International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 20, 2012
Purpose: To understand Jesus' words, “I am the resurrection.”
Scripture Text: John 11:17-27
John 11:17-27 (NRSV)
(17)When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.(18) Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, (19) and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. (20) When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. (21) Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (22) But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." (23) Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." (24) Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." (25) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, (26) and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (27) She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As with our previous lessons in John, I think it is important to read the entire chapter of John 11 to get a good understanding of the events and the timing of the events.
The chapter begins with the illness of Lazarus, and I am reminded of the headstone found in an old English cemetery which read, “I told you I was sick.” Jewish historians believe that Mary the brother of Lazarus was a very wealthy woman. The King preferred her father-in-law to the reigning priest. Bethany, which probably means “house of dates or figs” or “house of misery”, was on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives had lots of fig trees and you may remember that Jesus cursed one that had not borne fruit. (Mark 11:13)
After Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick, he tarried for a few days because the illness did not seem to be life threatening. Later Jesus shares with his disciples that indeed Lazarus had died, but he referred to it as “fallen asleep.” Thomas, who gets a bad rap as being a doubter in later passages, is the one that pushes for all of them to go to Bethany even if it means certain death. Jesus clarifies to the disciples and to the rest of us that what he is about to do, will help them and us in our belief that Jesus was and remains the promised Messiah; The only one that can overcome death and the tomb.
Jewish tradition called for 30 days of mourning, however the first 3 were considered “days of weeping” and that time had passed when Jesus arrives. The time of the Passover was just about a week away so Jerusalem was filled with many travelers. Mary and Martha's popularity had brought many of these Jews to their home and they all shared in mourning Lazarus' death.
It appears Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were all of the sect of the Pharisees, because they believed in a resurrection after death. Also Jesus certainly endorses this belief. Martha's statement to Jesus that “if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died,” But Martha, the busy one, has more faith than most and believes even now that if Jesus asks the Father, her brother will live.
Jesus declares to Martha that “He is the resurrection and the life” that is He can restore life on this earth and represents a new life, a resurrected life in heaven. Since three days has already passed, Lazarus was more than dead he had started to decay, and Jewish tradition says that the soul remains with the body for three days after death, which may be the reason funerals are often held after a 3 day period.
Jesus was about to deliver his most powerful sermon to date, raise a man that had been dead for 4 days in front of a multitude of Jews from all over the world, and he was hoping to maximize the effect that it would have on us, as well as those that were eye witnesses and especially for the disciples, that were about to face their toughest week yet.
Martha's confession is what the LORD is looking for in all of us, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah.” Our hope as believers is that Jesus not only promises eternal life, but he can and will deliver on that promise. “Those that believe in me, even though they die, will live.” Jesus' promise goes one step further, living in Jesus, means we can enjoy the benefits now. Living like we believe Jesus is who he claims to be, changes us. We become a new creation, even before death and the resurrection.