John 11:32-44, John 12:1, John 12:10, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13, Acts 4:12,1 Peter 1:18-19
Summary: Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus from the dead is one of the most thrilling and wondrous passages in Scripture. It showed His undeniable authority over the last enemy of humanity and was a public display of His power.
The ultimate state of helplessness is death. Once it overpowers you, regardless of age, status, education, health, or situation, you are in no state either to conquer its grip upon you, nor do you have any control over anything that you had considered valuable or precious; for none of it can go with you to the cemetery or your cremation urn. This fearful specter, the fruit of our rebellion toward God thousands of years ago, patiently waits for everyone. The question is whether you are ready for its inevitable knock at the door and the eternal destination that awaits you (Luke 12:13-21, 16:19-31; John 5:28-29; Hebrews 9:27).
The Scriptures make it clear that you will not be the main ingredient for future crops of daisies nor a feast for worms, becoming a forgotten mass of bone, flesh, and corruption. We are the products of God’s creative love and have a purpose for being in this world, and He did not form us within our mother’s womb just to end up as a conglomeration of randomness and a roll of some cosmic pair of dice (Psalm 139:14-16).
The Lord Jesus did not declare before Martha and Mary that He was the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26) in order to give them a sense of false comfort and hope. What He will show in John 11 is that the last enemy of humanity, death itself, has nothing over the Sovereignty and power of Almighty God, who gives life, breath, and meaning to every person who walks the earth.
John 11 presents not only the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, but it also is a living proof text of the claims that Jesus has made throughout the Gospels, telling His listeners that He has the power of life and is the conqueror of death.
He began His ministry by driving out the money changers in the Temple. The religious officials demanded to know why He had done so. He then gave them the illustration of tearing down the Temple that was His body and raising it up again (Mark 14:58; John 2:19-22). He also declared His authority in that He would raise everyone from the dead at the appointed time (John 6:10).
He had shown this power when He raised both the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56) and the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-17). There are always skeptics, however, who will read these passages of Scripture and dismiss them as nothing more than a case of resuscitation or merely part of the continuation of the Jesus “myth” that the authors of the Gospels added to give credence to their teachings that Jesus was God Incarnate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4). Let us examine the situation that Jesus faced that day when He stood before the grave of His friend.
First, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. The disciples of Jesus were all there to verify it along with the other events in Jesus’ ministry. The authors of Scripture, inspired by the Spirit of God, were bound by the truth of what they all knew, saw, and confirmed (Acts 17:11; Galatians 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:19-21). The Law of Moses, which had been taught to them as children and what was read each Sabbath in the synagogues, stated that no one could be convicted of a crime without the testimony of two or more witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). Jesus taught that two or more witnesses were to go to erring brethren within the church for correction (Matthew 18:15).
Jesus’ own resurrection was verified by a number of witnesses, up to five hundred brethren at one time, and the apostle Paul encouraged the members of the church at Corinth to go and talk to the ones who were still alive for confirmation (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Luke opens his Gospel by telling Theophilus of the many witnesses he encountered and interviewed in order to have an accurate account (Luke 1:1-4). Peter, in his final days, wrote that he and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty (2 Peter 1:16). What has been written in John is a true and verifiable account.
Second, they also knew when someone was dead and the procedures to take according to the Law (Leviticus 10:6, 21:1, 11, 22:4; Numbers 5:2, 6:6, 9:6, 19:11; Deuteronomy 21:23). While embalming of bodies had been a part of other cultures, such as Egypt (Genesis 50:2, 26), the Jews tended to prepare the body for burial that same day and place it in the respective tomb or cave where the other family members had been laid to rest (Matthew 26:12, 27:59; John 11:44; Acts 9:37). They added a series of spices within the wrappings to keep the body intact and to lessen the stench of decay that would occur quickly in the heat of Judea.
By the time the body was wrapped and placed in the tomb and then sealed, the idea of resuscitation or premature burial was settled. This person was dead, period. Forensic science has shown that after three hours, a corpse enters the state of rigor mortis, where it will stiffen and be inflexible for a time. After a period of 24-72 hours, the inner organs will begin to decompose rapidly, giving off a putrid odor (John 11:39). After a period of three days, this inner organ decay will intensify, and the flesh will have turned a shade of green with decay, and body fluids will seep out. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, Lazarus’ body was in the stages of literally rotting away.
Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death for the fact that this was a dear friend (v.35) and that He hated what sin and the consequence of death had done to His creation (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16-18). This showed that Jesus was both God and man by displaying the emotions that encompass anyone who faced tragedy and sorrow, truly being one of us, never aloof or distant from the trials of life. He then prayed to the Father that He might show those at the tomb that He was truly sent from Him, and then He specifically commands Lazarus to rise and come out of the tomb, his body restored to full health and strength and into the arms of his sisters (vv.43-44).
The wrappings that had held a rotting corpse together were no longer needed, for Lazarus was alive, and this miracle could not be rebuked nor denied as he sat with the Master at the table for dinner (12:1-2). Everyone came to see him and the wondrous work that had been done by the Lord Jesus. Not everyone was celebrating. The chief priests, who had nothing but contempt for Jesus and His ministry, saw Him as a direct threat to their influence and power over the people of Judea. Instead of rejoicing over this obvious display of God’s might and mercy, they began to conspire on how they might KILL both Jesus and Lazarus, “because on account of him, many of the Jews went away, and believed in Jesus” (12:11). What gives here?
The chief priests were victims of “religion,” blind to their rituals, regulations, and traditions, and refused to have their eyes opened to the obvious fact that God Almighty lived among them in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was a threat to their system.
Their malevolent attitudes also showed that even with someone coming back from the dead, they would not believe in Jesus and place their faith in Him, validating what He had taught in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and the conclusion where the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers and warn them of the hell that awaited them (16:27-28). Abraham told him that his brothers had access to the same Scriptures that he had while on earth, and it would not matter if Lazarus was to go back and warn them, for they would not believe that it was him (vv.30-31).
Jesus explicitly taught that the Scriptures give us all we need to know about both heaven and hell. We do not need to rely upon outside “testimony” nor the flights of fancy from “salvation sensationalists” who claim to take trips to heaven with the same frequency as some people do when going to the local big box stores to purchase groceries. Scripture presents the certainty of both physical and spiritual death, the eternal destiny of those who either prepare for it or reject it altogether, and the fact that we will all have to give an accounting of our lives before the Lord Jesus at His chosen time, like it or not.
I do not need secondhand information or goofy tales of “heaven” that lack a reverence for God and His holy nature, nor do these imaginary incidents display any sign of humility and the fact that God was merciful to them, sinners in need of a Savior.
In these final days of history, I rely solely on the promises of the Lord Jesus that He gave His life for me while I was His enemy (Romans 5:6-11) and that by His death on the cross and His resurrection, He has conquered death, hell, and the grave. Because He lives, my soul was brought back to life by His saving power and wondrous grace, and I have the assurance of eternal life in Him and a place in heaven, forever free from the sting of death and hell. He said to me, “Come forth!” out of my spiritual grave many years ago.
I pray that you would respond today to His call of salvation (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 21:1-7).
Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
In 2018 he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. HIs website is www.realitycityreverend.com. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.