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Disciple Jesus Loved Lazarus

QUESTION: Disciple Jesus Loved: Lazarus - What is the proof?


“Lord, the one you love is very sick." (John 11:3).

“Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus” (John 11:5).

Although Jesus clearly had a close relationship with Lazarus and refers to him as “our friend Lazarus” when speaking about him to the rest of the disciples (John 11:11), prior to being mentioned in this passage Lazarus has not been mentioned before and after Jesus rides into Jerusalem in the very next chapter, Lazarus is not mentioned by name again.

After Lazarus disappears from the pages of Scripture, we begin to see references to a new character. The inspired author of our fourth gospel referred to himself by the phrases, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” the “other disciple,” the “other disciple whom Jesus loved,” etc. to conceal his identity [unlike Paul in his letters and John in the Book of Revelation who openly identify themselves by name, this unnamed author hid his identity by using these cryptic terms]. Yet this one “whom Jesus loved” doesn’t show up in Scripture until the last Passover with Jesus -- only after Lazarus disappears.

The last time Lazarus is depicted in the Bible, he was sitting with Jesus at a supper table, just six days before the Passover (John 12:1-2). The one “whom Jesus loved” is seen for the first time in the following chapter (John 13:23), sitting at a table with Jesus, and he remains prominent in the life of Jesus through the end of this gospel. Sheer coincidence? Perhaps, but since Lazarus is the only man named in the gospels who is specifically identified as being “loved” by Jesus, it makes sense to consider what the Bible tells us about the one “whom Jesus loved” to see if his actions would befit a raised from the dead Lazarus.

Consider the night that Jesus was betrayed. First, Peter, James, and John couldn’t even stay awake even for Jesus (Matthew 26:26-45), then all of the disciples fled for their lives (Mark 14:50). Later, Peter and the unnamed disciple enter at “the palace of the high priest” (John 18:15-17), but while Peter leaves after denying Jesus three times, we only see the one “whom Jesus loved” leave after he is given another charge by Jesus -- when he leaves the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother (John 19:27-29). Unlike the rest of the disciples who forsook or denied Jesus, the behavior of the one “whom Jesus loved” is quite different. What can account for this?

Certainly the one “friend” of Jesus who might exhibit this kind of courage would be the one He had raised from the dead; a very special gift that would have undoubtedly changed him forever. So while the rest of the disciples are seen acting out of fear, it is reasonable to expect Lazarus to behave differently towards Jesus despite the fear of those dark hours, which is precisely how we see the one “whom Jesus loved” acting.

On the morning of the resurrection when he and Peter ran to the tomb of Jesus, the one “whom Jesus loved” got there first yet didn’t go in. Rather, he stopped when he saw the “linen clothes” inside. Subsequently, he followed Peter inside, saw the “the napkin, that was about his head” and the Bible says he “believed,” -- something not said of Peter at that point (John 20:3-8). And since Lazarus had the unforgettable experience of wearing such graveclothes when he walked out of his tomb, these reactions would certainly befit him.

The idea that the one “whom Jesus loved” was Lazarus also fits the other evidence in the biblical record, like the first mistaken rumor about him which taught he would “not die” (John 21:23) and the fact that the other three gospel writers treat them in the same manner -- they never mention the one “whom Jesus loved” and they never refer to Lazarus, though his sisters are mentioned and despite the raising of Lazarus [arguably the greatest public miracle of Jesus’ ministry] being an important factor in the death of Jesus (John 11:46-53).

An examination of all the Bible passages relevant to this issue would exceed the limits of this article. While it is hoped that the foregoing will serve to encourage many to take another look at this issue, it remains for each Bible reader to take advantage of the opportunity to search the Scriptures when it comes to the question, Who was the one “whom Jesus loved”?

Read a different view on this subject.

Learn More About the Gospel of John!

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