Jesus Raises Lazarus: Bible Story Summary

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible.  It is found in John chapter eleven.  It is seen as proof positive that Jesus is God and that He has effectual power over mankind.  This is the seventh miracle that Jesus has performed and it is the capstone of all His miracles in the New Testament.  The reason that Lazarus’ resurrection is so amazing is that in the Jewish culture, a person was not actually accepted as being fully dead and with no chance of coming back to life after three days.  This is what is called to “sit shiva” for three days for grieving purposes.  They also “sit shiva” three times each day.  This was so that the family could grieve their lost family member.  The irony is that Jesus would later be resurrected from the dead after being in the grave for three days.

Jesus had resurrected two others: Jarius’s daughter (Luke 8:40-56) and the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11-16) but these two were resurrected immediately after they had died.  The Jewish religious leaders would not accept that as conclusive evidence for Jesus actually raising them from the dead so this may be why Jesus waited a full four days to resurrect Lazarus.

Lazarus is Dead – Concerned Family Members Send for Jesus

In John chapter eleven, Martha and Mary sent a messenger to Jesus to seek His help in healing Lazarus as he was gravely ill (v 3). After the messenger gave Jesus the message, Jesus waited two whole days before departing for Bethany (v 6).  Since Jesus was omniscient, He knew that the delay would not cause Lazarus death since by the time the messenger got to Jesus (one day’s journey) Lazarus would have already been dead.

The interesting thing that he tells His disciples is that “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (v 10). The disciples thought that if he was sick, sleeping would be a good thing for him to help him recover from his illness, saying “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover” (v 12).  Jesus had actually meant that he had died and so He plainly tells them that Lazarus is dead (v 14).  Then, interestingly He says “…for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (v 15). This is when Thomas shows his loyal devotion to Lazarus as well as his pessimism as he told his fellow disciples and Jesus “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v 16).

The Master Arrives Later Than Expected

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been dead for four days.  Jesus found many of the Jews were grieving with Martha and Mary. Martha came and met Jesus and told Him “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v 21-22).  Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again but Martha thought that He meant in the coming resurrection (v 24-25). When Jesus finally came to their home, Mary ran out to meet Him and  repeated Martha’s words “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v 32).

The Master is Moved to Tears

Jesus saw Mary and the Jews weeping over Lazarus and he was “deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” (v 33).  This “greatly troubled” was the same language that the Lord was having the Passover meal with the disciples and knew of His upcoming betrayal and crucifixion.  The literal Greek means that He was angry, outraged, or had emotional indignation.  This may have been due to their pessimism or unbelief that He could raise Lazarus from the dead.  He understood that grief was a natural, human emotion but He saw them acting like the unbelieving world…with no hope at all.  Even so, Jesus wept with them (v 35).  The Jews saw that Jesus was also weeping with them and scornfully said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind also have kept this man from dying?” (v 37).  Jesus knew what they were thinking and so this might explain His anger over their skepticism about raising Lazarus or revealing their unbelief.

Another reason that Jesus may have wept has been explained that Jesus knew Lazarus was in heaven, with the Father and it made Jesus grieve not being in the actual presence of the Father.  Or it could have been that Lazarus was already in Paradise and would not have to face death again and live in this fallen world.  Lazarus then had to return to this world and leave heaven and if anyone was in heaven, would they surely want to come back to this earth?

The Miracle

In any event, Jesus was “deeply moved again” and told them to take away the stone.  Lazarus’ sister Martha told Jesus “Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days” (v 39).  Jesus insisted and when the stone was rolled away, Jesus lifted His eyes toward heaven and said “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me” (v 41-42).  This may be the exact reason that Jesus waited for four days before coming to Lazarus.  He wanted to give conclusive proof that He is the resurrection, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). That He is God and has the power of life and death.

Jesus cried out “Lazarus, come out” (v 43).  He must have nearly shouted it since “cried out“ is indicative of speaking at the top of His lungs, so that everyone there could hear His command and His voice and there would be no doubt.  Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, came out wrapped up in his burial linen.  Jesus told them to unwrap him and let him go.  Here is positive proof, seen by several dozens of witnesses, that Jesus has the power to raise the dead, even after four long days.  Now there could be no doubt that Lazarus was surely dead and beyond any possible recovery from being in the grave and that only God could have raised someone to life.

There is effectual power in Jesus’ commands to rise and live again.  As He told them, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (v 25).  In fact, if Jesus had not mentioned Lazarus by name and specifically call out “Lazarus”, all who were in their graves would have come out and been raised to life because Jesus has that power as God.  Someday He will shout “come forth” and all who are in their graves and are asleep in the Lord will rise again — some to eternal life and some to eternal judgment (Dan 12:2).  It is my prayer that you will rise again to eternal life on that great day when each one of us will have to give an account for our lives and that your name will be found in the book of life (Rev. 20:-12-15).  At that time, Jesus will even defeat death itself (Rev. 20:14). If you have not already done so, will you come to Jesus today?

Looking for more Bible stories?

Take a look at these similar articles:


New International Version Bible (NIV)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: