The Raising of Lazarus
Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead that took place during Jesus' Perean ministry during the last year of his life, is a spiritually moving and faith building event that truly reveals the nature of real miracles and displays the power of the Son of God (Jn. 11). Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha, who were personal friends of Jesus (Jn. 11: 1, 2). Jesus had a very special relationship with these people (vs. 5). Lazarus and his sisters lived in Bethany, which was about two miles from Jerusalem (vs. 18). Lazarus and his sisters were evidently financially successful (Jn. 12: 3-5). The miraculous raising of Lazarus, as was the case with Jesus' miracles in general, was acknowledged as real even by his enemies (Jn. 11: 47). The account of Lazarus' resurrection from the dead is lengthy, but because of its importance I shall include it at this time:
"1: Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2: (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3: Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4: When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5: Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6: When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. 7: Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8: His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9: Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10: But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11: These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12: Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13: Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14: Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15: And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16: Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. 17: Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18: Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20: Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21: Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22: But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23: Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24: Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27: She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28: And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29: As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30: Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31: The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32: Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33: When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34: And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35: Jesus wept. 36: Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37: And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38: Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39: Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40: Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41: Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42: And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43: And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. 45: Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46: But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done" (Jn. 11).
The purpose of Lazarus' sickness. We often do not understand the purpose of many of the events of life. In fact, some incidents may be without purpose. However, Lazarus' death had a purpose. His sickness was "not unto death" (vs. Jn. 11: 4). Lazarus' sickness did result in unquestionable death, but death was not to be the permanent end result. The sickness and death of Lazarus had a higher purpose, "for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (Ibid.). This miracle would also strengthen the faith of Jesus' disciples and many of the observers (vs. 15; 45).
The reason Jesus delayed coming to Bethany. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick, but Jesus delayed going to Bethany (vs. 3, 6). They believed Jesus would come and heal their brother (vs. 21, 32). Jesus did not delay out of indifference or because he was too busy (vs. 5). Jesus knew there was a more important purpose to Lazarus' sickness that took priority over Mary and Martha's anxiety (vs. 4). How many times we believe a matter should be thus and so, but just as Mary and Martha we do not understand the intent of God! Jesus was firm and even though he loved these people greatly, he put duty first. Sometimes it may appear that God does not care for his people, but could it be that since he knows the future that he does not grant the immediate request? (See I Jn. 3: 22; I Pet. 3: 12.)
Some observations regarding death. Jesus referred to Lazarus' death as a sleep (vs. 11-13). The death of saints is often considered to be sleep (Matt. 27: 52; Acts 7: 60). Such an allusion is not because death is annihilation or unconsciousness, but because sleep is incompatible with suffering, weariness, or pain (see Lk. 16: 19-31).
Some considerations relative to Lazarus' resurrection. Jesus came to the tomb and commanded that the rock be removed (vs. 38, 39). Lazarus had been in the grave for four days already (vs. 17, 39). As a consequence, decay had already begun (vs. 39). Lazarus was wrapped in the typical grave clothes (vs. 44). Jesus had already raised Jairus' daughter while her body was still in her father's house (Mk. 5: 35-43). He had also raised the widow's son while the body was being carried to the place of burial (Lk. 7: 11-17). However, there is not a recorded case of Jesus raising one whose body was already in the state of decay (vs. 39).
All attention was focused on Jesus when he "cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth" (vs. 43). Jesus did not doubt his abilities to raise his friend and he was not afraid to have this miracle performed out in the open and to his utter disadvantage, had Jesus been a fake (vs. 42). We are told, "And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin " (vs. 44). Lazarus' death was so certain and the miracle so definitive that Jesus' enemies were put in a quandary. "Then gathered the chief priests and Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles," we are told (vs. 47). The raising of Lazarus displays a real miracle. Let those today who perform "lying wonders" go to the graveyard and resurrect one known to be dead, whose body is already in a state of decay! (See 2 Thes. 2: 9, to read more click on, "Have Miracles Ceased?".) Let us also appreciate the fact that this miracle was not performed for the sake of Lazarus nor his sisters, but for the glory of God and to produce faith in the witnesses (cp. Jn. 20: 30, 31). The word of God today is designed to produce faith (Rom. 10: 17).
What the resurrection of Lazarus means to Christians. This recorded miracle serves as more proof as to Jesus' deity. Moreover, a bodily resurrection is not too hard for Jesus. About thirty years subsequent to the raising of Lazarus, Paul said to Agrippa, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26: 8). Jesus said to Martha in the context of Lazarus' resurrection, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (vs. 25).
In conclusion, let us realize that while the account of the raising of Lazarus is indeed moving, Christ can and shall raise all the dead at the last day. Consider this statement: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jn. 5: 28, 29). The one who raised Lazarus also died, but was raised to die no more and became the "firstfruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15: 20, cp. Rom. 1: 4).