Read: John 11:1-44
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is taken from the NIV.
Jesus was quite fond of the sibling group Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. So fond, that we simply must address one of the ways He revealed Himself through them. Well into their relationship, Martha and Mary sent word that Lazarus was ill. Through John 11 we get to witness the events that took place after this message was sent.
Jesus (all-knowing), most certainly knew the fate that awaited Lazarus. He knew this illness would take his life, and yet even with that knowledge, He remained two days where he was, all the while declaring, "Lazarus' sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this." (John 11:4b NLT)
After those two days, Jesus and His disciples made their way to Judea despite the disciples’ hesitation over knowing that the Jews’ wanted Jesus dead. All the while, Jesus was continuing to reveal himself to them, that they might be able to remove the scales from theirs eyes and see this situation through eyes of faith. As they arrived in Judea, Jesus got word that Lazarus had been dead for four days. This is significant, just as Jesus' full 3 days and nights in the tomb was significant, because under the Law of that time, in order to be considered dead, you had to remain in the tomb for 3 whole days and nights.
Here we encounter Martha and, as in other selections of scripture, she is quite outspoken. The following verses from John 11:21-27 depict their conversation.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.’
It’s interesting to see Martha's contradictory statements. At some points throughout their conversation it seemed she had the situation under control. She had faith that whatever Jesus asked, God would give Him. Yet, with her next reply she couldn’t grasp that Jesus could physically give Lazarus life on this side of Heaven. She believed Jesus was the Son of God, yet she couldn’t begin to comprehend what that entails.
Jesus then urged Martha to bring Mary to meet Him. As Mary came, she, too was so focused on the limits that she'd set for Jesus based on what she'd already seen Him do, that she also said, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:32 NLT) The next verse says "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. " (John 11:33 KJV) Christ was troubled at what was taking place. “Where have you laid him?” He asked.
We can only speculate about what may have caused His troubled spirit. Was it the lack of faith of those around Him, their limited understanding of who He was, even while He walked among them? This may have been part of it however, it seems that His trouble reached much deeper than that. Jesus may have been troubled by their limitations but even more than that, He was concerned with their well-being. He knew He would not be with them much longer. He hated seeing the people He loved aching with pain. It was heartbreaking to see the evil that was brought into this world killing off His people who were never meant for death. Jesus knew the time was soon coming when He would no longer walk among them. He knew that the limitations they were already setting for God would only increase. He was deeply troubled by these things because His love for these people was so great.
He was and is the ultimate empathizer as He understands and shares our feelings. He is also the most perfect giver of compassion as He takes action to soothe our wounded spirits. When He came to this earth He took on the pain of the people so that He might be an unlimited and insurmountable comfort to them--to us--in times of need. John 11:38 brings us to the tomb with a still troubled Jesus: "Then Jesus, again growning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it." His compassion for these people, the very ones He had come to save, was ever-present.
John 11:39-44 brings us to the conclusion of this miraculous work saying,
‘Roll the stone aside,’ Jesus told them.
While this entire interaction is so powerful, let's focus on just one of Jesus' final revelations: "Unwrap him and let him go!" Jesus had just freed Lazarus from physical death, but he was still wearing its clothes. In so doing, He revealed the plan that was yet to come from His own death: A plan that would remove the grave clothes from every tribe and nation.
Lazarus went on to lead a physical life for years to come, but he would eventually face physical death once again. What Jesus revealed in this powerful statement, "Unwrap him and let him go!” was that He was and is the conqueror of death. Death had no hold on Him, and it has no hold on us when we choose His salvation. He also revealed through this interaction the importance of choosing to fully embrace His redemption on this side of Heaven. Jesus didn't just save us from our sins, He redeemed us from them. We are no longer bound by death because we have been given new life through Christ. It's important to note that Jesus made a point of instructing those present to unwrap Lazarus. In this way, He made evident the need for community, for accountability, and for helping to remove the death clothes of sin that bind us in this life. Jesus revealed through Mary, Martha, and Lazarus that He is the finisher and we are no longer bound by death.
Written by Lindsey.
Often, even the people closest to Jesus were so far off the mark in their understanding of who He was and what He could do. Limitations to His power were being placed on the eyes and hearts of His followers, long before He made His ascent into heaven. Today, His followers continue to limit and box in the power of Christ and His all-sufficient and never-ending power. We cannot even begin to comprehend all that is possible through the power of Jesus, but through the studying of His miracles, we can at least begin to break open those boxes and come to big and better revelations of His goodness than we ever thought possible.
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