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John’s gospel post 53: Rise!

January 10, 2014

“Take me where the sun don’t shine no more
And the moon echoes where once was light
The wind is howling but it has no face
I know that we will rise again” – Steve Hackett – Rise again (from the album “Darktown”?)

John 11:1 – 44

Now we meet Lazarus. A man who is ill. Type of illness not specified. Laz lives in Bethany with sisters Mary & Martha.

*******SPOILER ALERT**********

This is the Mary who poured perfume on Jesus and then wiped his feet with her hair.

John you haven’t even told us about that yet! Who edits this stuff? Still he’s given the main plot line away early on so I don’t suppose it matters that much.

The sisters go to see Jesus, who is plainly a close friend of the family. “The one you love is ill”. No description of the symptoms.

But this is a friend so Jesus immediately rushes to his bedside, touches his hand and heals him. That’s what friends are for.

That what you thought?

Surprise.

Jesus hears about his friend. And stays where he is! For 2 more days!

Mind you he is evidently confident, and he has a good track record, “this illness won’t end in death”.

Jesus now decides to go back to Judea. The disciples are not daft. “They tried to stone you last time!”

Jesus was in control. He had nothing to be afraid of. But he was going back for a reason. To wake up Lazarus. He was using a euphemism though because we are told he knew Laz was dead.

Time to meet another disciple. Thomas. “Let’s go and die with Jesus”. Brave but not exactly optimistic this chap.

By the time Jesus arrives Laz has been in the tomb 4 days. What on earth was Jesus thinking of?!

Other friends and family had made the journey and were there to support the sisters.

Martha heard Jesus was coming at last. She goes to meet him. She has been expecting him for days. I mean in chapter 4 he even healed the official’s son without the need to pay him a visit.

Martha’s words were not surprising. “If you had hurried up my brother wouldn’t be dead now. But God will still give you what you ask”. Those latter words were more surprising. What did she mean?

Jesus replies “Laz is going to rise again”.

Martha is a woman of faith. Oh yes she believes in the resurrection of the dead – at the end of time.

Jesus tells her “I AM the resurrection and the life. Believe in me and you will not die”. What he has been saying to the crowds, he now says to his friend. “Do you believe this?”

Martha deserves to stand alongside those people who made great statements about Jesus. “Yes Lord. You’re the Christ. The Son of God, come into our world”.

Gold star for Martha but hang on is this just discussion? This woman has just lost her brother and the one who could help…didn’t.

Martha goes to get Mary. Mourners are all around.

Mary falls at the feet of Jesus. In worship? In grief?

The words are familiar ” if you had hurried up my brother wouldn’t be dead now”.

Jesus is moved by her sorrow and as he stands by the tomb he weeps. The shortest verse in the bible – “Jesus wept”.

There’s a humanity there. The Son of God is seeing and feeling the hurt of his friends.

Guess what? The people looking on at this scene are divided. Impressed by his obvious love for the family.

“Hang on. We heard this guy healed a man born blind. Where was this great healer when his friend needed him?”

Jesus commands that the stone across the opening to the tomb is opened. Martha protests about the likely smell.

“Do as I say. Time to see the glory of God”.

He says a prayer to the people can hear. He thank God for hearing him. Hearing what?

A dead man in a grave. Now that is final. That’s past the point of no return. Laz has passed the final curtain. Hope is gone.

Until. Until the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world, the friend, the healer of the sick, calls out. To a dead man. A corpse. Like any other corpse. “Laz! Come out!”

The gathered crowd holds it’s breath. Heads are spinning. Eyes are staring! People take a step closer.

In the entrance to the tomb appears a shape. Into the sunlight steps a mummified man. A dead man is walking!

Who is most surprised? The watchers or the man himself?

He is alive. Alive and trapped in grave clothes. At Jesus’ command the man is released.

See Jesus wasn’t just having a theological chat with Martha. He didn’t just say he was the resurrection and the life. He proved it.

Was there anything he could not do? From questioning his failure to turn up in time, Jesus had now shown them the greater miracle. Perhaps the greatest of all.

See you can talk about faith, but time comes when you have to ask yourself. Does the talk mean anything in the realities of life?

Believe in him. Trust even your life to him.

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