Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” - John 11:1-3
John brings the account of Jesus’ signs to a close with the raising of Lazarus. After this event, the Gospel focuses on the events surrounding the Passover in Jerusalem and the passion and death of Jesus. John has recorded Jesus’ actions of turning water into wine, healing a paralytic, multiplying bread and fish, pardoning an adulterer, and opening the eyes of a blind man. John interprets all of these events as signs of the abundant life Jesus offers – life in the kingdom of God – transformation, wholeness, abundance, forgiveness, and vision. John understands the culmination of Jesus’ actions to come in the raising from death of his friend Lazarus and the pronouncement, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Notice the relational context of this miracle. John tells us that Jesus knows and loves Lazarus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was warmly welcomed in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Just as John finds heightened meaning in the settings of various teachings and events in Jesus’ life, so too he finds heightened meaning in the relational setting of this event. In the first three verses of this chapter we read of the three siblings, of Mary’s extreme expression of hospitality, and of the request for Jesus to respond to Lazarus’ need. The request itself is made in terms of the relationship, “He whom you love is ill.”
It seems that this miraculous sign and the accompanying “I am” saying are placed in this relational setting to reveal the life-giving relationship which Jesus offers his followers. It is true that he has healed unknown persons before, has taught multitudes before, and has forgiven unknown persons before. However, a personal and powerful relationship with Christ Jesus is the essential element in experiencing the fullness of abundant life.
Lord, help me love you with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. Amen.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:1-9
A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston