John 11:1–45 (NRSV)
Chapter 11Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Verse 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. Verse 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." Verse 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Verse 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, Verse 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Verse 7Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." Verse 8The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Verse 9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. Verse 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." Verse 11After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." Verse 12The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Verse 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Verse 14Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. Verse 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Verse 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Verse 17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Verse 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, Verse 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. Verse 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Verse 21Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Verse 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Verse 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Verse 24Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Verse 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, Verse 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Verse 27She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." Verse 28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." Verse 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Verse 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. Verse 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Verse 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Verse 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. Verse 34He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Verse 35Jesus began to weep. Verse 36So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" Verse 37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Verse 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Verse 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Verse 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" Verse 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. Verse 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." Verse 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" Verse 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
Verse 45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
John 11 is the closing act of a three-act play that begins in John 9 when Jesus opens a blind man’s eyes. An investigation arises, and the man is removed from the community. Act Two centers on Jesus the good shepherd, the one who is able to judge just who belongs—namely all of his sheep.
Act Three now shows us what belonging means. For Jesus, his power to love will cost him his life. In the opening scenes of John 11, Jesus has been pushed out of town. There on the other side of the Jordan, in the middle of a riverbed, Jesus receives a message: “He whom you love is ill.”
For those who trust Jesus, belonging is life. To belong does not mean to escape danger. We can be loved by Jesus, and we can also face terminal illness. One does not prevent the other.
And this Act—and our lives—do not end in death.
We are your beloved, O God, and we also face the changes and chances of life. Help us to trust that we belong to you, even when you seem so far away. Amen.