Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead, Sunday School Lesson for Sunday April 17, 2011
In John 11, Jesus receives word that his friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was ill. It was serious enough that Lazarus’ family called upon the miracle worker. Yet Jesus does not go to him, telling those whom the sisters had sent that the illness was not serious, and did not lead to death. John goes to great lengths to point out that Jesus had a special affection for this family. It was Mary who had anointed Jesus with oil, and Martha who was scolded for failing to recognize the rest and nourishment to be found in our Lord Jesus. Instead of going to Bethany where they lived, Jesus stayed where He was two days longer. His disciples must have agreed with Jesus’ decision because they become concerned when Jesus asks to go to Judea. They argue with Him, but Jesus tells them plainly that Lazarus had died. And curiously Jesus tells them that He is glad, for their sake, that He was not there when Lazarus died.
This ragtag band of fishermen, would be soldiers and rulers in Christ’s kingdom, had to be quite puzzled. They were clearly afraid that they would be attacked by the Jews again. They were angry. Jesus had clearly agitated them, and the disciples were getting cold feet. Dazed and confused by Jesus’ statements, Thomas tries to muster some courage and rally the troops saying, “Let us go to Bethany and die with him!” Yet the work of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. God never comes to us in the way we expect Him to. He reveals His glory in ways that we cannot anticipate. What did Thomas expect when they got into Judea? What about the disciples?
Martha meets Jesus before He gets to Bethany, scolding Him. Rightly, she says that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there. Yet faith would not have been created in His disciples. Nor would we have gotten a glimpse at the fully incarnate God-man Christ as we do here. For Jesus gives us the full range of His humanity in the emotion and love He displays for this family, the concern for His disciples’ faith, and the full range of His Deity in the creation of faith and raising Lazarus from the dead. And Lazarus was not just dead — he was REALLY dead. Four days. Decay had set in. And lest we forget, Christ Himself makes the claim here that He IS God in one of the great I AM statements of John when He tells Martha, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” There is life in no other. We who are dead can only be made alive by Christ; we only receive life in and through Christ. Make no mistake, when it comes to our salvation, without Christ, we are all exactly like Lazarus no matter how good of a person we are.
Christ, the life of all the living,
Christ, the death of death, our foe,
Christ, yourself for me once giving
To the darkest depths of woe:
Through your suffering, death, and merit
Life eternal I inherit.
Thousand, thousand thanks are due,
Dearest Jesus, unto you. — Ernst C. Hornburg
Listen to Deaconess Pam Nielsen of Concordia Publishing House discuss this week’s lesson on Issues Etc.