Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Three


John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus began to weep.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 Oh, my goodness, gracious sakes alive — I so, SO love this story. For a very long list of reasons, some of which I have highlighted above. I will admit to a certain partiality for Martha — I relate to her, what can I say? Take care of business, get it done, stay busy — ah, yes. But this powerful interchange with her friend, who in the space of a minute becomes her Messiah, well . . . it’s wonderful.

Both sisters utter the same sentence at the sight of their friend, Jesus, exhibiting utter faith in his power to heal. But look what happens when they get to the grave, and Jesus gives the order to roll back the stone — Martha cries out: “Oh, no, Jesus, he’s been dead long enough to stink already!”

Her newfound revelation just sort of evaporates in that moment, doesn’t it? I told you, I can really relate to this woman! 

The surprising character in this long narrative is Thomas, don’t you think? Doubting Thomas, we’ve come to call him over the centuries. But catch that little line up there: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Wow. He has heard the same words from Jesus as all of the others, but here, right here, he shows us that he gets it, he knows that Jesus is headed for his own death. He can read the tenor of the times and he has heard Jesus himself say it will happen. And he believes what Jesus tells him. Maybe his desire to see and touch his risen Lord came not so much from doubt, but from a deep love and desire to really see this thing that has come to pass. Who knows?

And then, there is the beautiful picture of Jesus’s tears, his deep empathy for the pain of his friends, his rock-solid sense that death is an enemy, even though it is the necessary end for every one of us. I am grateful that Jesus walked the entire human journey while he was on this earth . . . up to and including death. He gets it.

And finally, those last words to the mourners as they stand there, stupified that Lazarus has actually come forth! YOU unbind him. YES! That is our task as followers of Jesus and fellow sufferers with all of humanity — we are to help release all that binds us in the dark and empty places. WE are to be the hands and feet of Jesus himself.


Thank you, thank you, thank you for living this story and for making sure that John wrote it down for us! Lord Jesus, we get to see so many sides of you in these verses, sides that we need to see. The commitment to wait until the time is right, the insight into the truth of the situation, the empathy expressed to these sisters and their friends, the invitation to them all to join him in the glorious work of release! Help us to join you, too, Lord. Us, too. 

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  1. Indeed, some of the most powerful images of Scripture are found in these passages. Thank you for blessing us with them, Diana, and for your most thoughtful reflection.

  2. Margie Bicknell says

    I have always loved this story of Christ on the move. To show us how to keep moving forward, to trust in Him, to believe in Him, even as we doubt but keep moving forward. These 2 faithful women, never ceasing to acknowledge Christ as Messiah, are a blessing to all of us ‘doer’ women and us more ‘listening-intuitive’ women. Not that ‘doer’ women aren’t listening-intuitive.
    But I missed Thomas in all my past readings of this passage. Wow…
    We must unwrap all the gifts God has given us. We are told to use them for God’s glory and our joy. And to make this world more like heaven, and not leave it worse for us having been here.
    Thank you, again for your thoughts.