in John's Gospel -- Part 16
The Final Sign
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
All who are acquainted with the Gospel of John
recognize that it is built around seven sign miracles
that the Lord Jesus performed. The eleventh
chapter of John relates the final sign: the raising of
Lazarus from the dead. The lessons contained in
the chapter before us are worthy of special note. Notice
first of all,
The Mysterious Delay
town of Bethany was a very special place to Christ.
It was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, two
sisters and their brother. Word was sent by the
anxious sisters in Bethany to the Lord Jesus beyond
Jordan that Lazarus was sick. Rather than
immediately going to heal His sick friend, the Lord
waited two days where He was. The delay was
intentional. From the passage we learn that delays
are Permitted by divine love (vs. 5, 6). The
inspired writer very carefully assures us that Jesus
"loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."
We see also that delays are Purposed for divine
glory (vs. 4). The delays of God are not failures or
oversights. What we count as delays are frequently
but the ripening of His plans.
14, 15 we learn that delays are Productive of divine
blessing. Lazarus, his sisters, friends, and family will
all be the better for the delay.
delays are also Proof of human frailty. How did various
groups respond to the delay? Some tried to
interfere (vs. 7-10) for selfish reasons. Ignorance
of divine purpose was evidenced by their inability to
grasp its true meaning (vs. 11-15). Impulsiveness is
seen in Thomas’ remark which only revealed his failure
to grasp the purposes of God (vs. 16). But by far
the most common response to divine delays is that
evidenced by the crowd: "could not this man...have
caused that even this man should not have died?"
(vs. 37). Criticism of God’s ways has always
been "in season." Men view the world with its
moral, political, economic, and nuclear chaos and
criticize God for not intervening. They relegate
God to an international policeman who must become
involved when their rights and freedoms are being
threatened, but not when they are guilty of personal
it would be futile to suggest that anyone has the final
answer for divine delays, this chapter does afford us
some insight into the moral problem. God is frequently
working something of far greater proportions than our
finite minds can grasp.
the next section, vs. 17-32, we learn that Christ is
Greater than Martha’s theology. Her philosophy
seemed to hold up until tragedy struck. Amidst the
confusion and sorrow of the death of her brother, she
can only repeat well worn phrases and tenets, basing her
hopes on a future resurrection. She must learn
from Christ that He is greater than doctrine. The
One Who in Himself is the Resurrection and the Life was
before her. But we also see that Christ is Greater than
Mary’s tears. Despondency replaces doctrine.
Philosophy has given way to pathos. Martha came
with her doctrine; Mary comes with her tears. Christ is
greater than both. He will replace doctrine with
Himself; He will remove tears by His power.
Christ is also Greater than the thoughts of men. Their
theory was that His power extended only on this side of
the grave (vs. 37). Once death had claimed its victim,
He was helpless. He will disclose that He is greater
the final section, vs. 33-44, the Lord Jesus raises
Lazarus and restores him to his sisters. In this
section we are privileged to see His compassion for men.
He weeps at the graveside and groans over the sadness
death has brought to this family; no indifferent
observer is He. Next notice His command to men. He
instructs those who were there to roll away the stone.
Later He will tell them to loose the graveclothes
and free him. Finally we see His control over men
and death. For four days the body had been entombed.
Decay had begun its work. At the command of
Christ, Lazarus comes forth still enshrouded by
graveclothes. The commands and control of Christ
symbolize the life and liberty He gives.
our next article, the response of the leaders to the
final sign miracle will be considered.