Lazarus, Come Forth!

Undoubtedly the greatest miracle that Jesus performed during His earthly ministry was the raising of His friend Lazarus from the grave. Jesus gave this dramatic proof of His divinity only a short time before His own death and resurrection demonstrated His right and wpoer to give wternal life. The raising of Lazarus was the greatest evidence that God had sent His own Son into the world for the salvation of mankind. In many ways it is a summary of all that the Bible teaches about death, resurrection, and eternal destiny. The story is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 1-46. Read it carefully before going on with this lesson.

While Jesus extended his love and mercy to all He came in contact with while here on earth, many gave Him only harshness and cruelty in return. But this was not the case with Lazarus and His two sisters. At their home in Bethany Jesus found a sincere welcome, and pure, holy friendship. Jesus had not home of His own, and so He was dependent upon the hospitality of His friends and disciples. Often when He was nearly exhausted from serving others, Jesus would retreat to the haven of this peaceful household. Here He could temporarily escape the suspicion and jealousy of the angry Pharisees. Always ready to impart blessings to those who would receive them, Jesus could speak freely in the home of these friends, knowing His words would be treasured and understood. The relationship Jesus had with Lazarus was an example of the relationship he would like to have with every member of the human family. And the miracle He performed is an example of what He will eventually do for all His friends.


What message about Lazarus was brought to Jesus? John 11:3

Helps and hints: The simple message indicated the close relationship. It was felt that Jesus need only be informed, and surely He would come immediately.


What did Jesus do in response to the message? John 11:6,7

Helps and hints: Mary and Martha must have been confused by Jesus' delay. It also must have added only to their sorrow to see their brother die, knowing that Jesus had the power to make him well. The disciples, knowing how close Jesus was to Lazarus must also have been puzzled. Known only to Jesus Himself was the ultimate purpose behind His seemingly strange behavior.


How did the disciples react to Jesus' decision to return to Judea? John 11:8

Helps and hints: After two days without taking action on the message about Lazarus, the disciples had most likely concluded that Jesus intended to do nothing at all. But Jesus does not forget the plight of any of His earthly friends. No only did He remind them that until the hour of His sacrifice was come there was no harm that could be done to Him, but He also reminded them of Lazarus.


What did Jesus say about Lazarus?

John 11:11

Helps and hints: Jesus declared that Lazarus was sleeping. His disciples responded that if that was the case, it would be well with him. They evidently heard the urgency of the messenger and the seriousness of Lazarus' condition. They probably expected that he would die if Jesus did not attend to him. At any rate, they understood Jesus to mean sleeping in the natural sense of the word.


What did Jesus mean when He said Lazarus was sleeping? John 11:14

Helps and hints: Jesus was obviously intending to get the point across to His disciples that for those who love Him, death as they knew it was only a temporary condition which He described as similar to being asleep. But while He described Lazarus as being asleep, it is clear that Jesus knew he was dead.


When Jesus arrived, how long had Lazarus been in the grave? John 11:17

Helps and hints: Lazarus had been dead four days. In the warm Palestinian climate, if a body could not be preserved because the family was too poor, four days would be long enough for the process of decomposition to be well under way. This is why Martha was later concerned ( John 11:39) about the removal of the stone. The thought of having to smell her brother's body as it lay wasting in the grave was understandably more than she could bear. Jesus had previously raised others from the dead, but each of these miracles was performed shortly after death had occurred. Here was a case where the body was already decayed. It is a lesson for all mankind that no matter what condition a person may be in (even returned to the dust), God has the power to resurrect them to their original condition. He who called all things into existence is not dependent on anything.


How did Martha react when Jesus said Lazarus would rise again? John 11:24-27

Helps and hints: Martha was aware of God's plan to resurrect His people at the end of time. But Jesus wanted to confirm her faith in Him as the Son of the living God, the visible manifestation of God Himself in human flesh. He wanted her to understand that while it was in His plan to perform a general resurrection at the end of the world as we know it, He in fact had the power to raise anyone He wanted at any time. Martha responded with faith that He was the Son of God.


What did Mary say when she saw Jesus? John 11:32

Helps and hints: Like her sister Martha, Mary was sure in her heart that Jesus had the power to heal the sick. They needed to know that He could raise the dead.


How did Jesus react to Mary's grief? John 11:33-35

Helps and hints: Jesus always sympathizes with human suffering. But He did not weep for Lazarus, for He was about to raise him from the grave. He wept because many who mourned to Lazarus would soon plan His own death. They would kill Him who was the resurrection and the life, and thus prevent their own chances for eternal life (though some afterward repented and were saved). He wept that men and women could mourn the dead when the Savior of the world stood by.


What did Jesus say when He got to the grave? John 11:39

Helps and hints: Jesus could have removed the stone Himself. But He wanted to demonstrate that it is always His will that human beings should cooperate and have a part in the work of restoring their fellow men. It took a measure of faith for the men to remove the stone. They may or may not have been present at any of the other instances where Jesus restored life; probably not. Still they were called upon to assist. We may never have seen Jesus raise the dead either, but still we are called upon to proclaim the hope of eternal life through the resurrection of the dead.


What did Jesus say after the stone was removed? John 11:41,42

Helps and hints: The Jews had accused Jesus of performing miracles by the power of Satan. But here Christ claims God as His Father, then the disciples and the people were given the most convincing evidence in regard to the relationship existing between Christ and God. They were shown that His claim we no deception.


What declaration stirred the gravesite? John 11:43

Helps and hints: By the word of His mouth, Jesus returned the breath fo life to Lazarus and he came forth from the grave a living soul. There is no hint in the entire account that the sould of Lazarus left his body at the moment of death and ascended to heaven. If that were true, why didn't Jesus speak toward heaven and address his conscious soul rather than his lifeless body? He could have said, "Lazarus, come down and live again in the flesh." And if Lazarus had been in heaven, why would not God allow him to give a brief account of the glories of the afterlife? The answer is certain. The past four days had been a brief period of unconsciousness for Lazarus. He had been "sleeping" in the grave, just as Jesus said!


The story of Lazarus should be the greatest encouragement for every Christian believer. Indeed, the hope of the resurrection is the "Blessed Hope." In the words of Jesus Himself:

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." John 5:28,29.

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