John 11:1–44: The Life of Jesus
In Jesus’ last, greatest sign, he brings his public attestation to a close. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has demonstrated repeatedly through his words and his works that he is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name (John 20:31). In the sign of raising Lazarus up from the dead, Jesus now decisively proves that he is the one in whom is life (John 1:4). Jesus performed his first sign at a wedding (John 2:1–11), and Jesus now performs his last sign at a funeral, revealing his glory across the range of human experience. Furthermore, as Craig Keener points out, Jesus’ first and last signs contrasts with the first and last signs of Moses in that Moses brought death, but Jesus brings life. Moses’ first sign was to turn the water of the Nile into blood (Ex. 7:14–25), killing everything in it, while Jesus turns water into wine to fill a wedding party with life-filled joy. Moses’ last sign, on the other hand, was the death of every living firstborn in Egypt (Ex. 11–12), while Jesus raises up a dead man to life.
The contrast between Moses and Jesus does not end with the distinctions between the law for the former, and grace and truth for the latter (John 1:17); ultimately, the difference between Jesus and Moses is nothing less than life and death. Perhaps part of Moses’ accusations against those who reject Jesus (John 5:45) will be on the basis of Moses’ plea with the Israelites: “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deut. 30:19)—words that Moses uttered in his last speech to his people before he himself died. Here too, raising Lazarus from the dead will lead directly to Jesus’ own death (John 11:53). This sign of raising the dead to life, however, demonstrates that Jesus possesses authority over life and death, even in his authority to take up his own life again after he lays it down for his sheep (cf. John 10:17–18). In John 11, we encounter the glory of Jesus in his capacity as the Lord of Life: for his glory and our good, Jesus shepherds us out of death into his resurrection life.
1. How do you feel when you ask God for something, but you do not receive an answer to that prayer what you consider to be in a timely matter? How difficult is it to recognize God’s goodness even in the midst of bitter disappointment?
2. What would it look like in the middle of your uncertainties for you to affirm your ongoing confidence in God’s power and goodness by saying “but even now I know…”? How do you avoid the extremes of name-it-and-claim-it theologies of prayer on one side, and the pessimistic despondency that inhibits prayer on the other side?
3. How does the Bible talk about death? Does the Bible avoid talking about death? Does the Bible downplay death? What does Jesus’ righteous indignation and fury against death teach us about how we should talk about death?
4. How central to you is the hope of your coming resurrection? How would faith in the certainty that you will be raised up to a body of glorification like Jesus’ change the way you approached your work? Your family? Your faith?