In the Gospel of John, chapter 11 we read about the death of Lazarus. This is undoubtedly one of the most touching and beautiful instances where our Lord illustrates a critical truth through a literal occurrence, that He wants to convey to His disciples.
Just in case you are curious why I use the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible a lot, I am aware that the NIV is not a word for word translation, but rather a balance between a word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation. As long as it doesn’t cause any confusion or misrepresent the generally intended meaning of the particular text, I use it because I find that it generally conveys the intended meaning to the reader a little clearer or easier. My translation of choice for study is the KJV (old school) but I also use other versions for comparison.
John 11:1-7 NIV reads: “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
Right from the onset we note that Jesus knows that the sickness that Lazarus has will not end in his physical death. He knows that this situation will bring glory to His Father via Himself. The scripture also notes that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Later on in John 11: 35 the scriptures indicate that Jesus wept. We’re talking loving relationship here, oneness between our creator and the creation, a validation of God’s love for us.
But Jesus waited another two days before He indicated that they could head out to Judea. His disciples were concerned for His safety due to the Jews being determined to kill him previously. Jesus is not concerned, He is doing the will of His Father, He is walking in the light. Jesus also knows that after waiting two days, Lazarus has died.
John 11:11 “After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
The journey to Judea takes some time and when they arrive in Bethany they find out that Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. No chance of misunderstanding as to whether Lazarus was actually dead. His body has started to decay and there is a foul odour.
Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again and she links this statement with the resurrection at the last day.
John 11:23-24 NIV “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
And here is the kicker, Jesus tells Martha as indicated in John 11:25-26 NIV “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I am the resurrection and the life, even though they die, they will never die. Physical death is a reality for everyone, spiritual life forever is a reality for all of us that believe in who Jesus is, why He came and what He accomplished. This is a concept that at that time might be difficult to grasp, remember that no one, especially when it comes to a religious leader, has ever come back from the dead. Ever.
Notice in verse 40 that Jesus replies to Martha’s response about taking away the stone from the tomb, after four days, and the bad odour by saying: “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
John 11:43-44 NIV reads: “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”
Undoubtedly a miracle but the greater truth is yet to come. Even Lazarus eventually physically died.
The Bible does not give us all the discussions that took place between Jesus and Martha, or Mary or Lazarus. Imagine trying to convey the wondrous truth of the resurrection of Jesus that was to come and why it was necessary, what it would accomplish and usher into existence. Most Christians are familiar with the concept but this was before the fact, here, at the burial of Lazarus it hadn’t happened yet. Even after the fact, today, there are many who still don’t really grasp the significance of what Jesus did.
1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we are justified before God.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
Justification means to “to be put right with.” Because of our sins, humanity is separated from God and incapable of a relationship with him (Romans 6:28, Isaiah 59:2).
Scripture calls us “objects of wrath” because God has to exert his wrath those who break his law (Ephesians 2:3). Without someone stepping in to correct this situation, we cannot have the relationship with God that he intended. In the death of Jesus on the cross, God put our punishment on Christ so that we could be justified before him.
The resurrection of Jesus confirms that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice for sin on the cross and gives us access to a right relationship with him.
2. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that Jesus defeated death. (Romans 6:9)
Death is the enemy of mankind and the just punishment for the each person’s individual sins (Romans 6:23). The mortality rate is and will always be 100%. No amount of effort, medical technology, power or riches can escape the clutches of death.
Christ rose from the dead because death could no longer hold him, and we no longer have to fear death because Christ has triumphed over it. Death is no longer an enemy because in Christ, we no longer have to fear the punishment that comes after death.
“O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that Jesus is the Son of God.
…[Christ] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead … (Romans 1:4)
If Jesus would have died and remained dead, he would be like the millions who went before him and the millions who came after him. But that is not what happened. Christ’s resurrection proves that he is someone of a unique status: The Son of God.
4. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives Christians a living hope.
Being forgiven of our sins and justified before God gives Christians tremendous hope. Christians are changed from being an enemy of God bound for separation from God, to becoming a forgiven son of God with an eternal inheritance in heaven that can never be taken away.
According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you … (1 Peter 1:3-4)
5. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we will be raised like him.
Christ is described as the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead, meaning that his resurrection is a precursor to the resurrection that all believers (1 Corinthians 15:20). 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 explains, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Christians will enjoy the resurrected life just like Christ did, with glorified bodies raised in power (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). The resurrection of our Lord is history’s most significant event. The Resurrection sets Christianity totally apart. No other religious leader has broken the power of death and conquered sin.
Will we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter and throughout the year? Count on it!
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!