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Raising Lazarus

Jesus’ miracles were signs, indicators of who He was. He said to skeptics, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38). No miracle better made the point  than the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-53).

Jesus was in Perea when He received word that Lazarus was sick. He responded, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God; that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (vs. 4). Lazarus would indeed die, but his death would not be the primary result of this sickness; Jesus’ glorification would be. How so? First, raising Lazarus would be a dramatic proof of Jesus’ deity. Second, this incident would trigger the official plotting of His own death. That, along with His subsequent resurrection and ascension, was Jesus’ crowning glory (cf. 7:39; 12:23).

Jesus delayed two days before leaving to go to Bethany where Lazarus lived. That had the effect of ensuring Lazarus’s death (he had been dead four days by the time Jesus arrived).

Lazarus’s sister Martha went out to meet Jesus, opining that had the Lord been there Lazarus would not have died. Jesus assured her that Lazarus would rise again. Martha believed that but thought only of the final resurrection. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 24). Earlier He affirmed that the Father had entrusted to Him life and judgment (John 5:21-29), prerogatives He possessed because of who He was. Martha readily confessed her faith in Him as the Son of God, yet she was slow to see these implications of His identity.

Lazarus’s other sister, Mary, then came out to meet Jesus, accompanied by a crowd of mourners. Together they all made their way to the tomb. Jesus ordered, “Remove the stone.” Martha, evidently thinking Jesus only wished to see the body, objected. The Lord reassured her. He then prayed aloud. He wanted all present to know that what was about to happen was done in conjunction with the Father, “so that they may believe that You sent Me” (v. 42). And with that He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”  He did, still bound in his burial wrappings.

Many who saw the miracle believed. Some reported it to the Pharisees. In their own words the Jewish rulers’ dilemma was, “This man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him” (v. 47), and the rulers would lose their place. Something had to be done. Never mind the reality of Jesus’ signs. Never mind that they unmistakably verified His identity. Caiaphas, the high priest, put it bluntly: Jesus had to die. Ironically, these enemies of Jesus were setting the stage for His greatest miracle. Additionally, by their behavior they were bringing on themselves the very destruction they sought to avert. No one can escape the truth about Jesus.

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