During the winter (December) before His death, Jesus attended the Hanukkah celebration in Jerusalem. While in the Temple, He asserted His deity and equality with God, the Father. At that time, citizens of Jerusalem picked up stones to stone Him to death. Jesus and His followers escaped and traveled to the east of Jordan (John 10:22-40).
Several weeks later, Jesus and His followers heard that Jesus’ good friend Lazarus was sick. As the reader might recall, Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, lived in Bethany, which was a small town located just two miles outside of Jerusalem (John 11:1-57).
When Lazarus’ sickness worsened, the two sisters sent word to Jesus hoping that He would immediately come to Bethany and cure their brother. The sisters sent word to Jesus, “[H]e whom You love is sick” (John 11:3). Surprisingly, however, Jesus did not immediately return to save Lazarus. Instead, He waited two more days east of the Jordan River. Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to die and that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. However, Martha and Mary didn’t know that, obviously, and they were upset that Jesus did not immediately return.
On the other hand, the disciples did not want to return to Judea. They believed it was too risky. They had just recently avoided being stoned to death or imprisoned. His disciples pleaded with Him not to return to Jerusalem. Jesus cryptically answered His disciples, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks during the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10). We are reminded of the words of the Psalmist who prayed to God, “For You have saved my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before [panim] God in the light of the living” (Ps. 56:13). The Hebrew word panim means “face or presence.” If we walk in fellowship with God, we walk in His constant presence, which is the same as walking in His light. Jesus taught, “I am the light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). This was a redundant message of Jesus. If we walk in fellowship with God, we walk in the light and in His timing. This is how the believer is taught to negotiate the challenges and circumstances of this life. As I have said before, we must walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in God, while having no confidence in our inherent capacity to live this supernatural way of being. Our eyes must be open to the Providence of God.
By the time Jesus returned to Bethany and Judea, Lazarus had been dead for four days. There was no question regarding the reality of Lazarus’ death. When Jesus finally returned, Martha and Mary were respectful to Jesus, but they were confused, hurt, and questioned why He had not returned immediately. Martha said, “Lord, if you You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We are often confused or befuddled by God’s timing or the tragedies that fall upon us. As finite beings, we never know or completely understand all the facts or circumstances surrounding our lives. Instead, we are told to trust God and live in His presence. This is how we live in the light, even when we are surrounded by darkness.
After Martha’s lamentation, Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise from the dead” (John 11:23). Mary responded with hope and certainty, “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). This is our great hope, and ultimately, this is the answer to every problem and heartache that we face in this life. Jesus then told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies” (John 11:25). We have the promise of a physical existence after death, but we also have the promise of forever spiritually living in the presence of God. We may die physically, but we believers will pass seamlessly, never skipping a beat, from this life to the next. What blessed assurance. There is nothing to fear.
After Martha’s conversation with Jesus, Martha told Mary about Jesus’ return to Bethany. Mary got up quickly and sought the Lord. She fell at His feet weeping and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). She shared her sister’s pain and bewilderment. Why did Jesus wait so long to return? Jesus was greatly moved by Mary’s pain. So moved, in fact, He wept (John 11:35). He wept even though He knew that in moments, Lazarus would be resurrected. God does not distance Himself from our pain and suffering. He shares in our suffering. Thereafter, Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus and performed His most spectacular miracle. Standing before the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, deuro exo,” or “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). There was no elaborate incantation. The God of the Universe made a simple command of life.
There were several witnesses to the miracle. Thereafter, a few of the bystanders reported the events to the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Immediately, they convened the Sanhedrin, which determined that both Jesus and Lazarus should be executed as soon as possible (John 11:47-57). Jesus’ greatest miracle guaranteed His death and sealed His fate. Jesus’ love for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary had far reaching ramifications that neither Mary nor Martha contemplated. Within about a week, Jesus was dead.
 “H6440 – pānîm – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6440&t=NASB20>.
 “G1204 – deuro – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1204&t=NASB20>.
“G1854 – exō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1854&t=NASB20>.