most important questions found in the Bible,  “Do you believe this, Martha?”  What a question.  Do you believe this?   Do YOU believe this?  Do you believe that whoever lives and believes in me will never die?” 

Martha answered, “I believe.  I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God and that whoever lives and believes in you will never die.”  That is an incredible conversation, and we could stop here but the story continues.-

The word, "believe," is a dominant word in the Gospel of John. That word occurs more than sixty times within this gospel. The purpose of the gospel is to tell the Jesus story so that we may believe and that in believing, we find power, abundant life and eternal life.

Skim the following Bible verses in John which use the word, "believe."


Joh 1:50 - Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."

Joh 3:12 - If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Joh 3:18 - Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Joh 4:21 - Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

Joh 4:42 - They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

Joh 4:48 - Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."

Joh 5:38 - and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

Joh 5:44 - How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?

Joh 5:46 - If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

Joh 5:47 - But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?"

Joh 6:29 - Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

Joh 6:30 - So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?

Joh 6:36 - But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Joh 6:40 - This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day."

Joh 6:64 - But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.

Joh 6:69 - We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Joh 8:24 - I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."

Joh 8:45 - But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Joh 8:46 - Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

Joh 9:18 - The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

Joh 9:35 - Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"

Joh 9:36 - He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him."

Joh 9:38 - He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him.

Joh 10:25 - Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;

Joh 10:26 -  but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

Joh 10:37 - If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.

Joh 10:38 - But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

Joh 11:15 - For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

Joh 11:25 - Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

Joh 11:26 - and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Joh 11:27 - She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

Joh 11:42 - I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me."

Joh 11:48 - If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."

Joh 12:36 - While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Joh 12:37 - Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.

Joh 12:39 - And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,

Joh 13:19 - I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.

Joh 14:1 - "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

Joh 14:10 - Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

Joh 14:11 - Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Joh 14:29 - And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Joh 16:9 - about sin, because they do not believe in me;

Joh 16:30 - Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God."

Joh 16:31 - Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe?

Joh 17:20 - "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

Joh 17:21 - that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Joh 19:35 - (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)

Joh 20:25 - So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

Joh 20:27 - Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."

Joh 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Joh 20:31 - But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

She said, “Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” Martha knew Jesus’ true identity. She got it right: Jesus was/is the Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world. Circle the word, “yes.” That is what the Lord God wants from each one of us, that we could and would say that little word, “yes,” to God. Yes, we believe in you. Yes, we believe in the resurrection to eternal life. Yes, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

-When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." The older sister went and found the younger sister. Circle the word, “privately,” and remember that an eyewitness told this story. It seems as if it was a “whispering conversation” between the two sisters that Jesus was on the way. It does not seem that the author is giving us spicy little details to convince us of the historical authenticity of the event but is simply reporting what he knew or saw.

-And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Mary wanted to see Jesus as soon as possible.

-Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. Jesus had not yet arrived at the village of Bethany 2, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Garden of Gethsemane. Again, the location of this conversation is very specific.

-The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. The crowd of people who were with Mary and consoling her got up and followed her, thinking she was going to the grave.

-When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Mary, too, believed that Jesus could have presented her brother from dying.

-When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  Martha went back home to find her younger sister and told her that Jesus wanted to talk with her.  Mary left immediately with her grieving friends to find Jesus.  She too approached Jesus with the same testy reproach, “Jesus, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died.” But before Jesus could say anything, Mary burst into tears and so did all her grieving friends.  What was Jesus’ response to her tears?  The Bible says that he was “deeply troubled.” The underlying Greek word says that Jesus “shuddered with sadness,” so much so that his body shook with emotion.  This word in classical Greek is used to refer to a horse, when it snorts. When a horse snorts, the horse’s whole body shakes; and so Jesus’ whole body shook or shuddered with emotion. 

You and I have experienced this often in life, where we are so grieved and sad, that our whole body shook with sorrow. 

Then will come that classic line, the shortest verse in the Bible.  “Jesus wept.”  In our antiseptic way, we imaginea single tear running down his face.  Rather, the Greek suggests, Jesus “burst into tears.” 

So here, in this little episode with sensitive Mary, we hear no classic, eloquent teaching about eternal life. In fact, there are no words at all, but simply strong emotions and bursting tears that shake his body.

Mary becomes a symbol of people who are heavily shaped by their deepest emotions. I know such people. So do you. You/I may be one of them.

Write the phrase, “shuddered with sadness” near the RSV words, “deeply moved in spirit” or “greatly disturbed in spirit.”

-He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." -Jesus began to weep. “Jesus wept.” As every confirmation student remembers, this is the shortest verse in the Bible and can be easily memorized. This short Bible verse is also a reminder that Jesus Christ was fully human and wept like the rest of us do, especially when faced with the death of a closest friend. The Greek suggests that Jesus “burst into tears.” 

-So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" Again, we see that Jesus deeply loved Lazarus.

-But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Yes, some people in the crowd felt that way. So did Martha and Mary. If Jesus opened the eyes of a man born blind, it seems reasonable that Jesus could have prevented his good friend Lazarus from dying in the first place.

-Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. The story continued.  Jesus finally reached the little village of Bethany and then approached the burial vault of his friend Lazarus.  The Bible says that he was again “deeply moved” or “greatly disturbed” as he approached the grave. His body again shuddered with sadness. Yes, a person often feels that way as you approach the grave itself.  It is a time of intense emotion. 

Within the Greek phrase for “shudders with sadness,” there is a connotation of anger, that Jesus was angry about something, and the scholars in the commentaries ponder what Jesus was angry about.  I know what Jesus was angry about:  he was angry that Lazarus died too soon, too young, that it hurt deeply.  I knew those feelings of anger when my good friend, Ray, died too young and too soon.  I was mad, really angry deep inside.  You know those feelings from your similar experiences.

- It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. We will later discover that Jesus’ body was buried in a cave. Limestone caves were common burial places.

-Jesus said, "Take away the stone." We remember that a stone was rolled away from Jesus’ grave, in the Easter resurrection story.

-Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus had said, “Remove the stone.”  And Martha, as always, having her own mind, contradicted Jesus and said, “Why? The body has been in the grave for four days already and it smells.” Jesus ignored her, and the gravestone was rolled away.  As other Biblical scholars have noted, it is fortunate that the Jewish people simply anointed their dead with sweet smelling ointments and did not mummify them by taking certain vital organs. The ointments on Lazarus’ body could not conceal that this body was beginning to have the strong smells of death.

-Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" When a person has the eyes of faith, we are consistently seeing God’s miracles around us. The key to life is to believe. To believe in Christ and you will then see the glories of God all around you.

-So they took away the stone. -And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me.  As always in prayer, Jesus addressed the Lord God as his personal Father, and we are to do the same in our prayers. We also look upward. We also say, “Father, I thank you.” We begin or prayers with expressing appreciation to God our Heavenly Father who knows our name, the numbers of hairs in our head and holds us in the palm of his hand.

-I knew that you always hear me, Underline. Highlight. Emphasize. Jesus taught us that God, our Heavenly Father, always heard him, and by implication, always hears us as well. What a statement of faith! What feelings about prayer, to know that the Lord God, our Heavenly Father, ALWAYS hears us as we pray. Circle the word, “always.” That does not mean that God ALWAYS answers our prayers in ways that we want. Rather, Jesus teaches us that the Lord God of the Universe hears ALL of our prayers.

-but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." Jesus persistently wants people to know that Jesus was sent by God to Earth. Circle the word, “sent.” Jesus was sent by God to Earth to accomplish God’s mission through him. Similarly, we are apostles and the word “apostle” means “sent.” We are sent into our little world with a clear cut mission that we are to be God’s ambassadors of love to our world, just as Jesus was God’s ambassador of love to his world.

The purpose of all of this is that they/we may believe. That is what the Lord God wants from each one of us: to simply believe in Jesus and his gift of the abundant life and eternal life.

-When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"

-The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Jesus said to them, -"Unbind him, and let him go."  

Please read the following sermon:

Lent 5 
Lazarus and Bursting into Tears, John 11:1-45

Painting And The Imagination
The Raising Of Lazarus

Discussion Question: For you, what is the most important part of this story about lazarus being raised from the dead and why?


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