April 2, 2017

The Raising of Lazarus

One of the most powerful examples of the Savior's love is that of the raising of Lazarus from the grave after four days. The event took place just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem for the last time when a messenger was sent to them with word that Lazarus was sick. Jesus, however, tarried for several days, instead of rushing to heal Lazarus. When Jesus and the disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days (see John 11:1-45).

Often the first question that is asked is why Jesus waited to come heal Lazarus. Why would he prolong his coming when he knew that the hearts of Mary and Martha would both be broken. First, by raising Lazarus from the dead after four days, Jesus demonstrated his true power over even the worse enemy, death. Up to this point Jesus had raised several from the dead, however, in each case, they had only been dead for a few hours. Dissenters could easily claim that those who had been raised, had only been sleeping. Yet in the case of Lazarus, there was no question as to the magnitude of Jesus' power.

Second, it taught of Jesus' pure love for others, despite his omniscience. The shortest verse in scripture simply states "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Volumes could be written about these simple, yet powerful two words. Jesus knew that he could raise Lazarus, he also knew that in only moments the two sisters, Mary and Martha would again be embracing their brother. Yet Jesus was in the moment, and felt their pain, even though he knew the power of the future.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus performed this miracle to help prepare his followers for his own death (an even more tragic death than Lazarus). One of the reasons Jesus may have wept is because he knew of the sorrow that they soon would feel when they saw their Lord and Savior nailed to the cross. Just as Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again, Jesus also knew that he himself would be resurrected. Yet for a short time, his followers would weep and not fully understand why their Savior had died. It seems to me that the most powerful message of his love was that he allowed this event to happen (the death and raising of Lazarus) so it could give them hope. Hope for the impossible. Hope, when all was lost. He raised Lazarus to instill faith. He raised Lazarus because he loved them.

He could have just as easily come and healed Lazarus. After all, in only about a week they would see the most powerful sign of his divinity, when Jesus would be resurrected from the dead. There would be no question of his power then, yet Jesus decided to instill in his disciples a belief beforehand that truly nothing is impossible for the Lord. He gave them hope, even though he knew what the future held.

I have seen this time and time again in my life. Despite the fact that the Lord knows how things will turn out in the end, he still provides tender mercies to buoy me up. To instill in me faith. To give me hope when all is dark. Just yesterday I was struggling with some personal issues. I had many questions, and I felt that I had not received answers to my prayers. I did not know why things were going the way they were and I felt little or no direction. Then as I was washing dishes (of all things) I felt a calming reassurance for the future.  Peace filled my soul, and though my problems did not disappear, the Lord provided for me a moment, like when he raised Lazarus, a moment that would help me continue the fight. A moment that helped me know that he loves me, and to know that he wants me to have hope. Hope in Him!


  1. AnonymousJune 10, 2012

    nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

    1. According to the Bible, how many Old Testament prophets raised people from the dead? Answer: Two. Elijah and Elisha.

      That's it. And they only did it three times. So the act of raising someone from the dead would have been seen as a very, very big deal. It was not like healing someone of a disease or casting out demons. Lots of people, it seems, could do those miracles. Nope, raising someone from the dead was the big kahuna of all miracles! Is there any instance in the Bible of a false prophet or a prophet of another god raising the dead?

      In the Gospel of John chapter 11, we are told that Lazarus had been dead for four days. His body was decomposing to the point that he stunk. Lazarus death and burial were very public events. His tomb was a known location. Many Jews had come to mourn with Mary and Martha and some of them were wondering why the great miracle worker, Jesus, had not come and healed his friend Lazarus; essentially blaming Jesus for letting Lazarus die.

      Let's step back and look at the facts asserted in this passage: Only two OT prophets had raised people from the dead, and these two prophets were considered probably the two greatest Jewish prophets of all time: Elijah and Elisha. If this story is true, the supernatural powers of Jesus were on par with the supernatural powers of the greatest Jewish prophets of all time! If this event really did occur, it should have shocked the Jewish people to their very core---a new Elijah was among them! This event must have been the most shocking event to have occurred in the lives of every living Jewish man and woman on the planet. The news of this event would have spread to every Jewish community across the globe.

      And yet...Paul, a devout and highly educated Jew, says not one word about it. Not one. Not in his epistles; not in the Book of Acts. Think about that. What would be the most powerful sign to the Jews living in Asia Minor and Greece---the very people to whom Paul was preaching and attempting to convert---to support the claim that Jesus of Nazareth himself had been raised from the dead? Answer: The very public, very well documented raising from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus!

      But nope. No mention of this great miracle by Paul. (A review of Paul's epistles indicates that Paul seems to have known very little if anything about the historical Jesus. Read here.)

      And there is one more very, very odd thing about the Raising-of-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Miracle: the author of the Gospel of John, the very last gospel to be written, is the only gospel author to mention this amazing miracle! The authors of Mark, Matthew, and Luke say NOTHING about the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Nothing.

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