Jesus was a long way away from Bethany where Lazarus had become ill, and eventually died. Mary & Martha had put the call out to Him to come, with the assumption that Jesus would immediately come, and their brother Lazarus would be healed.
But Jesus did not go. And Lazarus did die. So when Jesus got to Bethany, there is no surprise in the confrontational tone of both the sisters in turn: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32).
But there was a greater encounter happening in Jesus’ ministry, and He trusted Lazarus’ family, including Lazarus himself, to understand after all had been finished. He declared “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and then proved it.
At the tomb, after the large stone had been shifted, “God spoke… and it was so” (refrain of the creation account of Genesis 1). In this instance, Jesus spoke: “Lazarus, come out!”, and so he did (John 11:43-44).
Jesus used the illness of Lazarus to reveal the greatness of His authority, that it even extended above death, over a man who had been dead over four days. Jesus trusted that Lazarus, Mary & Martha were faithful toward Jesus, and that they would understand His actions. So they did, their faith and trust in Jesus not just confirmed, but increased all the more.
Then word got around… a plot was hatched by the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus, and Lazarus (John 11:45-57).
But the resuscitation of Lazarus in John 11 had a sequel in John 12. Later on, ‘six days before Passover’ (John 12:1), a dinner party was held in Jesus’ honour. During this encounter, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the indescribably expensive nard (perfume from a distant land).
There was a greater encounter at play here that Jesus revealed, that this anointing was the preparation for His imminent death (that the others could not foresee). Yet Judas’ reaction to the action of Mary was the seed of his betrayal of Jesus which would lead to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
These encounters remind us that there is often a greater encounter occurring that we are unaware of, that God’s perspective is infinitely higher, longer and greater than our limited, mortal and usually self-centered lines of sight.
- Mary and Martha wondered how Jesus could let Lazarus die. Instead Jesus did something much greater.
- Judas could not understand the waste of such a large amount of money in the form of a jar of perfume, and reacted by putting into motion the very events Jesus knew must occur.
Another lesson from these encounters is the importance of gratitude in such unknown circumstances.
- When Jesus arrived back from His travels, both sisters went out to meet Him – to ask Him “why?”, surely, but also trusting Him to do what He alone was able to do.
- A banquet was held in Jesus’ honour next time He came to Bethany where Lazarus, Mary and Martha celebrated their common life together – without anyone except Jesus knowing what was to come.
“The next day…” Jesus mounted a young donkey and was escorted in Jerusalem city with great acclaim. Seven days later He was condemned and killed outside the same city walls.