Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Jesus had come to conquer death. Now He battles it head on.
When Jesus commands the tomb opened, Martha reminds Jesus Lazarus is dead. He has been dead 4 days. By now the body has started to decay. The odor of decaying flesh would be strong. Besides this was her brother. She did not want to see him in a state of decay.
Her statement demonstrates a lack of faith. There are those who claim God cannot perform miracles when there is unbelief or a lack of faith. If you are not healed it is because you do not have enough faith. But we see here Lazarus was dead. You don’t get any sicker than that. Being dead he could not have faith. Martha expressed a lack of faith. And the crowd with her did not have faith. And yet Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead! This story destroys that doctrine. We do not limit God’s power by our lack of faith.
Plus, it was not Martha’s faith that allowed Lazarus to rise from the dead. God does not need the aid of our puny little faith to accomplish His will. God is God, and we are not. Let us never forget that.
Jesus rebukes Martha’s for her lack of faith. It is clear Jesus said more to Martha than John recorded. John writes the summary of what Jesus said. So allow me, to paraphrase John. Jesus said to her “Trust me. Just move the stone. Remember what I told you earlier. I am the resurrection and the life.”
Notice what John records. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” This has often been misread. Jesus did not say, “If you believe you will see Lazarus raised from the dead.” No. Jesus said if you believe you will see the glory of God. There were many there that day. They all saw Lazarus walk out to of the tomb. But they did not all see the glory of God.
The glory of God is all around us. Everyone sees the empirical evidence. But not everyone sees the glory of God. In seeing we do not all see. But once we see it we cannot unsee it.
Those who claim we limit the power of God by our unbelief will point to Matthew 13:58. “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
They miss apply this verses. As far as men are able, they oppose God in the exercise of His power. Since they oppose Him God withholds the demonstration of His power. Because even when God’s power is shown, men ignore it. This is shown here. Even with a straightforward demonstration of His power, the Jews still opposed Him. They still put Him to death.
Jesus prays to the Father. The prayer is not that the Father raise Lazarus. The prayer gives the reason for Lazarus’ resurrection. “That they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus does not raise Lazarus because of His love for Lazarus. Jesus does not raise Lazarus because of His love for Mary and Martha. Jesus raises Lazarus because of His love for the Father. Lazarus resurrection was to bring glory to God.
Jesus’ prayer starts with giving thanks. “Father I thank you that you have heard me.” Jesus had already received Lazarus’ resurrection. The ESV heading for this passage is “Jesus Raises Lazarus” is incorrect. It is the Father who raises Lazarus. Jesus acknowledges this in His prayer.
There are those who, in an attempt to marginalize Jesus, ask, why did not Jesus raise everyone from the dead? Or, why did He not heal everyone? They assume in order to be good Jesus must treat us all the same. This view assumes either man is basically good. Or it denies God is just. Or it assumes both.
Men are not basically good. We are all sinners. We all deserve worse than we get. But God’s mercy intervenes and we are given mercy. Without God’s mercy, we would all be stuck down immediately. But God grants us mercy. True, He grants some more mercy than others. Why? For His glory. It has nothing to do with our righteousness or goodness or any other type of merit inherent in us. It is for the glory of God.
So why did not Jesus raise more? The answer is easy. Only a limited number of miracles were needed to fulfill God’s purpose. Only a limited number were needed to confirm the Gospel.
Jesus yells, “Lazarus come out.” Everyone heard Him. It was clear who said it. Who but God can raise the dead? Who but God can give life?
John mentions the bandages to let us know Lazarus was not alive and sitting around waiting for someone to come and open the tomb. In other words, Lazarus was not revived from a coma and was sitting around. The bandages covered his face, hands, and feet. He had just risen from the dead.
This is the promise we all have in Christ. God will raise us from the dead.