Suggested grades: 10th-12th grade
Passage: John 11:1-44
1. Narrate the story of the Resurrection of Lazarus.
2. Introduce background and significance of story.
3. Discuss the Divine Plan & Key Themes.
4. Facilitate discussion & reflection.
Class 4 Lesson Guide (PDF)
Also see main retreat page.
The raising of Lazarus is only mentioned in the Gospel of John (John 11:1–44). Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary (this is a different Mary than Jesus’ mother). In this miracle we see Jesus bringing back Lazarus of Bethany back to life four days after his burial. In the book of John, this will be the last of the miracles Jesus performed before beginning the Passion and His own resurrection.
The Gospel of John is the most theological of the Gospels. Even from the beginning, in the first chapter, we see Jesus is identified with the Word (“Logos”), and the Word is identified with God. We do not see this in the Synoptic Gospels. John was very open in discussing Jesus’ divinity, even Jesus referring to himself as “I AM”, the title God gives himself in Exodus at his self-revelation to Moses. The Jews were extremely jealous, as many of their followers were leaving to follow Jesus. They wanted to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus also. What happened here was an important turn of events which ultimately led to the Jews wanting to crucify Jesus. This is the climax of miracles and the resurrection of Lazarus
foreshadows the ultimate death and resurrection of Jesus Himself, which occurs just days after this event.
The Divine Plan
Jesus’ signs are not performed solely out of human compassion. They have a “divine schedule.” The same dynamic is at work as seen in the first miracle at Cana. Again, John is emphasizing God’s plan. We know Jesus in the first miracle only turns the water into wine because of His mother’s request, as He tells her initially, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” This request by His mother is a key component in our church’s use of petitioning Mary to intercede for us.
Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death altogether. That would have prevented the sorrow that His friends faced. However, as mentioned before, this miracle was performed not solely out of human compassion. Jesus knew that it was the will of the Father that Lazarus would die and that his resurrection would show God’s glory (verse 40). He did not raise Lazarus just to make His friends content. He raised Lazarus to show the glory of God.
This is the last recorded miracle or “sign” in John’s gospel. News of this story did not proclaim Jesus as Lord and Messiah, but, it would have the exact opposite effect. It demonstrated to his enemies just how great a threat He was: something had to be done about Jesus. But that was all part of His plan, Jesus had total control. He planned to lay His life down willingly in just a few more days. He was willing to do this because by means of it, Jesus knew He would accomplish more for us than He had for Lazarus – a victory over death that would last forever.
Jesus had the power to resurrect Lazarus from a distance. Jesus not only had to physically travel to Bethany but Jesus also delayed His departure two days. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Jesus waited four days because He knew the Jewish superstition of that time period which said that a soul stayed near the grave for three days, hoping to return to the body. Therefore, it was accepted that after four days there was absolutely no hope of resuscitation. Thus, this makes what Jesus is about to do more divine, especially to those who find out about this miracle.
Jesus is the light
The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” to which 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.” These verses are referencing the authorities who were seeking Jesus’. We go back and remember a previous verse John’s Gospel summed up Jesus life, death and resurrection: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Jesus is displaying His power by referencing light which is something that evil cannot overcome. As mentioned previously, the events in this story and Jesus’ ministry overall is in accordance with the divine plan, thus we see again how Jesus was and is always in total control.
The true God we worship unlike the other pagan gods is one that shares in our suffering. This verse is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. Examples like this and Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, as well as His interactions during His time on this earth, show how much of a man He was, similar to us. In verse 33-38, we see a deeply moved Jesus comes to the tomb. When Jesus saw them weeping the grief and tears of Mary and Martha moved Him. God sees the tears of the grief stricken and is moved with compassion.
There is an important contrast between the tears of Mary and the tears of Jesus. Wept, the word to describe Jesus’ expression of grief is another word that indicates a quiet weeping. Jesus was greatly moved, but still had control of the overall situation. Jesus shared in the grief of those who mourn. Yet unlike any other, God the Son was able to do something about their grief. Jesus allowed this empathetic passion to uniquely do for Lazarus what He will one day do for all the righteous dead. Jesus embraced His humanity. He identified with others in their sorrow and shared in their grief. Jesus loves mankind and shares in their suffering.
Christology is the study of the nature of Christ. Who is He in relation to the Father? How do we describe Him in his human and divine natures? How do we describe His eternal being?,etc. The book of John, as mentioned, starts off with he Logos narrative, and shows throughout the Gospel how Jesus is acting out divinely. When we recite the Nicene Creed we talk about Jesus’ essence/nature. The creed is not a prayer but a statement of what we believe as Orthodox Christians. Through this we know that Jesus came down from heaven to be fully human, yet He is also of ONE substance with the Father. When we read about the resurrection of Lazarus we see a few things into play. In a few verses in John 11, we see Jesus acting human by weeping for his friend, Lazarus, and then acting divine by raising him from death. We see throughout this chapter Jesus is also the Light which we recite in the Creed. Jesus is also foreshadowing His own resurrection which we profess as well.
Jesus has seven “I am” sayings in the Book of John. Let’s rewind to the Old Testament: “Moses said to God, “If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ – what should I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” And he said, ‘You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’’ (Genesis 3:13-14).
John is very crafty in his use of words. Comparing into modern terms it’s almost like watching a television show that spun off of from another show and it is referencing the show that it spun off from. However, this is much bigger. John is using this allegory so his readers can see the correlation of the figures in the respective testaments: the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament (Jesus) are one. John in this climactic miracle doesn’t shy away from the liberty of using an “I am” saying: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:25-26)
We have learned this resurrection of Lazarus is a glimpse of what is to come. It’s not simply a miracle out of compassion. There was a bigger picture. If we take the cross of Jesus and look at Scripture entirely, everything points to Christ and His ultimate work on the cross. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” (John 5:39). Jesus gave us victory over death that would last eternally! Not in physical form, but our souls would now be benefactors to the work that Christ performed on the cross.
Discussion & Reflection
1. Further discussion of Christology. Understanding a God who was both man and divine at the same time and how does that pertain to us.
2. We read, “Jesus wept”. What does this mean to us? Why do you suppose Jesus wept? Let students share their thoughts and ask them if they have ever wondered if Jesus weeps for them, their loved ones, society around us, etc. What are some examples of why Jesus would weep today? Tie this into the parable of the lost sheep. Reassure them that Jesus is troubled by our pain and He cares deeply about our sorrows too.
3. Christ as the Healer. Jesus goal was not just to raise Lazarus to appease Martha and Mary, He had a bigger mission. The example we see here was for the greater good Jesus could do for us. Jesus came to this earth to heal mankind both in this life and the one after this one. Jesus heals our soul. Speaking purely of our life on this earth, how can we attribute any experiences where Jesus has been responsible for healing /mending our spirit/soul?
4. Personal reflections of the divine plan in our own lives. – As the timing of raising Lazarus was not instantaneous, why does God have plans to not grant things immediately? (Use Biblical examples and perhaps personal ones to tie in). Also, this Lenten period is a prolonged time that we are going through as we are on this journey. What do we or can we gain from this journey? Can we expect a transformation?
Script on John 11:1-44 with seven parts
Narrator – Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,
Mary and Martha – “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
Jesus – “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Narrator – Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples,
Jesus – “Let us go to Judea again.”
Disciples – “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”
Jesus – “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”
Jesus – “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”
Disciples – “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”
Narrator – Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly,
Jesus – “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Thomas – “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Narrator – When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus,
Martha – “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Jesus – “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha – “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus – “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?”
Martha – “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Narrator – When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately,
Martha – “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
Narrator – And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,
Mary – “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Narrator – (When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.)
Jesus – “Where have you laid him?”
Mary and the Jews – “Lord, come and see.”
(Jesus began to weep.)
The Jews – “See how he loved him!”
The Jews – “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
(Jesus comes to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.)
Jesus – “Take away the stone.”
Martha – “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
Jesus – “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
(They take away the stone.)
Jesus – “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.”
Jesus – “Lazarus, come out!”
(Lazarus comes out)
Jesus – “Unbind him, and let him go.”