God’s purpose in the death of Lazarus was to glorify Himself, through the glorification of His Son (verse 4). Although there were other times that Jesus raised men from the dead, this was done after Lazarus had been dead for four days. While others had been raised from death in more out of the way places (cf. Matthew 9:22-26; Luke 7:11-17), this took place at the very heart of Judea, only two miles from Jerusalem. This was the high-water mark of the miracles of our Lord. In the raising of Lazarus, Jesus was shown to be the ‘resurrection and the life’ (verse 25). No greater evidence of His person can be found in all of the Gospel accounts.
This was the word of comfort which Jesus sent back to Martha and Mary: Lazarus is only temporarily dead, and better yet his momentary death would be used to the glory of God through the exaltation of the Son. And this, my friends, is precisely where we must find comfort as well. Whenever the Christian comes face to face with death, whether the reality of his own, that of a relative or friend, or that of a stranger, whether saved or unsaved—we are to find comfort in the fact that this death, every death is for the glory of God.
You will understand that I am momentarily departing from our text, but we have come to a point too crucial to pass by without comment. Let me suggest several reasons why death is to the glory of God. First of all, death reveals God to be holy and just, a God Who cannot overlook sin, but Who must punish sin. He is a God Who deals decisively with sin. Centuries ago God told Adam concerning the forbidden fruit,
“But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Paul wrote, ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). Contrary to popular opinion, death does not make God look bad. It shows how offensive sin is in God’s sight. It reveals God’s holiness and justice in dealing with it so severely. The fact that every man will die reveals that God is absolutely consistent and unwavering in His judgment on sin.
Chapter 9: Jesus the Resurrection and Life
Jesus Victory Over Death
Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life! This is the heart of Christianity. The great truths of the Bible, the Word of the one true God, center around the fact of Jesus’s resurrection. If He had not risen from dead, the whole plan of salvation would have failed. But because He conquered death, we can know Him now as our living Lord and Savior.
Miracles of resurrection
Jesus proved His power over death during His ministry. We have the record of three dead persons that He brought back to life.
Jairus, the ruler went to ask Jesus to heal his little daughter. When He returned with Jesus, the child was dead.
Luke 8:52, 54-55. Everyone there was crying and mourning for the child. But Jesus took her by the hand and called out, ‘Get up, child!’ Her life returned and she got up at once.
Mourners were taking the dead son of the widow of Nain to the cemetery when they met Jesus. He stopped the funeral procession.
Luke 7: 14, 15. “Then He walked over and touched the coffin, and the men carrying it stopped. Jesus said, ‘Young man! Get up, I tell you!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary were good friends of Jesus. Lazarus died and was buried. Four days later Jesus arrived.
John 11:43 -44 “He called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave cloths, and a cloth around his face. ‘Untie him,’ Jesus told them, ‘and let him go.'”
Jesus’ own resurrection was His greatest victory over death. Those whom He brought back to life were still mortal – they had to die again. But Jesus rose from the dead with an immortal body – one that would never die again. He had conquered death.
Proof of His resurrection
How do we know that Jesus rose from the dead? No other fact of history has been more bitterly denied or more thoroughly proven to be true. Here are ten of the many proofs:
1. Report of soldiers. Soldiers guarded the sealed, cave like tomb so no one could steal Jesus’ body and say He was alive again. On the third morning, they saw an angel open the tomb. The earth quaked. Terrified, they saw the grave was empty! Jesus’ body was gone! They ran to report what had happened.
2. Empty tomb and grave clothes. Soon afterwards some women came to the tomb. Jesus’ body was not there. Two angels told the women that Jesus was alive. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty. Jesus body was gone, but there lay the bandage – like cloths it had been wrapped in. They were still neatly wrapped, like a cocoon left behind by a butterfly. Anyone stealing a body would not take time to unwind and rewind the cloths.
3. Angel’s message. At the tomb the angels said to the women (Luke 24: 5, 6) “why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: He has risen.”
4. Appearance of Jesus.
Acts 1: 3. “For forty days after His death He showed Himself to them many times, in ways that proved beyond doubt that He was alive: He was seen by them, and talked with them about the kingdom of God.”
Jesus appeared at different times to:
A group of women
Two disciples on the road to Emmaus
Ten disciples in Jerusalem
Eleven disciples in Jerusalem
Seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee
500 believers at once in Galilee
Jesus’ half brother James
Disciples at the ascension, near Bethany
Jesus appeared to three people after He went back to Heaven. They saw Him there.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr
Saul (Paul) on his way to Damascus
John, in the revelation
5. The nature of Jesus. The kind of body Jesus had proved two things:
1) What the believers saw was not just a hallucination or a spirit. Jesus ate with them. They touched him. He had a real body of flesh and bones.
2) He had not just revived from a comma or from death with the same mortal body. He had a glorified, resurrection body no longer subject to physical limitations, pain, or death. He passed through closed doors. He appeared and disappeared at will. He went to heaven visibly. Resurrection had given new powers to His body.
6. Baptism of the Holy Spirit. What happened at Pentecost was a direct fulfillment of a promise made by the risen Christ. The continuing presence of His spirit proved that Jesus is alive.
7. Testimonies of Christians. Jesus’ followers testified constantly to the fact that He had risen from the dead. Ordered to deny it or be put to death, they chose death. They would not have died to defend a lie.
8. Conversion of Saul. Saul, a brilliant young doctor of the Jewish law, was trying to stamp out Christianity. On his way to arrest Christians in Damascus, he himself was arrested by the Lord Jesus. A light brighter than the sun appeared in Heaven. Out of the light Jesus called Saul by name and talked with him. Saul surrendered his life to Jesus and became the great apostle Paul.
9. Christianity. The Christian religion is based on the fact of the resurrection. Christianity is built on an empty tomb.
10. Communication with Jesus. Meeting Jesus has changed our lives. We talk with Him daily. He answers us. As the song says:
I serve a risen savior,
He’s in the world today
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
Power of His resurrection
Jesus died on the cross but He conquered death there. He turned the cross – a symbol of shame and disgrace – into a symbol of redemption, power, and victory. Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb, but the grave could not hold Him prisoner. He defeated death and rose again to share that victory with all His followers. Paul wrote about knowing Jesus in the power of His resurrection. What is this power?
1) Proof of who Jesus is. Because He rose from the dead, we know He is who He said he was – the Son of God and Savior of the world.
2) Assurance of salvation. Because Jesus rose again, we know that God accepted His sacrifice for us. Whoever believed in Him has forgiveness of sin.
3) New life in union with Jesus. Our risen Lord has become Head of the church. We are His body, He is with us always. His life is in us. His power works through us.
1 Peter 1:3. “He gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.”
4) Victory in Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection proves that He has defeated Satan, sin and death. With Him, you need not live in fear or be tormented by guilt and temptation. Jesus turns your defeat into victory.
5) Hope. Christians can face death with hope. Jesus’ resurrection is our guarantee of a better life beyond the grave. He said:
John 14: 19. “Because I live, you will also live.”
6) Resurrection. To know Jesus in the power of His resurrection includes being resurrected as He was, with the same kind of body.
1 Corinthians 15:20. “Christ has been raised form death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised.”
Just before raising Lazarus, Jesus said:
John 11: 25, 26. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though He dies: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
When Jesus called into the open tomb, ‘Lazarus come out!’ Lazarus came out alive and well. Some day Jesus will come back to earth. At His call, bodies that have long since become dust and ashes will spring up to new life, like plants form a seed. We will have wonderful new bodies like His immortal, glorified body.
John 5: 24, 26, 28-29. “Whoever hears my words, and believes in Him who sent me, has eternal life. He will not be judged, but has already passed from death to life. Even as the father is himself the source of life, in the same way he has made his son to be the source of life. For the time is coming when all the dead in the graves will hear His voice, and they will come out of their graves: those who have done good will be raised and live, and those who have done evil will be raised and be condemned.”
The cemetery in your community has a message for you. For some it is a message of hopelessness. The graves remind us that we all must die. We came into the world with nothing and we leave it with nothing. But that is not all.
Remember that the tomb of Jesus is empty! And his resurrection is the guarantee of your resurrection if He is your Savior. Your body may die, but your spirit will never die. Even if your bodies go back to dust, Jesus will bring it back to life. He is the Resurrection and the life.
Before Jesus went back to His home in Heaven, He promised to return for His followers.
John 14:3. “And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”
Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, His followers watched him ascend to Heaven. The two angels gave them a message:
Acts 1:11. “This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way that you saw Him go to Heaven.”
God revealed to Paul many details of the resurrection that will take place when Jesus comes again. John wrote about it too.
1 Corinthians 15: 37, 38, 42 – 44, 49, 51 – 54, 57
“And what you plant in the ground is a bare seed, perhaps a grain of wheat, or of some other kind, not the full – bodied plant that will grow up. God provides that seed with the body He wishes. He gives each seed its own proper body. This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried it is mortal: when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak: when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body: when raised it will be a spiritual body. Just as we wear the likeness of the man made of earth, so we will wear the likeness of the man made of earth, so we will wear the likeness of the Man from heaven. Listen to this secret: we shall not all die, but in an instant we shall all be changed, as quickly as the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds. For when it sounds, the dead will be raised immortal beings, and we shall all be changed. For what is mortal must clothe itself with what is immortal: what will die must clothe itself with what cannot die. Then the scripture will come true: death is destroyed: victory is complete! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Philipians 3: 20,21. “We however are citizens of heaven and we eagerly wait for our Savior to come from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which He is able to bring all things under his rule.”
1 John 3: 2, 3. “When Christ appears, we shall become like Him, because we shall see him as He really is. Everyone who has this hope in Christ keeps Himself pure, just as Christ is pure.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 16 – 18. “There will be the shout of command, the archangel’s voice, the sound of God’s trumpet and the Lord himself will come down from heaven! Those who have died believing in Christ will be raised to life first: then we who are living at that time will all be gathered up along with them in the clouds to meet the lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.”
Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz.
1. Name three persons whom Jesus raised from the dead.
a) Jairus’ daughter
b) son of the widow of Nain
c) John the Baptist
2. How long had Lazarus been buried?
a) four days
b) three days
c) one week
3. What was Jesus’ greatest victory over death?
a) His own resurrection
b) He defeated Satan
c) He brought Lazarus came back from death
4. What would have happened to the plan of salvation if Jesus had not risen form the dead?
a) it would have failed
b) the disciples would have carried on His message
c) there would have been a new plan
5. What things that make us believe in Jesus’ resurrection? Choose all that are true.
a) Report of soldiers
b) an empty tomb and grave clothes
c) Historical documents
6) What do we receive through Jesus’ resurrection? Choose all that are true.
a) Proof of who Jesus is
b) Assurance of salvation
c) Victory in Jesus
7) What is your surest guarantee of resurrection?
a) Renewal of life in nature
b) Common belief in life after death.
c) Jesus’ resurrection and promise
8) What does Jesus call Himself in John 11:25?
a) The resurrection and the life.
9) When will our resurrection be?
a) When we die
b) When Jesus comes again
10) What does 1 John 3:3 say we should do to be ready?
a) keep ourselves pure
c) read the Word