Sit comfortably with your Bible, journal and pen handy. As you prepare to read this story, close your eyes and focus on Jesus. Think for a few minutes about what it would have been like to be with him when he was living in Israel.
Read John 11:1-44 through in its entirety. As you read, try to get a sense of the atmosphere, both in the home of Lazarus and in the place where Jesus was staying with his disciples. Make note of any questions that arise in your mind.
John 10 records the story of Jesus’ most recent visit to Jerusalem. During that visit, Jesus is bold in answering questions put to him about whether he was truly the Messiah. Some of the people are furious that he claims to be one with God. They attempt to stone him, and later, unsuccessfully try to arrest him.
Read the story a second time from the perspective of Thomas, one of the disciples who was with Jesus during his last visit to Jerusalem. How do you hear Jesus’ words? What are your concerns? What thoughts go through your mind as you sees Jesus with Mary and Martha, grieving for his friend? What fears do you have? Record your reflections in your journal.
Read the episode from Martha’s perspective. What conflicting emotions do you feel towards Jesus when he arrives? What thoughts do you have as Jesus speaks to you about the resurrection? If you have a stairway in your house, stand at the top as if it were the grave of Lazarus. Imagine what it would be like to witness your brother coming up out of the grave wrapped in graveclothes. What are you expecting? What are you feeling?
Read the story from the point of view of Jesus. Why do you wait to go see your friend? Why are you angry when you arrives? What frustrations do you encounter with his disciples? With Mary and Martha? Why are you so grieved if you know you are going to raise Lazarus? How do you feel when it is over? Write your thoughts and questions in your journal.
Read the narrative from the perspective of one of the friends of Mary and Martha who have come to comfort them. You probably know something of the reputation of Jesus, but aren’t quite sure what to think of this man. As you watch Jesus interact with Martha and Mary, what are you thinking? What is your reaction when he tells you to roll away the stone from in front of the grave? What emotions run through your soul? What is it like to see Lazarus appear? How do you and the people with you react? Record your insights.
The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future. And what he was promising for that future, and doing in that present was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose—and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
How was the raising of Lazarus a prototype of what was to come? Write your thoughts in your journal.