The Raising of Lazarus from the Dead

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst!

Today we remember the raising of Lazarus from the dead – the first event of what we know as Holy Week. One of the Old Testament signs of the Messiah was that He was to raise the dead from their graves. We have the records of several other resurrections that Jesus performed over the course of His ministry, but this one is of particular importance. For one thing, people were there – unlike the other resurrections (which were witnessed by very few), there were numerous witnesses to the raising of Lazarus.

And there’s a particular importance to the fact that Lazarus was raised on the fourth day. Popular Jewish mythology of the dead believed that the soul remained at the body for three days. So raising a man on the fourth day meant that his soul had already departed into eternity – this was something no mere ‘wonderworker’ could do. The fourth day, as we hear in the Gospel, also marked a distinction physically, in that the body had begun to stink – the corpse of Lazarus was already beginning to decay.

There can be no doubt among the people that a man who was dead had been brought back to life by Jesus. This is why, tomorrow morning, the people of Jerusalem will greet our Lord with palm branches and singing Hosannah. He has been revealed, through the raising of Lazarus, to be the Messiah. Come not only to offer us bodily healing in this life, but more importantly, spiritual healing and a share in the life of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The raising of Lazarus is also an image to the Apostles – though they’d refused to hear it, our Lord had already prophesied of His impending death and later resurrection. For their sake, and for ours, Christ demonstrates His absolute authority over sin and over death.

Death is the last great hurdle of life. The Father’s tell us that all of our lives are a preparation for the moment of our death – the moment when our soul and body will be ripped apart [a totally un-natural event] and we’ll stand before the Lord of Glory for His judgment on our lives. And we’ll stand before Him not with these broken bodies we have now, but with a resurrectional body, like we see in Christ after His holy resurrection.

All of the people Christ raised from the dead during His earthly ministry died again. The healing we’re offered in Christ is not simply earthly and physical, but total and eternal. Throughout human history, death has always been a dreaded mystery – but this is overcome by Christ. Now death for us can be simply a transition from life in Christ in this world to life in Christ in the Heavenly Kingdom.

The thing that makes possible this conversation about the overthrowing of death and our resurrected bodies has begun today to be fulfilled. Our Lord begins His journey to Jerusalem, and ultimately to His death and His life-giving Resurrection. As we relive the events of the final week of our Lord’s earthly life, let us keep in mind the two events which bookend this week – the resurrection of Lazarus and the Paschal resurrection of our Lord. These two events define the content of everything we’ll experience over the course of the next week.

Let us give thanks to our Christ for redeeming us from the consequences of our own evil choices, for offering us healing and life eternal in Him.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!