Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
- John 11:25-26
The story of Lazarus is an important narrative, both for its meaning, and its placement in the scripture. It appears just before the gospels talk about the plot to kill Jesus and introduces us to Jesus's suffering, sacrifice, and salvation through his crucifixion and resurrection. The narrative about Lazarus foreshadows Jesus's resurrection and His ability to be the master of life and death. In addition, the story of Lazarus also teaches us:
1. Jesus's relationships with others - the story highlights how loved He was, and how much He loved those around him. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were not just followers of Christ, but people He cared deeply about, to a point where He was willing to return to Judea at the risk of being stoned again. The interactions he exhibits with Mary and Martha clearly illustrate His strong friendship and care. The descriptions about the relationship help us understand his place in the community as a living and relatable human being.
2. Jesus's empathy - When Martha and Mary grieved for their brother Lazarus, Jesus felt their pain and also wept. It gives us assurance as well that when we grieve, we know that Christ grieves with us. "Jesus wept" is one of the most powerful verses in the bible, even though it's the shortest. It speaks volumes about Jesus's humanity and His love for us.
3. Jesus's power over death - In the narrative, Martha and Mary both were trusting of Jesus's power, proclaiming that had Jesus been there earlier, He may have been able to heal Lazarus. Yet, not only is Jesus capable of healing us from sickness, but death was not an obstacle for him, for He trusts God and knows that His prayers, too, would be answered. And through the power of God, Jesus was able to raise Lazarus from the dead.
4. Jesus's timing - Imagine yourself as Martha or Mary, thinking that Jesus was too late because your brother Lazarus had been ill and passed away. Your brother is in the tomb, others have come to mourn with you, and Jesus comes four days later than you had hoped. Jesus instead uses this to be a teaching moment. Had he arrived earlier, the disciples and others around Him would have just seen Him just healed Lazarus, which they have seen him do in other circumstances. Instead, by arriving after Lazarus had died, Jesus was able to show that He had the ability through God to raise Lazarus from the dead. The timing was not late -- it was perfect. And by doing so, He is also helping to introduce the concept so that when it was time for Jesus's resurrection, others would understand that it is possible through God to raise someone from the dead a few days later--as unbelievable and miraculous as the act is. Sometimes we pray and think that God did not answer our prayers. Instead, God may be doing so, but in His time, and in His own way. The answer may not be what we expect, but it is always in time and in the way it is meant to be.
These are some of the lessons I have learned through the story of Lazarus. Can you think of any others?
Reflection: Read and complete a manuscript study with the story of Lazarus by reading John 11.
Let us study the resurrection of Lazarus to help give us insight about Jesus. Christian Calm Radio offers a variety of worship music, hymns, and weekly devotional for you to enjoy.