A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord's feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick.
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Master, the one you love so very much is sick."
When Jesus got the message, he said, "This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God's glory by glorifying God's Son."
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days.
After the two days, he said to his disciples, "Let's go back to Judea."
They said, "Rabbi, you can't do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you're going back?"
Jesus replied, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn't stumble because there's plenty of light from the sun.
Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can't see where he's going."
He said these things, and then announced, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I'm going to wake him up."
The disciples said, "Master, if he's gone to sleep, he'll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine."
Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.
Then Jesus became explicit: "Lazarus died.
And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn't there. You're about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let's go to him."
That's when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, "Come along. We might as well die with him."
When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead.
Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away,
and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother.
Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.
Martha said, "Master, if you'd been here, my brother wouldn't have died.
Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you."
Jesus said, "Your brother will be raised up."
Martha replied, "I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time."
"You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live.
And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world."
After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, "The Teacher is here and is asking for you."
The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him.
Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there.
Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, "Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.
He said, "Where did you put him?"
Now Jesus wept.
The Jews said, "Look how deeply he loved him."
Others among them said, "Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man."
Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.
Jesus said, "Remove the stone." The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, "Master, by this time there's a stench. He's been dead four days!"
Jesus looked her in the eye. "Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
Then, to the others, "Go ahead, take away the stone."
I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I've spoken so that they might believe that you sent me."
Then he shouted, "Lazarus, come out!"
And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him loose."
That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him.
But some went back to the Pharisees and told on Jesus.
The high priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish ruling body. "What do we do now?" they asked. "This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs.
If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have."
Then one of them - it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year - spoke up, "Don't you know anything?
Can't you see that it's to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?"
He didn't say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation,
and not only for the nation but so that all God's exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people.
From that day on, they plotted to kill him.
So Jesus no longer went out in public among the Jews. He withdrew into the country bordering the desert to a town called Ephraim and secluded himself there with his disciples.
The Jewish Passover was coming up. Crowds of people were making their way from the country up to Jerusalem to get themselves ready for the Feast.
They were curious about Jesus. There was a lot of talk of him among those standing around in the Temple: "What do you think? Do you think he'll show up at the Feast or not?"
Meanwhile, the high priests and Pharisees gave out the word that anyone getting wind of him should inform them. They were all set to arrest him.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)