Sad and Glad - The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus

John 11:1-57

Before I begin, here is a short seven question quiz for you.

1. What is the longest chapter in the Bible? (Psalm 119)
2. What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? (Psalm 117)
3. What chapter is the exact middle chapter of the Bible? (Psalm 118)
4. What is the exact middle verse of the Bible? (Psalm 118:15) Is this a good memory verse for October?
5. What is the longest verse in the Bible? (Esther 8:9) Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. (90 words!)
6. What is the shortest verse in the Bible? (John 11:35) Jesus wept. Jesus was sad!
7. The shortest verse in the English Bible is “Jesus wept” but the shortest in Greek is “Rejoice evermore!” (I Thess. 5:16). Joy and sadness are never far apart and sometimes they come together.

All that we know about Lazarus is found in John chapter 11 and 12. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary, who lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. Mary and Martha are first mentioned in Luke 10:38-42 but their brother Lazerus is not named.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The house apparently belonged to Martha who had a sister named Mary. There is no mention of Lazarus.

Mary's extravagant act of pouring perfume worth a year's salary on Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair is mentioned briefly in John 11:2, but it actually happened later, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (chapter 12).

From John 11:3 and 5, we learn that Jesus and Lazarus were very good friends. Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jesus had a special place in his heart for all three siblings, but he seemed to play down the seriousness of the occasion in verses 4 and 11. He decided to stay where he was for two days. After the two days, he said, "Let's go to Judea" (vs 7). The disciples tried to convince him that this was not a good idea. The Jews had tried to stone him there before, and besides, there was no urgency if Lazarus was just sleeping (verse 11). In verse 14, Jesus finally told them, "Lazarus is dead!"

Jesus was glad!

Verse 15 begins, "And I am glad… Let's go!" In verse 16, Doubting Thomas said, "Let's go and die with him."

They walked 15 furlongs to Bethany (v.18). A furlong was about 660 feet, the length of a plowed furrow on an acre of ground. An acre was what one man with one oxen could plow in a day. When they reached Bethany, Lazarus had been in the grave four days already.

Martha heard that Jesus was coming and went to meet him. Martha said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, but I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee" (v. 21-22).

Jesus told her that her brother would rise again. Martha said, "I know -- in the last day" (v.24) Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? Martha replied, Lord I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Do you recall anyone else making a similar statement of faith? Peter in Matthew 16:16! Martha went back to the house and called her sister, Mary, who also went to see Jesus. Other funeral guests thought that she was going to the grave and went with her. In verse 33, it says, When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Now we find the shortest verse in the Bible that many children choose to learn if required! John 11:35 says, Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! There is no doubt that Jesus loved Lazarus, but is that why he was weeping? Is that why he groaned in the spirit? Is that why he was troubled? In verse 15, he said that he was glad!

Instead of weeping, there was rejoicing! Can you imagine the scene? While the "mourners" were now rejoicing, the Jewish leaders were troubled. Verse 44-48: What do we? What are they so concerned about? Losing their political power! Many Christians today are more concerned about the government recognizing their rights than in opportunities to share the gospel. Often, opportunities to share Christ come with hardship, suffering and even persecution.

The High Priest, Caiaphas, said, Consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (v.49-57) It is quite probable that Saul of Tarsus was with the Pharisees at the time.

John 12:1-11 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

Lazarus apparently also lived in Bethany, but had his own house. We don't know for certain. In Luke 10, Martha owns a house and seems to be in full control. She is upset that her sister wasn't helping in the kitchen. In John 12, Mary does the unthinkable which causes the disciples of Jesus to grumble.

I want to add my own thoughts here for what they are worth. This is definitely not the inspired Word of God, but merely a supposition based on 78 years of observation. This family was apparently well-to-do and had received a goodly spiritual and financial inheritance from the parents. Martha is industrious, intelligent and she believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Mary too is a devout believer, but she seems to lack the same intelligence and abilities that her sister was endowed with. I think that the expensive flask of perfume represented part of Mary's inheritance.

In the parable of the talents, each servant was entrusted with talents according to their abilities. God doesn't expect a dumb person (like me) to always make intelligent decisions. (That is a lame excuse, I know!)

In the first mentioning of the family (Luke 10), Lazarus is nowhere named. In the second account (John 11), Lazarus is dead and buried until Jesus calls him out of the tomb. In the third appearance of the family (John 12), The family is reunited with Jesus in the midst. Martha is back in the kitchen and serving tables, while Mary does the unthinkable - again! From that moment on until today, We speak of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.

Ralph V Harvey