There Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down


This week, we read about Jesus’ final miracle before the cross. As God would have it, it’s resuscitating someone who’s been dead four days. Trust me, you’ll discover yourself in this story; and, how it’s time to take off your stinky grave clothes and be loosed, just like Lazarus!

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

  • We’ll study the story of Mary pouring perfume on the Lord’s feet in John 12, but it’s mentioned in the other gospel accounts, also. However, it’s only in John that Mary is named as the one who anointed Jesus’ feet. Jesus knows your name, beloved.

  • In Luke 10, you can learn more about Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus. You’ll also come to learn that her favorite place to reside was at the feet of Jesus. In Luke 10, you’d also learn about Mary’s productive, Type A personality sister, Martha (I say that lovingly, because I have more of a Martha spirit in me, and I’m still learning to be a Mary).

  • In these verses, Lazarus was sick, not dead. I love how the sisters sent word to Jesus. They knew He would care. They knew He loved them and Lazarus, so they simply made a statement: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

  • You may not recall, but in John 2—when Jesus performs His first miracle—at the wedding at Cana, His mother, Mary, made a statement to Him, too. Notice what Mary said to Jesus in John 2:3: “They have no more wine.” This is the verse that has rocked the way I approach my prayer life. Mary made a statement to her Savior, and you again see two women making a statement about their brother. They vocalized a pain. They expressed hurt. They declared a problem in the plan. Does it say they freaked out about how the family didn’t expect Lazarus’ sickness? No. Did they provide a presentation to Jesus on how He might fix their brother’s sickness or offer scenario planning coupled with contingency options? Nope. Did it say they sobbed and cried and got their cray-cray on about how unfair it was? Nu uh. They simply sent word and said, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

  • Beloved, don’t miss this. This is a life-altering Truth because we can get so wound up and bound up in the issue and the explanation and the “helping” God figure it out that we forfeit our peace. That’s not how it’s meant to be. I have learned so much from Jesus’ mother’s statement and the statement of Mary and Martha. If you were to make a statement about your life to God right this moment, what would it be?

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

  • Jesus reminds us that regardless of the situation that faces us, God can be glorified. What may be a tragedy in the eyes of humans can be used miraculously by God.

  • Verse 5 is such a comfort to me. We read a great deal about Mary. We’ll talk about her in the next chapter as she anoints Jesus’ feet with oil and wipes His feet with her hair. We know we can find Mary at the feet of Jesus. We know we can find Martha busily serving. There should be balance in all things. Even though there are instances where Mary chose the “good part” (Luke 10:42), it’s notable that “Jesus loved Martha.” If you are the busy-beaver, Type A, Marie Kondo-like person…verse 5 is for you. Jesus loves you. Even when you’re busy in the kitchen. Just remember: in all things, balance.

  • It was mystifying to the disciples that Jesus would delay going to Lazarus. He was desperately needed, right?! Lazarus was a friend of Jesus and the disciples and he was sick, yes?! Jesus should care about that, correct?! Oh friend, His delay is not His denial. His timing is not ours. Let us yield to Him.

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

  • Jesus wanted to go back into the chaos. Back into the anger-filled darkness to shine light and allow more people to see God through Him. When that is our heart’s desire, God can use us mightily—just like He was about to do through Jesus.   

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

  • The disciples thought Jesus was speaking literally when He told them that Lazarus was asleep. They did not understand He meant that Lazarus was dead and the “awakening” meant Lazarus would be resurrected. They were in for a surprise…

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

  • Jewish superstition was that the soul lingered near the grave for three days, hoping to return to the body (Guzik). He wanted to ensure there was zero hope because God needed to become that hope. There are times in our walk where God allows the hope to completely run dry. It’s in those desert moments that God can best display His goodness because there are no false expectations to obstruct His work.

  • “…but Mary stayed at home.” Grief can render us immovable. When there is deep loss, all we want to do is stay in an enclosed posture that demonstrates the grief in our heart. Mary stayed at home because Mary was stricken by sorrow. But Martha—busy Martha—went to meet with Jesus.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

  • Martha was disappointed in Jesus’ late arrival. I would’ve felt the same way. I applaud her honesty because ignoring our Savior is never productive. She communicated how she felt, and I believe we can take a lesson from Martha on this. Even when your feelings, frustrations, and emotions aren’t right, or you know are misplaced, tell Him anyways. He’s a patient God.

  • “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha displayed such courageous faith in this statement. Even though she couldn’t comprehend a literal resurrection, she comprehended trusting in Jesus. God will willingly accept our feeble acts of faith and multiple them accordingly. He’ll take your two salty sardines and five dry crackers and bless that measure of faith. Give Him what you have. You lose nothing by giving all to God.

  • Jesus provides his fifth “I AM” statement. He didn’t say He held the power for resurrection; He said He is the resurrection and He is the life. There’s a difference—don’t miss it!

  • I like Jesus’ style because He asked Martha straight-up: “Do you believe this?” He was declaring His deity and how He is resurrection and life and Martha’s response was right in saying “Yes, Lord, I believe.”

  • Martha said, “Yes, Lord.” However, what do you say? Do you tack on an additional statement after yes? “Yes Lord, I believe, but I’m going to do ____________.” It’s important to pause and pray about how we are qualifying our own faith. You’re not limiting God’s abilities, you’re limiting your assurance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

  • It’s unclear as to why Martha called Mary aside, but her words were clear: The Teacher is here. And, The Teacher had just taught Martha a lesson of comfort and hope—she just didn’t quite see it yet. I love how Martha nudged her sister to go learn, too. As sisters in Christ we are to nudge each other to fall at the feet of our Rabbi. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Ladies, go talk to Jesus.

  • In verse 32 we again see Mary in the posture she’s most known for: falling at the feet of Jesus. Beloved, be known for being at the feet of Jesus. There’s so much hustle and bustle about having a “personal brand” and being “known” for something—a large social media following, a unique skill set, being the front-runner for __________. Instead, consider being known for this: I can be found at the feet of Jesus. 

I can be found at the feet of Jesus.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

  • Jesus made note of Mary’s sorrow and those around her. Even though He knew He would raise Lazarus, He didn’t ignore the pain. He sees your tears, beloved, and He acts to dry them.

  • It’s notable that Mary’s weeping and Jesus’ weeping are different in definition (in the original Greek). Mary wailed; Jesus wept quietly. He was greatly moved, but not out of control (Guzik). When I was 15, my brother died in a car accident. The family began to file in at the funeral and I saw my grandparents (my mother’s parents) come through the doors of the funeral home. I looked up and I saw my Grandpa Mac weeping quietly, just as I think Jesus did in that moment. My Grandpa Mac is a strong man, yet he was greatly moved by the death of his grandson.  He wept.

  • Verse 33 says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” When you study the original Greek, this didn’t mean Jesus was sad; it’s meaning is more closely aligned with Jesus being angry. Satan has the power of destruction and the death of humanity and this enraged our Savior. Never fear. God has the last word, and He was about to make a declaration and perform and foreshadowing miracle. 

  • Verse 35 is the shortest verse in scripture: Jesus wept. While some believe Jesus wept quietly because He was sad about Lazarus dying, it was tied more to what was mentioned in the previous bullet point (anger). When I’m mad I often cry. Maybe that’s how Jesus felt, too. He’ll explain more to us when when we see Him face to face.  

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

  • These few verses don’t need much commentary in my opinion. It’s the climax of this chapter, after all. Jesus has worked up to this amazing moment where He displays how He is resurrection and life. He shows us how Satan will never supersede Him, despite the wimpy attempts.

  • Jesus was confident in His relationship with God. He took time to verbally and publicly reaffirm His connection with God and remind those watching that what He was about to do was for God’s glory. I love Jesus’ practice of gratitude. I am reminded of in Psalm 23:1 that says “I lack nothing.” Jesus knew He had no lack, either.

  • Another notable point in these verses is that Jesus used Lazarus’ name. If He had just said, “Come forth!” would not all the dead bodies come out of the grave!? Ah, friends, He is able.

  • Lazarus was called forth and was given life. However, his grave clothes were still wrapped around him (when Jesus rose from the grave those grave clothes were left behind). This is a critical point for us as believers: we have a responsibility to participate in the freedom process of others. We cannot bring life—that is God’s doing. However, we can cooperate in the completion of deliverance. This support may look different for each of us. Here are a few ideas on how to be part of the deliverance ministry [Side note: please remember, ladies with ladies and gentlemen with gentlemen when it comes to these ideas]:

  1. Commit to pray with and for someone. Then, do it!

  2. Spiritually mentor someone by working through a book of the Bible together.

  3. Buy someone a cup of coffee and talk about what they are experiencing.

  4. Financially provide for someone so they can receive godly counseling.

  • I can’t help reading this passage and not thinking about the song Ain’t No Grave sung by Molly Skaggs (Bethel Music). Here’s the video if you’ve never heard it before. Even though it’s not proper grammar, there ain’t no grave, friends. And I’m following Jesus right out of that grave…how about you?!

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

  • Because of God’s work, many people believed. That’s the crux of it all: belief. We’ve talked about it over and over in this gospel boo. The purpose of John is that people would (1) know Who Jesus is, and (2) believe. That should be our purpose, too.

  • I can almost see the scene play out in my mind’s eye as I read how the chief priests (Sadducees) and the Pharisees called a meeting and said, “What are we accomplishing?” They knew that the works of Jesus authenticated His claim to be Messiah and God. They were certain that there was no stopping Jesus’ work—unless, of course, He was dead.

  • Go back up to verse 49 and be sure you caught Caiaphas’ unconscious and involuntary prophecy. It makes me shake my head every time. The high priest—who is to be a representation of God—was urging others to put Jesus to death. Yet, the words Caiaphas uses told the story of what would happen: Jesus would die for a nation. Oh, but God had an even bigger plan than that, didn’t He! He was going to allow for all people to be in His fold.

  • At the end of this chapter, we learn that the chief priests (Sadducees) and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it, so He could be arrested. While the Sadducees and Pharisees were typically uncooperative, they now had a common enemy. The opposition began to crescendo more, and that brings us into the last week or so of Jesus’ time on this earth. Tune in next week: same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.