Updated on March 27, 2016
Day 4 – Lazarus, Come Forth!
In John 11, there is a remarkable story of Jesus raising Lazarus back to life after his death 4 days earlier. Jesus had already demonstrated God’s Power and Glory numerous times, and in numerous ways, including raising the dead widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:41-56). This miracle stands out not only for what was actually done, but for the revelation in these verses.
Let’s take a quick look back at the facts. Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus lived in Bethany. They were good friends of Jesus and had hosted Jesus and his disciples in their home. When Lazarus falls gravely ill, the sisters send a messenger to Jesus, who was about 18 miles away. By the time the messenger arrives, approximately a day, Lazarus had already died. Jesus was well aware of the situation. I really like how Holman translates his response to the messenger.
“This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4 <HCSB>)
The way some Bibles translate this verse, it almost sounds like God gets glory from sickness. That is ABSOLUTELY wrong. One only needs to review the ministry of Jesus to see God’s view of sickness. He eradicated it wherever, and whenever he found faith. God gets NO glory from sickness. If you need clarification on this issue, see John 10:10. Its the enemy that comes to steal and kill. The Good Shepherd came to give you abundant life. God sent His Word to HEAL you. (Exodus 15:26, Psalm 103:1-5, 107:19-21, 1 Peter 2:24)
The text does not say this specifically, but I have always assumed the messenger carried this message back to Mary and Martha. Surely, Jesus’ Words provided a foundation of faith to cling to while waiting for him to arrive, and receiving mourners from Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The most difficult time in any Believer’s life is standing on the Word when Satan attempts to steal it away. Its that moment after “Amen” and before manifestation, where your faith is put to the test. Mary and Martha were being inundated with words of unbelief, overwhelming grief, and a plethora of physical evidence completely contrary to God’s Word. It is during trials like this, patience comes in to carry you through to victory. (Matthew 21:21-22, Mark 11:23-25, Luke 6:47-49, 8:11-15, John 14:12-21, James 1:2-4)
Remember, there were many times that Jesus healed people remotely – the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30), the nobleman’s son (John 4:43-54), and the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10). There was no need to physically travel back to Bethany, unless there was something greater to be gained by his presence.
Jesus waits two more days before announcing that Lazarus was asleep, and he was going to wake him. The disciples protest, if he is asleep, wouldn’t he get better? Jesus then told them plainly that he had died, and Jesus was going to raise him up. Note that Jesus did not want to confess death. Similarly, he told the mourners that the daughter of Jairus, who had died, was “sleeping,” and they mocked him. (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:41-56)
His disciples were also concerned for Jesus’ safety. They had just left Judea because a mob wanted to stone him. Jesus assures them that when you walk in the light, you do not stumble. Jesus is the Light of the world, and he walked in complete obedience to the Father. There was never an occasion for stumbling in his ministry. (Psalm 40:7-8, John 1:1-14, 4:34, 8:12, 14:31)
They traveled to just outside of Bethany. There, they met Martha, who initially expressed disappointment at the late arrival, but then quickly confessed faith in the ability of Jesus to get prayers answered. Jesus said that Lazarus will rise again. Martha, somewhat confused, confessed a confidence in Lazarus’ resurrection on the last day. But this was not what Jesus was talking about. His response was profound.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 <HCSB>)
There is so much revelation in that statement, but it will have to wait until another post, or else I will get way off track. Jesus was preaching both Eternal Life and the Resurrection to Martha, and it was a little too much to swallow at that time. Rather than argue her faith away, Martha made a clear and concise confession of her belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. With this, she left to bring her sister Mary to Jesus.
Mary rushed to Jesus and fell at his feet. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she cried. This moved Jesus greatly, and the grief of this family brought Jesus to tears. Jesus had emotions. But they did not HAVE HIM. He could have compassion, grief, or anger, and not sin. His spirit was in complete control, and obedient to His Father’s will. He could get angry that people were treating the Temple like a superstore, zealously chase people out, but stay righteous the whole time. (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-17) He could experience grief, and feel compassion for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but not lose sight of what He must do.
The emotional reunion with Mary did not last long however, because Jesus was there on a mission. He asked to see where they had placed Lazarus, so the sisters took him to the tomb that had held their brother prisoner for four days. He instructed them to remove the stone. Martha objected, because the body was already decaying. Jesus turned to her and said “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” It is clear by Jesus’ statement (John 11:40) that they received his earlier message, and/or more was said to the sisters than what was recorded.
Jesus was wanting Martha not to back away from her strong confession of faith earlier. Nothing is impossible if you believe in Jesus. (Matthew 17:19-20, 19:26, Mark 9:23, Luke 1:37) Martha probably assumed that Jesus simply wanted to see the body, and did not realize how long Lazarus had been dead. After 4 days, the body begins to decay, emitting all sorts of unpleasant odors. But corruption stands no chance in the presence of Life Himself, the burden removing, yoke destroying Messiah, and the Anointing. (Psalm 16:9-11, Isaiah 10:27, 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-21, John 1:1-5, 14:5-7, Romans 7:4-6, 8:1-11)
Before we proceed to the climax, it must be made clear. Death is an enemy of man. So is sickness. Both are part of the curse that entered the Earth when man fell. The moment Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually (physical death would come later). Meaning, they were no longer spiritually connected to God, and subjects to a new master. Cut off from revelation, they had to depend on knowledge and information gathered through their senses. Satan could much more easily influence their behavior as their new spiritual father. God did not curse the Earth. Sin brought the curse. Every evil thing you can imagine, including sickness and death comes either directly, or indirectly, from the enemy. Jesus came to fix things. To bear the full punishment for all sin, and endure the curse for you. The point of the magnificent sacrifice by Love personified, is to reestablish a personal and spiritual relationship between God and you, through Jesus. Hallelujah! (Genesis 3, Deuteronomy 28, John 8:10-51, 10:1-18, 14:1-31, 15:1-27, Galatians 3:6-16, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 1 John 3:5-11)
One more important point must be considered. It must be assumed that it was not Lazarus’ will to be sick, or to die. God gave man dominion. Meaning, man has a choice. If someone wants to commit suicide for instance, God could not stop it. Now don’t call out the Inquisition just yet. Hear me out. God will do everything possible, working through every avenue available, to influence your decision away from destruction (something I know well). Ultimately though, each person has the freedom to choose life or death. Same goes for Eternal Life. Its God’s will that ALL are saved. Obviously, many are not saved. Nor will they be forced to repent against their will.
You are not a puppet, or a zombie. You have a choice. God will honor your choice all the way to hell. But because of His great love for you, He will be working through the prayers, love, and faith of family, using other Believers, ministers, angels, animals, or even inanimate objects if necessary, in an attempt to get you to choose Him, to choose LIFE! (Genesis 1:26-31, Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Psalm 115:15-18, Proverbs 18:20-21, Ezekiel 18:20-24, Matthew 12:30-37, John 3:14-21, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:8-9, Revelation 3:19-22)
Now, place yourself outside the tomb with Jesus, surrounded by Lazarus’ sisters, and his disciples. The family was of some substance, and well known, so many mourners from Jerusalem were there as well. Jesus looks up to Heaven and thanks God for hearing him, and always hearing him. Its an odd statement, since he had not publicly prayed, or spoken to Lazarus while standing in front of the tomb as of yet. Jesus was in constant fellowship with his Father. He could state with confidence that God hears, and answers. (Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:5-8) He was demonstrating the importance of God’s Word as the foundation faith, and the confidence everyone should have in an attentive, and responsive God who honors faith in His Eternal truth. (Psalm 89:34, 119:89-91, 119:103-105, Isaiah 40:6-8, 55:10-11, Matthew 4:3-4, Mark 11:22-25, Luke 1:37-38, John 8:31-32, 17:14-19, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Hebrews 11:6)
It should be obvious that what he was about to do, is God’s will. And by witnessing this miracle, they could be certain that Jesus is the Messiah. God’s will concerning sickness and death would be settled once and for all. For if it was God’s desire for Lazarus to be sick, or die, Jesus was about to very publicly violate his Father’s will. Let this Truth penetrate in and demolish 2,000 years of religious tradition. Plant it deep into your spirit and guard it well. Sickness, pain, suffering, and even death is NOT GOD’s WILL. (Exodus 23:25-26, Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Job 5:26, Psalm 23:1-6, 27:1-6, 34:1-22, 91:1-16, 92:8-15, 103:1-22, 118:1-17, 119:113-117, Proverbs 10:27, 11:4-19, 12:28, 18:20-21, Isaiah 46:4, 53:4-5, Jeremiah 17:7-8, John 5:24, 10:10, 14:30, Acts 10:38, Romans 5:17, 8:2-11, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 6:2-3, 2 Timothy 1:10, Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Peter 3:10 – and many, many others)
Jesus boldly commands, “Lazarus, come forth!”
I imagine that in the seconds after his declaration you could have heard a pin drop. All the mourners were staring expectantly at the entrance of the tomb. They did not wait long. After a few seconds, Lazarus came forth, bound in grave clothes. Jesus instructed them to loose him, and let him go.
The following video clip is from the movie, The Gospel Of John (2003). This is one of the best films I have seen on the life of Jesus. I encourage you to watch this intently, imagining yourself there at the tomb.
The clip does not show the aftermath. It was obvious to everyone present that a great miracle had taken place. Lazarus was alive after four days in the tomb. Many believed in Jesus because of this. There was no way to deny what had happened, or to claim this was in anyway not from God. God got the glory, and the Son of God was glorified, just as Jesus had promised. (John 11:4)
Now notice the reaction of religion. Some people present at the tomb reported the events to the Pharisees and priests. Instead of turning to the Word, investigating Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God, acknowledging a tremendous manifestation of God’s Glory, or even asking God for wisdom, the religious leaders sought even more to destroy Jesus. They even debated killing Lazarus! Their biggest fear was loss of power, and their wealth. If Jesus was the Messiah, the religious leaders who had profited greatly from their positions, and connections to the world system, stood to lose everything – or at least that was their spiritual father’s lies influencing them. (John 11:45-48) How is it possible that the religious leaders of God’s chosen people would desire to kill their Savior?
The past 2,000 years of Christian history demonstrates that similar problems continue to this day. Churches and denominations grow, accumulating power, wealth, and influence. Religious leaders dismiss their Heavenly Father, and diminish or hide His Word from their flock. They ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit. And they forget their Eternal High Priest who said, “I will build my Church.“ Instead, they attempt to build it themselves, creating their own traditions, rules, and theology. Power, titles, influence, and wealth become their gods. Power corrupts, and sins like idolatry, left unconfessed eventually devolve into destructive, evil atrocities, often done in the name of Christ. Historically, torture, theft, rape, slavery, murder, and even genocide have occurred at the command of religious leaders who should know better, if they really knew Jesus. Even a godless world understands these actions to be evil. Why turn to Jesus when it appears his followers are no more righteous than the rest of the world, and in some cases, even less? That is why it is so important to judge Christianity by Jesus Christ, not individual Christians, or even their leaders. Jesus is the ideal. He is the boss, the Head and ONLY Head of the Body of Christ, and your Savior. He is the ONLY way to the Father. Believers are saved by Grace through faith. Salvation cannot be earned, it is a gift from God! Imagine how much effort has been wasted over the centuries by religious folks trying to become what God made them to be. Believers are COMPLETE in Christ. God has set you free. Enjoy this Truth and set aside any religious hooey that holds you in bondage. (John 8:31-47, 14:5-10, Acts 4:9-12, Romans 12:3-5, Galatians 4:1-12, 5:1-26, Ephesians 2:4-10, 5:23-30, Colossians 1:13-18, 2:1-23, 3:1-17, 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Christians should be the Light of Life. They should stand out in a positive way from the secular world – those living in darkness and easily influenced by the evil one, and the world he rules. The Law of Love should reign supreme. Jealousy, fear, pride, hypocrisy, and even hatred of fellow Christians should not exist among the Body of Christ. Believers should be influencing the world in a positive way – being imitators of Jesus Christ. They should worship God the way He wants – in Spirit and Truth. (Ezekiel 11:12-21, Matthew 16:17-19, John 4:21-24, 14:6-21, Romans 12:1-21, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 1:15-23, 2 Timothy 4:1-4, Hebrews 4:1-16, James 4:1-8, 1 Peter 1:13-25, 1 John 2:14-20, Revelation 1:4-8)
Now we come to the end of this lesson. Why four days? It has been suggested that there was a superstition that spirits lingered around the body for three days after death. By waiting the extra day, making sure corruption of the body was well underway, Jesus put to bed any suggestion that Lazarus had not been dead. That may have some merit. But God has no need to rely on silly legends, or superstitions to prove Himself. He has His Word. And every Word from God can be trusted. The Word is alive and active. It is Truth! (Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 89:24, John 17:13-17, Romans 3:1-4, Hebrews 4:12-16)
I would like to offer a different suggestion for the delay. Everything Jesus did was based on God’s Word. In fact, his very life was written in Scripture in shadows, profiles, types, and prophecies. As he studied the Word as a child, he saw himself in the scrolls. When the Holy Spirit descended on him at his baptism, he had the Wisdom and Revelation necessary to fulfill every promise. He was the Word made flesh. (John 1) Notice the reaction the first time he read Isaiah in the Synagogue of his hometown (Luke 4:16-32). He preached his first sermon, announcing the Good News, and the people tried to throw him off a cliff!
Solomon lays out an important principle in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 – What has been, is what will be. There is nothing new under the Sun (my paraphrase – see also Isaiah 42:9, 46:9-10). There is also in 2 Peter 3:8 another important puzzle piece, a day to the Lord, is LIKE 1,000 years (my paraphrase again). Stay with me now. All of God’s plan for man is summed up in the Creation account. From the restoration forward, through the 6 days of activity, and the 7th day of rest, God is laying out the plan for man. At the END of the sixth day, God saw that everything was VERY GOOD, and gave man dominion over the Earth. And the next day He rested. So we can see that after 6,000 years of this generation (after a brief 7 year tribulation – the 70th week), man will enter the rest of the millennium. There were approximately 2,000 years (2 days) between Adam and Abraham, who cut the Blood Covenant with God, and proved it by offering Isaac – opening the door for God to legally offer His Son. From Abraham to Jesus there were 2,000 years (2 days). And there will be 2,000 years (2 days) of the Church Age, which is now. God is the timekeeper, so don’t get stuck on trying to match man’s calendars and dates to God’s. Just know from prophecy, and the signs of the times, that we are in the last days. This could go on for multiple pages, so I am purposely being brief to tie this back to Lazarus. (Genesis 1:26-31, Psalm 8:1-9, 115:15-16, Hebrews 2:6-8, 4:3-5)
Now, what happened on the 4th day of Creation? (Genesis 1:14-19) God allowed the Sun, Moon, and stars to shine on the Earth, and gave them a plan, purpose, message, and order. There was division, day from night, light from darkness. A greater light would rule the day, and a lesser light to reflect the greater light, would rule the night. And if your spiritual light bulb has not come on yet, be patient, it will. And God saw that it was good at the end of the 4th day.
Sin, the curse, and death, entered the world on the 1st day. Mankind was spiritually dead, living in darkness for 4,000 years. After 2 days, God began working through Abraham to establish and set apart a Blood Covenant people that would eventually produce the promised Seed, the Savior of the World. God gave His people the Law through Moses, so that they would be aware of their need for a Savior. The Law was originally written on stone. It was their tutor until Jesus came. Once the promised Messiah came, people could be reborn, given a new heart, receive the Holy Spirit, and keep the Spirit of Law, without the religious burdens. Jesus fulfilled the Law, freeing everyone who believed in him from the curse. Jesus entered the world on the 4th day (after 4,000 years). He is the Light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness. Believers reflect his Light in a dark world. (Psalm 37:5-7, Isaiah 60:1-2, Malachi 4:1-3, Matthew 5:14-17, John 1:1-12, 12:45-47, Acts 13:32-39, Romans 13:12, 2 Corinthians 4:5-7, Galatians 3:6-14, 1 John 1:5-7 – and many more)
Now with all that in mind, let’s look back at Lazarus. He was sick and then died on the first day. Nothing happened on the second and third day. On the fourth day Jesus arrived on the scene, perfectly in sync with God’s plan. The stone (the Law) was removed that held him captive, the grave clothes were discarded (religious bondage), and the Light cleansed him and made him whole. Not even death could hold Lazarus prisoner.
Jesus’ arrival on the 4th day confirmed God’s plan of Salvation. The Sun appeared on the 4th Day in Genesis, and after 4 days (4,000 years) of human history, the Sun of righteousness appeared for all mankind.
Jesus came to give life, in abundance, to the full, until overflows. Receive this Life, the Light of the World, TODAY!!
Isn’t God’s Word wonderful? Every verse, every book, every Revelation confirms God’s beautiful plan. I encourage you to look up the Scripture references listed above. Study them for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the Truth. Because the Truth will make you free!
God Bless You!