Christ Glorified, Our Faith Strengthened (11:1-44)

John desires to prove to us that Jesus is the Messiah and so that we might believe and have life. To accomplish this task, He provides 7 signs that prove Christ’s deity, 7 “I AM” statements that point to His deity, and 7 witnesses that attest to His deity. Below are the 7 signs and 7 “I AM” statements as found in chronological order in the Gospel.
John desires to prove to us that Jesus is the Messiah and so that we might believe and have life. To accomplish this task, He provides 7 signs that prove Christ’s deity, 7 “I AM” statements that point to His deity, and 7 witnesses that attest to His deity. Below are the 7 signs and 7 “I AM” statements as found in chronological order in the Gospel.
John desires to prove to us that Jesus is the Messiah and so that we might believe and have life. To accomplish this task, He provides 7 signs that prove Christ’s deity, 7 “I AM” statements that point to His deity, and 7 witnesses that attest to His deity. Below are the 7 signs and 7 “I AM” statements as found in chronological order in the Gospel.
In chapter 11 we find the pinnacle of the signs and, embedded within that sign, one of the 7 “I AM” statements.
Seven Signs
Seven “I Am” Statements
Turning water into wine in Cana (2:1-11)
Healing an official’s son in Caperm (4:46-54)
Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (5:1-18)
Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5-14)
Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21)
“I am the bread of life” (6:35)
“I am the light of the world” (8:12)
Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7)
“I am the door for the sheep” (10:7; cf. v. 9)
“I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14)
Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany (11:1-45)
“I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6)
“I am the true vine” (15:1; cf. v. 5)
Figure 8. Seven Signs, Seven I Am Statements
In chapter 11 we find the pinnacle of the signs and, embedded within that sign, one of the 7 “I AM” statements.
Purpose Statement. Through this story we find that God desires to strengthen our faith as He is glorified.

Christ Often Does Not Work in a Way We Expect (11:1-16)

Why did Jesus wait? Because, Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; and because Jesus desired to strengthen the faith of his disciples.
Jesus loved his friends. “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” ().
Some versions (NLT) translate the verse along the following lines: “Even though Jesus loved them, when he heard, he stayed two days longer.” With this translation, you may perceive that Jesus’ love for his friends was at odds with his staying a couple more days. Yet, most other translations roughly read, “Jesus loved his friends, so when he heard, he stayed two more days.” His staying did not conflict with his love. Because Jesus loved, he stayed. This may appear counterintuitive; yet Jesus understood that his following miracle would be both healing to their hearts and restorative to their faith. Because he loved them, he patiently waited so that he could do a good work in them.
Jesus strengthened the faith of his disciples. Additionally, Jesus desired to strengthen the faith of his disciples. John goes on to write, “and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” ().
Our requests are often met with unexpected responses. Mary and Martha sent a messenger with the news, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Consider the expectations inherent in such a statement. They knew Jesus could heal people, and it makes since that Jesus would heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha new Jesus could heal Lazarus, and they expected Him to do so.
Jesus doesn’t come immediately. (1) He responds by telling the messenger that the sickness will not end in death. (2) He tells them that this is being done so that the Son may be glorified. (3) And third, “So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” Certainly, Mary and Martha expected a quicker response.
Jesus doesn’t heal from a distance. The Apostle John tells us of the story of a nobleman and his sick son. The nobleman travels a significant distance to ask Jesus to heal his son. Jesus tells the man to go home because his son had been healed. Clearly, Jesus didn’t need to be present with Lazarus to heal him. He could have just healed him from a distance, but he doesn’t.
Christ’s sovereign decisions are often illogical to us. We can probably correctly deduce that the disciples were pleased with Jesus choice to stay where they were. They had no desire to go back to the area of Jerusalem. So, when Jesus tells them that they are going to Bethany they react strongly.
Disciples: We can’t go back there. They want to kill you.
Jesus replies: There are twelve hours in a day and men use them all to accomplish their work. In a similar vein, I have only so many hours here on earth to work and I need to keep working. It’s not yet dark (speaking of his death) so you and I need to keep working.
Jesus final pep talk: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
Disciples confused: Now, even more, the disciples see no need to go to Bethany. Why would they need to go and wake up Lazarus?
Jesus clarifies: Jesus informs them that Lazarus is dead.
Thomas: in as pessimistic a mode as possible, “Let us go, so that we may die with Him.” Ok Jesus. We’ll go, but we’re all going to die! 🙄[1]
How about You? Have you ever looked at the work of God in your life or in someone else’s and wondered, “why”? Does God ever work in your life different than you expected Him too? Do you ever conclude there must have been an easier way to learn? I don’t know why God put me through that. That makes no sense at all! Why did God choose to work that way? How does God’s provision in my life look like me losing my job or my health, etc.?
God tests our faith during these moments. Jesus reveals this truth in the following verses.

Christ Allows for Our Faith to Be Tested (11:17-32)

Lazarus was in the tomb and had been for four days. According to Palestinian Judaism, Mary and Martha would have buried the body on the day of Lazarus’ death. This day of death would start seven days of mourning, three of which were characterized by weeping. These three days of weeping would be followed by four additional days in which the family would not leave the home while friends would come bringing food and mourn with them.[2]
According to Midrash literature, “The whole strength of the mourning is not till the third day; for three days long the soul returns to the grave, thinking that it will return (into the body); when however it sees that the color of its face has changed then it goes away and leaves it.”[3] As a result, the soul entered the place of the dead, and with their departure, any hope for the mourners of their coming back.
Knowing his intentions to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus waited long enough to solidify the reality of Lazarus’ death. Therefore, when he rose Lazarus from the dead, no other explanation could be offered but to reveal Jesus deity.
Misunderstandings result in disappointment. Consider the following: (1) Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days. (2) This probably means that Lazarus had died shortly leaving Mary and Martha and was dead when Jesus told the messenger and the disciples that this would not end in Lazarus’ death. (3) The messenger returned with this news, inevitably amid their second or third day of mourning.
Mary and Martha held a couple rather common understandings, even more so considering Jesus and the power he had already displayed. (1) If you love someone, you go to their funeral as soon as you can. Jesus waited. When the servant arrived back without Jesus, Mary and Martha must have been disappointed. (2) If you can heal people of any kind of disease, you probably should heal your closest friends when they get sick, and preferably prior to their death. Jesus could heal people of all kinds of disease. More specifically, Jesus could heal people without being present with them. Jesus chooses to not heal his dear friend, Lazarus, in this manner. Clearly and understandably, Mary and Martha were disappointed.
Both Mary and Martha communicate this disappointment. When Martha hears that Jesus had arrived, she goes out to greet him. Her disappointment is revealed as she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (). Mary remained in the house. Jesus comes to her and Mary fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” ().
There seems to be potentially a sense of reprimand on the part of these women. You can imagine them now standing there, proverbially, with their hands on their hips looking at Jesus with a bit of disappointment. All they could think was that Jesus could have healed Lazarus, if only He would have come.
Small faith amid disappointment. While disappointed, both Mary and Martha exhibit differing levels of faith.
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.” 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.” ().
How about You? We have often defined provision in our life and when God doesn’t meet up to that definition, we struggle doubting His care for us or potentially His power to do what He promised. We often establish what His love should look like and when His treatment of us doesn’t meet up to that understanding we can become confused and wonder if God really does love us.
I would imagine that all of you have faith in Christ. You believe He is the Savior of the world. He died for sins. He is exalted and intercedes on our behalf. All things will one day be made right, and we will spend eternity in heaven with Him. But what about NOW? The present was the challenge for Martha. She believed that Jesus would one day raise Lazarus, but she was disappointed in Jesus’ present actions and decision.
Is it possible that we have underestimated His power? Is it possible that we have expected Him to conform to our conceptions of His love and power?

Christ is Broken Over Our Unbelief (11:33-37)

Why did Jesus weep? I’ve always considered Jesus’ weeping in this passage as a display of affection and compassion towards those He loves, like the compassion displayed in Mark. Mark shares the story of Jesus arriving on the shore, and when he sees the crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” ().
Moved and Troubled. I thought Jesus’ weeping was directly connected to Mary, Martha, and their friend’s present, deep hurt. Yet, with further study, a more nuanced view of Jesus’ grief arose. While, undoubtedly, Jesus had compassion for and with his dear friends, John describes Jesus’ display of emotion, not with the term compassion, but instead “moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (11:33).
The underlying Greek word for “deeply moved” expresses “intense agitation . . . expressing anger or displeasure.”[4] Friberg also defines the Greek word for “greatly troubled” as “shake or stir upbut includes the idea of “acute mental or spiritual agitation.[5]
When Herod heard that a new king was to be born, “he was troubled” (). When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, “they were terrified” (). When Jesus appeared in the Upper Room following his death, Jesus asked the disciples why they were troubled (). John uses this same word, in , in the story of Jesus healing the lame man. The lame man admits that he was unable to get to the pool “when the water is stirred up” (). Additionally, When Jesus informed his disciples that one of them would betray him, he “was troubled in his spirit” ().
Jesus wept. Two verses later (11:35), John informs the reader that Jesus wept. Commentators offer two basic explanations for Jesus weeping. (1) Some believe that Jesus is moved by his friend’s grief. Simply, he is weeping with those who weep. Their hurt moves him to compassion. (2) Others believe that Jesus is angry with their lack of belief and his weeping is singularly directed at disbelief.
Borchert. I would maintain that Jesus’ weeping here is directly related to the failure of his followers to recognize his mission as the agent of God. God’s Son was in their midst. They really missed the point.[6]
John carefully uses a different word for Jesus’ weeping than the others present. Borchert argues that “It was almost as though the evangelist wanted to send a signal to his readers not to misinterpret Jesus’ weeping. It is, I would argue, precisely what the Jews here did.”[7]
Two verses earlier, John writes that Jesus was moved and greatly troubled. Two verses later, we see Jesus weeping. The context indicates that his weeping is somehow connected to his being agitated and troubled. Yet, his weeping must not be entirely credited to his frustration.
Murray. It would be harmonious with what we know of Jesus in this Gospel if anger by reason of unbelief was balanced by grief over the tragedy of the human situation, from which not even the people of God can extricate themselves.[8]
How about You? Do you think that there may be times when our Father looks at us with frustration? Why don’t you trust me? Why don’t your actions reflect a belief in what I tell you? Why do you question me and my motives as if I didn’t know what I was doing?

Christ is Glorified Through His Miraculous Work (11:38-44)

Why did Jesus make this resurrection so dramatic? Another way to ask that same question might be, “Why did Jesus wait so long? Why didn’t He just heal Lazarus right away?” (1) He prolongs His arrival. (2) He waits until after Lazarus has been dead long enough to stink. (3) He allows those He loves to endure this incredibly challenging time of loss. (4) He “endangers” Himself and the disciples by coming back near Jerusalem.
Why didn’t He just heal Him from a distance and come visit Him later? Why? Because He needed to display His power and be glorified. Secondarily, it appears that He needed to strengthen the faith of His followers. Both purposes were accomplished.
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” ().
and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” ().
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.” ().
Purpose Statement. God desires to strengthen our faith as He is glorified.
[1] Most commentators draw some conclusion as to Thomas’ motives in verse 16. My speculative discussion certainly places Thomas in a fairly negative light. However, many commentators conclude Thomas was a model of faith, if not as well misunderstanding. Carson writes, “Thomas reflects not doubt but raw devotion and courage, even though it was courage shot through with misunderstanding and incomprehension” (The Gospel According to John, 410). Kruse as well describes Thomas as the one disciple who “distinguished himself from those disciples who tried to dissuade Jesus from returning” (John, 246).
Conversely, Lenski refers to Thomas’ statement as “pessimistic unbelief” (The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, 794) and Michaels writes, “His is a counsel not of faith but of unbelief and despair, for he has failed to grasp either the prospect that “the Son of God might be glorified” (v. 4), or the meaning of Jesus’ promise that “I am going that I might wake him up” (The Gospel of John, 625).
Regardless one’s conclusion as to Thomas’ motivation, most agree that Thomas spoke beyond his understanding. Murray writes, “Thomas summons his fellow disciples to accompany Jesus and die with him. An utterance of blind devotion, it expresses more than he realizes: for Jesus the journey will be for death, but one that will mean life for the world” (John, 36:189). As well Keener acknowledges that Thomas “ironically understands Jesus correctly” (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 842). Even though Lazarus’ resurrection would not cost Thomas and the other disciples their lives, it would cost Jesus his life.
[2] Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 842–43; Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 2:104.
Keener. Palestinian Judaism required burial of the deceased on the day of death, but six days of mourning (for a total of seven) followed, in which the bereaved family members would remain at home while others came to supply food and express sympathy
Barclay. Deep mourning lasted for seven days, of which the first three were days of weeping. During these seven days, it was forbidden to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to engage in any kind of study or business, and even to wash. The week of deep mourning was followed by thirty days of lighter mourning.
[3] Murray quotes from Genesis Rabbah 100 (64a). Beasley-Murray, John, 36:189–90.
[4] Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 145–46.
[5] Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, 375.
[6] Borchert, , 25A:360.
[7] Borchert, 25A:360.
Kruse, John, 250. “Perhaps he is showing by his choice of this word that Jesus’ weeping was of a different order from that of Mary and ‘the Jews’. He was not joining with them in their weeping and wailing, but expressing his sorrow at the faithlessness he found all around him.”
[8] Beasley-Murray, John, 36:193–94.
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