When Jesus told Martha if you believe, wasn’t he saying her spiritual insight depended on her belief, not Lazarus’s return to life?

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, ESV)

λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐκ εἶπόν σοι ὅτι ἐὰν πιστεύσῃς ὄψῃ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ; (John 11:40, NA27)

Jesus did say if you believe, you will see Lazarus arise from the dead, even those who didn't believe saw Lazarus arise, but they didn't see God's glory, that is they didn't recognize God's presents in the act.

Note the differing responses to those who witnessed Lazarus coming back to life:

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45–46, ESV)

Note Jesus’ statement after the previous miracle John mentioned:

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39, ESV)

Before that miracle Jesus had said:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

The theme in the miracles that John recorded was that the miracles had belief as their purpose, not their cause.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, ESV)

If Lazarus's life restored depended on faith, it would have been Lazarus' faith, but Lazarus was dead. However, it is true that Lazarus's relation to Christ was important in Christ restoring his life.

  • That’s an interesting angle. Are you proposing that faith was not a factor to the miracle? What do you do with this passage or is a different set of circumstances? “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭6:5-6‬ Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 0:31
  • I'm saying this about the miracles that John wrote about. While he referenced that Jesus performed many miracles that he did not mention, John picked these miracles for a specific purpose. Note the lame man in John 5 showed very little faith. He didn't know that Jesus healed him, and when he found out, he told the Jewish leaders.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 0:56
  • jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/esv.htm
    – GFFG
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 0:57
  • The blind man's faith in John 9 seems to have happened after he was healed not before.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 1:02
  • 1
    I had always assumed that was obvious - belief is not a "work" we do in order to win God's favour - He loves us already! So I am struggling to see the point you make. Obviously, Jesus performed miracles to encourage trust.
    – user25930
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


The usual process is hearing --> believing --> seeing, so yes, seeing comes last, and Thomas and others were rebuked for believing after they see, but no one was rebuked for believing after they hear. In fact, the scriptures declare "faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10.7), and one of the metaphors God uses to prevent people from acquiring faith is to make them "hard of hearing" or have "plugged ears".

Here "hearing" and "seeing" refer to the direction of information flow, not of which sense. For example, you can use your eyes to read the bible but it is still called "hearing" because the spirit is preaching to you the truth of what you read. You cannot see the spirit, but it is testifying, therefore receiving the testimony is called "hearing".

Believing refers to us accepting that word and letting it transform our minds.

Seeing then refers to us observing that truth in the world, regardless of which sense is used to observe. It refers to how we understand and interpret the world around us, and thus is called seeing.

You can see this (pun intended) in the natural world. You may read or be told about a certain species of tree, this would correspond to "hearing". Then you understand and accept that information, which would correspond to believing. Then, for the rest of your life, you will notice that tree -- you will see it. Before you didn't see it. Now you see it everywhere.

Climbing upward in abstraction, someone may tell you about some natural principle, say how marriages don't do well if one of the members is fixated on justice - insisting on getting what is their due in the marriage. And thus love of justice is an enemy of marriage. Then you will understand what you are told and accept it. Then, in observing the relationships of others, you will see this principle confirmed on many occasions, even to the point of being able to predict the future. Now you are a prophet (in the natural) as a result of what you heard.

So it is with the spiritual. The word is preached. It takes root in our hearts and begins to grow. Then we begin to see the world differently, through the eyes of the spirit, observing what was preached play out over and over.

Hearing --> believing --> seeing. This is the order.

But when it comes to spiritual things the natural mind will accept seeing -- everyone wants to see, as that is not a threat to the natural mind. It does not require a transformaton or renewing of the mind to perceive the world.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you!” (Matt 12.38)

But if we refuse to hear the word of testimony preached to our hearts, then we block the renewal of our minds, so then even if we see Lazarus raised from the dead we still wont believe

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16.30-31)


In the account of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus himself explained the purpose of his miracles:

  • ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ (Jn 11:4)

There are two parts: one is “for God’s glory” and the other is “so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” These two parts are linked together in such a way that one leads to the other. A person who believed in and glorified Jesus, as Martha did (Jn 11:24-27), would naturally see God’s glory in Jesus’ works.

Alternatively, a person who saw God’s glory in Jesus’ works would be led to believe in and glorify Jesus. This dynamic was evident in the healing of the man born blind. It was he who clearly showed or, rather, who received spiritual insight:

  • We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes… Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ (Jn 9 29-33)

This man who was blind saw what those who had sight could not or would not see: that what is good can only come from God. The response of the others shows that the path between seeing and believing is not without obstacle. Those who refused to believe in Jesus would refuse to see God’s glory in his works. In other words, if they conceded that God was behind the works, they would have to glorify the one through whom those works were wrought. Thus, even when they saw Jesus’ works with their own eyes and ears, they refused to see God’s glory in them:

  • Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Mt 13:54-58)

Some even attributed Jesus’ miracles to the work of the devil:

  • And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’ (Mk 3:22)

Jesus was therefore the obstacle or stumbling block that prevented them from seeing God’s glory, not only in Jesus’ miracles, but also in his words and teachings:

  • Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’ (Mt 11: 4-6)

When people’s hearts were hardened against him, in a way, they tied Jesus’ hands, not because he could not perform the miracle, but because the miracle would not serve the intended purpose, which was to reveal God’s glory. In effect, it was they themselves who rejected the grace and healing that Jesus offered:

  • For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Mt 13:15)

The answer to the OP’s question is therefore: it works both ways. In the case of the blind man, his faith came about through his spiritual insight and not the other way around.


When Jesus told Martha if you believe, wasn’t he saying her spiritual insight depended on her belief, not Lazarus’s return to life?

Right, ie, believe with faith.

If Lazarus's life restored depended on faith, it would have been Lazarus' faith, but Lazarus was dead.

In Mark 9, a boy was possessed. His father brought him to Jesus' disciples. They failed. Then they brought him to Jesus. The father confessed in Mark 9:24:

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Jesus healed the boy. 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Apparently, the spiritual dynamic is not that simple. It depends on the boy's faith, the father's faith, as well as the healers' faithful practice.

I agree with Robert's process of hearing --> believing --> seeing, Further, there is feedback from seeing back to hearing. The more success we see, the more we want to hear, and the more we will believe, leading to more success in seeing, and so on. This forms a positive feedback loop.

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