In the ministry of Jesus over more than three years there was no parallel event that matched this one for its impact in the nation. Jesus did restore to life the Widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue ruler (Mark 5:21-43), but these events took place in a small village and a private house respectively. The raising of Lazarus took place only a few miles from the city of Jerusalem, a short time before the Passover festival and in a public graveyard! There are no words adequate to express the emotions of those present to the sight of a man dead for days and buried in a tomb coming out of his grave completely restored to health and strength. It is a wonderful encouragement that if God has the power over death and life, and He has, there is no area of my life His interventions cannot reach. What situation do I need to bring to Him today? What do we see here?
1. The compassion of Jesus (John 11:32-35) When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. 35 Jesus wept. It is extraordinary to see the depth of emotion in Jesus on this occasion when He was not very far from the grave of His friend Lazarus. I think He already knew what He was going to do, but seeing the depth of grief in the face of His friend Martha, caused this extraordinary reaction of sadness. When you and I come to Him in prayer with our needs we come to One who is incredibly sympathetic to our plight. He understands all we may be going through today. In I Peter 5:7 Peter wrote: ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you’. Do you have something you need to pray about today that you really need addressing? Bring it to God who cares so deeply about your well-being.
2. The purpose of Jesus (John 11:36-40) 36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ 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 odour, 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?’ A big debate amongst the people there in the crowd watching on was the question raised here. Could Jesus have stopped this illness taking hold if He had got here sooner? We all have our ‘why?’ or ‘what if…’ questions concerning a wide variety of things in our lives or those of other people close to us; God never promises to make everything better, but His extraordinary power can transform any situation. Here no-one really expected God to work a miracle and their prayers were for his sisters Mary and Martha. Yet sometimes God can do amazing things through a direct divine intervention or through a God-honouring intermediary. What expectations do you have today of God hearing and answering Your prayers?
3. The power of Jesus (John 11:41-44) 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 round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (John 11:32-44) The tomb was opened up; whether the doorway was positioned so that the rays of the sun could penetrate into the darkness we have no way of knowing. What is clear, though, is Jesus’ confidence in His Father hearing and answering His Son’s request. I knew that You always hear Me (John 11:42). What a beautiful picture of spiritual intimacy here that has flourished as a result of the dedicated time Jesus put into prayer in earlier years.
Are you willing to invest time more regularly in praying for other people? What was so spectacular was the sight of the previously dead man shuffling out in his grave clothes. This is our God in action. We can pray for the scientists to find a vaccine to destroy the power of the Covid-19 virus, for example. We can pray for God to open someone’s ‘spiritual eyes’, even individuals who had failed to see a need for Jesus in the past. Who or what might you be praying for today? What answers to prayer might we receive if we had a greater confidence in our heavenly Father hearing and responding to our requests? Thank God for this amazing story. The challenge now for each one of us is ask God for an increased capacity in our thinking to understand more clearly what God is doing and to start praying earnestly that God’s kingdom, that is His rule, may be more in evidence both in us and through us as we live for Him today?
Our song for reflection is ‘Men of faith rise up and sing’