We come to the seventh and final sign in the Gospel of John this week. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Below are my visual meditations. Feel free to use any of these images in your study or teaching.
It always starts with visually marking up the text.
This is a perplexing passage. Jesus intentionally waits long enough to insure that Lazarus will be completely dead. The Jews believed that the soul completely leaves the dead body after three days in the tomb. Jesus waited two days, then it took two days to get to Bethany.
It is important to note that Jesus is moving toward Jerusalem once again. This will be his final movement in that direction. Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem.
Jesus encounters Lazarus’ sisters. They are all friends. Both sisters greet Jesus with the identical accusation. Yet, Jesus meets each of them in a different way.
Martha is full of theological questions. Jesus engages her in deep theological conversation and makes a bold statement about his identity.
Mary, on the other hand, falls at his feet and weeps. Jesus emotionally responds and joins Mary in her grief.
These two conversations demonstrate the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus. On the divine side he is the giver of life, on the human side he is deeply disturbed, moved, and weeps. We can never separate these sides. Jesus is the word made flesh who brings the promise that God is always with us and for us, even in our darkest moments. God does not just promise to rescue us from our human pain, but joins us in it.
A unique feature of this story is that the sign itself happens at the end. The dialogue and discussion precede the event. This serves to mark it as the climax and turning point of the Gospel of John. The raising of Lazarus is the event that motivates Jesus’ opposition to arrest him and have him killed. This is the transfiguration story of John. Jesus has come that we may have life and have it to the fullest. This is grace upon grace that defies even death itself.
Here is the whole story in one image.