The Reading: John 11:38-44
“Lazarus, come out” (v.44) RSV
Last week we spoke of the place and value of prayer. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Or as another scripture has it, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established” (Proverbs 19:21).
Jesus arrived in Bethany and proceeded to prepare the two sisters and all the onlookers for the miracle that was going to take place. Without their co-operation and the necessary faith Jesus would have been severely hampered in what he was going to do. You may remember that it is recorded that when he was in his home town of Nazareth “he could do no mighty work there” (Mark 6:5), “because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Similarly when we come to look at the healing of Jairus’ daughter Jesus had to put out the scornful mourners, and keep with him only the few who had faith.
So we see this week that Jesus deals separately with Martha and then Mary to tackle their grief and disappointment. He then raises their hope and faith. He also prays in front of the crowd, as he says, “for their sake” (v.42). Finally he gets them to take the first practical step of faith: “Take away the stone” (v.39). This opens up the possibilities. Either there will be a stink or there will be a deathly hush.
And now Jesus raises the dead, not through prayer, but through the creative word of command: “Lazarus, come out” (v.43). This loud proclamation was not said to the people or to God, but to Lazarus. As we have read earlier this week we are expected to speak to the mountain. In this case it is Lazarus who has to respond. That’s what faith is: hear and obey. James makes this very clear in his letter when he wrote, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).
Outside the grave of Lazarus, Jesus said the word. The young man came forth. The people were given a further work to do: “Unbind him and let him go” (v.44). Once again we are involved in the process of healing and deliverance.
Lord, it is incredible but true, you raised the dead. I believe, help my unbelief, and may my faith grow. Amen.
1 How does James explain faith and works?
2 Which disciple raised the dead?