JESUS’ RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS

 

Chapter 11:1-44 of John’s Gospel describes the event of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus.

“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister, Martha. (It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore, his sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not for death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified by it.

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard, therefore, that he was sick, he remained another two days in the same place where he was. Then, after that, he said to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again.”

Jesus’ disciples thought at first that Lazarus was merely asleep. They questioned Him as to why, if that were the case, he needed to go to him, along a route they knew was dangerous for him. Jesus responded directly by telling them that Lazarus was dead. He followed that with an enigmatic statement:

“And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that you may believe; nevertheless, let us go to him.”

By the time that Jesus got to Lazarus’ place, he had already been dead for four days. When Martha and Mary complained about His delay in getting to Lazarus, He reassured them that Lazarus would rise again. Then He made the following statement:

“I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believes in me, though he was dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

When Jesus saw Mary weeping along with Lazarus’ friends, He asked where Lazarus had been laid, and wept along with them. The friends marveled at this demonstration of Jesus’ love for Lazarus. When Jesus came to the cave where Lazarus was, He asked that the covering stone be removed. Martha responded with horror, reminding Jesus that after four days, Lazarus would have the stench of death. At this, Jesus reminded her that if she would believe, she would see the glory of God. When the covering stone was removed, Jesus lifted up His eyes and, for the sake of the belief of the onlookers, thanked His Father for hearing Him. With that, He commanded Lazarus,

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Lazarus responded to this command by stepping alive out of the cave, still in his graveclothes.

On the surface, this story is worthwhile for demonstrating Jesus’ compassion toward Lazarus, and for His supernatural ability to perform a resurrection. But the story prods us to look for a deeper significance, in the odd circumstance of Jesus waiting for another two days before performing the resurrection. Surely He knew how Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ close friends would be grieving, and that his loitering around would serve to prolong their suffering. It would almost seem that Jesus was rather indifferent to the whole business, a thought that clashes with the fact that Jesus made a hazardous journey to reach Lazarus, and that He wept, and that He did perform the resurrection.

The apparent contradictions of motive in the story point out that something else is in play here – that the resurrection was a far more important event than simply reviving Lazarus. Jesus was actually prophesying His own resurrection. Sense can be made that He waited until Lazarus was dead four days before resurrecting him only if there is a significance to the period of four days that is associated with this prophecy.

Verse 4 of Psalm 90 gives us an interesting clue as to what that significance might be.

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”

If this was the only passage that presented a specific relationship among specific periods of time, one might be tempted to dismiss the association as reading too much into the verse. But there is another verse, 2 Peter 3:8, that describes that same relationship:

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Moreover, the implication of Jesus raising Lazarus after the fourth day is not the only association of four days with Jesus’ appearance. There is an even more basic one, the Passover that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. The Passover event, as described in Exodus 12, includes a significant four-day period in verses 3 and 6 just before the killing of the lamb:

“Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house . . . And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”

Here is that same time period, when the lamb has been kept until after the fourth day, after which he was killed. Jesus as the Lamb of God was crucified after the fourth millennium from Creation.

Furthermore, God in Scripture makes other precise relationships among time periods, as in Ezekiel 4:6, where the following sentence may be found:

“I have appointed you each day for a year.”

In the sense of a day for a thousand years, Jesus came to Earth on the Fourth Day since Creation, confirming that His birth in the midst of a seven-millennium history of man of itself was a prophecy of His own resurrection.

It also confirms God’s use of time equivalence in Scripture.

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