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Basic Bible: The Raising of Lazarus

John 11:38-44

John presents Jesus somewhat differently than do Matthew, Mark and Luke. Through John, we see Jesus both as the divine Son who reveals the Father and as one who experiences the world in like manner to ourselves.

The text before us opens with the words: “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself” (v. 38). When we look upon the Son, we look upon the Father (see John 14:9). Jesus’ groanings reflect God the Father’s groanings. Because we are created in the image of God, we have a picture of the emotions of the Creator. We know why we groan. Groaning is our response to physical or mental pain. In the text before us, Jesus groaned because He experienced emotional pain.

To understand why Jesus groaned, we must look upon two words: “therefore” and “again.” The “therefore” of verse 38 refers to the words of verse 37. The Jews looked upon Jesus as one who could have prevented Lazarus from dying had He arrived four days earlier. The word “again” refers to verse 33. Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled when He saw Mary and the Jews with her weeping. Their weeping was prompted by their belief that it was too late; Lazarus had died. They did not understand that God is, was, and will always be in complete control. When the Jews saw Jesus weep (v. 35), they thought Jesus shared their hopelessness. Jesus had come to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus hardly shared their hopelessness. Jesus knew that their tears would vanish when Lazarus arose and came forth. It appears that Jesus may have groaned because the grief that spawned their tears was totally unnecessary.

They (Mary and the Jews) did not know why Jesus wept. They also did not know that Jesus groaned within Himself. Believers who read verse 38 know that Jesus groaned because the Holy Spirit has caused His groaning to be made known to us.

We groan when our actions do not produce the intended result. Jesus may have groaned because the Jews were not looking for God to glorify Himself. The Father desired that the Son should be glorified (see v. 4). The manner in which the Son should be glorified is seen in the fulfillment of the Father’s plan of salvation. The Son, God manifest in the flesh, would be the first of many who would be lifted up from the dead. Jesus may have groaned because the Jews regarded Him only as a preventative to death. The Jews were well aware of Jesus’ miracles of healing but they did not perceive Him to be the full manifestation of God’s love. God has cause to groan when men fail to look to Him to glorify His name.

When Jesus came to Lazarus’ tomb, He issued the instruction to remove the stone that sealed the entrance. Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary, protested that his body would have decayed and would stink because four days had passed. Martha believed on Jesus but was not expecting the Son to be glorified when the stone would be rolled back. Jesus responded to her (v. 40) with the promise which He had spoken earlier (The dead who believe shall live, v. 25). She had expected Jesus to fulfill His promise in a much different manner.

Believers of every era give Jesus cause to groan because we insist that our prayers be answered in our way instead of the manner which reveals the fullness of His glory.

In the closing verses before us, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth and Lazarus came forth. John 11 reveals three reasons for this miracle. The first reason was that the disciples might believe (v. 15). The second, found in verse 40, is that all who believe will see the glory of God. And the third (v. 42) is that those standing by might believe that He was sent by God the Father.

Consider the group targeted by each reason. Group 1 – the disciples: Jesus purposely delayed His journey to Bethany so that the disciples might believe. The miracle was cause to believe that Jesus possessed the power of life over death. The disciples, with the exception of Judas, believed that Jesus is the Christ. The Apostles were given a special ministry — a ministry which would require them to follow Jesus in death. The raising of Lazarus was an extremely important building block in establishing the faith necessary to carry out their ministries.

Group 2 is all represented by Martha (v. 40). It is made up of believers. All believers shall see the glory of God. The glory of God that all believers shall see is their resurrection from the dead. This is an extremely large group because it consists of all who have received or will ever receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior between the time of His resurrection and the time of His return. This group is made up of all who believe God’s promises. It is for us that Christ raised Lazarus — that we might be confident and secure in faith and declare the truth to others.

Group 3 is diverse. It includes the first two groups plus those who would never believe. Those who heard Jesus’ words in verse 42 consists of all who “may believe.” This includes those who refuse to accept Christ as the Promised One sent from God the Father. It included Judas who would betray Him. It is made up of all who, in future times, will have heard but not believed the good news of Jesus Christ. It includes all who willfully turn from the truth.

The account of raising Lazarus from the dead has been preserved as scripture for the benefit of them who give God cause to groan and for the benefit of them who shall live and witness the fullness of His glory.

Let us not be cause for groaning. Let us witness of the fullness of that which He has done for us.

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