Jesus was very close to Lazarus and his family. In Luke chapter 10, there is the famous story of Lazarus’ sister Martha welcoming Jesus and His disciples into her house. Lazarus’ other sister, Mary, sits in awe at the feet of Jesus taking in the moment and Martha became overly focused on the task of hosting Jesus. After this moment we can assume that there began an amazing friendship. John 11:5 even states, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” There are only a handful of people that are mentioned by name in the Bible to have been close to Jesus, and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus go down for eternity as those who were close to Jesus and those whom Jesus loved. Sadly, shortly after this meeting, John chapter 11 tells us that Lazarus would lose his life to an illness.
If Charles Dickens had an opportunity to paraphrase John chapter 11, he might start with, “Lazarus was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”
John 11:5-7 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’”
1. Why did Jesus stay “two days longer in the place where He was?”
2. How would you feel if you knew a person could help relieve grief but decided to withhold or postpone aid?
John 11:17-20 adds, “Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.”
3. What were Mary and Martha’s reactions to hearing Jesus had come to Bethany?
4. What would your reactions be if you were in their shoes?
John 11:21-24 continues, “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’”
5. What would be harder to comprehend, Jesus not showing up at all to help, or Jesus showing up too late to help?
6. Are Jesus and Martha referring to the same rising?
Theological truths do not always bring comfort. They bring truth, insight, and understanding, but even the deepest of theological truths may not act as a remedy for what the heart is needing at that time. Christian funerals are still sad despite knowing that a loved one might be with Jesus. Hard times are still difficult to navigate through despite knowing that “God is our victory.” While Martha is hanging onto truth at this moment, she tipped her hand and showed where her true emotions were at by saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Charles Spurgeon pointed out, “It is clear that she (Martha) derived very little consolation from the fact of a distant and general resurrection: she needed resurrection and life to come nearer home, and to become more a present fact to her.”
7. What brings the most comfort to you during difficult times?
John 11:25-27 says, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”
8. On a more personal level, why would Jesus ask Martha if she believed He was “the Resurrection and the Life?”
John 11:28-35 adds, “When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”
9. Why do you think Jesus was so moved by Mary’s response to this whole situation?
Finally, John 11:38-44 says, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
10. Why did Jesus resurrect Lazarus from the dead?
11. At the moment Lazarus rose from the dead, what do you think was going through Martha’s head?
Martha was conflicted with the emotions of believing in Jesus and the reality of the situation. For four days, Mary and Martha grieved their brother’s death, and Jesus seemingly was nowhere to be found. For four days, grief and bitterness consumed these sisters. Yet, the key detail in this whole event that can easily be missed is, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6). Jesus’ actions are perfectly plotted and perfect in timing. Through His actions, Jesus shows us that His delays are not always denials. His delays are purposeful so in the delay, there would be greater glory given to God.
12. Why is it so hard for us to completely trust in God’s plan?
13. If God loves you enough to die on a cross, what situation in your life do you think God is not handling properly?