The story of Lazarus’s death and resurrection as graphically written in John 11: 1-45 is an eponymous Pentecostal wonder for all time. It has gripped every Christian’s imagination for centuries. Here is the story of the Lord’s friend sitting in a cold sepulchre for four days. Stone dead and lifeless! Mary and Martha – both dependants of Lazarus – could not fathom the depth of the drama unravelling before their naked eyes. As the myth of Lazarus’s sudden death ships to fact and as fact becomes reality, Mary and Martha had to look for a way out. Jittery, confused and panicky, they had to think on their toes for solution.
Their initial panic could be placed squarely on fear of survival. Their bread winner lies somewhere in the grave and without any idea where the next meal will come from, they had to get desperate. That panic is evidently and eminently fleshly and human. We are all creature of survival when the push turns to shove. A wife will get panicky and desperate if a bread providing husband should fall down and die suddenly. Same reaction will not be far-fetched in any household.
Even when we go through the gerrymandering cusp of forlorn despair and hopelessness of our irreplaceable loss, if we could keep hope alive, Jesus Christ our Lord and saviour may turn our deepest sadness to joy. He could command our Lazarus using his divine authority to come forth from the pit of hell. He is always looking for a way to come strong on our behalf. He is always looking for our moment of weakness and resignation to fate to display his wisdom, power, mercy, grace and glory.
Lazarus’ death represents man’s helplessness when the menacing, uninvited hand of death makes its surreptitious entry and takes one home. Helplessness in the sense that “ko ni gbowo…….ko ni gbobi” (it will not take inducements of money and kolanut) but only one thing – life.
His death represents defeat. Since the disobedience of Adam, man has been consistently defeated by death.
Adam’s disobedience eternally altered our Eden unwritten covenant to live forever. That disobedience has been making us ready captives of death till today. So when death knocks, Lazarus, the Unready, was snatched away leaving behind gaping sorrows for his helpless sisters. If his death could be classified as a non starter that merely brought up all the negative emotions any death would bring like sorrow, hardship, helplessness, defeat, horror and anger, then his resurrection triggered far more awe than the people of Bethany could bear.
First, his resurrection from death represents a source of wonder. The wonder working awesome power of God. Being left in a stone cold grave for four days is a precursor to the wonder that shook Bethany to its foundations. The pandemonium, the shock and awe, oohs and ahhs and the bewildering sense of astonishment when Lazarus came forth will later engender its own fatal consequence on the wonder worker – Jesus Christ.
Secondly, his resurrection represents a source of desperation and fear. Immediately Lazarus had his second chance to walk the street of Bethany as a living legend, panic seized the ruling elites of the day. Therefore, the Jews, Pharisees and the chief priests summarily convened a council meeting with one sole aim – death sentence for the audacity of the King of Kings for his brilliant feat. Caiaphas, a member of the coalition of assassins, made his famous remark thus: “Ye know nothing at all. Nor consider that it is expedient to for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not (John 11:49-50).” Caiaphas summation could not hide the threat that Jesus represents to the ruling order of the day.
Thirdly, his back to life encourages our hope and expectations when all is lost. Though Martha and Mary have lost all hope, nevertheless the moment they saw Jesus, something reawakened their hope and that hope turned into faith and that faith brought Lazarus back from the great beyond. This is a reminder that we should always fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the great restorer of lost hope. When he appears on the scene, through the invitation of our faith, he brings back forgotten smiles.
Also, the nature of God unfolded in Lazarus’s resurrection experience. God controls, knows and influences the right time for miracle. Martha and Mary’s expectations when they sent a message to Jesus was for him to hurry down. Their message, “Lord, behold him whom you love is sick” was met with holy rebuff. Rather than hurry, “He stayed two more days in the place where he was.” Here, Martha and Mary, who were close family friends of Jesus, were shocked at the realisation that they did not know His ways. His nature had remained hidden till now. He created time and only Him knows the best time to answer our calls and prayers no matter our desperation.
Lazarus’s resurrection is a ringing endorsement that only Jesus could restore our losses. Money, wealth, influence and sorrow could not restore the loss of Lazarus to his family. Again, money, wealth, influence, worldly fame, terminal illness, lost time can be restored only by Jesus. He is the resurrection and the life. It is no wonder that Martha and Mary held on to Him. They know that with Him, all things are possible for him that believes.
The Bethany resurrection miracle demonstrates beyond any doubt that power belongs to Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 4:20, Paul says: “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” There is no power failure in the abode of heaven. Heaven, where Jesus Christ dwells, is the repository of power. It was that power that manifested to change the destiny and identity of Lazarus.
The cry of ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ as it echoes through the chamber of the grave draws not only Lazarus out of bondage but also many sceptic Jews in their thousands. “Then many Jews who had come to Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in him (John 11:43).” The morbid advantage of the death of Lazarus is astonishing. Dying and death are meant to bring sadness to the living, but in this case, the death of Lazarus with its post-resurrection miracle turned the resolutely sceptic Jews and Pharisees of the day into believers. Jesus Christ’s sense of humour is not in doubt. He miraculously uses one stone to kill two birds.