The Gospel of John, Jesus' seventh sign, part 1
Dec 23, 2019
The seventh sign that Jesus performed in the Gospel of John begins with the raising of Lazarus in John 11 and takes us through Jesus’ own death and resurrection, ending with John 20. There is much commentary in the middle, especially the “Last Supper” teachings, which form the climax of Jesus’ ministry.
The death of self is what brings us the blessings of the resurrected life. Hence, the seventh sign represents the seventh day of Tabernacles, with its final instructions on the type of life and mission that will be set before us in the reconciliation of all things. In essence, the overcomers who are given “eternal life,” that is, life in The Age, will then manifest the glory of God in the earth, even as Jesus did. What Jesus did personally, He will then delegate to the overcomers in the eighth sign, because they too are expected to be as He was (and is) and to do as He did.
The Time Factor in the Divine Plan
By understanding the story of Lazarus as the start of the seventh sign, we can connect his death and resurrection to that of Jesus Himself. By seeing the two in a progressive manner, we can also see that Lazarus represents us in this present age as we are called to put the old man to death and be raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4); while Christ’s death and resurrection is a greater death-and-life event that completes our transition into immortality and incorruption at His second coming, as Paul prophesies in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57.
To put it another way, we all received a real but limited commissioning in Acts 2 through the feast of Pentecost after the work of Yeshua the Judahite, but there is yet a greater commissioning through the feast of Tabernacles at the coming of Yeshua the Ephraimite. He must come with the birthright of Joseph-Ephraim in order to have the authority of the Fruitfulness Mandate to bring forth the sons of God.
Those who do not understand or recognize the two works of Christ and their distinct purposes will be handicapped in their knowledge of the divine plan. Those who think that the first work of Christ on the cross completed everything simply do not understand the progressive nature of the divine plan, which He subjected to Time.
So Hebrews 1:2 says (literally) that “He made the ages,” but both the KJV and the NASB translators could not conceive of a God who creates Time, so they said that He made the “worlds.” They could see only how God created material things (“worlds”) and did not comprehend how God is also the creator of Time and dividing it into various “ages.”
By subjecting creation to Time, He set forth the divine plan according to the overall law of Sabbaths, whereby Time was divided by sevens—seven days, seven years, seven sevens of years (49), and ultimately 7,000 years and even 49,000 years. The earth will be subject to Time until the divine plan is complete.
Even the overcomers whose metamorphosis brings them into a state where they can transcend both Time and Space will have to minister to those who are yet subject to Time. Hence, their calling (as we will see later) requires them by law to be “clothed” in wool (flesh and bone) as they minister to those who are yet limited to the outer court (earth, fleshly realm).
This should not be strange to us, seeing that Jesus Christ Himself did this in coming to earth in a fleshly body to minister to us. The entire plan was based on the will and initiation of the sovereign Creator, who reached down to us, because we were unable to reach up to Him. He became one of us in order to elevate us to His position in the heavenlies.
Yet this has taken Time. He came the first time to show us the way; He will come the second time to complete the transition. The interim time has been used to allow many generations to be born. God has called a few overcomers out of each generation, opening their eyes to a measure of truth that was being revealed at the time in which they lived. When the body is complete, the present Age will come to its climax with the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, whose purpose is revealed in the signs Jesus performed in the Gospel of John.
We ought to respect all that God creates. Rather than despise the physical creation as being “fleshly,” we ought to fulfill the Dominion Mandate as caretakers of creation. Rather than despise Time as something to be overcome, we ought to respect it as a gradual outworking of prophecy, which is the revelation of the divine plan. It does not honor God to despise or disregard either Time or matter that God has created.
The resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus reveal progressively the power of God to transform matter into His image. God takes a dead body and gives it life. In the first instance, mortal life was imparted, and Lazarus later died and was buried in the city now called Marseilles. In the second, Jesus was raised to immortal life, never again to be subjected to death. We ourselves, being caught in the middle, as it were, are subject to Time as we await the full outworking of the divine plan.
The Setting for Lazarus’ Death and Resurrection
Jesus had left Jerusalem some time after the Feast of Dedication after the Pharisees wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. John 11 opens with Jesus somewhere else, probably in Perea at or near Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 10:40; 1:28).
John 11:1, 2 says,
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
There were two towns called Bethany. One was just outside of Jerusalem; the other was beyond the Jordan. Lazarus was in the first Bethany; it seems that Jesus was in the second Bethany. The name Bethany has a double meaning: “house of misery” and “house of dates.” It is hard to imagine anyone intending to name their city “house of misery.” Who would want to live in such a place? So I assume that the people normally considered Bethany to mean “house of dates.”
Just across the river was Jericho, which was also known as the City of Palms (Judges 1:16). Date palms grew there in abundance, and so no doubt the same was true in nearby Bethany beyond the Jordan.
Nonetheless, the story of Lazarus draws our attention to the “misery” of death. Likewise, the fact that Jesus had to cross the Jordan River (where He had been baptized earlier) suggests a death-and-resurrection experience, moving from a state of sickness and misery to health and abundance, or fruitfulness.
Jesus knew the Bethany family well, having stayed at their house often. It is likely that He had lodged there during His visits to Jerusalem, including the time that He attended the Feast of Dedication. Jesus had first met Mary at the house of Simon the Pharisee, when she brought an alabaster vial of spikenard (“faith oil”) and anointed His feet with much weeping (Luke 7:36-38).
This, no doubt, was Mary’s moment of repentance and faith in Him. Early accounts also equate her with Mary Magdalene, suggesting that she was from Magdala. According to the History of Rabanus, the three siblings were descended from a Jewish mother of the house of David and a Syrian prince. The family was thus wealthy and had a large estate in Magdala, where Mary herself had gone to live, apparently as a mistress.
After a time of separation from the rest of the family, she heard that Jesus had raised “the only son of his mother” from the dead at the funeral procession in Nain (Luke 7:12). The boy was later known as Maternus in church history. Maternus and Valerius later became the assistants of Eucharius, the bishop of Trèves, the French name for the German city of Trier.
Mary’s conversion and repentance reunited her with her family in Bethany, and so we find her there in Luke 10:38-42 when Mary wanted to listen to Jesus, rather than help her sister in the kitchen. John 11:2 thus reminds us who Mary was, for the apostle assumes that his readers had already read the earlier gospels of Matthew and Luke.
The setup for the seventh sign tells us that Lazarus became deathly sick and that his sisters immediately sent word to Jesus to come quickly. John 11:3 says,
3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
It is interesting that the apostle John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), but Lazarus was the brother whom Jesus loved. Both John and Lazarus were young at the time of Jesus’ ministry, and it seems that Jesus took a special interest in their training. At the same time, we might see in this a spiritual connection between John and Lazarus.
The name, Lazarus, is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eliezer, “God helps.” Abraham’s chief steward, or Chief of Staff for the village, was Eliezer. He was sent to find a bride for Isaac, the son of Abraham (Genesis 24). As such, he represents the Holy Spirit, the “Helper” in John 14:16, 26 and 15:26, who has been seeking for the Bride of Christ and preparing her for marriage.
At any rate, this sets up the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.
This is part 1 of a series titled "Jesus' Seventh Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.