Theme: The Necessity of Spiritual Life
In this week’s lessons on the raising of Lazarus, we see that it points to Jesus as the only one who can take us from the state of spiritual death and make us spiritually alive.
Scripture: John 11:1-44
Here in John 11, Jesus is talking about himself as the resurrection and the life—not merely as the one who gives physical life, but even more importantly, as the one who can impart spiritual life to the one who hears Jesus efficacious call and goes on to believe on him. This makes verse 25 the heart of the story.
Jesus has come back to Bethany after Lazarus has died. Martha hears that he’s come, and she goes out to meet him. She says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” That was rather a bold thing for her to say. Jesus then said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Now that was a promise that he was going to raise him from the dead, but she didn’t take it that way. She took it in terms of the final resurrection, which we would do as well. But that isn’t what he was talking about. When he said that he is the resurrection and the life, he was referring to a spiritual resurrection and a spiritual life that only he can give.
Now it is true that her brother was going to rise again physically at the last day, because even though Jesus raised him from the dead, he would die again, and there would be a final resurrection. All of that was true. But what Jesus is trying to teach here is that what Lazarus, Martha, Mary and everybody needs, and you and I need as well, is a spiritual resurrection. That’s the way he explains it: “He who believes in me will live even though he dies.” This means that he who believes in him will experience spiritual life, even though eventually he or she is going to die physically.
And then the second part of Jesus’ statement is this: “…and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” What does that mean? Jesus has just spoken about dying, and now in the very next clause he talks about not dying. What Jesus is teaching is that spiritual life will be yours if you live and believe on him, and this spiritual life is going to transcend and be victorious over physical death. So he’s saying something that you and I need to hear, and we need to proclaim it to your generation. Our generation is scared to death of dying. That’s why we don’t want to talk about it. And here is Jesus saying to people like that: “Yes, you’re going to die physically, but that isn’t what matters. What matters is whether you’re going to live spiritually or not, because the one who lives spiritually is going to transcend his eventual physical death and rise again bodily to a glorious resurrection life forever with God in heaven.
Now, let me say a few things about the miracle itself, and then point out the significance of this in terms of the theology of the Gospel of John. This is the climactic miracle, isn’t it? This is the last of the miracles—the seventh one. If you go back to the second chapter, you find the first, which is the instance in which Jesus turned water into wine at Cana of Galilee. It was important because the last verse of that says, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”
Now the miracles are intended to reveal his glory, that is, to tell us something about him so that we might praise him for who he really is. And yet, as we measure these things, comparing one with another, that first one doesn’t seem to be overly powerful. Certainly, it showed Christ’s ability to handle elements, changing one into another, and spiritually it showed him to be the source of joy, because this was a joyous occasion. If you want to have true joy, come to Jesus. But it doesn’t seem to be nearly as significant as the others.
We go on and we find these miracles or signs increasing. There is the healing of the son of one of the officers, and the healing of the lame man by the pool, recorded in chapter 5. We’re beginning to get the point spiritually by this third one. Here is this man by the pool, who is unable to do anything for himself. He wanted to get into the pool, but the man couldn’t do it because he was paralyzed. You see, it’s as if to say, you can’t save yourself. What you need is the healing power of Jesus Christ.
Why is verse 25 said to be the heart of the story?
When Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, what does she think Jesus means? What is he really referring to?
What are all the miracles recorded in John intended to do?
Application: How does knowing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life help you as you deal with trials and difficulties?