Jesus and LazarusQUESTION: Jesus and Lazarus - Does Jesus have power over death?ANSWER:
First, in the nexus between Jesus and Lazarus, the Master demonstrated His power over death, by delaying his return to Bethany until Lazarus died and was buried, instead of frantically returning to prevent his death. The unspoken request in the sisters' appeal was that Jesus would return once He knew of Lazarus' condition. Indeed, it embodied their sense that Christ's love for the whole family would prompt His return.
Interestingly, when the centurion requested healing for his servant (Matthew 8:5-7) and Jairus brought news of his daughter's imminent demise (Mark 5:22-24), Jesus immediately went to their homes. Yet, with one of His dearest friends deathly-ill, He deliberately stayed away.
Jesus obviously retained absolute control of His ministry. He had a plan, followed its self-imposed timetable and implemented its procedures as He determined-because He had absolute confidence in His death-defying sovereignty.
Second, in the nexus between Jesus and Lazarus, the Master demonstrated His power over death by arriving in Bethany four days after Lazarus was buried. (Burials occurred the day of death. According to Jewish legend, the spirit hovered over the corpse three days before departing for Sheol. To everyone in Bethany, all hope of resurrecting Lazarus had vanished by the time Jesus arrived. Lazarus had disappeared beyond recall.)
Which explains the Lord's return only after all hope of recovering Lazarus was past. Christ's power over death couldn't have been expressed as it was if He had been present even hours or a day after His friend's departure.
Third, in the nexus between Jesus and Lazarus, the Master demonstrated His power over death by correcting Martha's faulty perception of His nature. Her faith in Him as God's Son remained true and unabated, but it lacked any immediacy of meaning. At least Martha didn't say, "if you had been here . . . but it's too late now." She knew "even now God will give you what you ask." So far, so good.
When Jesus promised Lazarus' resurrection, however, she continued thinking in terms of Christ's previous teaching-God will raise His people in the end. Jesus immediately enlarged her understanding. Eternal life was REAL NOW, not a FUTURE PROMISE. Where Martha said God would give Jesus whatever He asked, Jesus countered that eternal life isn't something He acquired for being obedient to God. Eternal life is Christ's nature and essence. Therefore, since HE presently IS eternal life, not merely GIVES eternal life, belief in Him brings eternal life. The conjunction of verses 23 and 25 is very powerful. Lazarus would rise whenever Jesus pleased to raise him, because Jesus, even as He stood before Martha, IS the resurrection. The tense indicates a present fact with continuing implications.
Fourth, in the nexus between Jesus and Lazarus, the Master demonstrated His power over death by precipitating the crisis that brought His ministry to His self-chosen goal. This resurrection decided the Sanhedrin: Jesus had to die. Indeed, so immensely did the miracle impact Jerusalem and all Judea, the Sanhedrin determined that Lazarus had to die, since his resurrection had convinced many people of Christ's power. The resurrected life is always an offense to unbelievers, who sometimes viciously attack it.
Fifth, in the nexus between Jesus and Lazarus, the Master demonstrated His power over death by making the resurrection a public event. He ordered the stone removed, which frightened and offended Martha. She certainly didn't appropriate the meaning of Christ's I AM THE RESURRECTION claim, but thought in Old Covenant terms or, at best, in the future state of God's people. Which is very true to life; what is too far beyond our comprehension is filtered through previous constructs. Her reference to the body's decomposition was certainly true to physical laws. They buried bodies the same day death occurred for just that reason.
By ordering the stone removed, Jesus guaranteed it would be an actual physical body rising from the grave. It wouldn't be a "spiritual" resurrection - anymore than Christ's personal bodily resurrection was a "spiritual" experience in the hearts of His believers. For Jesus, an actual bodily resurrection; for Lazarus, the same. Only if Jesus could produce the body of Lazarus from the corpse inside the tomb would Jesus actually BE the RESURRECTION He claimed.
Then, to the amazement of all, Jesus called for LAZARUS - a real-life individual. That's the importance of using the name in the simplest, plainest, most direct appeal to his spirit. He spoke it loudly so the spectators could hear His voice call it and see the body respond to it. He spoke it personally because God considers us as individuals, while belonging to the whole, not residents of a Nirvana in which individuals are eclipsed by the whole. His mighty verbal summons sounded beyond life in the spirit-world, where only One voice reaches. And there, among millions at rest, or in turmoil, one person heard, listened and instantly left . . . to re-appear in a tomb outside Bethany, Israel - where he stirred awake his corpse until he struggled his feet to the floor and . . . wrapped in grave windings, stalked his way outside, to hear Jesus Christ's triumphant shout, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."