About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Raises Lazarus From The Dead (ch. 11:38-44)


In verse 38 we see Jesus approaching the tomb.  John says that He was deeply moved once again.  John notes that the tomb is a cave that is dug out in a hillside.  Tombs back then for the most part were built into mountains and hills.  The tomb was enclosed by a wheel like rock that could be rolled away in a groove in the ground.  This was not a bolder.  It was shaped like our money coins are shaped.


In verse 39 Jesus says something that surprised Martha and probably all who were present.  Jesus asks that the stone be move away from the tomb. You can certainly imagine how those standing by would have thought and felt at this request.  It was a strange request to the human ear.  


You might ask why Jesus wanted someone to roll away the stone.  If He raised a man from the dead, He could have made Lazarus smash the stone on his way out of the tomb.  I believe the action of moving the stone away was an act of trust and faith in His command.  Jesus wanted these people to participate and trust Him.  If they would move the stone away, He would perform the required miracle.  It's all about our participation with Jesus in the work of the Lord.  


In verse 39 Martha was far from excited about the prospect of moving that stone away.  She notes that Lazarus had been dead for four days and by now his body would really be smelling bad.  You can see how this became a test of faith for Martha and those with her.


At this point I will remind you of what I said earlier.  Jews believed that a dead person's spirit or soul hovered around the body for three days after death.  Lazarus was now dead four days.  Jesus makes sure that that this three day period passed before He raised Lazarus from the dead.  If He had raised Lazarus after two days, the Jews might have well said that this was no miracle.  It was simply the spirit or soul returning to the body.        


In verse 40 Jesus reminded Martha with a question. "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"  Remember, the word "believe" means trust.  Jesus was simply reminding Martha and the others that if you trust me and what I say, you will see God's glory.  So, I think Jesus meant this to be a test of trust, a test of faith.  Martha already told Jesus that she believed Him to be the Messiah.  Her words were now being put to the test. 


In verses 41 and 42, we see that the stone was rolled away.  Jesus then prays.  "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I know that you always hear me, but as I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 


Jesus didnít have to pray.  Every thought that Jesus thought was a prayer directed to His Father.  Not that He had to pray out loud in a formal prayer, but He did only for the benefit of those around.  He wanted them to know that what would soon take place was a miracle from God His Father and that would prove once again that God had actually sent Him.  Jesus wanted people to know that He was sent by God.


In verse 43, in a loud voice Jesus told Lazarus to come forth.  The miracle takes place.  Lazarus gets up and somehow finds his way out of the cave wrapped head to foot in grave clothes.  This must have blown the minds of those standing by.  I doubt if we can imagine how we would feel if we were a part of this group of people. 


In verse 44 Jesus told the people to unwrap Lazarus and let him go.  As the people unwrapped Lazarus who

was bound from head to foot, his final release from death was accomplished.  Again, I can't imagine how those unwrapping Lazarus would have felt. 


There have been many allegorical sermons preached on this verse over the years, but the simple fact is that Jesus caused a dead man to receive life again.  This is what He will do with all those who believe in our resurrection life.  Though we die, yet shall we live.


To me this whole event of Lazarus being raised from the dead is more than a miracle that needed to take place.  I believe this miracle had more far reaching implications.  It took place at the moment in which Jesus would enter Jerusalem for the last time.   In one since it was an announcement.  The King of the Jews raised a man from the dead as He was about to ride into town with a large crowd following Him, as if He was a great public figure. 


Beyond this, the raising of Lazarus was almost symbolic of what would take place with Jesus.  As Lazarus died and was raised to a new life, so would He die and also be raised to a new life.    


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