Lesson for April 12, 2020: Power Over Death (John 11:17-27, 32-44)
Lesson for April 12, 2020: Power Over Death (John 11:17-27, 32-44)

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the April 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)


Lesson Aim: Triumph with Jesus, who has broken the power of death.


By Mark Scott

Easter is all about life swallowing death (1 Corinthians 15:54; Isaiah 25:8). Both Old and New Testaments gave us some “warm-up resurrections” so people could anticipate and appreciate the resurrection of Jesus. Some of those are Isaac’s (in a manner of speaking, Hebrews 11:19), the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24), the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43), and Lazarus (John11:1-44). But that last one was far and away the most famous resurrection, besides Jesus’ own.

The controversy concerning Jesus was heating up. Ever since the Feast of Dedication months earlier (John 10:22-39), Jesus’ true identity had become a lightning rod. Therefore Jesus purposely stayed away from the Jerusalem area (vv. 40-42). That was why when he learned Lazarus had died, Jesus stayed away for at least two more days. The disciples could pick up on the tension. That is why they were surprised when Jesus said, “Let us go back to Judea.” They tried to talk Jesus out of returning to Judea. But Jesus explained that Lazarus had actually died and that he intended to “wake him up.”

Claim of Life | John 11:17-27

The author of life arrived in Bethany and found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. This fact lent credibility to the miracle. Since Bethany was within walking distance of Jerusalem, many Jews had come to comfort Mary and Martha.

When Martha learned Jesus had come, she went out to meet him. In some ways this was a role reversal from before (Luke 10:38-42). There was no rebuke in Martha’s greeting of Jesus. Maybe she simply meant that she (and the others, John 11:37) were surprised that Lazarus died from his sickness as it might not have seemed that serious. She had witnessed Jesus healing people who were much worse. She also expressed great faith by saying God would give Jesus whatever he asked—though we may not perfectly understand what she meant by this statement.

Jesus made Martha a promise and backed it up with a claim. He said, “Your brother will rise.” The word again at the end of that statement is not in the Greek text. Martha believed something about the afterlife and took that to mean what Jesus had said (Daniel 12:2). But then Jesus made one of his famous “I am” statements (“I am the resurrection and the life“). This is the fifth one in John’s Gospel. The power over death is located in a person, not a thing. To believe (almost always a verb in John) in Jesus is to begin experiencing this resurrected life (John 5:24; 10:10). Jesus asked Martha if she believed this. She confessed her faith much as Peter and Thomas had (Matthew 16:16; John 20:28).

Comfort in Death | John 11:32-36

Martha went to tell Mary that Jesus had come. Mary abruptly got up to go greet Jesus. The Jews who had come to comfort her followed her. Jesus’ conversation with Mary mirrored the earlier one with Martha. Jesus was touched by her grief. The text says he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Moments later, he was again “deeply moved” (11:38). These words indicated deep agitation of the soul and implied anger in the heart.

Jesus witnessed mourning and death all around him. It was time to reverse time. He asked where Lazarus had been laid to rest. Mary and Martha took him to the tomb. John 11:35 is a short verse with a towering significance. The word for “wept” is not the same one used when Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). The word used here means “to shed a tear.” Jesus knew what he would do. But his tears were enough for people to correctly conclude that the Son of God cared for people.

Call to Life | John 11:38-44

Jesus arrived at this cave cut into the side of a hill with the stone rolled in front of it (cf. Mark 15:46; John 19:41). He asked for the burial stone to be removed. Martha objected based on the bad odor. But Jesus insisted so that God’s glory could be seen.

Jesus offered a short “teaching” prayer mainly for those overhearing. Then, with a loud voice, he called out, “Lazarus, come out!” The next phrase demands a drum roll, “The dead man came out.” Augustine said it was good Jesus called Lazarus by name. Otherwise Jesus would have emptied the cemetery. The sisters must have aided Lazarus in removing the shroud and sudarium (face cloth) and had not a little reunion.

Resurrection just ruins cemeteries.


Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.

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