John 11 Part 1: Yeshua Is Able To Bring The Dead To Life!

Death is a reality. Even though it may seem hard to believe, especially for those who are younger, unless we are part of that faithful remnant that is alive when Messiah returns and are transformed, we will die.

Even though death is as sure as taxes, a lot of people are uncomfortable dealing with death. They don’t like thinking about death. They’re afraid of death. One Jewish comedian put it this way: “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

The fear of death can paralyze us. It can prevent us from doing things that are necessary. It can warp our thinking and our behavior. In order to avoid thinking about death, people will numb themselves with drugs and alcohol and other things that may harm them or others. Because they are uncomfortable with death, they avoid people who are dying. They avoid funerals. They delay making arrangements for their own death.

Even some Christians and Messianic Jews act strangely in the face of death. When it becomes apparent that it is getting close to their time to die, some will not die gracefully, or allow their loved one to die with grace and peace. They will pray against death and claim their healing and refuse to hear a negative confession that it is their time to die.

Death is a reality. And death is a result of sin. Death came about because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Their decision to disobey God condemned their descendants to death. Their sin enabled death to dominate us.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that death is one of our very greatest enemies.

We don’t want to die. Within us is the desire to survive. If it was possible to overcome death, and live in a better state, a better condition, a better place, sane people would choose to live.

The good news is that it’s possible to overcome death because of one man – Yeshua. He not only promised that He would enable those who believe in Him to overcome death, He proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead.

John begins the account of one of the greatest miracles in history with some background information that helps us understand the situation. Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Yeshua, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” This was a family that was very close to Yeshua. John lets us know that Yeshua had special affection for Lazarus. He was loved by Yeshua.

Yeshua was always able to hear God speaking to Him, and the Father makes it clear to His Son what was about to happen. When He heard this, Yeshua said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Yeshua knew that Lazarus was going to die from his illness. He also knew that God was going to use Him to bring Lazarus back to life. By doing that, Yeshua would increase in honor. And, since a son who is honored brings honor to his parents, and since Yeshua is the Son of God, when the Son of God is honored, God the Father is honored.

Love is a great motivator. We go out of our way to help the ones we love. It wasn’t just Lazarus whom Yeshua loved. He also had special affection for his two sisters. Yeshua’s love for this brother and two sisters motivated Him to go out of His way to help them – but not right away. Now Yeshua loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (and that delay ensured that when He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus would be dead for at least four days), and then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jewish leaders there tried to stone You, and yet You are going back?” It’s natural to fear powerful men who are determined to kill you, and try to avoid them. It made no sense to the disciples to go back into the lions’s den so soon.

But even though Yeshua was headed into darkness, He was not afraid. He was close to God, and able to hear what God was saying to Him, and knew that God was directing Him to go close to the center of power of those who were determined to kill Him, and God would protect Him.

Yeshua answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” Because we can’t see in darkness, we are in danger of bumping into things or tripping over unseen obstacles and hurting ourselves. Because we can see in the day, we don’t bump into things and stumble over unseen obstacles. Yeshua was living in the light. He knew God. His Father was guiding Him, leading Him, directing Him moment by moment. He knew that God would enable Him to avoid all danger.

You want to avoid unnecessary dangers? Be like Messiah and walk in the light. Get close to Yeshua who is close to His Father, and you will receive wisdom and guidance and direction, and you will avoid many of the pit-falls of life in a dark, fallen world.

Yeshua often used physical things and processes like wind, bread, leaven, food, water, birth, darkness and light, seeds and sowing and reaping to help people understand spiritual realities. And, very often people didn’t understand what Yeshua was communicating with His illustrations. That happened once again here with sleeping and waking. After He had said this, He went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Why did Yeshua use sleeping to refer to Lazarus’s death? Because Yeshua knew that He would shortly bring Lazarus back to life. Therefore, Lazarus’s condition was more like falling asleep and waking up again, rather than death, which is a more permanent cessation of life. His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Yeshua had been speaking of His death, but His disciples thought He meant natural sleep.

So then He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Is it possible that God’s timing is different from our timing? That God may delay doing something to help us in order that He might help us when different circumstances will better help us grow in faith? Yes. Remember that the next time it seems that your prayers are not getting answered fast enough, according to your timing, your schedule, your understanding of the way things should go.

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Thomas didn’t want to go back into the lions’ den so soon. He thought it likely that Yeshua would be killed, and so would he and the other disciples. But, the great thing about Thomas is that, even though he thought it was likely they would all die, he was still willing to follow Yeshua to Judea – even if it meant his death. Now that’s faith. That’s loyalty.

On His arrival, Yeshua found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem (that’s a short distance from the center of the power of the leaders who wanted to kill Yeshua), and many Jewish people had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Yeshua was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Yeshua …This was a woman who had tremendous respect for the young Rabbi. She called Him Lord. And she had great faith in Yeshua: “Lord,” Martha said to Yeshua, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” Martha believed that if Yeshua had only been present, He could have prevented her brother from dying. He could have prayed for him or laid His hands on him, and Lazarus would have been healed. And she still believed, in spite of her loss and her disappointment and her grief, that Yeshua was close to God and a great miracle working Rabbi, and God would answer Yeshua’s prayers. Yeshua is pleased with faith like that, and told her that He was about to do something amazing for her brother.

Yeshua said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” But the future resurrection of the righteous is not what Yeshua had in mind. He knew He was about to do something which had only happened a few times in the long history of the Chosen People – bring a dead person back to life.

After promising Martha that He would bring her brother back to life, Yeshua connected Lazarus’ resurrection to Himself and to His ability to bring all dead human beings back to life and give them eternal life. Yeshua said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. This is an astounding claim – that Yeshua is able to bring dead human beings back to life and give them eternal life.

Then He went on to clarify His astounding claim: that the resurrection and eternal life that He is able to provide will only be given to the person who believes in Him – who knows who He is and becomes loyal to Him. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.

Then He asked Martha a direct question: Do you believe this?” Martha was a woman of extraordinary faith. She had more spiritual understanding than the leaders of the nation of Israel. She did believe that Yeshua could bring the dead to life and give them eternal life because He was very special. “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Of course, Martha was right. Yeshua is the Messiah, the ultimate prophet who most clearly speaks for God; the ultimate priest who brings people close to God and brings God close to people; and the ultimate king who will rule over Israel and the nations. And Yeshua is the Son of God, who shares the Father’s divine nature.

Now I ask you this same very direct question, perhaps the most important question you will ever be asked: do you believe this – that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God who is able to bring the dead to life and reward those who are loyal to Him with eternal life? Before you leave this world, you need to be able to answer yes.

Now John tells us about the other sister. After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Rabbi is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Him. Now Yeshua had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met Him. When the Jewish people who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Yeshua was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Like her sister Martha, Mary too was a woman who had tremendous respect for the young Rabbi, calling Him Lord and falling at His feet, showing that she knew that Yeshua was greater than she was. And, like Martha, she had faith in Yeshua, which is indicated by her statement: If You had been here, my brother would not have died.

When Yeshua saw her weeping, and the Jewish people who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. I love this about Yeshua. Even though He is so much greater than we are, He knows us. He knows our suffering. He is sympathetic to our suffering. He feels our pain.

“Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Yeshua wept. Who is Yeshua? He is not Someone who is non-emotional, or emotionally detached from the suffering of humanity. Quite the opposite. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, a man of suffering and familiar with pain.

There are some people who can always find something good in a situation. Then the Jewish people said, “See how He loved him!” And that was true, and a nice thing to say. But some people can always find something to complain about. But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

For the third time, John lets us know that Yeshua empathizes with broken, hurting humanity. He feels our pain – deeply. Yeshua, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said – knowing that Lazarus was about to come back to life and would need to leave the dark tomb.

Martha didn’t like Yeshua’s plan to move the stone. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Sometimes, especially if we are in a difficult situation and feeling overwhelmed, we can begin to doubt. We need a reminder of what we believe. Yeshua reminded her that she believed that He was the Messiah and the Son of God and was able to raise the dead, and she should trust Him. Then Yeshua said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

When I was a new believer, there were some times when I had doubts about what I believed. When that happened, I would remind myself that what I believed was true by reading Isaiah 53, a prophecy about the Messiah that always speaks clearly and forcefully to me. Whenever I read Isaiah 53, it strengthens my faith. I know that everything that I believe is true. Do you have a passage in the Word of God like that, that convinces you of the truth of what you believe and strengthens your faith? Do you have a place where God was especially close to you, or maybe an event that reminds you of the truth about God and what you believe?

Yeshua’s reminder of her belief in Him was enough for Martha. She allowed the stone to be removed. So they took away the stone.

This was the time. Everything was ready. It was obvious to everyone that Lazarus was really and truly dead. He had been in the tomb for four days. Yeshua was now present at the entrance of the tomb. Then Yeshua did two things. First, He spoke to God. Then He spoke to Lazarus.

Then Yeshua looked up (a traditional way of praying – eyes open and looking up to Heaven, not head bowed and eyes closed) and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

A short but sweet prayer in which:

Yeshua acknowledged His relationship to God: that God was His Father and He was God’s Son.

Yeshua thanked God for always hearing and answering His prayers.

Yeshua acknowledged that He knew God always answered His prayers, and was now praying out loud so that those who were present would understand that it was Yeshua’s relationship to God and His prayer to God that enabled what was about to happen, to happen. Normally, God only allows someone who is very close to Him to do a miracle. Yeshua wanted those present to know that what was about to happen was because of His close relationship to God, that God sent Him; God approved of Him.

After speaking to God, Yeshua spoke to Lazarus. It was also short and sweet. When He had said this, Yeshua called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

Keep in mind that in the long history of the special nation of Israel, it is recorded in our holy writings that only three people came back to life. God enabled Elijah to bring the son of a widow from Zarephath back to life. God used Elisha to resurrect the son of the Shunammite woman; and a dead man came back to life when he touched Elisha’s bones.

Neither Buddha nor Mohammed nor the founder of any other world religion ever said to anyone: “come out” and they came out. But when Yeshua called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Yeshua said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Only Yeshua can bring the dead to life. When we understand who He is and transfer our loyalties to Him, we who were spiritually dead, dead in our trespasses and sins, become alive spiritually. But, like Lazarus, we may have grave clothes on us. We may have things from our old life – bad habits, wrongs ways of thinking, that are like the wrappings of death, that keep us bound. Only Yeshua can bring the dead to life, but after He does that, it is the responsibility of those around the one who has been brought back to life to help remove the things that and binding him by helping him and teaching him and correcting him.

Therefore many of the Jewish people who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Yeshua did, believed in Him. And, that was the right response. This is one of the very greatest miracles of all time, and everyone there, and throughout Israel, should have believed in Yeshua. But, that is not what happened, particularly among those who should have known Him the best and been the most loyal to Him – the leaders of the Chosen People.

But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Yeshua had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin – Israel’s Senate, made up of the political and religious leaders of the nation. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

The leaders knew Yeshua was doing miracles, but were so spiritually blind, so far from God, that they believed He was a false prophet doing demonically empowered miracles. And they believed that Yeshua’s increasing popularity would result in Him leading a revolt against Rome, which would be crushed.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Caiaphas was the high priest. He was the spiritual leader of the nation. John informs us that this man who was in a unique position, spoke a profound truth about the future, more profound than he was aware of. He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Yeshua would die for the Jewish nation.

Caiaphas believed it was better for one man, Yeshua, to die, than the alternative – that Yeshua lead a revolt against Rome which would result in the Romans destroying the nation. The deeper truth, taken from the very same words of Caiaphas, is that one man, Yeshua, needed to die, or the entire Jewish nation would die. Apart from the death of one man, Yeshua, all Israel would die. None would have atonement. None would experience eternal life.

And John, the Lord’s divinely inspired representative, tells us that more than the life of the Jewish people was at stake. He prophesied that Yeshua would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. Messiah’s death was necessary, not just for the faithful remnant from the Jewish people to live, but for those who would become the sons and daughters of God from the other nations. It is Yeshua’s sacrificial death that enables a remnant of Jewish people and people from the nations to be reconciled to God and reconciled to each other and form the one new man, a new united humanity.

The Sanhedrin had met. The high priest had given his decision. The leaders were in agreement. It was essential to kill Yeshua. So from that day on they plotted to take His life.

And, Yeshua knew it and acted accordingly. Therefore Yeshua no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead He withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where He stayed with His disciples.

The life and ministry of Yeshua are almost over. The stage is set for the final act – Yeshua’s death and resurrection in Jerusalem at Passover – two of the most important events in human history – which fills the rest of John’s book. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Yeshua, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t He coming to the holiday at all?” But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Yeshua was should report it so that they might arrest Him.

Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, thank You for Yeshua, Your Son, and our living Lord, Messiah and Savior, who said: I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die – and who proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead, and then Himself died and came back to life. Help us to know that Yeshua is the resurrection and the life, and believe this great truth, and confidently share it with a dying world. Amen? Amen!