Remember that the Gospel of John can be divided into two halves. The first half is taken up by the seven signs:
First – Changing water into wine, ch. 2
Second – Healing the official’s son, ch. 4
Third – Healing the paralytic, ch. 5
Fourth – Feeding the five thousand, ch. 6
Fifth – Walking on water, ch. 6
Sixth – Healing the man born blind, ch. 9
Seventh – Raising Lazarus from the dead, ch 11
With the raising of Lazarus we complete the book of signs and enter the final days of Jesus’s ministry. It is after this seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, that the Jews determine that Jesus must die (v. 50), setting the stage for the remainder of the gospel of John.
MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS (1–6)
Lazarus (“Eleazar” in the Hebrew) is the brother of Mary and Martha. We met these two sisters previously, when Martha was busy with the serving, but Mary sat at the Lord’s feet (Luke 10:38-42). This is the same Mary that, in the next chapter, will anoint Jesus with costly oil (12:1-8).
With regard to Lazarus’ death, remember that when Jesus encounters these kinds of hardships he tells us instead of looking for the cause, we should look for the purpose (cf. 9:3).
GOING TO JUDEA 7-16
Jesus had only just barely escaped alive from Judea (7:1, 10:31, 39). To return to Judea now invites his own murder “. . . for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). The irony that is building is that Jesus’ determination to go to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead is the presenting cause of the Jews’ determination murder him.
“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE” 17-27
Jesus takes Martha from an understanding of a general theological truth to a confidence in Jesus himself. Martha joins Peter in confessing the Jesus is the Christ (6:69), the Son of God, come into this world (an important confession throughout 1 John).
LAZARUS WALKS 28-44
Jesus gives Martha an important lesson in the faith that she has already professed. The order is faith and then sight (v. 40). The order is God speaks and then we respond (v. 43-44). The healing work accomplished by the Word of God is fully and completely accomplished before Lazarus has anything to contribute. Like the bones of Ezekiel’s vision (Ez. 37), the Word of God, applied by the Spirit, supplies the entirety of life. Corpses contribute nothing but odor.
And while we are quick to see this in our understanding of how salvation works. Still, we are slow to apply this in our everyday lives. To be clear, your spiritual life is not something to be earned, negotiated, or bargained for. We simply receive what God has done. Understanding the sufficiency of Christ is crucial for your own spiritual health.
THE HARDNESS OF THE UNBELIEVING HEART 45-57
The glory of Jesus revealed in the resurrection of Lazarus (v. 40) offended the Jews who feared that this disruption could cost them their Temple (v. 48). And so they thought it better to murder the Messiah to save their Temple.