Week of August 14

The Savior is Who We Need

Read: Jeremiah 3-4; John 11
“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.’”
John 11:43-44, ESV


The euphemism, “Back from the grave,” takes on a literal meaning in our passage today. However, that miracle is not the only meaning that we should draw from John 11! This narrative helps us to picture the reality of what we hold dear in our hearts; namely, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, the Son, in the same way, gives life to those He chooses (cf. 5:21). The raising of Lazarus from the grave is a confirmation of Jesus’ claim that He is the resurrection and the life, and it also anticipates the events that will take place on the day of His return to claim His church (11:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:10-13). Let’s examine closely the truths found in our focal chapter.

Understanding the Bible Context

Getting a handle on the theological background
John takes care to place this account in its proper setting because this occurrence proved to be a catalytic moment in his Gospel. Jesus travels to Bethany for two reasons. He went there to help His friend Lazarus (11:11-15), and He also knows that Bethany is near Jerusalem. He travels there to die (11:7-10, 16; Handbook). There is a double blessing in the event. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and Jesus would die for the sins of the world. God, then, would raise His Son from the grave. In both events, the Heavenly Father would be glorified.
History and its implications for our lives today
We would be naïve to believe that doing good things will please everyone. For example, despite the goodness of Jesus’ actions on behalf of Lazarus and his family, the Jews would choose to put Jesus to death from this point forward (11:53). How could anyone find fault with this wonderful story of love for a friend and his family? I mean, doesn’t it have Hallmark Channel written all over it? Actually, it doesn’t!  

Jesus was not there to win popular acclaim and produce warm fuzzies, but to do the will of His Father in heaven. He knew the hearts of humans, so He sought the greater good—the glory of God (11:4). On one level this story reminds us that we too often seek fame rather than the Father (cf. Luke 9:46). On a deeper level, this account calls us to trust God’s ultimate plan for healing and hope. The plan is experienced in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

This event reminds us of the human failure to see God’s saving activity in our world. This miracle was the last sign in John’s Gospel until the resurrection itself. John shows us that the plot to kill Jesus was a direct denial that divine power was in their midst (cf. NAC). What a costly denial this would be! You see, John shows us in this Gospel that Jesus had power over wind and wave, health and heart, and now even death and decomposition (11:39)! God’s power would reach into the depths of Sheol itself and break the locks on the doors to indicate that not even the grave could withstand His resurrection authority. So, in whom have you and I placed our trust? The “Resurrection and the Life,” Jesus Christ!

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

Our son, when he was a youngster, enjoyed watching the old television show, “MacGyver,” starring Richard Dean Anderson. The character, Angus “Mac” MacGyver was a whiz kid who could create just about anything from nothing in order to save the day. One of his main tools in rescuing folks was a Swiss Army knife. That tool saved more lives than I can recall, so MacGyver never left home without it. It may seem to be an oversimplification, but I use that instrument to illustrate the spiritual truth in Jesus Christ. Too many times we do not realize all that we have in Jesus!

Let’s apply some theological truths about Jesus. Jesus makes it possible to live triumphantly even in the face of overwhelming loss and grief (11:14-15; 21-22, 32). The disciples and both of Lazarus’ sisters affirm the doctrine that there would be a coming general resurrection in which Lazarus would be raised. There was no doubt in their minds that a coming resurrection was a given fact. Dogma does not, however, eliminate discouragement and doubt.

Jesus invited the sisters and all present to exercise faith in His person. Jesus gives one of the most powerful and triumphant messages of hope in the Scripture when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (11:25-26). “The one who believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life that transcends physical death” (NAC).

We find everything that we need in a savior when we come to Christ in faith. He has the power, as I stated above, over all life’s circumstances! Jesus teaches us that He is the embodiment of the resurrection life that would overcome death, so we should trust Him.

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Write down the various ways that the Gospel writers show us that Jesus is God and that He fulfills all that the Old Testament prophets foretold about Messiah. He calms the storm, He heals, He casts out demons, He raises the dead. Now, ask yourself if you have been taking the opportunity to trust Him fully in all the calamities that life holds. Give Him your complete trust today.

2. For Families: This activity may be completed over several days. Have your children color the pictures of Jesus that show Him healing a sick child, calming the storm, and raising Lazarus from the grave. Read the Bible stories to them, then share with them your testimony of how He healed you or helped you in a storm. Teach them that Jesus may be trusted to resurrect us from the grave when He returns. Help them to understand that they can trust Him in every way.

Coloring page links:
Jesus Raises Lazarus 
Jesus Healing a Child 
Jesus Calms a Storm 

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock