Introduction: This week I attended the National Religious
Broadcasters convention. While there I was invited to a pre-release
showing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ. This is a movie
about the last hours of Jesus’ life on earth. You should see it when
it is released to the general public – not because it is a joy to
watch – but because it reveals, like nothing else I have ever seen,
the tremendous sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins. It will break
your heart. It broke mine. This week our study in John is the event
that precipitated the determination of the Jewish leaders that Jesus
must be killed. Let’s jump into our study.
- Lazarus Loved
- Read John 11:1-3. Why did the sisters send this message to
- Why did they think it necessary to add “the one you
love” is sick? Do you think Jesus knew several
Lazarus’ and this was for identification purposes?
- Why not just say “Lazarus is sick?” Jesus would know
His own feelings for Lazarus. (The sisters wanted
Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. They added the “love”
comment to spur Jesus into action.)
- Read John 11:4-5. Now we also have John telling us that
Jesus loves Lazarus! Why is John piling on these
statements about Jesus’ love for Lazarus?
- Lazarus Ignored
- Read John 11:6-8. Consider the two facts that we learn
from these verses. First, Jesus delays coming to help
Lazarus, even though He loves him. Second, the disciples
think going to Lazarus’ town is a very bad idea because
Jesus may get killed there. Basing your decision only on
those two facts, what conclusion would you come to as to
why Jesus was shuffling His feet for two days? (A struggle
was going on in His mind about whether He should go to
help Lazarus or stay and be safe.)
- If you were in Jesus’ place, what would you have
- Read John 11:9-10. This seems bizarre. The disciples speak
about stoning and Jesus replies about lighting conditions.
Is Jesus saying that He should go during the day so that
He will not stumble over the stones that are thrown at
- If not, what does the light have to do with the
disciples’ worry about being killed? (Jesus is saying
something very profound and important for your life.
Everyone has a limited period of time here on earth
to advance the kingdom of God. That period of time is
our “daylight.” Since God is in control of that
period of “daylight,” Jesus says we (He) cannot be
killed (stumble) while that daylight exists. We learn
that Jesus was not delaying because of fear for His
life. He had some other reason – which we will
- Read John 11:11-15. Because Jesus has been shuffling His
feet, Lazarus died. What reason does Jesus give for not
hurrying to help his friend?
- Read John 11:4 again. What reason does Jesus give
here for letting Lazarus die?
- Assume for a minute that Lazarus is your brother.
What would you say about these reasons for letting
your brother die?
- Would you suspect that Jesus delayed coming
because He was feared for His life? (I find it
interesting that John injects this issue into
the story. We will always have reasons to charge
God with human character flaws.)
- Read John 11:16. Does Thomas have faith? Does he have
understanding? (Thomas is devoted, but not insightful. I
would give him a low score on faith. He seems more
resigned than trusting.)
- Read John 11:17-20. Remember that Mary is the one who
spends time with Jesus and Martha is the one who attends
to business? (See Luke 10:38-42) Why are the traditional
roles reversed? Why does Martha come out to greet Jesus
and Mary does not? (Can you see Mary’s personality type?
She has great range in her temperament. She rejoiced in
spending time with Jesus and now she is distraught that He
did not come to help her. I think she is “punishing” Him.)
- Read John 11:21. Is this a true statement? (Yes. No doubt
Jesus could have healed Lazarus. This tragedy was
- Is this an accusation? (Yes.)
- How many times in your life have you made the same
accusation to God? “Jesus, you had the power and you
did nothing. You could have prevented this tragedy.”
Are those your thoughts? Have you felt ignored by
God? Left alone? Left helpless?
- Let’s skip ahead a few verses and read John 11:28-29, 32.
Jesus has asked to see Mary and she cannot resist coming.
What are her emotions now?
- Notice that Mary and Martha have exactly the same
question for Jesus. What do you think they discussed
before and after the death of Lazarus? (My bet is
that this was the number one topic of conversation:
“Will He come soon?” “When will He come?” “Will He
come in time?” “Why didn’t He come in time?” “How
could He not come?”)
- Lazarus Raised
- Let’s go back now and continue with Martha’s conversation
with Jesus. Read John 11:22-27. What solution has Martha
worked out to account for Jesus’ delay? What possible
answers to the problem has she considered?
- One answer would be that Jesus is not to be trusted.
That He is not who He says He is. Is this one of
- Consider the conflict between what Martha could see
(that her brother had died) and Jesus’ statement in
verse 26 that if you believe you will never die. If
you were Martha, would you have exclaimed, “Wait a
minute, how do you explain that Lazarus died and he
believed in you?”
- Contrast the statements of strangers in John 11:33-37. What is the answer to the question in verse
37?(The reaction of the logically-minded outsiders,
the statements by Martha and Mary that Jesus could
have avoided this tragedy by a timely arrival, reveal
the incredible test of faith for these two women.
Martha’s statement of faith in this situation is
truly remarkable. She is firm in her conviction of
the divinity of Jesus. She knows that the
resurrection is the ultimate answer to death. She
believes that Jesus has the power to raise her
brother to life even now.)
- Friend, in times of tragedy, have you found the
same answers as Martha? Is your faith as strong
- Read John 11:38-40. How do you explain Martha’s objection
in light of her prior extraordinary confession of faith?
(Sometimes even those with great faith stumble over the
reality of tragedy.)
- Waiting until Lazarus died is one thing, why did
Jesus wait until he had started to decompose? (This
fact killed any argument that sleight-of-hand or
deception was involved. Lazarus was dead.)
- Read John 11:41-44. Who provides the power for this
- Jesus did not move the stone or remove the grave
wrappings as part of His miracle. Why?
- This week someone repeated to me the old statement,
“God does not do for us what we could do for
ourselves.” Is this a Biblically sound principle?
- I repeatedly pounded you with all the reasons why Martha
and Mary should doubt Jesus. All the reasons why they
should be upset about His delay. Does Jesus’ delay make
any difference now to Martha and Mary?
- Friend, are you able to keep the “end game” in mind
through times of great tragedy? Can you look forward
to the time when “the delay” no longer matters?
- The Reaction
- Read John 11:45. What reaction to the miracle do we find
- Read John 11:46-50, 53. What reaction to the miracle do we
- Did the Jewish leaders doubt the authenticity of this
- What motivated their reaction?
- Read John 12:1-3. What reaction to the miracle do we find
- Read John 12:4-8. What was the extent of Mary’s
sacrifice? (Determine how much you earn in a year and
decide if you would be willing to measure your love
for Jesus by that amount.)
- How do you account for the different reactions of the
Jewish people, the Jewish leaders and Mary to the miracle
of raising Lazarus?
- Friend, it is natural to wonder why God does not intervene
in tragedy. It is natural to have Mary’s initial reaction
– to be upset with Jesus. But just as Jesus raised Lazarus
to life, so Jesus will raise you and your loved ones to
life if you repent, believe and trust in Him. Will you
trust Him today?
- Next Week: True Greatness.