John 11: Lazarus, Arise!

Two sisters, whom Jesus loves, send word and beg Him to hurry their way. Lazarus grows ill and soon may breathe his last. Despite the urgency, time still runs in its continual coursings. Swift, the sickness rushes in, so slow is the Lord of mercy. So things appear to this family, awash in their anxiety.

Runners rush to bring Jesus their message, unaware when they reach Him, Lazarus is no more. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he received news of Lazarus’ illness, he stayed two more days” (John 11:5-6). Jesus delays waiting for Lazarus to be long-dead and buried for four days. Don’t miss this: The Lord loves Lazarus, so He postpones His arrival to fulfill a divine purpose. Jesus’ lack of punctuality will prove His full power, allowing death to suck their hearts dry to fill them with faith’s fullness.

At last, Jesus arrives at Bethany. Inside a dark tomb, His friend lay dead. Outside in the light, the Savior of sinners stands weeping. Others glare at Him in their grief. Three times they accuse. “Jesus, if you arrived earlier, Lazarus will still be a-stir with life.” First is Martha, next is Mary, followed by their friends. Martha, at least, holds out a tiny hope. Today, she is stirring with a sliver of faith, not her sister, Mary.

Martha heaves and exhales, “I’m sure whatever you ask of God, He will grant you.” So, she implores Jesus to pray for her dead brother. How so? Later, she doesn’t want Him to roll the stone back where Lazarus lay. So, she isn’t asking Jesus, so He’ll raise Lazarus from death today, but on the Last Day. Why let loose the stench of her brother’s decaying remains? Ah, but her Lord stirs with other plans.

“Passed away” is how we refer to others whose life is gone. Is Lazarus’ body not buried, sealed in a tomb, rotting in the darkness, and stinking to heaven? Well, Jesus doesn’t speak this way. “Lazarus is sleeping.” So grim and final death is for us, but not for Jesus, God’s eternal Son. To Him, sleep is a mere repose from which the faithful will awaken with joyous bodies united to their soaring souls.

Unknown to Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus lies in slumber. Will sleepiness soon break as sure as he will awake? Will the Resurrection-and-Life breathe life’s bloom within his being? A dead man will stir if Jesus calls him forth to a new start, for whenever Jesus speaks so, death must die and arise to life. In Christ, no death abides, so whoever lives in Him shall never perish.

Jesus brings us life and resurrection for eternity—and today as our present possession. The way Jesus talks, physical death is no permanent end. No, from slumber deep, we will reap the everlasting life our Savior once sowed. So, we’ll sleep in a tranquil rest, waking anew in the morning light of our resurrection. By Lazarus’ death, Jesus will show He is the Resurrection and the Life.

Jesus longs to call Martha and Mary to a deeper faith. Where are Martha’s thoughts? Martha remains trapped in her trauma: My beloved brother is no more because You didn’t come soon enough. Martha’s mind, likewise, strains forward toward a forthcoming hope: At the body’s resurrection, Lazarus will rise and ascend. Again, where is Martha? Anywhere but the present.

Jesus transcends the boundaries of time. Into past and future, He reaches, bringing Mary and Martha to Himself, now. Catch in awe each syllable He proclaims and doesn’t: Not “was,” nor speaking a later “shall be.” No, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Christ makes His pledged and spoken resurrection their possession today.

“Martha,” Jesus beamed, “your brother will rise again.” Hope blooms in her heart, “Yes, in the resurrection on the Last Day.” Oh, what Martha confesses is true, but she doesn’t state the whole truth. Our faith’s fullness isn’t only in an unshakeable future but in someone who is. Our belief is no mere distant dream, but a present actuality. Remember, salvation embraces and abides with us now, not only in years ahead.

Jesus proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. Everyone who believes in me will live, though they die, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Christ’s comfort stirs Martha’s faith, and a confession echoes from her soul—You are the Messiah, the Son of God.

At Jesus’ insistence, Martha relents, and they unseal the tomb. Jesus backs up His words with actions, commanding life to enter Lazarus. No need to await Jesus’ return, for He’s standing by them now, who Himself is resurrection and life. Those moments transcend time, for the eternal One is present. Death ceases to matter, for Life Himself is with them.

Tears and desolation fill the dank air around the tomb, and only the dead man stirs with vibrant faith. Among those gathered, he alone attended to Christ’s voice. Our Lord’s words resounded in Mary and Martha’s ears, too, but doubt and grief crowded out their hearts. Oh, but the deceased, enshrouded in the cave, believed. Lazarus heeded the Word of Christ. “Lazarus, come forth,” Jesus’ cry rang out strong—and he did.

Our Lord, whom death cannot hold in the grave, rips His departed friend from the arms of death. The Resurrection Himself, who will rise from death, raises Lazarus. The once-lifeless man now lives, walking as a living trophy of Christ’s victory over the enemy called death.

In Scripture, God raised dead people ten times: once through Elijah (1 Kings 17:22), twice through Elisha (2 Kings 4:35; 13:21), five by Jesus (Luke 7:15, Matthew 9:25, John 11:44, Matthew 27:52, and His resurrection), once through Peter (Acts 9:40), and another through Paul (20:12).

The Bible records ten different eyewitness events of the risen Christ in His physical flesh. The first few are Mary Magdalene (John 20:16), the other women (Matthew 28:9), the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:31), and Peter (24:34). Later others: the Apostles minus Thomas (John 20:19), with Thomas (20:28), seven at the Sea of Galilee (21:12). Oh, a whopping 500 on a hilltop (1 Corinthians 15:6). Let’s not forget Jesus’ stepbrother James (15:7), and the group at Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:9).

In Scripture, the number ten often symbolizes completion. From daily life, ponder something as simple as ten fingers and toes. In Genesis 1, the phrase “God said” adorns Scripture’s pages ten times, a testament to His unlimited power to create. Let’s not stop. Consider God’s complete judgment on Egypt in the ten plagues or the full summary of His Law in His Ten Commandments. So, two sets of ten twice-affirm Jesus rising from the dead. Its completeness is to linger in your mind, affirming your resurrection to come.

Why did Jesus need to die? To take our sin upon Himself; by His death, he’ll “destroy the one holding the power of death—the Devil” (Hebrews 2:14). Our sins pollute our works, scar our thoughts, and taint whatever we touch. Sinfulness so entwines our fallen beings you can’t reform our corrupted inclinations away. No, only death is its demise.

The way the Jewish leaders responded to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead affirms this. Lazarus rising anew served as more than a motive to kill Jesus. Listen to what John records: “The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well” (John 12:10). Of course, they realize Lazarus died—and Jesus brought him back to life. Despite the living truth, they refuse to recognize Jesus as God’s Son. So, they conclude, “We have to destroy Lazarus, too.”

Unrighteousness swarms inside us, our deadened souls a byproduct of Adam’s lineage. Born bereft of spiritual life, we are Lazarus in the lifeless tomb. A corpse can do nothing but stay dead. God must do everything else. So, He works with what is moving in us, within our bodies and minds, since we enter this world without the life of God’s Holy Spirit. By His Law, He performs a divine autopsy, exposing the pathology of our inner spirituality—lifelessness.

Our deadness is what we contribute; God does the rest. By using lifeless clay, He created what pleased Him through His Word. So, too, in our redemption, where the crucified Christ meets us in His saving Word. The cadaver arose as Jesus reclaimed Him. “Lazarus, come out,” Resurrection’s Word liberating him from death’s bondage. Christ’s Word, likewise, revives and keeps us alive!

Death is but a sleep, Jesus says. So every morning we awake becomes a “mini resurrection.” Each dawn, we stretch our limbs and arise in preparation and practice. One day, the Sun of Righteousness will return with healing in His wings and summon the dead to wake. To Jesus, dying is a short slumber, a rest from which He will awaken us. Jesus called Lazarus forth from his dark and musty tomb. So with us, when we’ll be sleeping in death and dust. Our Lord’s voice shall blast, “Come out,” as we leap from our graves, rejoicing.

Relying on Jesus for your salvation means His resurrection and life are now yours. Our Lord let Lazarus die so he might teach this to the world. Do not doubt Jesus rose and broke the chains of death. Christ’s resurrection rests on actual, genuine history, one of the best-attested events recorded in ancient days.

So, how inevitable is our rising forth from death? Well, as absolute and steadfast as Christ Himself! Such confidence is ours, rooted in God’s Word, besides the ten scriptural examples of God raising people from the dead. Yes, His life is now yours. Amen.