3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 11

Contents

Chapter 11: The Resurrection and the Life

IMG_6670This is part 11 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

In this chapter, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. This is a pivotal moment in the story of the Gospel of John, as we will see as we progress through it.


What suddenly happened in Chapter 11?

I have a confession to make.

When I sat down this week to continue the series in the Gospel of John, I was disappointed to find precious little in chapter 11 which really demonstrates this theme we have been looking at, of how “See”, “Hear”, and “Believe” relate to one another. That wasn’t a big deal. I just figured this week would be a small post.

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

But then I went to chapter 12… and 13…, and as I kept reading I found that the remaining chapters really don’t show this same integral reliance on our “three words”, either. At least, not anywhere near to the same extent. What should I do next…?

These were my options:

  • Continue with the series, gleaning what little I could from each chapter, at least faithfully following this investigation through to the end.
  • Continue the series, but combine several chapters at a time into a single post, perhaps changing this from a “21-part series” to about a 15-part series.
  • Stop at chapter 10, concluding that John had effectively finished with this theme.

But I wasn’t happy with any of those options.

We have been following this very prominent and very clear motif through the entire story up to chapter 11. Why does it suddenly seem to change here? What can we learn from that?

There sure is something different here in Chapter 11

… and that’s why it took a little extra time to prepare this week’s lesson. I needed to have the time to read chapters 11-21 several times over, and discern properly what is going on with respect to our particular little theme. I reckon I’ve located the key to understanding. I have found the exercise deeply rewarding. I hope you will appreciate what I’ve found, too.

REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 11

Hearing, Seeing, and Believing

But first, let’s find what we can here, about “See”, “Hear”, and “Believe”.

Scan all the way down to Verse 40, for this:

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

– John 11:40

You may recall that from the beginning of John’s Gospel, the ability truly “to see” comes only to those who believe. Here, this is repeated. Jesus refers to an earlier time when he told Martha this truth. When was that? It was back at Verse 25:

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.”

– John 11:25-27

This provides a clear parallel so that we can see that when Jesus says that a person will “see the glory of God” (in V40), it is the same as saying that they “will never die” (v26). Why? Because, in Jesus’ words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (v25). To believe in him is to “see” this truth and to experience it.

Continuing to Verse 41:

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.”

– John 11:41-42

Here is our hear/believe theme very clearly. Jesus prays out loud not for God’s benefit, but so that people might hear, and believe

What will happen then?

As explained above, they will see.

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.

– John 12:43-45

There’s a fair bit going on here…

Firstly, as Jesus explained beforehand, it was his speaking that should prompt people to “believe”. But this time, having believed (as Martha already did, back in v27), they can then see, in such a way that they understand.

Secondly, notice that Jesus’ voice raises the dead. Remember back in our study of Chapter 5? Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). This event is a direct link to that statement, and is designed to emphasise that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God, just as he claimed in Chapter 5.

But there’s something else at work here, too. Even though “many of the Jews” believed in him, they did so because they “had seen what Jesus did” (V45). We have seen many times in this study that when people see a miraculous sign and then believe, they are wrong about the message, and believe something other than what Jesus is teaching. Will the same happen here? Well, no…

Those who believed went and told the Jewish authorities, and the Jewish authorities assumed that it was Jesus’ (many) signs that would have the people following him. That’s not what was happening at all. Up to this point in the story it was only those who heard and believed that were following Jesus reliably. But there sure is something different here in Chapter 11. People can “see” and then believe, seemingly without getting it wrong.

What happened?

Remember Jesus telling the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (a different Lazarus…), in Luke 16? This was his concluding remark, placed on the lips of Father Abraham, “[Abraham] said to [the Rich Man], ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31)

… and here in John 11, a man was raised from the dead. That’s a game-changer.

The reason that Chapters 11-21 are different from Chapters 1-10 with respect to people coming to faith, is that a man has been raised from the dead. Given that the whole Christian faith revolves around believing that a man rose from the dead, this should hardly shock us.

Are you looking forward to the rest of this 21-part series now? I sure am!


Questions to Ponder from Chapter 11

What is the big deal about someone rising from the dead?
Did people expect a “Resurrection of the Dead” before Jesus came teaching about it?
Was Lazarus really dead?

Other posts in this series:

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