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Lazarus, Come Out

Lazarus, Come Out

Jn. 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Sometimes, we can all feel like we are bound with strips of cloth, in a tomb. What is dead in your life?

Friend of Jesus

Think of what life was like for Lazarus after his resurrection. Whispers, pointing, curiosity… That guy was dead, and now he is alive. It is like Will Byers in Stranger Things: Zombie boy – the one who has come back from the dead. What was it like on the other side? Were you really dead? What did it feel like to be dead? The Gospel is clear that Lazarus was really dead. He was not just sick. This was not a coma. He was dead and had been buried for three days. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lazarus was dead. And Jesus raised him from the dead.

But how did Lazarus think of himself? He knew that Jesus had raised him from the dead. Martha and Mary would have told him about how scared they were, how sad they were, when he was dead. At least for a few days, his sisters treated him as a king. It felt pretty good. Obviously, Lazarus was grateful to Jesus. But “the man raised from the dead by Jesus” was not the identity of Lazarus. He was essentially a “friend of Jesus.”


Identity is one of the greatest questions now. So many elements contribute to our sense of identity. We think about our experiences, our personality, about our relationships. When there is some core aspect of our identity that is not being expressed, we experience an identity crisis. Recognizing the difference between who we are and who we want to be can be a powerful catalyst for change. This must have happened to Lazarus.

Lazarus was thankful to Jesus for his resurrection. But the most important thing for him was to be a friend of Jesus. This was the core of his identity. We can ask ourselves whether the core of our identity is our relationship with God.

Healing of a family

Why did Jesus heal Lazarus? Jesus was close to the whole family. He would visit them in Bethany. It was a home where he felt safe, loved, and respected. He knew Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. He cared about each one of them. We see interactions of Jesus with each of them throughout the Gospel, but we know that he spent time with them as a family as well.

We never hear about the parents of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We never hear about spouses or children either. For some reason, they were a family beloved by Jesus. He knew that something would break in Martha and Mary if Lazarus were gone forever. “His hour had not yet come.” And so, Jesus arrives to change the end of the story. He comes to raise Lazarus from the dead, and to save a family.

When our families are broken, we have to come to Jesus. What is broken in us, we need Jesus to fix. What is dead in us, we need Jesus to raise us from the dead. Jesus can heal our families, but we have to let him do it.

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