Signs That Point to the Savior — John 11:38-46

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done (John 11:45-46—NRSV).

If you see a sign pointing toward a city, that sign does not compel you to go there. You choose to go there or not. In his gospel, John called Jesus’ miracles “signs.” Jesus did not intend for His signs to compel anyone to believe in Him, but they did help people believe in Him. Believers do not irrationally place their faith in Jesus. His miracles pointed to who He is and who He claimed to be as the Messiah, the Son of God, and Savior of the world. His signs told people that if they chose, they could go to Him, believe in Him, follow Him, and receive the gift of eternal life from Him. Jesus’ signs and teachings give people good and sufficient reasons to entrust their lives and futures to Him. John’s gospel shows that after Jesus healed the sick or raised the dead some people believed in Him and saw His glory, while others did not. The man born blind that Jesus healed believed in Him. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many believed in Him. However, after Jesus healed a man who had been ill for 38 years, he refused to believe and reported what Jesus did to Jesus’ religious enemies. Some who saw Lazarus raised from the dead and had the opportunity to talk to Jesus and Lazarus refused to believe in Jesus, so they rushed to report Jesus’ actions to His enemies. After they crucified Jesus, He gave His most miraculous sign when He rose from the dead.

Make Your Comments Here
on Any of These Questions

1. Commentators seem to agree that the Greek word for “deeply moved” or “greatly disturbed” includes the meaning that Jesus was angry at death. How might this teaching influence how you look at death?

2. Why do you think Jesus waited four days before seeing Mary and Martha?

3. What is one result of our believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior according to this lesson? Can you think of other results?

4. What is one reason Jesus prayed aloud for everyone to hear Him pray?

5. Why did Jesus tell the mourners to remove Lazarus’ grave clothes rather than simply remove them miraculously himself when He could have easily done so?

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The Road to Spiritual Maturity — Genesis 45:5

“[Joseph told his brothers], ‘And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:5).

Many believers aspire to the spiritual maturity of Joseph, who treated his brothers with extraordinary goodness despite their sins against him. Deeply wronged by them when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery, he expressed no desire to punish them, but forgave them and comforted their guilty conscience. He held no resentment against them, and he did not want them to feel angry with themselves for the great injustice they had inflicted on him. Joseph chose to disregard the wrongs of others, because he wanted everyone to be at peace with God, others, and within themselves.

Joseph chose to emphasize and explain some of the ways that God uses to help people. To preserve life, God had sent Joseph to Egypt through the slave trade. God prepared him through imprisonment to ascend to the second highest place of authority in Egypt. Joseph understood that God had blessed him, not so he could selfishly enjoy the riches of Egypt, but so he could save the lives of many during seven years of famine. God used the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers to get Joseph to Egypt before them so God could save from starvation the Egyptians and all who would go to Egypt; therefore, Joseph chose to focus on the good intentions and purposes of God, and let God deal with the intentions and actions of others. Similarly, the evil deeds of some religious leaders led to the crucifixion and death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, but God planned and used Jesus’ sacrificial death to save those who believe in Him, to forgive all the sins of many believers, and to give all believers in Jesus the gift of eternal life. Only the most spiritually mature can forgive those who have wronged them and look instead for the good that God has brought into every situation so He could meet the needs of many.

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Being Prepared to Believe — John 11:37

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37).

When Jesus arrived in Bethany and spoke to Martha and Mary, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, but both expressed their faith, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). They had sat at Jesus’ feet when He taught about the Father and himself and what it meant to follow Him, because Jesus taught everyone who would listen, whereas the rabbis of the time would not teach women. They knew that Jesus had the power to heal the sick and raise those who had died when He reached them in time. They did not express explicit faith that Jesus could raise someone who had been in a tomb four days.

After Lazarus died, mourners who were mostly women came to console Lazarus’ family. Traditionally, they would stay seven days with the family. During that time, we have every reason to suppose that Jesus—who He was, what He had done, and what He could do—had been an important part of their conversations, because Lazarus’ sisters had sent messengers to tell Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Knowing that in Jerusalem Jesus had healed a man born blind, and learning more about Jesus and what He taught from Lazarus’ sisters, the mourners were prepared to believe in Jesus after they met Him and saw Him raise Lazarus from the dead. No doubt the Holy Spirit inspired Mary and Martha to teach about Jesus while everyone eagerly awaited His hoped-for coming.  We can do the same for others whether we are rejoicing or suffering as the Holy Spirit leads us!

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Facts About Living Forever — John 11:17-27

Martha said to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He taught, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). Then Jesus added, “the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Later in Jesus’ ministry, after Lazarus had been buried in his tomb four days, Jesus came to the home of Lazarus’ sisters. When Martha spoke to Jesus, she affirmed four facts of faith. First, Jesus could have healed her brother. Second, Jesus could still do something, because God always gives Jesus whatever He asks. Third, her brother will rise again on the last day. Fourth, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Then, Jesus demonstrated the truth of His teachings and affirmed her trust in him. At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus called Lazarus by name, and Lazarus heard His voice and came forth alive. After Jesus’ enemies reported that Jesus had raised Lazarus, the religious leaders plotted Jesus’ death and “planned to put Lazarus to death as well” (John 12:10). Jesus gave Lazarus life, but eventually Lazarus’ body would die again; yet, on the last day, Jesus will raise from the dead all who believe in Him. Jesus taught, “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:40).

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How Believers In Jesus Never Die — John 11:17-27

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

The Old Testament taught the Jews that when they died, they went to Sheol, to a shadowy existence in the place for the dead. The New Testament translates the Hebrew word “Sheol” into the Greek word “Hades.” Many Jews, including the Pharisees, believed in a resurrection of the dead from Sheol on the last day of human history as we know it. After Lazarus died, in John 11:24, Martha expressed this belief to Jesus, saying, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha had a firm belief in Jesus as her Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God (John 11:27). Martha, Mary, and Lazarus believed in Jesus and had received the gift of eternal life, for Jesus’ promise to all in John 3:16, applied to them, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus teaches more about himself to those who have received the gift of eternal life as they trust, obey, and follow Him daily. Applying the divine title or name “I am” to himself, Jesus told Martha that He was also the resurrection and the life; therefore, resurrection was not just a future event. When a believer’s body dies, Jesus’ divine power keeps them alive. Before the last day, a believer’s body may die, but their spirit united with the Holy Spirit will go to be with Jesus in Paradise, where they will look forward to receiving resurrected glorified human bodies at the return of Jesus on the last day.

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How To Serve While Suffering — Genesis 41:51

“Joseph named the firstborn son Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house’” (Genesis 41:51).

Throughout the Bible, many parents gave their children names with special meanings, sometimes because God commanded them and sometimes not. Joseph himself named his sons with thanksgiving to God. He named his second son Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes” (Genesis 41:52). God chose the name for Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the providence of God, when Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons, he gave the special blessing for a firstborn son to the second born son; perhaps he did not want to bless the firstborn son with the name “Manasseh” that emphasized forgetting “all my father’s house” (see Genesis 48:13-20).

The Bible records some of the ways Joseph suffered; but rather than blame God, Joseph thanked God for saving him through them all. Perhaps Joseph’s faith was similar to the faith of Job, who declared, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10). After Jacob died, Joseph told his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

If we strive to serve God with faith as Joseph did, we will see all of our misfortunes as opportunities to serve God in ways that we had not thought of before. When we make every effort to serve God in the midst of hardships, we will be able to look back as Joseph did and see h0w God worked for good and made us fruitful in what appeared to be less than ideal circumstances.

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The Difference A Death Can Make

For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him (John 11:15—NRSV).

When Jesus learned that Lazarus was ill, He could have healed Lazarus or raised Lazarus from the dead before he was buried without speaking a word, for when Jesus was in Cana of Galilee without needing to travel to Capernaum He had healed an official’s sick son (John 4:46-54). Jesus knew that Lazarus would die, and He also knew that Lazarus’ illness would not lead to death; that is, to death as an eternal separation from God and all who love God. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He promised His disciples and all who will follow Him, “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was not glad that Lazarus died, for Jesus knew the grief that Lazarus’ sisters (Mary and Martha) would suffer, though only for a brief time. Jesus was glad because He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead and return him to the family that loved him. Jesus loved Lazarus and his family, and He knew that when He raised Lazarus from the dead the Father and He would be glorified and honored by those who witnessed Lazarus coming forth from the tomb alive; then, many would be influenced to believe in Him as the resurrection and the life. Jesus was glad when He thought of all the good that He would bring to many people after He proved He could raise the dead. Jesus was glad that His disciples would be with Him when He raised Lazarus from the tomb, for He knew that most of them with faith in Him would die as martyrs.

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0n the Gospel of John at
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Don’t Stumble! Walk in the Light!

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world” (John 11:9).

After Jesus learned Lazarus was sick, He waited two days before telling His disciples they were going back to Judea. In dismay, His disciples exclaimed, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you!” (John 11:8). Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight?” In Jesus’ day, daylight was divided into twelve equal hours, but depending on the season some days and hours were longer than others. Jesus meant that when people work in the light of the sun rather than in the darkness of night, they do not stumble. But “Those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them” (John 11:10). John’s gospel teaches that Jesus is “the light of all people” and “the true light which enlightens everyone” (John 1:4,9). Jesus spoke with a double meaning. Earlier, Jesus taught, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, but He also loved and wanted to help those around Him and those traveling to see Him where He stayed. Jesus worked according to God’s timetable, so He worked two more days before going to Judea. He used His hours helping all who came to receive healing and teaching. Soon, His final hour would come, and He would die as “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). God helps everyone in the most loving ways and with the best possible timing.

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True Wisdom Leads to Right Living

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

James wrote that many evils and disorder are the result of envy and selfish ambition (James 3:16). For example, to achieve their selfish ambitions, some people goad the poor to envy the rich. Unfortunately, some people bring selfish ambition and envy into the church, which causes division and disorder. Therefore, James wrote that Christians need to act based on the pure wisdom of God as revealed in the Scriptures. Believers should love God supremely and promote what is best for all people. They should do what is best for the poor and the rich without being partial toward anyone. Christians need to practice speaking gently to others in an effort to remain at peace in so far as peace depends on them. When James wrote that Christians should be “willing to yield,” he did not mean people should yield to evil and let the wicked have their own way instead of trying to stop evil deeds. Rather, James meant that believers should be open to reason and should speak and act reasonably, because “love does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Not everyone will act upon the basis of biblical values and Christians do not speak and act perfectly all the time, so the Bible tells believers to show mercy toward everyone. Faith in Jesus Christ should enable believers to bear good fruits and do good to all without hidden or selfish motives. The way of grace, love, and mercy that the Bible teaches will turn some people away from envy and selfish ambition toward the truth, righteousness, and peace.

For Commentary and Discussion Questions
see The Letter of James,
Good News for Uncertain Times

Newspapers Prove the Bible is True

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

Our newspaper headlines often prove the Bible is true. Along with a lot of good news that reveals the gracious gifts of God to others and their gifts to us, we read stories about disorder that we often hear called “disorderly conduct.” We learn about evil practices that sometimes result in the death of others or the punishment of criminals. Think about some of the sad events of the past week or so. How many have envy as a root cause or evil influence? A dictionary defines envy as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” How many envy something someone or some group has, so they steal, riot, maim, or kill among other harmful acts? How many have lost their businesses or jobs because of rioters?How many people have suffered because of someone else’s selfish ambition; an ambition that drives them to slander and defame the character of another person or business? When we take some time to think about the evil practices we have indulged in or the evil practices that we condemn, how often have envy or selfish ambition played a part?

Ambition to serve the Lord and use His gifts as prayerfully, as lovingly, and as wisely as possible according to the Bible for the benefit of others and ourselves is not “selfish ambition.” Selfish ambition is self-centered instead of God-centered. James wrote, there is a “wisdom” that is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, and that “wisdom” is often given to those who have envy or selfish ambition (James 3:15). Then, James wrote that those with heavenly wisdom should show forth a good life of pure, sincere, and peace-loving deeds done in humility.

For Commentary and Discussion Questions
see The Letter of James,
Good News for Uncertain Times