Q. This Gospel is the only one with a purpose statement in John 20— ‘these things are written so that you might begin to believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God’. I don’t think it’s an accident that this is the Gospel usually first translated by missionaries into a new language. This is the Gospel for evangelism, not as a tract to be handed out, but as a tool for teachers and preachers bearing witness and leading people to Christ. Would you agree? If that is so, does this enhance the importance of the story of the raising of Lazarus (and of Jesus)?
A. Yes, and in fact, in John the miracles are “signs” not “works of power” as in the Synoptics. What Jesus does throughout John’s Gospel is intended to invite people to believe, or perhaps to force the question: Do you or do you not believe? Jesus’s raising of Lazarus was many things: a response to the heartfelt request of his friends Martha and Mary, a gift to the man called “he whom you loved” and a demonstration of the intimate relationship between Jesus and the Father (as evidenced by the prayer in front of the tomb). But above all it is a sign meant to help people “come to believe.”
Today I would imagine most people who read (or hear) this story already believe in Jesus. So the questions today may be, Do you believe that God can offer you new life? Do you believe God can free you from whatever keeps you bound? Do you believe God can call you to ‘come forth’?”