We all know John chapter 11 as the story where Jesus resurrects Lazarus from the dead. It’s a story of absolutely epic proportion! Of all Jesus’ miracles, John wants us to see this act as the most astounding and awesome one yet!
In case you didn’t know, the book of John is actually centered around seven miracles (or signs) and seven I AM statements by Christ. Often, the special signs and the I AM statements correlate with each other. For example, Jesus feeds the five thousand and then states, “I AM the Bread of Life” (John 6). Jesus claims, “I AM the Light of the World” and gives sight to a man born blind (John 9). Well, here John brings his account to a breathtaking climax as Jesus makes the most radical claim of all — “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” And then, to prove that He could back up His words, Jesus then proceeds to raise Lazarus from the grave! Finally, there could be no doubt that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah… Right? And yet, after such a wonderful miracle, John 11 tragically ends with the Jewish leaders’ scheme to murder Jesus, the very Source of life.
I think if we’re honest with ourselves as we read through this chapter, however, we all have to struggle with some questions of our own. For example, what does it mean for Jesus to say, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe”? And what could that mean for the tragic losses we have seen or experienced in our own lives? The Lazarus story has a happy ending, but I know that we have all lived through tragedies where the ending was not happy. What could Jesus be speaking to us in those experiences? It’s a tough thing, and I simple don’t have the answer. But maybe that’s when we need to read John 11:35. The shortest and most poignant verse in scripture: “Jesus wept.” Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would be resurrected mere moments later, He still sobbed right alongside his dear friends Martha and Mary. It’s almost as if Jesus chose to limit Himself to the human experience of uncontrolled grief – anything that caused His friends pain, caused Him pain. So, just think! We serve a God who is truly, actually, literally touched by every strain of human sorrow and grief. We serve a God whose heart reverberates with every ache, pang, and twinge we have ever experienced in our own hearts. It’s a reality we’ll never fully comprehend.
But, we can’t just stop there! Let the words of John 11:25-26 sink in for moment: “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Friends, it’s the resurrection promise that makes the singular difference in the Christian life! It’s what makes all the pain and grief of the life in this sin-sick world all matter for something! Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:19-21:
…if our hope in Christ is only for this life [if this life is all we have], we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died… [As a result] everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. (New Living Translation)
I love this quote from The Desire of Ages chapter 58: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.” We all borrow life, but Christ IS LIFE! And when we allow Him to establish a personal relationship with us, we get to share in His eternal life as an added bonus!
In closing, I just want to share a few life-application questions with you. I would like to challenge you (as well as myself) to think and pray about these over the next few days:
– In what ways has God redeemed painful or tragic experiences in my life?
– Why did Jesus command the stone to be removed from Lazarus’ grave instead of miraculously moving it Himself? Are there stones in my life that I must do my part in moving before God is fully able perform His mighty works in and through me?
– How does my life reflect my belief that Jesus is truly the Resurrection and the Life? How does this belief make my life look different than those around me?