6 April 2014

John 11:1-45

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (vv. 25-26)


The account of Lazarus being raised to life four days after dying and being laid in a tomb is unique to John's Gospel, but for John this episode is pivotal in Jesus' ministry. Not only is it made crystal clear who Jesus is when his close friend Martha says, "You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world" (v. 27), but this miracle is also described as the reason the chief priests and the Pharisees began to plot to kill him (verse 53).

This is the seventh and final sign in John's Gospel and its importance is seen by the way it is given far more space than the others (John 2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-18; 6:1-15, 16-21; 9:1-41). As with the others, this sign is intended to revel more about the truth of who Jesus was, and this is made explicit through the discourse that, as usual, accompanies the sign. In this case most of the explanatory discourse has taken place before the miracle has happened. So when Jesus first hears about Lazarus' death he says, "it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it" (v. 4), and just to underline the point he repeats the message to Martha in verse 40.

It is perhaps puzzling why Jesus delays going to visit his close friends in Bethany when he first hears about the death of Lazarus (verse 6), although it is clearly a deliberate decision (verse 5). As the discussion with his disciples goes on to show (verses 7-10), Jesus is both fully aware of what is happening and signals that he is in control. He acts at the right time and in accordance with a divine timetable and plan for his mission. However, there is now no need to wait until "the last day" (v. 24) to experience the new life offered through Christ, for now he offered it there and then to anyone who believed in him (verses 25-26).

To Ponder

  • Jesus was so disturbed by this experience that he wept (verse 35). Pray for those who weep today because of the difficult situations they find themselves in.
  • Thomas bravely says to his fellow disciples, "let us also go, that we may die with him" (v. 16). Pray for those today whose faith in Christ puts them at risk of abuse or even death.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.