The Resurrection of Lazarus - John 11:20-27, 39-44

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — John 11:40

In connection with the raising of Lazarus, the truth of the resurrection is set forth from three angles. The comforting power of the resurrection hope sustains Martha and Mary in hour of trial. The interpretation of resurrection truth is clearly given in Jesus' conversation with Martha. And an illustration of resurrection power -is furnished in the actual raising of Lazarus.


John 11:20-24, 32

When Martha and Mary met Jesus they were filled with grief, but hope struggled with the sorrow in their hearts. Their faith in Jesus and His power was radiantly clear, for both of them testified that they believed He would have been able to save the brother had He been there. Martha voiced the hope that was in their hearts, — "I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God He will give it thee." (vs. 22.) In the hour of prostrating grief those two faithful women were sustained by the hope that Jesus would raise their brother from the dead. And yet, with that hope beating high in their hearts, it seems strange that they did not ask God for the thing for which they hoped.

No doubt the reason for this was that they had learned the lesson of trust. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28.) The message of Lazarus' illness had been sent to the Lord with the hope that He might come and heal him. Apparently He had failed to grant their petition. He had tarried so long that Lazarus had died. Doubtless Mary and Martha did not understand why this had been, hut they had no words of reproach when Jesus did come, — only words of faith and hope. They had learned to trust Him, even when it seemed He had failed them. And so they chose wisely, merely to tell Him of their faith, and then to trust Him to do what seemed best to Him. They simply trusted and waited. Jesus rewarded their faith, first with a promise, and later with its fulfilment. But they were sustained by the hope of the resurrection, even before they received the blessing the Master had in store for them.

How strikingly their attitude, 'which is the attitude of all of God's children who, with them, have learned to trust Him even even the way seems darkest, contrasts with the helplessness of unbelief. Huxley once said, "I find my dislike to the thought of extinction increasing as I get older. It Hashes across me at all sorts of times with horror that in 1900 I shall probably know no more than I did in 1800. I had rather be in hell." How gloomy such an outlook on the future is! Unbelief has no hope in the resurrection. I Thes. 4:13-18; II Cor. 5:6-8; I Jno. 5:14-15; Job 13:15; Titus 2:11-13; Isa. 57:21.


John 11:25-26.

But though Martha and Mary were strong in faith, giving glory to God, they were confused and did not fully understand the thing for which they hoped. Blessed are they who have learned to trust God, even though they do not understand! But God does not want his children to remain in ignorance, and so Jesus interpreted the resurrection to the two sisters. I Cor. 2:9-10.

Like many others, they had made the mistake of supposing that the resurrection was primarily a matter of a certain time. Martha, when she heard the promise, "Thy brother shall rise again," (vs. 23) betrayed this confusion, attributing the promise to the "last day." Jesus then explained what is everywhere taught in God's Word, that the resurrection is primarily connected with a Person. He said to her, "/ am the Resurrection and the Life." (vs. 25.) Jesus is the One Who can quicken men's dead bodies, and He alone can give life to their dead souls.

But the time element does enter into the resurrection of the dead, and Jesus explained that the resurrection should take place in His second coming. He said, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (vs. 25-26.) This cannot apply to anything other than the time of the resurrection. Were we to try to apply it elsewhere we should be plunged into confusion. "He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die!" What a hard saying this is unless we recognize that it shall be fulfilled in His second coming. Any other interpretation would make David, Paul, Peter, all of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the early disciples unbelievers, for they have died. This implication is contradicted by the first part of Jesus' statement, which speaks of some who believed, and yet were dead. No! What Jesus said really meant, "When I come again, he that believeth in me, though he be dead, shall rise from the dead, and he that is living and believing in me then shall never die." Such is the teaching of God's Word. The believing dead shall be resurrected when Jesus comes again, and living believers shall be changed into His likeness, and shall never die. Phil'. 3:20-21; I Thes. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-58.


John 11:39-44

In the resurrection of Lazarus Jesus gave a clear illustration of the resurrection. He illustrated the relation of the resurrection to the believer's faith. He illustrated the means by which the resurrection shall be accomplished, and He illustrated the blessings which come through the resurrection.

Mary and Martha trusted, even before they saw the manifestation of Jesus' power. How different such an attitude is from that of the world! The world says, "Seeing is believing." But Jesus rebuked this materialistic unbelief when He said to Martha, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (vs. 40.) Perhaps Martha's faith wavered for just a moment, or perhaps she spoke of the difficulties because she had frankly and fairly faced them, and yet believed in spite of them. Be that as it may, Jesus' words to her showed the relation which God wants. First one must believe, and then he shall see. Now we walk by faith, but in the resurrection faith will blossom into sight. I Pet. 1:7-8; I Cor. 13:12.

Such was the experience of Mary and Martha when Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" and he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, (vs. 44.) "How impossible for him to come forth, when he was bound!" says unbelief. But ah, dear friend, how easy that was compared to the difficulty of a decaying corpse living again ! The One Who cried that day was more than man, and He had the power of life and death. He Whose Word could recall the departed soul could also restore health to the putrid flesh, and could bring a helpless man from the tomb. The day is coming when they who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and they that hear shall live. John 5:28; I Thes., 4:16.

When Lazarus came forth he was clothed with the habiliments of the grave, but Jesus said, "Loose him and let him go." (vs. 44.) So in the resurrection men shall be freed from the pollutions and limitations of earth. Feeble bodies shall then thrill with the vigor of perpetual youth. Clouded minds will then rejoice in perfect knowledge and understanding. Souls that have been crushed beneath the heel of the tempter shall then rejoice in boundless and endless freedom from even the possibility of sin. Rom. 8:19-23; Phil. 3:20-21; Rev. 21:1-4; Is3- 40:31 I Cor. 13:12.