I’ve never seen anyone physically raised from the dead. During Jesus’ ministry, He brought several people back from the dead. First, Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son back to life. He took pity on her destitute situation and revived her son to provide for her needs (Luke 7:11-17). Next, He resurrected Jarius’ daughter. The people ridiculed Jesus when He said she was sleeping, but were shocked when they found her alive (Luke 8:40-56). On the way to Jarius’ house, Jesus healed a woman with a flow of blood for twelve years. So, when Lazarus got sick, his sisters Mary and Martha called their good friend Jesus. Since He had already healed others, they figured He could heal their brother too.
But Jesus didn’t come immediately.
They waited…and waited…and waited.
Still no sign of Jesus.
Then the worst happened.
What were they to think? How could Jesus fail them in their darkest hour?
When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. I can’t imagine grief and betrayal that Mary and Martha must have felt. Mary didn’t even go to greet Jesus at first, but stayed with the other mourners. Martha ran ahead to talk to Jesus. She moaned in despair, “If You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” How her voice must have quivered as she choked back tears. The One who could heal her brother stood before her, but Jesus was too late.
Or was He?
John 11:23-27 (NKJV)* says:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.
Martha, as a good Jewish woman, understood the Biblical teaching of the resurrection at the last day. However, she didn’t know that she was beside the resurrection and the life Himself. What did Jesus mean when He called Himself the resurrection and the life?
Although Jesus had already raised two people from the dead, they had not been dead for long. In the Jewish culture, people didn’t wait days to bury their dead like we do now. Instead, they wrapped them in cloths and took them to their grave almost immediately. Jesus knew He would rise from the dead on the third day, but who would ever believe something that had never happened? He made His own resurrection credible when He raised Lazarus back to physical life.
The three people Jesus raised from the dead did not do so on their own strength. Only Jesus returned from the dead in His own supernatural power. Romans 1:3-4 says, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Jesus remained alive and now sits with the Father in the heavenly places. Jesus’ resurrection proved that He is the Son of God and not some random powerful and popular person.
Jesus’ resurrection didn’t just define Who He is, it also radically redefined mankind’s relationship with God. Jesus didn’t rise from the grave just to prove His Diety, but also to justify those who believe (Romans 4:23-25). Though we deserved God’s death sentence, we can now trust in His resurrection power to save us from our sins (2 Corinthians 1:9). We who believe are resurrected to walk in new life in Christ on earth and forever more. Take a moment to let the beauty of this truth sink deep into your identity. Because Jesus is the resurrection, we now have confidence in our eternal inheritance in heaven with Christ (1 Peter 1:3). We have a living hope in our risen Savior Jesus Christ.
All three people whom Jesus raised from the dead went on to die a physical death again. They do not walk the earth now, over 2000 years later. When Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t die again. He stayed alive. Our bodies are destined to die (unless we are raptured when Jesus returns). Yet, we are more than just physical bodies. We are also spiritual beings.
Though our flesh is mortal, our immortal spirits are made alive through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Apart from Christ, we are all spiritually dead in our trespasses and yet, by God’s grace, we can be made spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5). The reign of terror caused by sin was conquered by God’s mercy that rules in righteousness, so that we may have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).
When we live and believe in Him, we will never die. God gives us the gift of eternal life that begins here on earth and never ends. What is eternal life? John 17:3 defines it this way, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” We don’t have to wait until heaven to enjoy the benefits of eternal life. Because Jesus resurrected, our eternal life starts when we repent. We have our whole lives to deepen our relationship until our spirit joins Him when we die physically. Eternal life eases the hardships of life on earth as we walk alongside our Savior.
When Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, it wasn’t because He didn’t care about Mary and Martha. Instead, He loved them so much that He chose to display His power by raising their brother Lazarus from the dead, thereby preparing people for His own resurrection. I am so thankful that Jesus paved the way for me to escape the death my sins deserved and gain eternal life through His resurrection. May we share His love so others may believe and rise from their spiritual graves.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.