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The Raising of Lazarus from Death

In our daily devotionals, we are meditating on the supernatural acts of the Lord Jesus. Today, we come to the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:38-44).

Christ's beloved friend, Lazarus, was dead, but now Jesus arrived at the tomb and commanded the disciples and those gathered there to roll back the stone from the entrance. Still unbelieving, Martha counseled against removing the stone, for the smell of death would be overpowering since Lazarus had been dead for four days (v. 39). There couldn't have been an airtight seal because it was only a rock-hewn stone. We must ask ourselves, at what point did the miracle take place? As they moved the stone to one side, the stench of death likely came from the decomposing body in the tomb. The Lord looked up to heaven and prayed to His Father before calling out to Lazarus with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43). If He did not call Lazarus by name, those at the tomb might have witnessed all the dead in the vicinity come out of their graves.

The Scriptures say that many Jews were standing there to witness the miracle and put their faith in Him after what they saw (John 11:45). Can you imagine looking at the crowd around the tomb at that moment? When they heard the command of Jesus, I'm sure some smelled the decomposing body and scoffed at the thought of Lazarus coming out of that tomb, for the Israelites were not practitioners of Egyptian embalming techniques. What they did do, however, was to wrap the body in aromatic spices. Merrill Tenney, in his book, The Reality of the Resurrection, tells us about the customary procedure for the burial:

The body would have been washed and straightened before being bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen about a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering. After the body was enclosed, a square piece of cloth was wrapped around the head and tied under the chin to keep the lower jaw from sagging.[1]

One thing is sure; when Lazarus came to the tomb door still covered in the grave wrappings, there were gasps of astonishment and screams of delight. Death was and is conquered! We have a Savior who overcomes death and the grave!

I wish John had told us more about the celebration back at Martha’s. Instead of the typical funeral where they reminisced about the life of Lazarus, they were all ears listening to his experience of dying and being in heaven. I wish I could have been a “fly on the wall” at that party! I would have loved to hear their conversation and see the relief and delight of the sisters as they wept and embraced their brother. I’m sure Lazarus and the family had a great time recounting the whole episode, from when they thought they had lost him to when he came out of the tomb at Jesus’ command. There must have been quite a praise party to the Lord. It will be the same for us at the resurrection of God's people; we will look upon the face of Jesus when we, too, are raised from the dead. What a day that will be! I hope to see you on that day! Keith Thomas

Taken from the complete study of the series on the Gospel of John, study 22, Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead.

[1] Merril C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection (New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963, Page 117.


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