“You don’t have to wait for the End.
I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. “
Today We Live
I thought we came here to die.
A few days ago, we heard Lazarus was sick. At first I was sure we would head down to Judea. We had been up in Gennesaret when Andrew first heard the news from a friend of Martha’s.
She had sent word north hoping the Master would come back down and visit him in Bethany. Lazarus and his whole family had been so good to us. Every time we passed through Bethany they hosted us, and we often stayed at their home when we were in Jerusalem for the festivals.
When we were together, there was a special dynamic between Jesus and Lazarus. The Master always made time to get away alone with him. Jesus made a huge impact on everyone in that family.
When I think of the change in Mary, his sister, I’m still amazed. I didn’t know her before, but she had a reputation around Jerusalem. I had heard stories about her. Everyone just assumed she needed to get married and submit to a husband’s leadership. No one suspected seven demons lived within her. It was sad.
To see her now, you would never know. The Lord broke down that stronghold in her life and began to pour in love. He treated her with honor. He cared about her. She changed inside and out. The once loud and bawdy woman now loved nothing more than sitting at the Master’s feet as He taught us.
Now they were calling us to come and help. There was a note of desperation in Martha’s message. She was afraid for her brother’s life.
The night we got the message, Jesus said, “This won’t end in death. It will end with Father and Son receiving glory.”
When He said that, I looked over at Peter. He was usually willing to ask the hard questions, but he put his finger to his lips and slowly shook his head.
Two days later, Jesus suggested we head back down to Judea. Last time we were in Jerusalem, they tried to kill all of us. Walking the streets of Judea with us was not for the faint of heart. I’m certain we were all thinking it, but it was James who came right out and asked, “Isn’t that suicide? Last time they almost stoned You when You healed that blind man.”
Then He said:
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”
At that, Judas chuckled and said:
“Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.”
Jesus said it, making plain the point we were all missing:
“And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”
Everyone started talking at once. Peter didn’t want to go at all, and John was talking with James. From where I stood, I couldn’t tell what they were saying. I shrugged and said:
“Come along. We might as well die with him.”
Have you ever had one of those moments when you raise your voice above the din so the crowd can hear, and, at the same time, everyone suddenly stops talking? That’s what happened as I said it. Everyone just stared at me.
So I said it again, quietly this time.
“We might as well die with him..”
We left the next morning.
When we arrived, you could see that the mourning had been going on for days. Martha must have gotten word we were on our way, because she met us at the edge of town. When she reached Jesus, she fought to keep her tears at bay.
“Master, if You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever You ask God He will give You.”
He said to Martha:
“Your brother will be raised up.”
You could tell she had been crying, and His words set her off again. When she regained her composure, she mumbled:
“I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”
She said it as though reciting the day’s lesson to her rabbi, but all conviction was held at bay.
Jesus took her right hand in His, and with His other hand He drew her eyes up. I never know what to say when I am faced with such grief, but the Master was not shaken by her weeping.
As she looked in His eyes, she calmed. He said to her:
“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.”
Then He continued, His words addressed to all of us:
“The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.”
Then He looked back into Martha’s eyes.
“Do you believe this?”
She said to him:
“Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”
We kept moving on toward the house. Martha ran ahead of us. As we approached, I began to get nervous. Some of the Jewish leaders who had been trying to kill Jesus were there, as well as plenty of others.
We were not yet in the yard, when Mary came to us. She fell at Jesus’s feet and burst into tears. Her grief impacted Him; He was visibly moved by her sorrow.
Through her sobbing she managed to say:
“Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
It wasn’t an accusation, exactly. We’ve all walked with Him for years now and seen Him heal hundreds of men and women. It wasn’t like it was hard for Him or took any special energy. It was just what He did. So why not Lazarus? Why not this one He loved?
By now we were close enough to hear the wailing and crying of the others at the tomb. Again, He was noticeably moved by the sorrowful scene.
He lifted Mary to her feet and asked, “Where have you laid him?”
Martha rejoined us and took Him and Mary by the hand. “Come and see,” the women said.
The grave site was a few hundred yards from where they lived, and many had come to mourn with them. When He saw the closed tomb, Jesus wept.
The Jews who had come out of Jerusalem to pay their respects saw His great love for Lazarus. They had not come to weep. They were there because it was expected of them —a matter of duty—not an act of love.
One of them turned it against Him, though. “This man opens strangers’ eyes, but could not come and help His own friend. What kind of love is that?”
Jesus, still deeply moved, walked right up to the tomb.
“Go ahead, take away the stone.”
Martha was standing beside Him. She leaned in and said, “Master, he’s been in there four days. By now the odor would be unbearable.”
He looked at her, and then turned so all could hear.
“Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Martha went over and asked a few of her neighbors to move the stone.
With His back to the tomb, Jesus turned His eyes to the heavens and began to pray.
“Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”
Then He turned and faced the tomb, and in a voice like a trumpet, He called out:
“Lazarus, come out!”
At first, the silence brought time to a screeching halt.
No one moved. I couldn’t breathe.
Four days! What was He thinking?
Then there was a sound, a shuffling, and it was coming from the tomb. Next thing we knew, there stood Lazarus, wrapped head to toe in grave clothes.
Jesus looked at me and said, “Thomas, don’t just stand there; you and Andrew unwrap him.”
At that, the hillside erupted in shouts and cheers and laughter and singing and more shouts. Lazarus ran to Jesus and threw his arms around Him, and then Mary and Martha joined the embrace.
We all closed in on them, until the Master called out from the center, with laughter in His voice, to give them some air.
We all headed back to the house, where we feasted and talked, singing the praises of God and recounting the day.
In the middle of all the rejoicing, I stepped back and looked at Jesus. I have never known anyone who felt so deeply. He’d known just what He had planned from the beginning, and yet He mourned with those who mourned. Now He rejoiced at this life He had restored. No one knew as much joy as this man, nor as much sorrow.
I thought we came here to die, but today we live. And what a life we live when we walk with Jesus!
To read the original story, see John 11.
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015
The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.