THE MIRACLES OF JESUS PART 4
Perhaps one the greatest
miracles Jesus did was when He would raise someone from the dead. He did this
on three occasions. He raised Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5) and widow’s son (Lk. 7).
These two miracles was done shortly after the person died. However, the miracle
we are going to examine today is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead after
he had been dead for 4 days, which makes in an even more impressive miracle
because the decay of the body would also have to be restored.
Our lesson comes from
John 11:1 Now a
certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of
It all begins with
Lazarus being sick. Lazarus and Mary were common names, but John gives us some
details so we can know which Lazarus and Mary he was talking about. There were
two places called
Verse 2 teaches us that
this Mary was the one that anointed Jesus with fragrant oil and wiped His feet
shortly before his death. The details of what she did are recorded in John 12.
Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love
is sick." 4 When Jesus
heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the
glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
Since Lazarus was sick, his sisters sent word to Jesus about him. They did not make any demands, but they wanted Jesus to know that His good friend was sick. Most likely, the messenger heard Jesus’ words that his sickness was not unto death but for the glory of God, and he probably took these words back to Mary and Martha. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was going to die from his sickness, but He also knew that He was going to raise him from the dead, which would be done to glorify God and prove once again that Jesus is the Son of God.
John 11:5 Now
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days
in the place where He was.
Jesus did not just love the family of Lazarus as a whole; He loved each member of the family. Every Christian today is loved individual by Jesus. Even though Jesus loved Lazarus and knew that he was going to die, He stayed behind two more days. Some might view Jesus’ delay as unloving since He could have healed His friend, but He always puts the Father’s will first. His human side may have wanted to go and heal Lazarus. As far as that goes, He could have healed him from where He was because He had done that before (Lk. 7:1-10), but Jesus was willing to uphold the will of the Father no matter how difficult it may have been for Him.
John 11:7 Then after
this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to
From the disciples’ point of view, this did not make much
sense to them because they had no idea why Jesus would want to go to
John 11:9 Jesus answered, "Are there not
twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
10 "But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because
the light is not in him."
Jesus was saying the same thing He had been saying before, it was not time for Him to die and He must continue to do the works the Father has sent Him to do (Jn. 9:4). In this illustration, Jesus alludes to the 12-hour Jewish day from sunrise to sunset when the work was done because they could see. In a similar way, Jesus is saying that His day is not over and that He is not walking in the dark because His mission from the Father is clear. His enemies are not going to be able to change that or kill Him before His time.
John 11:11 These
things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus
sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."
12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will
get well." 13 However,
Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking
rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus
said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.
Again, His disciples would have been confused because they thought He was talking about Lazarus being asleep and not dead. It would not make any sense for Jesus to risk His life just to go wake up Lazarus from a common sleep. Then Jesus tells them plainly that Lazarus is dead. There are many times in the Scriptures that death is called sleep (Dan. 12:2; Mt. 27:52; Acts 7:60; 1 Thes. 4:13). Being asleep is a comforting way to describe death because sleep is temporary.
Burton Coffman describes it this way:
Of all that Jesus ever said of death, this is the most encouraging. (1) Sleep is a temporary thing; and so by this our Lord revealed that death too is not permanent. (2) Sleep refreshes and rejuvenates; thus in the resurrection this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruptible shall put on incorruption. (3) From sleep, men awaken; and the promise is secure in the Master's words that all that are in the tombs "shall come forth" (John 5:29). (4) Sleep is a time of rest; and the dead also "shall rest from their labors" (Revelation 14:13). The respect of the human race for this word of Jesus Christ is revealed in the fact of their inscribing these words, "Asleep in Jesus," upon millions of tombs in all ages since then (John 11 Coffman Commentaries).
When Jesus talked about Lazarus being asleep, He was not teaching the doctrine of the Jehovah Witnesses who teach that a person is soul sleeping when he dies. When the Scriptures talk about someone being asleep, they are talking about the body and not the soul. It is the body that returns back to the earth, and the spirit returns to God (Dan. 12:2; Ecc. 12:7). This can be seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). The wicked are said to be under punishment prior to the judgment day, which means their soul is alive and well (2 Pet. 2:9). There are many other passages that teach that our soul does not remain in the body after death and that we are conscious after death (Lk. 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 6:9-11; 7:15-17; 20:4). Jesus was going to wake up Lazarus from the dead.
"And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.
Nevertheless let us go to him." 16
Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us
also go, that we may die with Him."
Jesus was glad His
disciples would be able to see Him raise Lazarus from the dead because it would
bring their faith to a higher level. If Jesus had been there and healed Lazarus
from being sick, it would have been more of what they had already seen. But to
raise a man from being dead for four days would prove beyond doubt that Jesus
was the Son of God.
Thomas took the lead and
suggested they all go with Jesus and die with Him. Obviously, Thomas was ready
to die with Jesus, and he thought if they went back to
John 11:17 So when
Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.
Lazarus had been dead for
four days and his body would have started to decompose. One possible reason
Jesus waited that long before raising Lazarus from the dead was because of what
the Rabbis believed at that time.
to rabbinical tradition, the soul of a deceased person hovers around the body
for three days in hope of a reunion, but takes its final departure when it
notices that the body has entered a state of decomposition (William
Hendriksen, op. cit., II, p. 146 “Quoted from Coffman’s Commentary on John”).
If Jesus had raised
Lazarus from the dead on day one, two, or three, these Jews could have said it
was just a coincidence and that his soul had decided to go back into his body. However,
they could not make such a claim on the fourth day, and that is the reason this
miracle would send a strong message to the opposing Jews that Jesus is the Son
of God. Whether this was the reason or not, bringing back a man who had been
dead for four days would be an undeniable miracle.
John 11:18 Now
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined
the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Verse 18 tells us which
The rules laid down by rabbis, required seven days' public and thirty days'
private mourning for distinguished or important personages (J. W. McGarvey and
Philip Y. Pendleton, The Fourfold Gospel), p. 522.).
John 11:20 Then
Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary
was sitting in the house. 21
Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would
not have died. 22 "But
even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You."
Martha is known for being
industrious. When she heard that Jesus was coming, she left the house and found
Him. She probably did this to meet Him in private to avoid a conflict between Jesus
and these Jews. We can see her great
faith in Jesus ability to heal because she believed He could have healed her
brother if He had been there before he died. Verse 22 hints at the idea that
Martha believed that Jesus could even do something about her brother now
because she believed that God would give Jesus anything He asked for. However,
she could just be stating her confidence in Jesus’ ability to accomplish what
He wants through the Father.
John 11:23 Jesus
said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to Him, "I
know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
When Jesus said that
Lazarus would rise again, Martha thought He was referring to the general
resurrection on the last day, which all Jews believed in except for the
Sadducees. She did not know that Jesus was saying that he was going rise that
John 11:25 Jesus said
to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though
he may die, he shall live. 26
"And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe
this?" 27 She said to
Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is
to come into the world."
This is the fifth “I am”
statement in John, and these words should bring comfort to all Christians
because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in Him
and keep His Word will never die (Jn. 8:51). This does not mean we will not
physical die because all of us will unless the Lord comes back before we die.
When we do die, it is not the end of life. Instead, it is the beginning of our
eternal life as we wait in paradise for the general resurrection on the last
day when we will be given a new incorruptible body (1 Cor. 15:42; Phil. 3:21),
and we will spend eternity in heaven.
When Martha made this
great confession, she was not saying that she just now believed in Jesus, but
that she has believed in Jesus. Several Bible versions show this by translating
the verse as saying, “I have believed that you are the Christ.”
John 11:28 And
when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her
sister, saying, "The Teacher has come and is calling for you." 29 As soon as she heard that, she
arose quickly and came to Him. 30
Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met
Him. 31 Then the Jews who
were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up
quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to
Jesus wanted to speak to
Mary, so He had Martha go get her. She told her sister in secret that Jesus
wanted talk to her, so she gets up quickly to go to Him. We are not told specifically
why this was done in secret or why Jesus did not go to the house, but I believe
He was avoiding the conflict His presence would have caused with the Jews. The
Jews mourning with Mary assumed she was running to the tomb to weep there,
which was a common practice.
John 11:32 Then,
when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying
to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have
died." 33 Therefore,
when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned
in the spirit and was troubled. 34
And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord,
come and see." 35 Jesus
wept. 36 Then the Jews said,
"See how He loved him!" 37
And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the
blind, also have kept this man from dying?"
When Mary saw Jesus, she
fell down at His feet and said the same thing her sister did. They may have
both talked to each other about how their brother would have still been alive
if Jesus had been there. Mary’s words and actions show her faith in Jesus as
well, but unlike her sister, she did not hint at anything being done for her
The Jews had followed Mary and they were all mourning together. When they mourned back then it was not a silent mourning because they would wail loudly. Sometimes families would even hire professional mourners to help them mourn. As Jesus observed their mourning, he groaned in His spirit. The word “groaned” can mean to be moved with anger and some suggest that Jesus was angry at death. However, this word can also mean, “To feel strongly about something, be deeply moved” (BDAG).
Jesus had compassion for their sorrow. Their suffering moved Him and caused Him to be troubled in His own spirit. Jesus wanted to know where Lazarus’ tomb was, and they were ready to show Him. John records that “Jesus wept.” Jesus was moved to tears by their mourning even though He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. This shows that Jesus does not like to see us hurting and when we do, He hurts right along with us. We are instructed to have this same compassion for one another (1 Cor. 12:26).
Some of the Jews believed Jesus wept because of His love for Lazarus, and some of them were chiding Him for not being there to keep Lazarus from dying. When they made the statement about Jesus opening the eyes of the blind, they were referring to the miracle where Jesus made the blind man see in chapter 9. The Jews did there best to deny that miracle, but this shows that it had made an impression on them.
John 11:38 Then
Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone
lay against it. 39 Jesus
said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of him who was dead,
said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead
Some believe Jesus was
groaning in Himself again partially due to these Jews statement, but we do not
know that for sure. He arrived at the tomb. It was common for the Jews to bury
their dead in caves. They would seal the opening of the cave with a stone to
keep animals away from the body. Jesus instructs them to remove the stone. If
Jesus wanted to, He could have miraculously moved the stone, but Jesus did not
use His miracles to do what people could do for themselves.
Martha was still unaware
of what Jesus was going to do, and she did not see the point in removing the
stone because she knew that he had been dead for four days. If they removed the
stone, the stench would have been overwhelming. I have read that a dead body
starts to stink within 24 hours, and by three days the smell is strong because
the body is beginning to decompose. Without going into further details, we can
understand that Lazarus’ body would have smelled bad, and no one could deny
that he was dead.
John 11:40 Jesus
said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see
the glory of God?" 41
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was
lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You
that You have heard Me. 42
"And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are
standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."
Jesus reminded Martha of
their earlier conversation when He told her that He is the resurrection and the
life. The stone was removed and Jesus prayed out loud to the Father for the
benefit of those standing there. He wanted them to understand that the Father
always listens to His prayers, and He wanted them to believe that the Father
sent Him into the world. He would prove this by raising Lazarus from the dead.
This also teaches us that when we become Christians and we direct our prayers
to the Father, He is always listening.
John 11:43 Now
when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come
forth!" 44 And he who
had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was
wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him
Jesus said with a loud voice, “Lazarus come forth!” and He did. This resurrection was a precursor to the final resurrection in which we will come from our graves at the voice of Jesus (Jn. 5:28-29). Lazarus would have been buried in the traditional way with linen wrapped around his body from his neck down to his toes and his face would have been covered with a face cloth. He would have been anointed with spices and oils just like Jesus was at His burial (Jn. 19:40).
Even though Lazarus hands and feet were bound with these grave clothes, he managed to work his way out of the tomb, which would not have been an easy task. Once he appeared, Jesus told them to unwrap him from his grave clothes.
John 11:45 Then
many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did,
believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and
told them the things Jesus did.
This was a miracle that
no one could explain away. Not only had Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead
after four days, He would have to completely restore his body back to the way
it was. Otherwise, Lazarus would have looked like a zombie straight out of a
horror movie. After seeing this with their own eyes, it would be hard for any
of them to deny that Jesus is the Son of God. Many of the Jews believed in
Jesus because of this miracle. However, some of them went and told the
Pharisees what Jesus had done.
Some have suggested that
these Jews went to the Pharisees out of sincerity to tell them that Jesus was
the Son of God. Others believe these Jews believed that a miracle was done, but
they did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, so they went and told the Pharisees
what Jesus was doing now. Both of these are possible, but the last one is the most
plausible to me.
John 11:47 Then
the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What
shall we do? For this Man works many signs.
48 "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe
in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation."
The Sadducees and
Pharisees gathered to discuss this situation. They did not know what to do
about Jesus since He worked many signs. Notice, they did not deny Jesus worked
miracles, yet they were unwilling to believe in Him. They knew if Jesus kept
working miracles, everyone would believe in Him. They feared this would cause a
great rebellion and cause the Romans to come in and destroy all the freedoms
and power they currently had.
John 11:49 And one
of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know
nothing at all, 50 "nor
do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the
people, and not that the whole nation should perish." 51 Now this he did not say on his
own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus
would die for the nation, 52
and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the
children of God who were scattered abroad.
Caiaphas was the high priest at this time, and he was the
head of the Sanhedrin council. What he
said was not by his own authority because it came from God. He was prophesying
about how Jesus would die for the nation. John elaborates on this and teaches
that Jesus was not just dying for the nation of
John 11:53 Then,
from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore
Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the
country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with
The Sanhedrin council wanted Jesus dead, and that would be
their main objective from that point forward. Since it was not time for Jesus’
death, He and His disciples went to Ephraim, which was about twelve miles north
Another unique thing
about Lazarus is that he is the only person in N.T. that was raised from the
dead that we learn more about after his resurrection. In John 12 we learn the
he was living a normal life because we find him sitting at the table with Jesus
eating a common meal. It would be safe to say that he had a greater
appreciation of life now. He was also getting more attention than he was used
to because many of the Jews wanted to see the man that had been raised from the
dead (Jn. 12:9). We also learn the opposing Jews wanted to put to Lazarus to
death as well (Jn. 12:10) because his being alive served as a solid proof that
Jesus was the Son of God.
This is another miracle
that cannot be reproduced today. It shows the power of God and it also shows
Jesus’ great compassion for others. We can learn from the miracle that God does
indeed have power over death and that every faithful Christian can know with
confidence that we will live forever with Jesus in heaven. Let us always be
thankful for the blessed hope that was possible through Jesus.