A look at the four accounts in the Gospels of people who were raised from the dead.
MARY AND MARTHA and their brother Lazarus were friends of Jesus, and he often stayed in their house in Bethany when he was teaching in nearby Jerusalem. One day Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters were sufficiently concerned to send a message to Jesus. The account is in John chapter 11.
At the time Jesus was over the east side of the River Jordan. Rather than immediately travelling to Bethany, he and his disciples stayed where they were. Two days later they heard the sad news that Lazarus had died.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him’ (v. 11). This is only the second time this expression is used in the Gospels, and the disciples didn’t understand. The first time we read this term is when Jairus’ daughter had died, and Jesus had said, ‘The child is not dead but sleeping’ (Mark 5:39). To Jesus who has the power of God to raise the dead, death is merely sleep.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14–15).
The raising of Lazarus was to be evidence for the disciples of Jesus’ authority.
Dead and Buried
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he found that his friend had been buried four days previously, and there were a lot of Jews who had come from Jerusalem to comfort the sisters. When Martha knew that Jesus was on his way, she went to meet him, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’ (v. 21). (And this is probably exactly the reason why Jesus had not travelled to Bethany as soon as he had heard that Lazarus was unwell.)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (vs. 23–25).
Jesus obviously meant that her brother was going to be raised that same day, but she was unable to grasp this, and thought that he was talking about the resurrection that will happen when Jesus returns to earth.
Martha then went back home and told her sister Mary that the Teacher had come, and wanted to talk to her.
So Mary then went out to find Jesus, and said exactly the same words as her sister had said. He asked her to show him where Lazarus had been buried, and we read that Jesus felt so sad that he wept. (One of only two times we read in the Bible of Jesus crying.) But some of the unkind onlookers muttered that surely this man who had given sight to the blind could have prevented Lazarus’ death.
When they arrived, he saw that the tomb was a cave with a large stone rolled over the opening. This of course was very much like the tomb in which Jesus himself was to be buried. He asked them to remove the stone, but Martha remonstrated, thinking that the smell of death would be unpleasant. Jesus then said a prayer out loud, so that the Jews would hear him thanking God for giving him the power, and he called out to the dead man, ‘Lazarus, come out’ (v. 43).
To the absolute amazement of the crowd the dead man appeared at the entrance of the cave. He was still wrapped in grave clothes, so Jesus said, ’Unbind him, and let him go’ (v. 44).
What joy would come to the house- hold in Bethany that night! The sisters’ brother was alive again.
This is not only a factual account, but a story with many lessons for us. In Romans chapter 6 Paul tells us that when we are baptized it is like a death and a resurrection:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4).
When we are baptized we start a new life. We cannot walk alone. Jesus told the Jews to free Lazarus from the tightly bound grave clothes. A new child of God needs help from their family as they commence their life in Christ.
To be continued.