Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? (John 11:40)
The events surrounding this seventh sign were previously covered in the discussion of Jesus’ fifth I AM statement: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine).
Jesus “stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) as He made a stopover in Jericho along the way. The cross loomed ominous – less than two weeks away – when He received word from Bethany, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3). It was Lazarus. The content of the message did not convey the gravity of the matter. “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4, emphasis mine).
However, it was “unto death,” and the Lord knew it. “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:6, emphasis). After the two-day delay, Jesus “saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again … Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (John 11:7, 11). Sleep, for someone who is sick, helps the healing process. The disciples understood this. They also understood that Jesus’ life was in peril in Jerusalem. “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? … Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well” (John 11:8, 12, emphasis mine). Jesus completely knew and understood the situation although the euphemism escaped the disciples’ conscious thought, so to clarify, “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14, emphasis mine).
The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died shortly after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany and He took another day to arrive – four days total.
When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha met Him with the “news” that Lazarus had died (John 11:20). Mary followed Martha. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:32). Both Martha and Mary believed that Jesus could heal the sick. They had probably witnessed many of His healing miracles, and perhaps they heard about or witnessed Jesus restoring life to the dead. Those other resurrections Jesus performed involved someone who was dead just a matter of hours. However, it had been FOUR DAYS! They also believed that Jesus could raise the dead “at the resurrection” (John 11:24), but that was future. “Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already” (John 11:17, emphasis mine). FOUR DAYS! – “There is a tradition in Judaism (that still exists today), that the soul after death does not immediately depart the deceased, but hovers over the body for a period of three days, during which time resurrection is possible.”
In the minds of Martha and Mary, Lazarus was too far gone for a resurrection now. They were resigned to wait until the resurrection at the end of time.
Jesus asked to see the grave (John 11:34), and to their shock, Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away from the opening. “Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39, emphasis mine). What was He doing? Did Jesus want a private viewing? By now, the process of decomposition would have caused the body to reek. Surely, Jesus could not bring life to a decaying body! “Jesus saith unto [Martha], Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:40, 43). The dead man responded, and though bound in grave clothes, walked out of the cave.
Jesus demonstrated His power over death. He said, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25, emphasis mine), and He proved it by giving life to one for whom consensus offered no hope. FOUR DAYS dead and Jesus brought Lazarus back to the land of the living. From the beginning, Jesus knew what He would do. “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4, emphasis mine). Then before the skeptical crowd that included that included some of His harshest opponents (John 11:45-53) Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 11:41-42, emphasis mine).
Luke relays an account given by Jesus of a rich man that died and went to hell and a beggar by the name of Lazarus (different person) who also died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man in hell could see Lazarus enjoying paradise with Abraham. After failing get relief for himself, he requested that Lazarus be sent back to the world of the living and evangelize his brothers, for he thought, “if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). The brothers had the Law and the Prophets, i.e., the Bible. In other words, they had all they needed to avoid the same fate. Abraham’s response settled the matter. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31, emphasis mine). The truth of this assertion could not be better illustrated than in the reaction of the religious leaders that witnessed “one that rose from the dead.” Rather than believe in Jesus, who raised the dead, they sought to kill Him. “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:53). Not only that, but now Lazarus was a liability. “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:10-11, emphasis mine).
Truth is offensive. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). Many would rather destroy the Truth than submit to Him, but the Truth will not die. “And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves” (John 11:55). In a few days, Jesus would be put to death, but after three days, He would do an even greater miracle than raising Lazarus. Jesus Himself would conquer death and rise from the grave. Yet, many are not “persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Jesus Himself.
Do you believe? You have the Bible. You have the voices of thousands of “prophets” declaring the Word of the Lord. Jesus is not in the grave. What more do you need? This life you have been given is the only opportunity you will ever have to make that choice. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). After this life, there are no more chances. Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever to give us eternal life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), and you will not end up like the rich man being tortured in the flames (Luke 16:24) with no escape.
 Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 184.