As told in John 11, Jesus’ going to Bethany wasn’t so much about Lazarus’ death as it was about His own death. Think about it: When the time came for Jesus to face the cross, how would His followers ever believe He could be raised up? There was only one way they would believe it. That was for Jesus—there in Bethany with His beloved friends—to enter the most hopeless situation and work His purposes in the face of the humanly impossible.
I’m convinced Jesus would not have entrusted this experience to anyone outside His inner circle. Such things were reserved for those who were intimate with Him, who didn’t think as the world thinks. You see, it is only in such friends—people who know Christ’s heart and trust Him fully—that He can produce a faith which can’t be shaken.
The fact is, Jesus knew all the future hardships that would take place in the lives of these dear ones. He knew every illness and tragedy they would face. And He wanted to see in them a faith that would believe in His care no matter what calamity they faced.
When Jesus finally arrived, Martha’s first words to Him were, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11:21-22). These words may sound full of faith on Martha’s part, but when Jesus responded, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23), Martha’s answer was revealing: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (11:24). In other words: “It’s all over for now, Jesus. You’re too late.”
Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25–26).
Christ was telling her, in other words, “No, Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Believe in Me and you’ll never die.” Again, He wasn’t just talking about Lazarus, but about His own death and resurrection. To Him, Lazarus’ raising was already a settled matter: “Martha, don’t you believe I can go even into the grave and do the impossible for you and Mary, all of your days?”