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.

  1. Lazarus Loved

    1. Read John 11:1-3. Why did the sisters send this message to

      1. 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?

      2. 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.)

    2. 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?

  2. Lazarus Ignored

    1. 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.)

      1. If you were in Jesus’ place, what would you have

    2. 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

      1. 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
        explore next.)

    3. 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?

      1. Read John 11:4 again. What reason does Jesus give
        here for letting Lazarus die?

      2. Assume for a minute that Lazarus is your brother.
        What would you say about these reasons for letting
        your brother die?

        1. 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.)

    4. 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.)

    5. 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.)

    6. Read John 11:21. Is this a true statement? (Yes. No doubt
      Jesus could have healed Lazarus. This tragedy was
      completely preventable.)

      1. Is this an accusation? (Yes.)

      2. 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?

    7. 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?

      1. 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?”)

  1. Lazarus Raised

    1. 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?

      1. One answer would be that Jesus is not to be trusted.
        That He is not who He says He is. Is this one of
        Martha’s answers?

      2. 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?”

      3. 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.)

        1. Friend, in times of tragedy, have you found the
          same answers as Martha? Is your faith as strong
          as hers?

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    3. Read John 11:41-44. Who provides the power for this

      1. Jesus did not move the stone or remove the grave
        wrappings as part of His miracle. Why?

      2. 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?

    4. 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?

      1. 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?

  1. The Reaction

    1. Read John 11:45. What reaction to the miracle do we find

    2. Read John 11:46-50, 53. What reaction to the miracle do we
      find here?

      1. Did the Jewish leaders doubt the authenticity of this

      2. What motivated their reaction?

    3. Read John 12:1-3. What reaction to the miracle do we find

      1. 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.)

    4. How do you account for the different reactions of the
      Jewish people, the Jewish leaders and Mary to the miracle
      of raising Lazarus?

    5. 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?

  2. Next Week: True Greatness.