I have been reflecting on the Gospel of John. The read has been enjoyable and compelling. This week, I have been reading the chapter on Lazarus and I learnt why Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. I now share my findings from the gospel itself.
Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha, who lived in the village of Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem, in the first century. Jesus at the time was staying on the far side of the Jordan and was told that Lazarus was unwell.
Two days later, Jesus said to his disciples that Lazarus was physically dead. Jesus explained to his disciples, who were with him, that he meant that Lazarus was resting–meaning his disembodied spirit was resting in Hades, the waiting place for judgment of the dead (as David Pawson explains in “The Road to Hell”). Lazarus was not in heaven or hell. He was resting, in a waiting place for the spirits of the dead.
Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters and was going to wake Lazarus up, so his spirit would come back to his body. Lazarus would come back to life. Jesus went to Bethany and met up with Mary and Martha. Lazarus had been in a tomb four days and Jesus prayed and Lazarus came out of the tomb, alive.
Why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Love. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. They would have been grateful they got their brother back and Jesus delivered on this for them.
I discovered that Jesus’ love in raising Lazarus has a much wider application as well.
I found that for the sake of loving the whole world, the miracle was for the world to see and for the story to be told everywhere so we would believe in Jesus . God wanted them to believe in Jesus so they would pass from death to life by believing in Jesus. This is evident in the story of Lazarus.
“For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
The Lazarus miracle would end with people putting their belief in Jesus. Many who did not formerly believe in Jesus, believed because of the miracle. Many Jews who had not been believers in Jesus or in his claim to being sent by God, believed in the claims of Jesus, when they saw the miracle. They had seen for themselves life overcome death, because of Jesus.
Yet there were Jews who did not believe that Jesus was from heaven and sent by his Father in heaven, although Jesus often said he came from the Father in heaven. Jesus’ claim upset many religious people, who believed in the Father, but did not believe that Jesus came from the Father. Jesus even said he was equal with the Father which made some ready to stone him for what they considered blasphemy. But, when many Jews saw this miraculous sign from heaven, they believed that Jesus was sent from the Father above.
Believing is what Jesus wanted to happen, when performing the miracle. They would believe in him and go from death to life. To believe in Jesus meant they pass from dying and resting in Hades. They will be alive, awoken. Rather than perish.
Jesus said earlier in the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17). The story of Lazarus is a picture of God’s love for people who, although they die, will be alive because they believe in Jesus.