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lazarus

Lazarus Coming Forth

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. – Hebrews 11:35

In John chapter 11 we read the most extensive account of a resurrection in the Scriptures except for the resurrection of Christ. Here we see the account given of the resurrection of Jesus’ friend, the brother of Mary and Martha, Lazarus.

He and his family lived in Bethany. Lazarus was sick and his sisters sent word to Jesus that “he whom You love is sick.” Jesus, upon hearing the message, replied that the sickness was not a situation that would result ultimately in his death, but instead it was a situation that was specifically ordained by God for His own glory and the glory of His Son. After this response Jesus then waited two days before going in answer to their call.

Jesus knew then that Lazarus had died and He told the disciples that he was sleeping. This is a common phrase used to describe death, not that we sleep when we die, but the truth is that we are still alive while our bodies are lifeless. A dead body appears to be sleeping, but the life is gone. The person has gone immediately either to judgment in hell or to the blessings of heaven. The disciples missed His point, not an uncommon occurrence, and they stated that perhaps rest will help Lazarus get better. Jesus then had to say “to them plainly” that Lazarus was dead.

When they arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. They had missed the funeral but not the mourners. There were people all around the family and the grave mourning, weeping, and wailing. While it is not ever wrong to grieve at the death of a loved one we must keep in mind that death is not the end of life altogether. Especially when we know that the person who has died knows Jesus, why would we even consider wanting them to come back and live in this fallen and dying realm?

When He arrived, Martha came to Him and declared plainly, “If You had been here my brother would not have died.” She had that much faith. She knew that Jesus could heal. But Jesus is making a number of points here. First, God is no respecter of persons. There is no partiality with God. Secondly, this was for God’s glory or it would not have happened. Do you believe that when “bad” things happen to you that it is for God’s glory? It always is, you know.

In response to this grief and this declaration of faith, Jesus stated plainly, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha thought He was speaking of the Day of the Lord when we all will be raised, but Jesus points away from the eschatological scheme and declares that He is the resurrection. He is the life, and whoever believes in Jesus, even if he does die, he will still live.

It is amazing to me the reply that Jesus made here. He is the resurrection. We often look to what the resurrection means for us, personally and individually, but the resurrection is all about Jesus and His power over death and the grave. Everything in the Christian life should point to Christ, even our hope for resurrection from the dead if we die before Christ returns. Our faith is all about Him from start to finish, that is why He is the “author and finisher” of our faith, and why He is “the Alpha and the Omega” (the beginning and the end). Jesus is our all in all.

Later now in the account given to us we see that Mary went out to meet Jesus and said the same thing. “If You had been here my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her grief and all the mourners with her still weeping four days after the burial, He groaned in His Spirit. He was moved. Jesus is fully God and also at the same time fully man, and He experienced emotions and grief. He was moved to grief at their loss but at the same time this word used for “groaned” speaks of also being motivated by anger or irritation. Mixed with His sorrow, He also knew the truth that Lazarus would live again. He kept telling people this but no one seemed to listen. Because of what He knew to be true He was irritated and bothered by the lack of faith these people were showing. They all thought His power could have saved Lazarus from death, but could not see through the emotions of the moment to the fact that death was no obstacle for the Son of God. They believed He could have helped but that now it was too late.

When Jesus saw the grave, and the mourners, and the lack of faith, He wept. He wept quiet tears, not of grief over the death of Lazarus, but of grief over the truth that the wages of sin is death. This whole episode points out the reality that sinners die. Seeing the grief that death caused, the sting of sin, He was moved to tears. Jesus cried not because He had lost a friend, but because His friends lived in the confines of this lost world. These were those He loved and had come to seek and save.

He then commanded the stone to be removed from the opening of the cave in which Lazarus was buried. Those around had already confessed again, for the third time, that if He had been there days ago then Lazarus would not have died. Now Jesus wanted to have the grave opened. What a trauma this would be, for by now Lazarus’ body would have started to decay and there would be a stench. It would stink.

Jesus insisted that He was about to demonstrate the glory of God to them and so they moved the stone. Jesus then prayed, and notice what He said:

Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.

He prayed with faith and confidence that God had heard Him and He prayed specifically for the benefit of those listening. He then said with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” He called a specific man, a man dead for four days, bound in grave clothes and mourned for these days. He called with a loud voice, a voice of authority. He called out a command, “Come forth!” And what happened?

Just exactly what He said several times would happen. Lazarus came walking out of the grave, alive, resurrected, living and breathing, and needing to be helped out of the grave clothes. Jesus commanded that a dead man come back to life, and he did.

This was done to glorify God, confirm the Messianic office of Christ, and to show us that Jesus has power over death and the grave. If the worst that can happen to us in this life is that we end up dying, Jesus does not see this as an obstacle, or even as a bother. It is nothing for Him to call us to life from death. In fact, this is exactly what He has done through the Word by the power of the Spirit – when we are saved, we just as was Lazarus, are dead in our sin, and He calls us to life. And we come to life. Praise the Lord that He is the Alpha and Omega and that there is nothing to hard for Him.

(tomorrow: Dorcas and Eutychus)

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