John 11 shows the compassion that Jesus had for Mary and Martha as well as all of us. Most students of the Bible are familiar with the phrase “Jesus wept”. Many seminary students do not know the context of this particular verse of scripture. This is a great example of the love and consideration Jesus has for all of God’s children.
When hearing that Lazarus is taken ill, Jesus stays where he is for two days (John 11:6), thus assuring that Lazarus will be dead when he arrives in Bethany (John 11:32). When he arrives, Lazarus’ body had been in the tomb for four days (John 11:17), long enough to assure all present that he was beyond recovery. It was a common belief among the Jews at that time that the spirit of the deceased remained near the body for up to three days, but by the fourth day the spirit was irreversibly gone. 1 This enabled Jesus to perform an unmistakable miracle in the eyes of even the most hardened skeptic. Regarding this, Elder James E. Talmage stated:
No question as to the actual death of Lazarus could be raised, for his demise had been witnessed, his body had been prepared and buried in the usual way, and he had lain in the grave four days. At the tomb, when he was called forth, there were many witnesses, some of them prominent Jews, many of whom were unfriendly to Jesus and who would have readily denied the miracle had they been able. God was glorified and the divinity of the Son of Man was vindicated in the result. 2
A connection to the lives of the students might have to do with how many viewed Jesus’ chances of raising Lazarus. Mary thought that Jesus could have done something had he arrived sooner, but that with Lazarus being dead so long, there was no chance of recovery (John 11:32). This was something that Mary supposed was beyond Jesus’ power to fix. How often do we put limitations on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to mend things that are broken? How do we limit the Savior’s ability to heal us? We believe that his power is operational in the lives of other people, perhaps those we look up to, but surely the Savior cannot transform our problems or make rough things smooth. This line of thinking is something that many students can relate with, and it is this very idea that the Savior is addressing in this episode. Jesus Christ can fix anything that is broken. Nothing is beyond repair. If he can heal broken, lifeless bodies, certainly he can work his grace in us, changing our hearts, our minds, and our desires. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
When he approached the tomb, Jesus found Mary, saw her emotional state and those that loved Lazarus, he wept. Think of it – here was Jesus, the one who knew he had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, in fact, would, in just a matter of minutes, and he took the time to experience the spiritual pains of those that he loved. This is a testimony of God’s love for each and every one of us. He is a personal God who feels our pains. In fact, from the book of Alma we read the following:
He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people… that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:11-12).
Mourning with those he loved, Jesus showed his deep love for all present. He showed all of us the perfect example in mourning, in showing empathy to those that are in pain. He could have easily said to those mourners, “Look, have faith – I am about to do the impossible!” Rather, Jesus took the time required to express his compassion, feeling the pains of those around him. It would be interesting to read more of this account! I wonder what Lazarus’ reaction to his being brought back in mortality was! “Now why did you do that? I was doing just fine where I was, and now I’m back? What happened?”
Whenever I hear Thomas discussed in a gospel setting, I hear the phrase “Doubting Thomas”. This refers to Thomas’ statement that he would not believe that Jesus was resurrected until he “shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side” (John 20:25). I think Thomas gets a bad reputation from this verse of scripture. Yes, Thomas was skeptical at the witness of members of the Twelve at this point, but at the same time, Jesus found it wise to show Thomas that he was indeed resurrected. Perhaps we can look at Thomas in a different way. This way of looking at Thomas can be related to teenagers.
When Jesus determined to go to Judaea to raise Lazarus from the dead, Bethany being only about 2.8 km away from Jerusalem, many of the disciples questioned whether this was a wise decision. People in Jerusalem were plotting Jesus’ death. The Twelve were concerned that Jesus might be taken. It is at this point in the narrative that John tells us what Thomas was thinking. We read, “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). This shows us a different side to Thomas. This is not a doubter, one who lacks faith. To the contrary, Thomas was one who wanted to die with the Savior, to be by his side at his death. If the evil men in Jerusalem were going to take Jesus, Thomas wanted to be there next to him.
Now this has application in the lives of teenagers. We all see those close to us in two distinct yet opposite points: when they are at their best and their worst. John gives his readers both perspectives of Thomas. The point I am trying to make is that I believe that we should give each other the benefit of the doubt and really try to see people at their best.
It was when the Prodigal Son “came to himself” that he remembered his father, that it was home where he would find peace, joy, and happiness (Luke 15:17). This tells me that the “real” you is when you are at your best, not your worst. Thomas, to me at least, is the man that said essentially, “If they want to take Jesus, let that come with me by his side.” When we see each other through heaven’s eyes, we will all be able to appreciate those around us with a new and bright perspective.
1. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 5:78; Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, 2:324-25; Farrar, Life of Christ, 510.
2. Elder James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 496.