John 11:17-27 - Jesus and Martha: A Growth in Faith

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this passage is a dynamic conversation between Jesus and Martha. What happened caused a great growth in Martha’s faith. A seeking heart and a study of the conversation will cause any believer’s faith to grow and to grow significantly.

            1.         The scene was Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem about 2 miles away (v.17-20).

            2.         Martha’s complaining, limited faith (v.21-22).

            3.         Martha’s fundamental faith (v.23-24).

            4.         Martha’s declared faith (v.25-27).

A.                  a growth in faith

1.                  Jesus Brings His Comfort (v.17-20)

a)                  Lazarus: Had Been In The Grave For Four Days (v.17-18)

(1)                 The scene was Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem about two miles away. When Jesus arrived, someone told Him that Lazarus had already been buried for four days ( John 11:6).  Jesus did not actually enter the city of Bethany. He apparently stayed on the outskirts of the city. Just why we are not told. Perhaps the multitude following Him was too large to crowd into the city, or perhaps He was simply avoiding those who were so bitterly opposed to Him.

b)                  Friends: Comforted The Family (v.19)

(1)                 There was an enormous number of mourners who had come to comfort the family, and some of these were opposed to Jesus (John 11:46).

c)                  Martha: Went To Meet Jesus (v.20a)

(1)                 Whatever the reason for remaining on the outskirts of the city, Jesus apparently sent a messenger to tell Martha that He had arrived (John 11:28).  As soon as she heard, she quietly left the house and ran out to meet Him. (John 11:28 for what apparently happened with Martha as well as Mary).  Mary, however, remained at home.

d)                  Mary: Sat At Home (v.20b)

(1)                 Note the striking contrast between Martha and Mary, a contrast that is so characteristic.
(a)                 Martha was the woman of action and energy, the one loaded with initiative; therefore, she was the one who went out to meet Jesus.
(b)                Mary was the contemplative and meditative one; therefore, she remained at home to receive the mourners (cp. Luke 10:38-42).

2.                  Martha’s Complaining Limited Faith (v.21-22)

a)                  Her complaining belief (v.21)

(1)                 Martha’s Complaining, Limited Faith In Jesus. Martha believed in Jesus. She even believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus and kept him from dying. But Jesus had not come immediately when He was called; therefore, her brother was dead.
(2)                 Why did Jesus not come when he was called?  Why did He not heal Lazarus, when she and the family loved Jesus so much and had done so much for Him?   Why did He let Lazarus die?
(3)                 The point is this: Martha Did Believe In Jesus, But Her Faith Was A Complaining Faith. She did not believe to the point of resting in faith. She did not believe with an unlimited and resting faith. She was not entrusting the matter completely into the Lord’s hands. She was not yet convinced that what had happened was for the best. She trusted Jesus as her Savior, but she questioned what had happened. She complained and even reproached Jesus.

b)                  Her limited belief: That His power was less than God’s power (v.22)

                        A complaining, questioning faith is a limited faith. It is a faith that questions Jesus’ Lordship...

·                     that questions if Jesus has done what is best.

·                     that questions if Jesus knows what is best.

            It says to Jesus, “If you had been here, if you had acted differently, if you had done this or that, then this trial would not have happened.” Note that Martha was convicted immediately for having complained and reproached Jesus. She blurted out:

      “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you”  (John 8:22).

(1)                 But note even here how her limited faith showed itself.  She did not say, “Lord, I know that you can do anything you will.” She said, “Whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you.”
(2)                 She did not realize that “the Father had given all thins into His hands” (John 3:35), & “that all authority has been given into His hands (Matt.28:18).”
(3)                 She was still limiting Jesus to some level below God. She was not grasping that Jesus Himself was the Resurrection and the Life. She had a complaining, limited faith in Jesus.

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm (Matt.8:26 cf. Mk4:35-41)

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased (Matt.14:31-32).

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?  Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? (Matt.16:8-9)

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works (John 14:10).


3.                  Martha’s Fundamental Faith (v.23-24).

a)                  Jesus’ declaration (v.23)

(1)                 Jesus made a striking declaration, “Your brother will rise again.” He could have said it no clearer. Lazarus was to be raised from the dead.


b)                  Martha’s expression of faith (v.24)

                        Martha misunderstood. She thought Jesus meant that Lazarus would rise in the resurrection at the last day.

(1)                 Note that Martha had a fundamental faith.  Fundamental means the foundation… She believed in the resurrection, one of the fundamentals of the faith.  She believed what Jesus had taught, and He had been drilling the resurrection into His followers (John 5:28-29; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; John 12:48).
(a)                 The Deity of Christ; The Trinity; The Bodily Resurrection of Christ
(b)                The Vicarious (Substitutionary) Atonement of Christ; The Second Coming of Christ and; Salvation by Grace through Faith. 
(2)                 Martha’s fundamental faith experienced disappointment.  The promise of a future resurrection and reunion is not always a comfort. 
(a)                 Her loved one was gone. There was now no contact and no relationship with him, not on this earth.
(b)                Everything about her life was now completely changed. Her household was radically different. She believed in the resurrection and believed in all the fundamentals of the faith, but the resurrection was so far in the future, it was of little comfort to her then.
(c)                 However, Paul did give some revelation concerning those who are asleep (dead) in Christ (1Thess.4:13-18).
(3)                 The point is this: a fundamental faith is essential.  A person must believe in the fundamentals of the faith, but a fundamental faith is short. 
(a)                 What is so desperately needed by man is what was needed by Martha: a living faith, a faith that is alive and vibrant, dynamic and moving, conscious and acting, communicating and fellowshipping.
(b)                What is needed is the knowledge that Jesus, the very One who stands before us, is “the resurrection and the life.”

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matt.7:21).

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away (2Tim.3:5)!

4.                  Martha’s Declared Faith.  Note three points.

a)                  Jesus’ great claim (v.25a)

(1)                 “I Am the resurrection and the life.”  Here is a critical fact: Jesus did not say that He gives the resurrection and life to man, but He is the Resurrection and the Life.
(2)                 Jesus, of course, does give the resurrection and life to believers; but His point is not this fact. His point is far more important. Jesus declared that He is the very being and essence, the very power and energy of life. Therefore, He can...

·                     give and sustain life as He wills.

·                     resurrect and restore life as He wills.

(3)                 It means that man—in fact all of life—exists only by the will and power of Jesus. Being the power and energy of life, Jesus is the Source of all life. There is nothing existing apart from His will; therefore, if a dead person wishes to live, only Jesus can give him life. And if a living person does not wish to die, only Jesus can keep him from dying.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4)

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 5:26).

Jesus said to him,  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).

So hat as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom.5:21).

Our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2Tim.1:10).

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12).           

b)                  The Promise: Believe (v.25b-26)

(1)                 He who believes and dies shall live (v.25b)

Jesus’ great promise: believe, and two phenomenal things happen.

(a)                 “He that believes in me, though he may die [kan a pothanen], he shall live.” He lives in the other world: in heaven, in the spiritual dimension of being, in the very presence of God Himself. The believer who has passed from this world is not some place...

(i)                   in some semi-conscious state, in a deep sleep. 

(ii)                 in space moving about and floating around on a fluffy cloud.

(b)                The believer is fully alive: he lives in heaven, in the other world, in the very presence of God Himself. Another world exists just as this world exists. It is not a world that lies out in the future; it is a world that exists now—a spiritual world—a spiritual dimension—a world that the Bible calls heaven. It is the spiritual world and dimension where God and Christ and angels and all those who have gone on before now live.
(c)                 The point is this: when a person who has believed in Jesus dies, he goes to live in heaven, in the spiritual world where God and Christ and the heavenly hosts live.

And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31).

And Jesus said to him,  “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).”

If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor (John 12:26).

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2Cor.5:8).

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better (Phil.1:23)

c)                  “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (v.26)

(1)                 The idea is that the believer shall never taste death, that is, never experience death. Quicker than the believer can blink an eye, he passes from this world into the next world. He is transported and transferred into heaven.
(2)                 The believer never loses a single moment of consciousness. One moment he is conscious and living in this world; the next moment he is conscious and present in the next world. There is only one difference.
(3)                 He is immediately perfected: transformed, made perfect, made much more conscious and aware, more knowledgeable and alive than ever before.


2 Timothy 4:18—Delivered From Death, Preserved To Eternal Life.

(1)                 The phrase “preserve me for his heavenly kingdom” is a picture of God bringing Paul safely into God’s kingdom.
(2)                 It is the picture of God transporting Paul right through this world into the next world.
(3)                 It is the picture of time—of unbroken time. God preserves Paul right through time into eternity. In one moment of time, Paul is living in this world, conscious and aware; but within the same moment—in a split second—he is transported into God’s heavenly kingdom. That one moment of time happens quicker than the blinking of an eye (11/100 of a second).
(4)                 Just imagine!  There is no loss of consciousness, no experience or awareness of death.  One moment Paul is a citizen of this world, and within the same split moment he stands before the Lord as a citizen of His kingdom.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2Cor.5:5-8).

(5)                 It is the beautiful picture of the believer never having to taste death. 

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Heb.2:9).

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son does not have life (1 John 5:11-12)


1.                  Apart From Jesus There Is No Life.

a)                  Jesus Christ Is The Source Of Physical Life

The Bible says “all things were made by Him” (John 1:3), and He holds everything together by the Word of His power (Heb.1:3).

b)                  All Spiritual Life Comes from the Lord Jesus

Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (Jn.10:10).

Jesus not only opens the door, He is the door (John 10:7, 9) & if anyone enter’s by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  Note this that Peter stood at the door outside (John 18:16).

Jesus not only promises bread, He is the bread (John 6:31-35, 41, 48-58 God gave His only Son)

Jesus not only shows the way, He is the way (John 14:6)

Jesus not only bestows life, He is life (John 14:6)

2.                  The Word “Life”, “To Live” Or “To Have Life” Have A Depth Of Meaning.

a)                  Eternal Life Is A Present Possession, Not Merely A Future Hope.

(1)                 Ephesians 1:3 says God has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
(2)                 Ephesians 2:5-6 Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
(3)                 Both passages, the verbs are past tense, an accomplished reality, we already possess eternal life.
(4)                 Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3:20), therefore, we must be preoccupied with heavenly things (Col.3:1-3), not with earthly things (1Jn2:15-17),communing with God now, through prayer & the study of the Word of God (2Tim.2:15).

b)                  Eternal Life is a Quality of Life.

(1)                 It is life in fellowship, communion, & oneness with God (John 17:3)
(2)                 Christ said “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk.17:20-21), God governs your life.

c)                  Eternal Life Is Being Changed From The Inside Out.

(1)                 Holy Spirit gives us a new set of holy desires (Ezek.36:26), a hunger for righteousness (Matt.5:6) and a desire for Him.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26).
(2)                 From that point on God uses everything to move us toward being like Christ (Rom.8:28-29).
(3)                 We are clothed with a perfect righteousness (Isa.61:10; Rom.4:5), giving us a right standing before God without any fear of condemnation (Rom.5:1; 8:1).  We have been made “complete in Christ” (Col.2:10), and have been granted all things that pertain to life & Godliness (2Pet.1:3).

He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son does not have life (v.12)

(4)                 Note a crucial point. Receiving eternal life is conditional: a person must believe. It is “he that believes” and “whosoever lives and believes” that lives and shall never die. It is as Jesus asked Martha: “Do You believe this (v.26)?”  If a person believes Jesus, he shall never die; he shall live forever.
(5)                 What Does it mean to believe (John 2:24).

3.                  Martha’s declaration (v.27)

Martha’s great declaration. Martha believed, and she confessed and called Jesus “Lord”.  She declared that she believed three things:

a)                  That Jesus Is The Christ, The Messiah (v.27a) – (cf.  John 1:35-42).

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:25-26)

But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me” (John 7:29)

b)                  That Jesus Is The Son Of God (v.27b)

c)                  That Jesus is the One who was to be sent into the world by God (v.27c).

(1)                 Proof: Sent from God and speaks God’s Word (John 3:34a)
(2)                 Jesus is the Apostle of God.

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38 NKJV)

"But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me." (John 7:29 NKJV)

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. (John 8:42 NKJV)

"That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:21 NKJV)

(3)                 It should be noted that God poured out His Spirit without measure upon Jesus—the only apostle upon whom this was ever done. (John 4:34; John 5:23-24, 30, 36-37; John 6:38-40, 44, 57; John 7:16, 18; John 8:16, 42; John 9:4; John 10:36; John 11:42; John 12:44-45, 49; John 14:24; John 15:21; John 16:5; John 17:3, 18, 21, 23, 25; John 20:21.)
(4)                 He is God’s Ambassador, God’s perfect Spokesman.

"For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. (John 3:34)

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63 NKJV)

"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him----the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:48 NKJV)

"He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. (John 14:24 NKJV)

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"   But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:67-68 NKJV)

"For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. (John 17:8 NKJV)

(5)                 We are now the Ambassador’s, spokesman for God
(a)                 Acts 26:17 – Paul was sent by God
(b)                Eph.6:20 – Paul says he was an ambassador for Christ.
(c)                 John 20:21 – “As the Father has sent me, I send you”
(d)                2Cor.5:20 – We are ambassadors for Christ (Matt.28:19-20)        

And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me (John 8:42).


Think About This:

Knowing that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life means three things.  It means...

·                     that Jesus is alive, living right before us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is both in us and all around us. Our faith is living and alive and in constant communion and fellowship with Him.

·                     that our loved one is present with Jesus, no longer imperfect in mind and body, but perfect: more conscious, more aware, more alive than he was on earth. How do we know this? Jesus is alive in heaven, and “to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

·                     that Jesus is alive, so the resurrection of our glorified bodies is assured (1 Cor. 15:1-58).


(2:24) Believe (episteusan)—Commit (episteuen): the word “commit” is the very same word “believe” (cp. John 2:23). This gives an excellent picture of saving faith, of what genuine faith is—of the kind of faith that really saves a person.

     1.   Saving faith is not head knowledge, not just a mental conviction and intellectual assent. It is not just believing the fact that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. It is not just believing history, that Jesus Christ lived upon earth as the Savior just as George Washington lived upon earth as the President of America. It is not just believing the words and claims of Jesus in the same way that a person would believe the words of George Washington.

     2.   Saving faith is believing in Jesus, who and what He is, that He is the Savior and Lord of life. It is a man giving and turning his life over to Jesus. It is a man casting himself upon Jesus as Savior and Lord.

     3.   Saving faith is commitment—the commitment of a man’s total being and life to Jesus Christ. It is a man’s commitment of all he is and has to Jesus. It gives Jesus everything; therefore, it involves all of a man’s affairs. The man trusts Jesus to take care of his past (sins), his present (welfare), and his future (destiny). He entrusts his whole life, being and possessions into Jesus’ hands. He lays himself upon Jesus’ keeping, confiding in Him about his daily necessities and acknowledging Him in all the ways of life. He follows Jesus in every area and in every detail of life, seeking His instructions and leaving his welfare up to Him. It is simply commitment of a man’s whole being, all he is and has, to Jesus. (See note— John 4:50; note, pt.4— Hebrews 5:5-10.)

     There are three steps involved in faith, steps that are clearly seen in this passage. (See note— Romans 10:16-17 for more discussion.)

     1.   There is the step of seeing (John 2:23) or hearing (Romans 10:16). A man must be willing to listen to the message of Christ, the revelation of truth.

     2.   There is the step of mental assent. A man must agree that the message is true, that the facts of the case are thus and so. But this is not enough. Mere agreement does not lead to action. Many a person knows that something is true, but he does not change his behavior to match his knowledge. For example, a man knows that eating too much harms his body, but he may continue to eat too much. He agrees to the truth and knows the truth, but he does nothing about it. A person may believe and know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and yet do nothing about it, never make a decision to follow Christ. This man still does not have faith, not the kind of faith that the Bible talks about.

     3.   There is the step of commitment. When the New Testament speaks of faith, it speaks of commitment, a personal commitment to the truth. A man hears the truth and agrees that it is true and does something about it. He commits and yields his life to the truth. The truth becomes a part of his very being, a part of his behavior and life.

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