John 11 Commentary: Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and teaches us about patience and the resurrection of the dead on the last great day.


The name Lazarus comes from the Greek word “Lazaros” and means “whom God helps,” and God did help Lazarus, and no one was in greater need of help than Lazarus, who was four days dead! Yes, God would help Lazarus by Jesus Christ, as He has resurrection power in His words, and He is God, so Lazarus was a person “whom God (Jesus) helps.” Really, we’re all like the dead man Lazarus…worse than for days dead. The Apostle Paul wrote that “you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), however, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6). It was by the grace of God alone, through His Spirit, that we were raised to new life in Christ. Without God, we’d have died in our sins, having no hope of heaven. That’s why we need Jesus Christ.

The Raising of Lazarus, 1517 1519, Sebastiano del Piombo

Lazarus Dies

After Jesus learned that Lazarus was gravely ill, He stayed right where He was for two more days. Most people might have expected Jesus to rush to Lazarus side before He died, but He didn’t, but don’t most of us expect Jesus to come to our rescue quickly, but we forget, Jesus is interested in glorifying God (John 11:4). That’s why Jesus says something interesting, saying, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14b-15). Why was Jesus glad He wasn’t there? He could have kept Lazarus from dying, but He waits and says the reason was “so that you may believe,” and believe they will! That explains why He waits and why He said earlier that “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

I AM the Resurrection

When Jesus finally arrives at Martha and Mary’s, “he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days” (John 11:17), but Martha gives Jesus a slight rebuke for arriving late, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). What she said is true. Perhaps Jesus would have prevented Lazarus from dying if He had come earlier, but this was not the way for God to receive glory though. This is why Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? Ask yourself that. Do you believe? Martha did believe in the resurrection and in Christ (John 11:24), so her theology was right. It was her timing that wasn’t.

Lazarus’ Resurrection

When the Lord finally arrived, “Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33), so much so that He wept (John 11:35). After this, “Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39). Martha still didn’t understand what Jesus was about to do and what He will do for others someday. “He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:43-44). If Jesus had not mentioned Lazarus by name, all who were in their graves would have come forth. Why? It’s because Jesus has resurrection power as God. He said, “I Am the Resurrection and the life,” and proved that by raising Lazarus from the dead. If you believe in Him, you already have eternal life.

Plots to Kill Jesus and Lazarus

The religious leaders had long since wanted to destroy Jesus, but now Lazarus was their next target? Why? What did Lazarus ever do to them? Being raised from the dead wasn’t his fault, but now they want to kill Lazarus because of all who believed after Jesus resurrected him. Later, “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9). That’s when “the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (John 12:10-11). So now they desire to kill Jesus and Lazarus, for no fault of his own, but simply by being raised from the dead by Jesus. How low can human nature sink!?Taking up your cross daily


Jesus has resurrection power in His words. He will come again to raise the dead…to judge the quick (alive) and dead. At that time, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2), but there is a special pronouncement for those who are soul winners. Daniel writes that “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3). Truly, salvation is found in no other name than in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), so if you’ve been brought to repentance and faith in Christ, you too will shine like the sun someday, because “those who turn many to righteousness” will shine “like the stars forever and ever.” Will you be among one of those stars who shall shine forever?

Here is some related reading for you: Jesus Raises Lazarus: Bible Story Summary

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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