Be ENGAGED in MENTORING, BAPTIZING & TEACHING others: Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:41-44)
The above scriptural passage is the climax of one of the greatest miracles that Jesus did while He was on the earth, which was raising Lazarus from the dead. This unique miracle of giving life back to a person who was dead and buried for four days was the seventh sign to establish that Jesus was indeed Christ, the Messiah, which Martha confessed eventually (v. 27).
There are seven life lessons that we can distill from this astounding miracle:
- Sometimes the Lord delays His answers to prayer to show more of His glory through much greater works. God’s purpose was to glorify His Son (v. 4) and to cause the disciples to grow in their faith (v. 15). When God is silent in any given situation, we should realize that He is trying to bring us to a greater understanding of Himself, and fulfill His ultimate purpose in our lives.
- God’s timing to accomplish His purpose is perfect! The fact that Lazarus had been dead for four days was significant, since early rabbinic sources suggested the Jews believed the soul hovered near the body of the deceased for three days (Leviticus Rabbah 18.1). There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that God has indeed performed a great miracle so that He alone receives the glory!
- Bad things may sometimes happen to good people as well. Both Mary and Martha shared the belief that had Jesus been there Lazarus would not have died (vv. 21, 32). However, Lazarus did not become sick (v. 3) and die (v. 14) because he had done something wrong but that "the works of God should be revealed" (9:3) through him (12:9). Today, God wants to use us as His witness to reveal His power to others whose eyes are blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).
- God cares and shares in our sorrow. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (v. 35) revealing how much He cared and loved him. Our tears of pain attract God’s lovingkindness and tender care due to which He weeps with us (v. 33). God will comfort us when we mourn (Matt. 5:4) so that we can turn around and comfort others in their pain and suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
- We should be thankful to God in the midst of our troubles. In the midst of His sorrow, Jesus thanked His Father for having heard His prayer even before performing the miracle that caused joy to abound. Real joy comes from a heart of thanksgiving that should be unrelated to our circumstances. We will be joyful when we realize that everything happening in our lives will work together for our ultimate good only (Rom. 8:28).
- The voice of Jesus is sufficient to raise the dead back to life. Augustine once said that if Jesus had not designated Lazarus by name, all the graves would have been emptied at His command (5:28). One day in the near future when Jesus comes back, His shout will raise all the dead in Christ to rise up and meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16).
- When Jesus raises sinners to life, we are responsible to remove their ‘grave clothes’. Even today, Jesus is calling the spiritually dead in order to raise them to spiritual life (Eph. 2:5-6; 2 Cor. 5:17). However, they are still bound by the grave clothes of the world. They cannot work because their hands are bound, they cannot walk because their feet are bound, and they cannot witness because their mouths are bound. Jesus gives us the task of removing the stones of stumbling, and of unwinding the grave clothes of prejudice and superstition.