John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.
Jesus wanted to increase Martha’s faith, so he asked her if she believed. Yes, Lord, she replied, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God (John 11:27). Martha had no idea what would happen next, but she believed in Jesus Christ, and in the resurrection. This is all she needed to face the future, and all we need as well. If we know that Jesus Christ will raise us from the dead, then even death is not a threat to us. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46:2), wrote the Psalmist.
A young lady was so valued by her company that she was voted employee of the year. But she asked to leave a meeting, one day, because she had a headache. Two hours later she was completely paralyzed due to a brain tumor. What do you say to a person who will spend the rest of her life entombed in a body that will not respond?
The world has little comfort for those who suffer most, but we believe in Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life in the best of all possible worlds. This is the comfort we need when life is at its worst.
John 11:35 Jesus wept.
Jesus was not easily troubled, but the death of his friend apparently got to him. He knew what was going to happen next, but he wept because that is what you do when you go to a funeral. You enter into the family’s sorrow and suffer with them.
The word compassion literally means to suffer with, and our God is full of compassion (Psalm 116:5), wrote the Psalmist. He is not the kind of God who sits in heaven and says, I know what you’re going through. He is the kind of God who comes down to suffer with us. There is no sorrow we go through that he does not go through too.
Death is hard on its victims, but also on those who survive. Perhaps the death of Lazarus reminded Jesus of Joseph’s death. Or maybe he thought of the slaughter of the babes in Bethlehem, so many years earlier (Matthew 2:16). Or maybe he thought of all the stillborn babies, and all the young people who have died in battle. Or maybe he thought of the orphans left behind by parents who died too soon. Or maybe he thought about the rest of us who grow old slowly, lose our powers gradually, but die just the same. Death is the ultimate trauma.
Or maybe Jesus thought of his own death. It was only days away, and he would weep again. [H]e offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death (Hebrews 5:7), says Hebrews. As Jesus waited for his arrest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did not think his prayers, or whisper them, but cried them loudly with tears. We can imagine Jesus howling into the darkness, Abba, Father . . . Take this cup from me (Mark 14:36). This much we know for sure: Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible speaks volumes.
John 11:43 Jesus called in a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!
The man who was four days dead emerged, like someone waking up from a deep sleep. Take off the grave clothes and let him go (John 11:44), said Jesus. Suddenly the resurrection was not just a religious doctrine—it was reality. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and a short time later, he would raise himself (John 10:17-18). Not only that, but what Jesus did for Lazarus, and for himself, he will do for us.
A pile of dirt sat in a cemetery next to a freshly dug grave. A little boy was concerned and said, Look, Dad, one of them got out! In fact, the day is coming when all God’s people will get out, but with a glory we cannot imagine. [T]hanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57), wrote Paul.
John 12:1-2 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.
Jesus would be dead in less than a week, and he relished this time with friends. Dinner was served by Martha, who was probably helped by her sister Mary. The evening proceeded nicely until Mary did the unexpected. [She] took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3), wrote John.
Mary’s action was extravagant by almost any measure. For a woman to let down her hair in public was considered inappropriate. And the cost of the perfume seemed like a terrible waste of money.
John 12:5 Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages [said Judas].
Judas was less concerned for the poor than he was for himself, however, since he was a thief and the keeper of the money bag (John 12:6). But he was not alone in his conviction. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. Why this waste? they asked (Matthew 26:8). And they rebuked her harshly (Mark 14:5).
We understand their point. To spend a year’s wages on a single act of devotion seemed highly irresponsible. But Mary was not thinking about the cost. She was so taken with Jesus Christ that she wanted to give him her best. So she poured her perfume on his feet, and wiped them with her hair.
John 12:7 Leave her alone, Jesus replied. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
Perfume could be used on a corpse to hide the smell of decay. Since Jesus would soon be dead, he saw Mary’s act as preparing him for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her (Matthew 26:13), said Jesus.
By including these words in his gospel, Matthew insured that they would be fulfilled. Throughout the years, and around the world, people have heard this story and been inspired to worship Jesus Christ. What the disciples thought was a waste of money, turned out to be the best use of it.
Reflection and Review
How can belief in the resurrection comfort those who suffer physically?
How do we know God is compassionate?
Why do some people love Jesus so much?