Life after Death: John 11:1-44

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In our last episode, we began looking at the miracle surrounding Lazarus being raised from the dead. However, because this also happens to be the miracle that takes up the greatest number of verses of any other miracle in the gospels, we didn’t actually get to the miracle part of the event in the last episode.

However, in this episode, let me briefly summarize what we covered in the last episode, before jumping back into the narrative. This event begins with Jesus hearing about His friend Lazarus’ illness, and Jesus reassures those present that Lazarus’ sickness wouldn’t end in death. Instead, it would bring glory to God.

However, instead of leaving immediately to go help Lazarus, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days, before announcing to the disciples that Lazarus was now asleep, or in other words dead, and that Jesus was now going to go wake Him up.

When they arrive in Bethany, which was the town that Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived in, Martha comes out to meet Jesus.

Let’s jump into the event at this point. While we looked at some of Martha and Mary’s conversation with Jesus in the last episode, this will give us a great foundation leading into the big themes we’ll focus in on in this episode. Our passage and event is found in the gospel of John, chapter 11, and we will be reading it from the Contemporary English Version. Jumping into our event in verse 17, John tells us that:

17 When Jesus got to Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many people had come from the city to comfort Martha and Mary because their brother had died.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Yet even now I know that God will do anything you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will live again!”

24 Martha answered, “I know that he will be raised to life on the last day, when all the dead are raised.”

25 Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. 26 And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord!” she replied. “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.”

28 After Martha said this, she went and privately said to her sister Mary, “The Teacher is here, and he wants to see you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up and went out to Jesus. 30 He was still outside the village where Martha had gone to meet him. 31 Many people had come to comfort Mary, and when they saw her quickly leave the house, they thought she was going out to the tomb to cry. So they followed her.

32 Mary went to where Jesus was. Then as soon as she saw him, she knelt at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw that Mary and the people with her were crying, he was terribly upset 34 and asked, “Where have you put his body?”

They replied, “Lord, come and you will see.”

This is where we left off in our last episode. Continuing reading from verse 35:

35 Jesus started crying, 36 and the people said, “See how much he loved Lazarus.”

37 Some of them said, “He gives sight to the blind. Why couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still terribly upset. So he went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone rolled against the entrance. 39 Then he told the people to roll the stone away. But Martha said, “Lord, you know that Lazarus has been dead four days, and there will be a bad smell.”

40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?”

41 After the stone had been rolled aside, Jesus looked up toward heaven and prayed, “Father, I thank you for answering my prayer. 42 I know that you always answer my prayers. But I said this, so that the people here would believe that you sent me.”

43 When Jesus had finished praying, he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had been dead came out. His hands and feet were wrapped with strips of burial cloth, and a cloth covered his face.

Jesus then told the people, “Untie him and let him go.”

In this miracle, one phrase stands out to me as the big theme throughout this entire event. Without this phrase, this miracle would simply be just a miracle, or something special Jesus did back then, but no real indication of Him wanting to do the same for us today. But with this phrase, suddenly this miracle becomes a foreshadowing promise for every believer who worries about or faces death.

While Jesus is talking with Martha, He tells her in verses 25 and 26, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.

There are three big truths centered in these three short statements, and they might sounds as though they contradict each other.

In the first statement, Jesus makes the bold claim that, “I am the one who raises the dead to life!” If you have ever been fearful about being stuck in the grave in death, or if you have doubts about whether God loves you, pay attention to the fact that Jesus is the one who does the resurrecting, and it is Jesus who died for you. There is nothing to fear in death because Jesus has the power over death to bring you back to life!

The next statement speaks to a future resurrection for everyone who has faith in Jesus. Jesus tells Martha, “Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die.” This verse speaks to the truth of the resurrection Jesus promises to every believer. Death isn’t something we should fear when we have faith in Jesus, because Jesus has promised us life. From Jesus’ perspective, the grave is not relevant, because He conquered death.

With the third statement, we might be tempted to believe Jesus then contradicts Himself. After saying that those who have faith in him will live even if they die, Jesus then promises that “everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.” While I can understand why some might see this verse supporting believers being swept up to heaven immediately at their death, this doesn’t match the context of Jesus’ words, and it negates the resurrection Jesus has just promised. The future resurrection Jesus promises us becomes irrelevant if at death we receive our rewards immediately.

Instead, Jesus centers our focus on the truth that when we sleep, a metaphor for the death before the resurrection, we don’t truly die because Jesus keeps us safe, and figuratively holds us in His hands. This first death is irrelevant for a believer to focus on because unless we are alive when Jesus returns, we will face this first death.

However, this first death is irrelevant because we look forward to the resurrection that brings us back to life, and there is a strong theme running through the Bible that when we face this first, sleep-like death, the next conscious event we will know is the resurrection.

So what is Jesus’ key idea in the third statement? Jesus promises us that “everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.” Following the sleep-death that ends with our resurrection, we are giving the gift of eternal life. Jesus purchased that gift for us with His death on the cross, and He is anxiously awaiting the day when He will give it to us. The day we all look forward to is resurrection day, the day of our rebirth into a new life with God!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Intentionally seek God first and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. Live your life in a way that honors God as a way to say thank You for everything He has done. We can never be good enough to earn our salvation, but we keep getting back up when we stumble because we want to honor God with our lives, and we want to accurately reflect Jesus to our chaotic, crazy world.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to God each day. While death is not a pleasant subject for many people to think about, if you haven’t studied all the conflicting beliefs surrounding it, I challenge you to do so today. While most beliefs about death claim the Bible as their foundation, choose the belief that has the greatest weight of evidence behind it. Don’t pick a belief simply because I or another person think it. Pray and study it out for yourself with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 42: In this second episode focusing on the resurrection of Lazarus, discover the huge promise in what Jesus tells Martha leading up to the resurrection. You might be surprised to discover what Jesus has the power to do.

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