The story of Lazarus in John 11 is one of my favorites in Scripture, especially during Easter weekend. I know the main story of Easter is Jesus’ resurrection and it will always be the core reason for the celebration of Easter. And I get super excited about the implications of what Jesus voluntarily subjected himself to and about the Holy Spirit raising him from the dead. If the resurrection of Jesus never occurred, then we are not just idiots with an absurd belief system, but we are idiots who must be pitied above all others (1 Corinthians 15:19). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core of all that we believe in faith today and hope for in the eternal tomorrows to come.
Yet, in lieu of what the Father did through the power of the Holy Spirit in resurrecting Jesus from the dead, the story of Lazarus brings the hope of my own victory of death and expectation of my own resurrection to a whole other level. Let me explain what I mean. When I read the story of Jesus being resurrected from the dead, it doesn’t surprise me that God would do such a thing for the world and those He loves who live within it. God is love (1 John 4:8) and thus such an act could be expected, especially when He chooses to raise His own Son! Who wouldn’t? But rewind the timetable a little before the Passion Week and we see Jesus, the Son of God, whom only some, at best, accepted who He claimed to be (the Messiah), being told that His friend Lazarus had died. Now there is no doubt that many people lived and died during the three and a half years of ministry Jesus accomplished after His baptism, yet in John 11 we see that Jesus chooses to raise Lazarus from the dead four days after he had died! Now I could get into the details of who Lazarus was, how old Lazarus was, who his family was, why Jesus waited four days to come see, why Jesus didn’t come to Lazarus right away, etc. But that’s not the point of what I’m writing today. So let me get to the point, which I will place in the form of a question:
Why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? And why should I care? What does it mean to me as a true Christian?
These are important questions because, like I said, many people lived and died during Jesus’ earthly ministry. If we don’t know why Jesus did this for Lazarus and not others, then we can’t possibly begin to understand what hope, if any, we can derive from this story. At best it will be confusing. You see, to me, it’s not good enough to accept the story of Lazarus as simply a miracle that happened a long time ago and was a foreshadowing of what God was going to do to Jesus and for us. There’s got to be more to it than that! Maybe there’s not, but as I delved into prayer over this I felt in my spirit that there was in fact more to this story than God foreshadowing what was to come in the near future with Jesus and the future for all true Christians. The “more” I’m talking about are the answers to the above question of “why Lazarus?”
So why Lazarus? Was it because he was a friend of Jesus? Was it because Jesus knew his family? Was it because Jesus loved him? Jesus healed many people who didn’t know Him personally, who didn’t spend any time with Him, who didn’t previously follow Him, and who didn’t commit to following Him even after the healing. So why Lazarus? I want to answer this question and then tell you why we can have an unwavering hope because of these answers. There are three reasons why Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead four days after he had died.
First, Jesus raised Lazarus to new life because God loved Lazarus. You see Jesus loved Lazarus. He knew Lazarus and He knew Lazarus’ family. He walked with Lazarus, talked with Lazarus, and lived with Lazarus. He knew Lazarus and Lazarus knew Him and because they walked, talked, and lived life together a relationship between the two intensified. The Father raised Jesus because the Father loved and loves the world collectively (John 3:16), and Jesus raised Lazarus because the Father loved Lazarus as an individual person. The collective world is loved and those individuals who make-up that collective world are loved, which should go unsaid. However, many people believe that God loves the world, but cannot and will not accept that God loves them as individuals. There are many reasons for this belief. The unfortunate part of this is that it simply isn’t true, and that is where the story of Lazarus connects so strongly with the story of Jesus on Easter. If Jesus does not love Lazarus, the Jesus would not have resurrected him to new life.
Secondly, Jesus resurrected Lazarus because God purposed it. Does this mean that Jesus did not love the many who died during His earthly ministry? No. The Bible tells us that every person’s days are numbered ahead of time (Job 14:5-6). That means there’s a plan God has put in place, a perfect plan. Lazarus’ resurrection was planned long before he was born and Jesus fulfilled that plan. Lazarus wasn’t “special” because of who his dad was, what job he had, or because he didn’t sin as much as other people. Lazarus script, which was written long before his birth, stated that Jesus would raise him from the dead. Lazarus is one person, no more valuable than you, who was given the role to receive this experience. That role and all experiences within it are special to the contribution to a greater plan we can’t understand, but must believe will consummate in victory and glory. God will raise you from death because He has purposed it.
Thirdly, Jesus resurrected Lazarus because Lazarus was perfect. How can that be? I just got through saying that Lazarus was a sinner just like everyone else. Lazarus was a sinner just like everyone else (Romans 3:23) and he paid the physical price of that sin when he got sick and died (Romans 6:23). So how is it that Lazarus was “perfect”? Let me back this up with Scripture. If I can find Scripture that backs my statement, then ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have some wonderful news!
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:3 (ESV)
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Galatians 3:27 (ESV)
The true believer’s life is “hidden” with Christ. Imagine playing hide-and-seek and you’re looking for the hider. But here’s the catch, you can’t go into the room the person is hiding in. You can look at the door, but you can’t enter. When God looked at Lazarus, because Lazarus was a true follower of Jesus, he was hidden with Christ. Jesus said, “I am the door,” and Lazarus had walked through that Door. If you are a true Christian, you have walked through that Door, Jesus. And if you have walked through that Door, then you and all of your sins are “hidden” with Christ and have “put on” Christ as a covering. So when God the Father sees you, you are clothed in the perfection of Jesus, your life (all of it, including your sins and shortcomings, which are forgiven) is “hidden.” Jesus raised Lazarus because Lazarus was perfect…in God’s sight, the only sight that mattered.
I am sure there are other reasons why Jesus raised Lazarus, but these are the three that were on my heart on this Easter Sunday. Like Lazarus, God loves you dearly. He wants you to know Him deeply and has been seeking you, chasing you to do so. You only need to stop, turn to Him, and give Him an honest conversation. Honesty is the greatest gift you can give Him because without it, worship and every other thing you try and offer God will be tainted with falsehood. Just be honest with God, however you, but engage God from right where you are! This is vital for you.
Also, God has a plan. If you’re like me, you’ve grown so very tired of people telling you that God has a plan. “Then where is He,” I cry. As much as I despise certain Christian clichés, I grudgingly admit that this one is always true. It’s undeniable. God has a plan. God has a plan you don’t have them to study. Here’s the basic plan you and I have: God created, God loves, God forgives, God works all things together for good, man will die, all will be resurrected, many will go to hell and few will go to heaven to eternal life. That is way under-simplified and I know it, but life to me is more simply understood in fair overgeneralizations. God has a plan and you are in it. Your joys and your pains are in it. Hang in there because He is working out His plan, not only for your personal good, but for the perfection of His perfect plan for all. If you don’t accept that piece, then you will never have peace within your difficulties.
Lastly, you are perfect in God’s eyes. This doesn’t mean He can’t see your sin. It means that He chooses not to hold you eternally accountable for them. We know that consequences for our sins in this world approach us, which is fair. The Bible says we deserve eternal death due to just one sin, so whatever comes our way in this life, fair or unfair, just or unjust, it’s far less deserving that what the Bible says we owe (our eternal souls). Jesus has paid the price for our sins and God sees you and me as free because our lives are “hidden” with Christ. I’m not sure there is better news found in the Bible.
So what does the story of Lazarus mean to you today? And why should you care? This story is a fair and accurate example of God’s love for you the individual. You, the individual, are the one who wakes-up every morning to start a new day filled with who-knows-what. You, the individual, are the one who wonders if you’re loved. You, the individual, are the one who looks in the mirror and sees less than what you hoped you would be. You, the individual, are the one questions the goodness of God. You, the individual, are the one who makes the choices to follow Christ or to follow yourself. You, the individual, are the one who will make a permanent imprint on those you interact with on a regular basis. You, the individual, are the one who will stand before the judgment throne, face-to-face with King Jesus as the Father informs you of the last sentence you will ever receive from a court: guilty (to eternal punishment you will go) or not-guilty (sins forgiven, debt paid, your life is hidden in the Son-off to eternal life in heaven you go). And the story of Lazarus is a beautiful reminder on this Easter Sunday that the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead to new life, also loves you, has a plan for you, and will raise you to a new life each day you wake-up (Lamentations 3:22-23). Now that is great news.