11 April 2015

John 11:17-44

“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.’” (vv. 43b-44)

Psalm: Psalm 145


As miracles go, they don't get much more miraculous than this. But, unlike Jesus' first miracle in John's Gospel (turning water into wine - John 2:1-11), the mood of the narrative here is heavy with angst and grief.

Jesus is described as "greatly disturbed" (v. 38). Lazarus has been dead so long that his body has begun to decay and Martha warns Jesus not to open the tomb for fear of the stench that will escape. We cannot know what it was like for Jesus and for those with him on that day, but the narrative is clear that the act of raising Lazarus was seriously costly.

Although I've described this as a 'miracle', the word used in John's Gospel for such acts is "sign". In John's Gospel, each sign performed by Jesus points to a great reality, a greater truth about who Jesus is and what he is going to do for humanity. And perhaps none more so than the raising of Lazarus.

So here we see a foreshadowing, a mere hint of what is to come - and of the price that Jesus might pay to 'unbind' humanity and set it free.

To Ponder

  • Do you believe in miracles? Why? Or why not?
  • Have you ever encountered a person or situation that you felt was beyond redemption? What happened?
  • What 'signs' have you witnessed of God's work in your life?

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.