Written by Ed Cardwell
Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40)
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In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we find that while Jesus was ministering on the eastern side of the Jordan, word was sent to Him from Bethany near Jerusalem that his friends Mary and Martha needed His assistance because their brother Lazarus was sick.
Rather than return promptly to come to their aid Jesus purposefully delayed his stay two days longer, as He knew what He was intending to do.
Lazarus died in the meantime and when Jesus and His disciples finally arrived near the village of Bethany He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Martha, naturally grieving over the loss of her brother, when she heard that Jesus was approaching the village, went out to meet Him:
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” v21f
When Jesus told her that ‘her brother would rise again’ she said,
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” v 24
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” v25
“Yes, Lord. I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” v27
Mary coming out later to greet Jesus also expressed her faith and in a similar tone:
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” v32
Both Mary and Martha, because of their belief in Him, were about to witness the greatest miracle that Jesus performed prior to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. They were given to understand even more through their eyes of faith His divine nature, His eternal power, and His infinite love.
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It was a highly emotional scene: bitter weeping and mourning over the death of this beloved brother and friend. We are told that even Jesus Himself, being moved and troubled in spirit, wept. But as the great healer Who could calm even the mighty elements and could open the eyes of a man born blind would not be shedding the same kind of tears as these other mourners. Might He have viewed His friend’s body as a hideous testimony of sin’s consequence upon His perfect creation? Could He have in view His final victory and yet with all the agony in between?
Finally Jesus was led to the tomb where they had laid Lazarus.
Against Martha’s protest that the body was already decaying after four days and there would be a stench, Jesus commanded that the stone lying against the tomb be removed.
And Jesus turned to Martha and said, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” v40
“And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.”
And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”
[literally, ‘Lazarus, here! Outside!’]
“He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” vss 41-44
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It is crucial for our benefit to focus attention on the results of this miracle as to its effect on the witnesses. We notice that the multitude in attendance at this scene was quickly divided into two very different camps.
The first is described in verse 45:
“Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him.”
They ‘beheld’ what Jesus had done. The Greek word is qea,omai (theaomai); it means to ‘gaze upon’, ‘view attentively’, ‘contemplate’. They could not but believe what their eyes told them and they interpreted the miracle correctly. They were compelled to conclude that this man was indeed THE MESSIAH.
They must have reasoned in their hearts the obvious: ‘If He has the power to raise Lazarus, He can raise the dead; then He can raise me! Hallelujah, praise God! Here is our Redeemer, come to us in the flesh!’ We can almost hear them shouting out praises to God at this unrivaled and majestic display of supernatural power.
And the results were as Heaven had intended: ‘THEY BELIEVED IN HIM’ – And that He was sent to them from God. (cf: vs 42)
We can only rejoice at the eternal significance of this great sign which Jesus performed and be humbled by His demonstration of great power and glory. Yes, He raised Lazarus; He can raise me!
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Alas, there was an entirely different group present at this event. They saw the same thing that the first group saw. And their eyes had not deceived them. They saw a dead man come out of the tomb at Jesus’ command. They saw him bound from head to toe, and they saw him walking. They believed what their eyes told them. But they had a different interpretation and reaction to what they saw.
They did not see the glory of God displayed. They did not understand nor could they interpret the sign of the miracle. As amazing as it was, they were totally blind to the glorious significance of this event. To them it was an obvious threat, a monumental challenge to the universal status quo of governmental and religious authority. Why, this would definitely change the balance of power forever. And what if He raised everyone from the tombs? Might it be that some of them had been responsible for the deaths of countless souls targeted by the council of selfish religionists? Oh, the manifold wickedness of unbelief!
So, their response was quite different from that of the first group. Verse 46 tells us what action they took:
“But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.”
They ran back to those who held their trust to report the event and its potential dangers.
The chief priests and Pharisees did not delay in convening a high level cabinet meeting to deliberate on how to respond. They did not deny that what they were told was true. They believed what their minions had related and did not waver as to their certainty of all that was told. This Jesus, the bane of their ‘righteous’ rulership, had indeed raised the dead! And they could not cope nor endure it.
The council came to order with Caiaphas addressing the Sanhedrin :
“What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (vs 47f)
The arrogance, the avarice and self-preservation that had always dominated this assembly quickly emerged to set the tone.
Jealousy and fear gripped the members. The high priest stood to calm his colleagues and to offer a ‘final’ solution to this dangerous archenemy. His plan was not to be misunderstood:
“You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” (vs49f)
There is no record of dissension among the council. The die was cast.
“So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (vs 53)
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What was the difference between the two groups who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus? What is the difference between any two such groups who look at the stars, the mountains, or a sunset? Both groups see the same thing; they believe what their eyes tell them. So there is a certain commonality to their fundamental belief. But beyond that, there is an infinite dissimilarity between the two as to what the mind and heart perceives.
The one group had an active faith in the one true God of Israel, and they believed in the prophets He sent who testified in the Old Testament concerning the promise of the coming One, He who was to restore all things. The other group had no such preparatory faith. Their ‘religion’ was a dead orthodoxy.
To this second group their unbelief resulted in suspicion, hatred, fear, even conspiracy to commit murder. They were stone-blind to the fact that the sign was for their benefit as well. The hardness of unbelief had so clouded their eyes that they could not see, and this truth was totally lost on them.
But to the first group the showers of manifold blessings descended as they were the privileged to have been eyewitnesses as the Son of God performed this miraculous feat in their very presence. It was their faith in God that had given them eyes to see, to behold this demonstration of His divine power and glory.
One must now ask the question, “To which group do YOU belong?”
Knowing the Creator and trusting in Him allows one to see His handprint in places and circumstances that the faithless cannot see. Faith equips one to view beyond the veil, as it were, and to see the guiding hand of the Almighty in things that to the unbeliever are invisible. And the stronger the faith, the clearer is God’s hand seen. It can be compared to a dark room with lights controlled by a rheostat. The higher we turn the control of faith, the brighter the light and the clearer we will be able to see His loving touch.
Regardless of the hardships, heartaches, and disappointments experienced in this life, and even in the face of the sadness of death, the believer is able to rejoice with total confidence that the Redeemer is able, just as He was able to call Lazarus out of the tomb, to bring every afflicted one through the veil of tears and into a quiet rest safely and eternally in the Savior’s loving arms.
One does not have to have witnessed this miracle in person to receive all its benefits. Jesus told Thomas, one of His closest disciples,
“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” KJV John 20:29
And the Apostle John summarizes his Gospel with these words:
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” KJV John 20:30-31