The Raising of Lazarus from the Dead
“At least twice before Jesus had raised the dead, but neither time under such dramatic circumstances or with such a display of divine power as was evidenced in the case of Lazarus. The daughter of Jairus had been called back to mortality in a matter of hours and before her body had been prepared for burial (Luke 8:41-42, 49-56), and the widow’s son in Nain had lived and breathed again after most of the burial preparations were complete and while the corpse was being carried to the grave. (Luke 7:11-17.) In neither of these instances had Jesus courted any especial publicity, and in the case of Jairus’ daughter he had even enjoined secrecy on the part of those who witnessed the miracle.
“But with ‘our friend Lazarus’ it was different. Jesus with full knowledge of Lazarus’ sickness, did nothing to prevent his death; allowed his body to be prepared for burial; waited until the funeral was over and the entombment accomplished; permitted four days to pass so that the processes of decomposition would be well under way; tested the faith of Mary and Martha to the utmost; came to the rock-barred tomb under circumstances which attracted many skeptics and unbelievers; conducted himself in every respect as though he were courting publicity; and then-using the prerogative of Deity to give life or death according to his own will-commanded: ‘Lazarus, come forth.'” (Bruce R McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary,3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 530.)
Verse 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
How would you feel if you or a loved one were desperately sick and you called for the home teachers to come and give a blessing and they hung around for two days before setting out?
“There is great significance to the four-day interval between the death of Lazarus and his being called forth alive from the tomb. A portion of that significance was that, according to some Jewish traditions, it took four days before the Spirit finally and irrevocably departed from the body of the deceased person, so that decomposition could then proceed. The Master, in order to demonstrate His total power over death and His control over life, knowingly waited until that four-day interval had elapsed. Then He raised Lazarus from the dead!” (Russell M Nelson, Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 180.)
Verse 11 – Lazarus sleepeth
“That the spirit of man passes triumphantly through the portals of death into everlasting life is one of the glorious messages given by Christ, our Redeemer. To him this earthly career is but a day, and its closing but the setting of life’s sun; death, but a sleep, is followed by a glorious awakening in the morning of an eternal realm. When Mary and Martha saw their brother only as a corpse in the dark and silent tomb, Christ saw him still a living being. This fact he expressed in just two words: ‘Lazarus sleepeth.’ (See John 11:11.)” (David O McKay, Conference Report, April 1968, First Day-Morning Meeting 10.)
Verse 16 Then said Thomas…Let us also go, that we may die with him
We generally refer to Thomas Didymus as Doubting Thomas – but here we see that he is ready to go and die with the Saviour.
“Clearly this holy man, known also as Didymus, was one of the most valiant and courageous of the Twelve, one whose sure witness of the divine Sonship is recorded in fervent and worshipful words. When others of the Twelve counseled Jesus not to go into Judea, where the Jews then sought his life and where Lazarus lay in need of divine help, it was Thomas who said, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11:16.) When Jesus told the Twelve that he was going to prepare a heavenly place for them and that they knew the way to obtain such a high status, it was Thomas who dared to say: ‘Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?’ (John 14:5), which brought forth the great pronouncement that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 110.)
Lazarus has now been dead for four days. Jesus has raised people from the dead before but no-one who had been dead for so long.
Verse 19 – many of the Jews came to Mary and Martha
“This raising of Lazarus from the dead is thus a witness, for all the world and through all the eternities, that the Man who did it is the resurrection and the life; that immortality and eternal life come by him; that he is the Son of the Living God.” (Bruce R McConkie, “Drink from the Fountain,”Ensign, Apr. 1975, 71)
Verse 25 – I am the resurrection and the life
“I stood a few days ago before the bier of a young man whose life had been bright with hope and promise. He had been an athlete in his high school, and a student for one year at this university. He was a friendly, affable, brilliant young man. He had gone into the mission field. He and his companion were riding down the highway when a car, coming from the opposite direction, moved into their lane and crashed head-on into them. He died In the hospital an hour later. As I stood at the pulpit and looked into the faces of his father and his mother, there came into my heart a conviction that I had never before felt with such assurance. I knew with certainty, as I looked across that casket, that he had not died, but had merely been transferred to another field of labor to commence his mission so well begun here.
“What shall you do with Jesus which is called Christ? Live today as if you were going to live forever, for you surely shall. Live with the conviction that whatsoever principle of intelligence and beauty and truth and goodness you attain unto in this life, it shall rise with you In the resurrection. Live with the certain knowledge that some day ‘we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.’ (Alma 11:43.)” (Gordon B Hinckley, December 14, 1960, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1960, 4.)
Verse 27 reminds us of Peter’s declaration in Matthew 16:16. How did Peter know? So how did Martha know? We can know in the same way
Why does Jesus groan and weep? He knows he can raise Lazarus from the dead.
“The sight of the two women so overcome by grief … caused Jesus to sorrow [with them] so that He groaned in spirit and was deeply troubled.”(James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ)
Verse 44 – Loose him and let him go
At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Take ye away the stone!’ Before the act of raising Lazarus could be performed, the disciples had their part to do. Christ could have removed the stone with a word. It would have been very easy for him to have commanded it to roll away; and it would have obeyed his voice, as the dead Lazarus did when he called him back to life. But the Lord wanted the disciples to be a part of the raising of Lazarus. The disciples had not only to take away the stone; but after Christ had raised Lazarus they had to ‘loose him, and let him go.’
There is a sifting going on here.
An ironic prophecy.