“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?’ ” (vv. 39–40).- John 11:36–44
Jesus’ weeping at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) does not go unnoticed by the Jews who join Mary and Martha in their mourning. Some of them rightly see our Lord’s grief as proof of His love for Lazarus (v. 36). Others apparently believe that Lazarus’ death is incongruous with the other actions of Christ. If Jesus could make the blind man see, could He not have healed Lazarus (v. 37)? Implicit in this speculation is another question: Why did Jesus not heal Lazarus? Such thinking betrays a misunderstanding about the Savior’s mission. While He certainly has concern for people and desires to see them made whole, the purpose of Christ’s coming is not merely or even primarily to restore men and women to health. He comes into the world, first and foremost, to reveal His glory and the glory of God (vv. 4, 42).
When Jesus arrives at the tomb of Lazarus, John reports that He is deeply moved (v. 38a), demonstrating yet again, as Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John, that “Jesus entered into the affliction of His people so deeply that He was moved within Himself at the travesty of death.” John tells us that the tomb is “a cave, and a stone lay against it” (v. 38b). This type of grave was not uncommon for first-century Jews, and Jews of some wealth and prominence were especially likely to own such a tomb. For example, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent and wealthy Jew, owned the cave tomb in which Jesus was buried (Matt. 27:57–60). That Lazarus was buried in such a grave lends credence to the idea that his family enjoyed a high social standing.
At the tomb, it is evident that Martha remains unaware that Jesus is planning to raise Lazarus that very day, for she is reluctant to open the tomb when Jesus asks her to do so (John 11:39). But our Savior once again indicates that He is about to act, and that He will do so in order to reveal the glory and power of God (v. 40). His prayer indicates that He is not raising Lazarus merely to comfort the man’s family, but that He will call Lazarus forth from the grave in order to prove that He has been sent by God and invested with the authority even over death itself (vv. 41–42). And so, Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of the grave, and Lazarus, though he is dead, cannot help but obey. Just as the Creator spoke life into existence at creation, so does He, in the person of Jesus Christ, speak and restore Lazarus to life (vv. 43–44; see Gen. 1:1–2:3).
When God speaks to call forth life, life is always imparted. We see this in the creation narrative, in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and in the spiritual rebirth that occurs in regeneration. When the Holy Spirit attends the preaching of God’s Word, new life is imparted into the souls of God’s elect. That’s why it is vital for us to attend to the preaching of the Word and to proclaim God’s Word to other people.
Passages for Further Study