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 seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:8-16)
During the next several days we will be studying the familiar story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. The chapter can be divided into three major categories. The first category is the preparation for the miracle (11:1–16).
Upon hearing the news that Lazarus was seriously ill, Jesus told His disciples that they were going back to Judea. The disciples’ exhibit some seldom seen insight into Jesus’ statement because they know full well that His enemies, the religious leaders of the Jews, are seeking to execute Him for blaspheme. They incredulously ask Jesus if He is going back to that situation. Jesus responds rhetorically that as there are twelve hours in a day so He is going back to Judea.
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “His disciples knew that His going to Judea, would be dangerous (10:31). So they tried to prevent Him from going. Jesus spoke in a veiled way to illustrate that it would not be too dangerous to go to Bethany. In one sense He was speaking of walking (living) in physical light or darkness. In the spiritual realm when one lives by the will of God he is safe. Living in the realm of evil is dangerous. As long as He followed God’s plan, no harm would come till the appointed time.”
Jesus then begins telling His disciples in a subtle way that Lazarus had died but that He was going to raise him from dead. John records that the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” John adds the comment that “Jesus had spoken of his (Lazarus’) death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.” The disciples fall back into a familiar pattern of not completely understanding Jesus’ meaning behind His statements. The text then says, “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Dr. Walvoord adds, “As was often the case in the Gospels, Jesus was speaking about one thing but the disciples were thinking about another. The words Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there seem shocking at first. But if Lazarus had not died, the disciples (and readers of all ages) would not have had this unique opportunity to have their faith quickened. Lazarus’ death was so that you may believe.”
John seems to depict the disciple Thomas in what has come to be known as his typecast cynical outlook on life when he records Thomas saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” However, Dr. Walvoord states, “Thomas is often called “doubting Thomas” because of the incident recorded in 20:24–25. But here he took the leadership and showed his commitment to Christ, even to death. That we may die with Him is ironic. On one level it reveals Thomas’ ignorance of the uniqueness of Christ’s atoning death. On another level it is prophetic of many disciples’ destinies (12:25).”
It is often the little things in life, such as conversations we have had with other people that take on a greater significance when followed by an incident of lasting importance. Little did I realize that conversations I had with Christians prior to my conversion would turn out to be sown seeds of the Gospel which would eventually result in my conversion to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Pay special attention to the dialogue you have with others today. Sow the seeds of the Gospel as you can, when, where and with whom you can.
Soli deo Gloria!