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Meditation on John 11
This is a brief devotional meditation on the raising of Lazarus in John 11.


Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004
To John, Jesus and life go together.

More intimately connected than bread and butter, than bacon and eggs. So intimately connected that to have a positive relationship with Jesus is to automatically possess life:

  • 'in him was life' (John 1:4);
  • 'whoever believes in the Son has eternal life' (3:36);
  • 'the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life' (4:14);
  • 'those who hear his voice will live' (5:25);
  • 'as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself' (5:26);
  • 'I am the bread of life' (6:35);
  • 'whoever believes in me ... streams of living water will flow from within him' (7:38);
  • 'whoever follows me ... will have the light of life' (8:12);
  • 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full' (10:10);
  • 'I give to them eternal life' (10:28).

We are left with no room for doubt. As John put it clearly in his first letter: 'He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life' (1 John 5:12). Jesus Christ, and he alone, is the source of life. Apart from him there is only death and judgement.

But here lies one who is dead. And more importantly, here lies one who believed in him, and is dead.

The sisters are weeping. The gathered crowds are mourning. Already the death tomb has been sealed. Days have past.

What mean those grand, inspiring claims of Jesus here, outside this tomb? Are they not here proved false? Is it not here affirmed that death is stronger than life? That sin and judgement are the victors after all? That God is powerless to reverse that curse that entered the world in Genesis 3? That it is Satan whose will prevails?

The falling tears, the puzzled 'if only you had come', the anguished crowd, all tell us. Yes. Here in this death, as in all deaths, is the end of life, the end of hope.

Here in the death of Lazarus is the death of every human being. Here we each are confronted by our own death. Here we each stand fragile and vulnerable, threatened and afraid. If the Christ is powerless here then he is of no use to us, for it is here that we need him most.

Jesus stands outside the tomb. He who is the Lord of life, stands beside this death. He who is the creator and sustainer, stands beside this decay and disintegration. And he knows that soon there will be another tomb with death inside, a death by which he himself has borne the condemnation for all the sins ever committed; a death by which he has paid the ransom price necessary to redeem mankind back to his Father; a death in which he has won the victory over Satan and his demons, disempowering them, binding them; a death over which he triumphs and breaks forth from the tomb with resurrection life, firstborn from the dead, alive for ever and ever (Read 1Peter 2:24; 1:18; Colossians 1:13,2:15; 1:18; Revelation 1:18).

He says to Martha:

'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die' (Jn 11:25), then he asks 'Do you believe this?'

She answers the question simply: 'Yes, Lord', then goes on to explain why: 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.' Martha knows the true identity of Jesus. She knows he is not just a man making grandiose claims. She knows that he is the eternal Lord of life. She knows that beyond death there is spiritual life, and that this Jesus is the One who can give that life.

But she has no proof. That is all in the sphere of ideas and hope and promises. Here, inside the tomb, is real death. Cold. Putrid. Unwanted.

So alien.

So wrong.

So contrary to God's creative purpose, that even Jesus wept.

In this final miracle of the raising of Lazarus Jesus validates all of the claims he has made, and anticipates both his own resurrection and the spiritual regeneration and physical resurrection of all believers. Time and again Jesus has shown by word and action that he has authority and ability to undo the condemnation and curse of Genesis three. Time and again he has taught that he is the pivotal figure in that liberation, that redemption, that salvation.

Here now is a man who believed in him, and he has died. The physical part of the curse and condemnation have been meted out.

Can this man, Jesus of Nazareth, face to face with this inescapable result of our rebellion against our Creator, reverse and undo it here, in its most feared, most final expression?


He can, and he does.

Because he is the resurrection, and he is the life.

He stands before the grave. His voice commands the one who is dead. By his word he calls forth life out of death.

Just as in the original creative act at the beginning of time the word of God summoned into existence all that is, so here the living Word, the Son of God, calls into life he who was dead. He reconstitutes the putrefying flesh; he renews the dehydrating blood; he restores the body fluids; he reverses the cold, hard stiffness of death; he resuscitates the heart and the lungs. All of this and more, simply by the power of his word.

And it is done.

Lazarus comes forth out of the grave. And Jesus says 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'

Jesus is the resurrection and the life, the Son of God, possessed of all the life-giving creative power of the Father, with the authority to recreate, to regenerate, even those who are dead.

Even those who are dead in sin.

Here in the physical and temporal resurrection of Lazarus, as with his own eternal resurrection, Jesus provides us with solid evidence that he possesses both the power and the authority to rescue those who believe in him from the tyranny of sin and death. Those who believe in Jesus Christ have already crossed over from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24), and will, when Christ returns, be given new physical life (1Corinthians 15).

May we each one with Martha confess: 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world', and through that confession of faith, receive from his hand the gift of eternal life.