But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for 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?” (John 11:37-40)
In studying the familiar story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, John 11 can be divided into three major categories. The first category is the preparation for the miracle (11:1–16). The second is the arrival of Jesus prior to the miracle (vv. 17–36). The third category is Jesus performing the miracle (vs. 37-44).
Isn’t it interesting that people can acknowledge the truth of something or someone while at the same time expressing skepticism about the very same person of whom they are speaking? Take the Jews for example. While acknowledging that Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind, at the same time they expressed skeptical disappointment that Jesus did not keep Lazarus from dying. It reflected the old adage of “what have you done for me lately?” In other words, the more miracles the people witnessed, the more they wanted but this did not necessarily mean they would believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Seeing did not necessarily translate into believing. Jesus again reacted with strong indignation at the people’s attitude of unreasonable unbelief (see vs. 33).
Jesus then came to the cave tomb which had a stone resting against it. Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, “John tells us that the tomb is “a cave, and a stone lay against it” (v. 38b). This type of grave was not uncommon for first-century Jews, and Jews of some wealth and prominence were especially likely to own such a tomb. For example, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent and wealthy Jew, owned the cave tomb in which Jesus was buried (Matt. 27:57–60). That Lazarus was buried in such a grave lends credence to the idea that his family enjoyed a high social standing.”
Jesus commanded that the stone be removed from its place at the entrance of the tomb. Martha, always the careful and meticulous sister, said, ““Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Although Jews used aromatic spices, their custom was not to internally embalm the body but to use the spices outwardly to counteract the repulsive odors from decomposition. They would wrap the body in linen cloth, placing various spices in the layers and folds. By the way, the linen cloths are also known as swaddling clothes. Additionally, the Jews did not wrap the body tightly like Egyptian mummies, but rather loosely with the head wrapped separately. This is why, as we will see, that Lazarus could move out of the tomb before he was unwrapped (v. 44; cf. 20:7).
Jesus graciously reminded Martha what He had previously said to her. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Do we see the glory of God every day? We should. The glory, or weighted significance, of God is not only seen in creation but also in His Word (Psalm 19). It is also seen in the works we do for the kingdom and the King (Matthew 5:13-16). Take time to praise God as you consider His glory.
Soli deo Gloria!