A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: The raising of Lazarus

Definition

Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary and lived in the village of Bethany. One day, Lazarus became very ill and because Jesus had a reputation for healing the sick, the sisters sent a message to him, hoping he would come straightaway. However, although Jesus loved the family, when he heard the news he deliberately stayed away for two days. Only then did he announce to his disciples that they would go to Bethany, telling them that Lazarus had already died, even stating that he was glad he was dead because he wanted to increase their faith

They arrived to find that Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha greeted him warmly, saying that although Jesus could have healed her brother she was confident that Lazarus would rise again to life at the last day John 11:24. Jesus then made the astonishing statement that the opportunity for resurrection and eternal life was obtained through him. Martha told Jesus that she believed he was the Son of God, then went to fetch Mary, who was still at home. Jesus noticed that Mary and many neighbours were very upset and he too wept with them. But some wondered why Jesus could not have healed Lazarus rather than allowing him to die.

Lazarus raisedThey arrived at Lazarus’ tomb and Jesus ordered the large stone guarding the entrance to be removed. Martha protested that there would be a bad smell because the dead body had been there so long. But Jesus insisted and told Mary that she only needed to believe to experience God working. So they removed the stone from the tomb’s doorway. Jesus prayed to God, calling him Father, then loudly commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Lazarus came out alive, still wrapped in his shroud and Jesus calmly told them to unbind him.

The story illustrates:

  • Jesus’ grief demonstrating his humanity
  • Jesus substantiating his claim that he had power over life and death (which belonged only to God)
  • The Christian belief that all Jesus’ followers will be raised to eternal life one day.

Related topics

Big ideas from the Bible: Miracles; Death and resurrection

Bible References

John 11:1-44
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