John 11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
The main characters in this story are all familiar; Lazarus, his two sisters and Jesus. Word comes that Lazarus is ill. The disciples know Jesus’s love for Lazarus and his sisters. They know this family loves Jesus. They know there’s danger if they go to Judea. Jesus has assured them Lazarus illness has a purpose; “for the glory of God.” That’s all familiar to them. Now two delay days have passed. Jesus tells “them plainly, Lazarus has died…But let us go to him.” What has been so familiar about this text now adds a surprise character into the picture, “Thomas, called the Twin”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus loves Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Surprise #1: He said “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Surprise #2: Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. ”
What does it say about people?
Surprise #3: the disciples don’t question Jesus’s response until the danger of returning to Judea comes up.
Is there truth here for me?
Surprise #4: John has found a surprising detail to give this familiar story a little plot twist so that they might believe and I might see something new in verse 16. Thomas, familiarly known to me as the “doubter,” is the one God uses to encourage his friends to put aside their doubts about returning to where Jesus’s life has already been threatened. “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”