There are two verses people often hear or use from this text. The first is John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the English Bible. The second is Jesus’ in verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die. He shall live.” Few verses are cited more often in funerals than this one.
But there are many other lessons to be gleaned from this text. Consider these:
God has a plan for every circumstance – “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it (v 4). Lazarus’ sickness and death were not without meaning. Ultimately both would bring glory to Jesus. Compare this to Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ inquiry as to why the man was born blind, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).
God expects you to do your part – “Roll away the stone.” The Lord could have easily rolled away the stone without so much as lifting a finger. But God is not going to do for us what we can do ourselves. His work is to do for us what we cannot nor could ever do ourselves. Neither Mary or Martha, nor anyone else present could do anything about Lazarus’ decease. Jesus alone had power over death to bring forth Lazarus alive from the grave.
In like fashion, man has a responsibility to obey God. Man must exercise his free moral agency and submit himself to God in obedience to God’s commands. God has done for man what man cannot do, namely provide atonement for sin. But man must respond to the call of God in obedience to the gospel (Mark 16:15-16).
Some will never believe despite the evidence – “But many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did” (vv 45-46). The implication here is that this latter group, incredibly, did not believe in Jesus. This confirms the words of Jesus in the account of the rich man and (a different) Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Desiring Lazarus to return and preach to his brother to keep them out of torment, he pleaded, “If one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” To which Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” Such is hard to believe, but these Jews proved Jesus right!