I love the story of Lazarus for multiple reasons. For instance, it demonstrates that God’s timing isn’t always ours. He waited and waited and waited. He put off going until he received a “go-ahead” from the Father. (I only do and say what the Father tells me. John 8:28) The Father waited until Lazarus was dead. He would be stinking before Jesus arrived in Bethany. Everyone would have been anxious about Jesus going to take care of his dear friends. Not Jesus. He waited.
This account also shows that Jesus deals with us according to our personalities. Even if what we say might be the same, he knows what we need—the one thing that will address the sorrow and devastating disappointment in our hearts. He said one thing to Mary, another to Martha—even though they spoke the same words, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
I love that Jesus wept. I’ve often wondered, why? He knew there was a resurrection coming. Perhaps he identified deeply with their sufferings and their sorrows—their tears and the power of death and sin. This is why he came—to take away the sting of death and the power of sin. He had seen hearts breaking throughout human history. Death. Grief. Loss. He was going to do something about it, but he wept, nonetheless.
But I also love this story because I think it was a tender moment between a Father and His beloved Son. It was a rehearsal for the main event—the cross and the resurrection. That momentous event would be taking place in a few days. If there had been any doubt in Jesus’s mind, this miracle was substantive proof that he had absolute power over rotting, stinking three-day-old-dead flesh.
Even his words to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life,” were a reminder to his own ears that he had the power to raise dead men to life—including himself. This is one of John’s recordings of “I am” statements. He doesn’t simply say, “I have the power to raise from the dead and give life, but “I AM the resurrection and the life.” His essence IS resurrection and life. Death absolutely CAN’T have power over him.
I can’t help but think that as they all sat around feasting and celebrating afterward, that Jesus was thinking about his upcoming trials and being reminded that the purpose of his death and resurrection was what he was experiencing, in part, at the moment—fellowship with people he loved and who loved and trusted him—their salvation—their hope—and their freedom from the fear of the grave—eternally.
I don’t understand completely the ways in which Jesus was both man and God, but if he battled fear and dread (which he must have because of what we see in Gethsemane), how comforting this event must have been on his journey to the cross. It would be a recent memory of his victory over death and a reminder of the restoration of fellowship with God and the eternal life he was bringing to mankind. It was so kind of God the Father to do this for only begotten Son.