While Jesus was still in the region between the Jordan and Jerusalem, he heard that his friend Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was seriously ill. Jesus did not hurry to Bethany, because he knew that Lazarus was already dead. By raising him to life, Jesus would give unmistakable evidence of his unity with the Father (John 11:1-6).
After waiting two days, Jesus decided to set out for Bethany. The disciples tried to stop him, fearing that the Jews of that area would try to kill him. Jesus assured them that the time for his death had not yet come. He would travel safely as a person walking in broad daylight. Because he walked in God’s light, he would be unharmed by the evil powers of darkness (John 11:7-10). His raising of Lazarus would show his power over death and so strengthen the disciples’ faith. Such words of assurance gave the disciples courage to go with him in spite of the dangers (John 11:11-16).
A distressed Martha met Jesus along the way. She believed that although, humanly speaking, it was too late to do anything for her dead brother, Jesus may yet be able to call upon his Father’s power and bring Lazarus back to life (John 11:17-22).
It was small comfort to Martha to know that Lazarus would be raised to life at the resurrection of the just. Jesus enlightened her by saying that he is the resurrection and the life. Here and now, in this life, those who are spiritually dead because of sin may have eternal life through him. They will go on living and enjoying this life even though their physical bodies may die (John 11:23-26). Martha fully believed all that Jesus was saying, and added her confident confession that he was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (John 11:27). She then hurried home and brought Mary to meet him (John 11:28- 32).
Jesus’ statement about eternal life (v. 26) did not mean that physical death was of no concern to him. He saw it as an enemy that had to be destroyed, for it was a weapon of Satan, who had the power of death (cf. 1 Cor 15:26; Heb 2:14-15). When he saw how Satan used this weapon to fill his beloved friends with grief, he was filled with sorrow and anger (John 11:33-37).
Determined to win a victory over Satan, Jesus went to the tomb. Before raising Lazarus to life, he thanked God publicly (so that those standing by could hear) for always hearing his prayers. The Father and the Son were united in power and purpose (John 11:38-42). Jesus then called out in a loud voice (again for the benefit of those standing by) and Lazarus miraculously was raised to life (John 11:43-44).