Of all Our Lord’s miracles (approx. 40 recorded), the raising to life (Earthly) of Lazarus of Bethany stands out for its drama, and was a pointed example of our Lord’s mission on Earth regarding Earthly death (the first); and ‘eternal life’! It was the last of the miracles that He did prior to His arrest by the Jewish Authorities (not counting the healing of the ear of one of the arresting party), and pointed dramatically to His own death and resurrection. There are some interesting comments in the narrative, which give quite revealing information regarding our Lord’s humanity whilst in His flesh state; and His complete reliance on His Father’s Power; which He had shown repeatedly during His Ministry: (see John 17 etc.).
Jesus had on quite a few occasions restored life to people, but in this example He is showing specific points regarding the certainty that Lazarus was dead. The writers of the New Testament have been accused of false reporting both in Jesus’ day, and since, up to the present; so Jesus was at pains to set the circumstances, to easily refute such accusation in this case, except for the most obdurate persons. The oft made accusation of falsehood is not even mentioned by the famous Jewish Pharisee Historian Josephus, who quotes Jesus as "the wonder worker"; and he was almost a contemporary of Jesus!
Turning now to the text referring to the miraculous raising to life of Lazarus in John Chapter 11; we are reminded in Verse 1 that Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Verse 2 tells us that this is the Mary who anointed the Lord’s feet with costly ointment later in Chapter 12:3; and wiped them dry with her hair. Later, the Lord reminded Martha when she complained as Mary was listening to Jesus sitting at His feet, that “she has chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42)!
The sisters sent a message to Jesus regarding the rapidly declining state of Lazarus (Chp. 11:3); and Jesus replied in a way which seemed to contradict the later fact of the death of Lazarus, (v4); “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”. Here Jesus is setting the scene for God to demonstrate His power though His Anointed; and to demonstrate the Two are One, in all dimensions!
Verse 5 makes the specific point that “Jesus loved (agapao) Martha, Mary and Lazarus”. The Greek word used is the basis for (phileo); which is only ever used for God’s love for man, and not mans’ for God! (App. 135 Companion Bible). This “love” is the same for all people who turn to God through the Ages by their free will; and particularly so in this Age of Grace; (Age of the Gentiles, which started at Acts 28:25-28, in AD 62-3 approx.), in which we currently live (2015). This Age will end when the total number of people, mainly Gentiles completes; (Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25 & Acts 15:17).
Verse 6, seems on the face of it almost perverse, as Jesus did not hurry to Bethany from His location (John 10:40), which was apparently approx. 25 miles from Bethany. Instead He dwelt two days more at that location; clearly to underline the fact that He was waiting until Lazarus was dead (the first death)!
In Verse 11, Jesus finally starts to arrange to travel to Bethany, with the statement to His disciples that “Lazarus sleepeth”; meaning he had died (vs 12-14). Our Lord said also “I go, that I may awake him out of sleep”; stating in v15 that He was glad He was not with Lazarus when he died, for their sakes so that they would believe when He awakened Lazarus, v11. Jesus clearly knew that the Disciples were not even then convinced as to His purpose in the larger context; i.e. to combat the effect of Satan’s enormous damage in Eden, when he successfully tempted Eve and Adam, with the consequence of death entering the world (Gen. 2:17); which has extended to all people since. Also to begin the task of unseating Satan from the world; and to negate and nullify Satan’s original rebellion against God, his Creator; which started many enduring problems for God Almighty in His Creations both Heavenly and elsewhere. For the people of Earth, they began when Satan successfully corrupted Eve and Adam.
Jesus had been sent to undo the work of Satan on Earth, and to fulfil the promise of God embodied in Gen. 3:15; and as the Son of God (the seed of the woman Luke 1:35) to crush the head of Satan! That Jesus was soon to undertake in the first stage, His crucifixion and resurrection!
This term “sleeping” is used in Scripture to indicate a temporary state, prior to resurrection of the person at a future time. For those that are God’s/ Christ Jesus’ people, to resurrection of eternal life; for those not so owned and loved; to resurrection of Judgement Rev. 20:11-13. A well-known example in the Old Testament is Daniel 12:13.
It would take all of one day at least to walk the 25 miles to Bethany, which meant that by the time Jesus and His Disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead for some time, and in v17 it states he had been in the grave 4 days. Relatives and friends had arrived from Jerusalem, about 2 miles away from Bethany to join Mary and Martha in their mourning.
The fact that Jesus delayed His arrival had ensured a quite large gathering of people; who were unwittingly about to witness what Jesus was about to do. Also, the certainty of the death of Lazarus was beyond doubt or dispute; which Jesus’ delayed arrival ensured by the prior burial of Lazarus.
Martha in verse 21 almost seems to chide Jesus that He had not hastened to save Lazarus; which is natural for humans, as we are all fixated to greater or lesser degree on our present lives; and she was clearly in a state of shock and mourning. She goes on however to show in verse 22 that her faith was in the true God, and that Jesus could with the Father’s power raise Lazarus! Jesus assures her in v23 that Lazarus would live again; but she assumes in v24, He is talking about the well know resurrection of the righteous in Israel. However in v25 Jesus makes the overt statement that: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead (first death), yet shall he live”. In verse 26: “And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”, (Second Death; but also referring to 1Thess. 4:17 in the yet future)!
Martha in v27 makes the profound and revealing statement which summarises the critical reason for Jesus (Christ = Anointed) Advent into the world as a human being (in flesh form). “Yes Lord (Grk. Kurios; meaning owner, or master; App. 98 Comp. Bible) I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, Which should come into the world”.
Martha thus stated the profound truth of God’s anointed, and His purpose; in her grief, anger and disturbed state; which the Holy Spirit moved her heart to do! This is an example of God speaking through a Godly woman and the record being made in Holy Writ for future generations of humans to witness, which is needed to be seen in the present world scene of strife between the genders!
Martha then called her sister Mary “secretly” saying, “The Master has come, and calleth for thee” v28. Mary went to where Jesus had met Martha outside Bethany, and when she met Jesus she stated as had Martha that had He been there earlier, Lazarus would not have died, v32.
Jesus was much moved by the grief and tears of Mary and Martha, and was Himself moved to tears and indignation, vs 33-36! The tears showed His complete humanness (humanity) and His ability to feel the pain of death and separation (as the Second Adam; 1 Cor.15:22 & 15:45); and the indignation, His anger at the success of Satan in Eden in successfully introducing death and suffering into the experience of humankind; see bottom Link “Eve and Adam”.
Interestingly, and predictably in v37, some of the people attending criticised Jesus for not preventing the death of Lazarus; even quoting some of His past Miracles!
Jesus aware of their thoughts and grumblings v38 (was angry and indignant; note page 1547 Comp. Bible).
He came to the grave, a cave, and asked for the sealing stone to be removed. Martha seemed to object, stating that Lazarus by then would be in decay, and would not be pleasant to the senses; vs 38-9. Jesus reminded her that He had told her to believe and see, v40, “the Gory of God”!
The stone was removed from the grave v40; Jesus then openly prayed to God the Father, vs 41-42:
“Father, thank you for hearing Me”,
“I know You always hear Me, but because of the people standing here, I have said it openly, that they may believe You have sent Me”!
When Jesus had finished praying, He raised His voice v43, and said; “LAZARUS COME FORTH”.
The dead man Lazarus came out in the grave bindings; and his face also was covered with a cloth v44; and Jesus said “loose him and let him free”.
Many of the Jews present after seeing this miracle believed in Him, v45! But some; true to form where Satan’s influence is present, went to the Pharisees to report what they had seen, v46!
This was inevitable, as Jesus was aware that Satan (the prince of this world) was close by continually; and was shortly to increase action against Him; (John 14:30).
Our Lord’s deliberate demonstration of His power (at that time from His Father by prayer request); was to drive home to the Jews (at that time; “I come only to the lost sheep of Israel”, Matt. 15:24); and later to the Gentiles, the fact that He was the One who had been prophesied for hundreds of years in their Old Testament (OT) Scriptures! He had performed miracles to prove to those of good will and open minds that He was the promised One, Isaiah 35:5-6 & Matt. 11:1-6!
Jesus was however to follow the spectacular raising of Lazarus with an even greater happening; His own resurrection shortly after, when He was in the eye of the storm of vilification from the ruling Jews (Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin, who were as Luther and Christ stated, “sons of Satan”)!
A very interesting difference and conclusive point regarding the Godhead, was that Lazarus needed the outside power of God the Father, through Jesus’ prayer to effect his raising to life; because Jesus at that stage was completely human; and remained so until He had completed the journey to the grave and resurrection!
Jesus however, had already made the remarkable claim that He “would lay down His life that He may take it again”; (John 10:15-18) which demonstrated that He had power at that future time that He had previously needed to request from His Father on previous occasions! (see examples in the New Testament [NT] ). The reason for this was certainly that His obedience to the Father’s Plan of redemption for Israel and the Gentiles, was still in the free will of Jesus, all the way to Gethsemane; where He suffered greatly at the prospect of shortly becoming sin for the whole world (see note*), (Luke 22:42); and the cross, which is why Jesus said to His disciples shortly before His arrest that, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me”, (John 14:30-31)!
*Note: there are some Christians and well known writers who interpret the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane; as an attack of Satan to take His life, to stop Him going to the Cross. This in the writers view is nonsense, and shows a lack of understanding of the nature of Jesus, and the limitation of Satan’s power granted from God, during Jesus’ walk on Earth. The writers state emphatically that Jesus’ agony was at the prospect of becoming SIN for the whole world; which only He could see the reality of. The only variable was the free will of Jesus, who confirmed this when He said “not My will, but Thine be done”; which sounded the death knell for Satan! (Luke 22:42). If Satan had the power to kill Jesus, he would have done so earlier to stop the miraculous Ministry starting, probably as soon as Jesus was Baptised by John. One only has to look at the example of Job to see that those who are special to God the Father are not given to Satan; as also the example of Peter; who Jesus prayed for and therefore refused Satan’s wish, (Luke 22:31). As said earlier; the only test on Jesus was His free will; which He gave to the Father, in sacrifice to bring Satan down eventually; in anti-thesis to Satan’s free will used to rebel against God Almighty, in Ages past!
With these above comments, Jesus revealed the major reason for His Mission on Earth; the defeat and eventual destruction of Satan and his servants (demons), and that He as the Anointed of God was the only “Worthy One” Who could achieve that object, and be above reproach in all Satan could devise against Him; which would be completed when He rose from the dead (by His own volition)! Christ Jesus after His resurrection became the “Propitiation” for all SIN, the original in Eden, and of all people that ever lived in this Creation; if they accept the great free gift of God! (1 John 2:2 & 4:10).
As the “sinless One”, Who God the Father accepted as fully Worthy; Satan’s power was eclipsed and made void; as he could no longer “accuse the brethren” (see Job); so long as Christ Jesus was accepted as Messiah by Israel’s Sanhedrin! The fact is that Israel’s rulers did not do so; so in Acts 28:25-28, the Messiah’s fulfilment has been delayed until the Gentiles time is complete, and Israel has accepted Him as seen in the Prophecy of Zechariah 12:10!
So the complete defeat, imprisonment, and eventual destruction of Satan must await a future date, (Rev. 20), and in the meantime he continues to wreak destruction and evil on the Earth, and on mankind; (Ephesians 6) with Satan prowling the Earth as a “a roaring Lion” (1 Peter 5:8).
This condition (the time of the Gentiles) has been in progress now for more than 2000 years, but many now think that it may well be coming to an end soon; (it is an interesting fact that Israel have been a Nation again for 70 years in 2018. From the Lord’s birth to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “Dispersion” was 70 years)!
All those people that have seen and accepted the Love of God in Christ Jesus, Gentile and Jew, will soon be resurrected to “Eternal life” in the “Body” of Christ”. A new Age will begin with Christ Jesus as King Priest of Israel, Ruling from Jerusalem; and His people the Jews forming the ideal Israel (Jeshurun). This new Age is called by many “the Millennium”, as it lasts for 1000 years and by others “God’s Kingdom”, the one that Jesus spoke of often.
During this period (the Millennium), Satan and his servants will be imprisoned (Rev. 20:1-3), and the reason for that is discussed in the Link below “Millennial Purpose”.
Christ’s as yet incomplete mission is delayed by the obduracy of the Nation Israel (particularly the Pharisees, who are the founders of “Orthodox Judaism”); as shown in Acts 28:25-28. He completed the Father’s required task as the “sinless One”; but the free will of the Jews in approx. AD 62-3 put into abeyance the next steps to completion.
The free will of Satan caused his downfall in Paradise as the “Covering Cherub” when he rebelled against God the Father. (See bottom link Satan’s Origins).
The free will of Eve caused the fall of her and Adam in Eden, and brought death into the world. (See bottom link Eve and Adam).
The free will of Christ Jesus has paid the price of sin and sinning for those that accept Him; and raised Him to Glory; seated at the Right Hand of God the Father in Heaven, until He returns for His Body (Christ-Ones), and the rescue of His people Israel from destruction. (see Link Satan’s Motivation below).
The free will of all people is exercised in seeing and taking in gratitude Christ’s free gift of eternal life, because His acts of Love and Sacrifice give the needed anti-thesis to Satan’s rebellion, which satisfy a perfect God’s requirements; and completely destroy Satan’s power of accusation before God. This allows any who accept God’s Love in Christ to be seen through Christ as sinless! (2 Cor. 5:21).
For further study see:
Eve and Adam
If you have questions or comments, please click here.
Or go to Chapters 1 to 22 or
SUBJECTS GROUPED or