The tomb was finally occupied. It was a dark, cold cave situated on the outskirts of Bethany, a small town near bustling Jerusalem. Sealed by a large, heavy stone, no corpse or evil spirit could escape from it.
The unfortunate resident was Lazarus, who in life was a gregarious gentleman. He was popular in the community as his love and joy in Jesus affected everything. His demise was caused by a mysterious ailment, an ailment which produced cold sweats, shaking, and a rough cough. Mary and Martha, his sisters, loved Lazarus deeply and attempted to heal him. Despite the herbs they gave, the broth they fed, and the blankets that covered, nothing would revive the health and spirit of Lazarus. Woefully, he died.
This cave, tomb, sealed the death of Lazarus. After burial preparations he laid still and cold, wrapped in strips of linen with a cloth masking his face.
Mary and Martha knew and loved Jesus. They were witnesses to his teachings and power. Mary demonstrated her love for him by anointing him with perfume, and she also wiped his feet with her hair. Jesus and these ladies had a history of faith with him. While Lazarus lay dying, his sisters sent word to Jesus. He was fulfilling his Father’s will in another town and chose not to come to their aid. He said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory . . .” (NIV John 11:4) After all their professions of love, their faith in him was tested.
When Lazarus finally succumbed to death, the whole Jewish community of Bethany mourned. Mary and Martha were overcome with grief to lose their young, beloved brother. Many folks of Bethany consoled them and shared their own sorrow.
Four days later a crowd was gathered at the tomb, a crown of mourners, Pharisees, and curiosity seekers. Rumor had it that Jesus had arrived with his disciples. Yet, it was too late to help poor Lazarus, (or so they thought). Martha sobbed, “If you would have been here my brother would not have died.” NIV John 11:21
Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies,” NIV John 11:25
As they continued talking, the Pharisees smirked, and the curious gawked. Mary and Martha ignored the crowd and told Jesus the gruesome details of Lazarus’ illness and death. “Jesus wept.” NIV John 11:35 He cried for the sting of death, sin’s curse for humanity, and he cried sympathetically for Martha and Mary.
In high anticipation the crowd followed as they walked solemnly to Lazarus tomb. He had been dead for four days, and the stench of decay would have naturally reeked. But, all eyes were on Jesus when he said “Take away the stone.” NIV John 11:39 As he summoned up the Spirit, Jesus shouted “Lazarus, come out!” NIV John 11:43
Amazingly, Lazarus came out! He wore all his burial dressings, strips of linen, cloth over his face. The crowd was in awe, astonished, and ecstatic. Lazarus was alive! Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” NIV John 11:44
The Pharisees weren’t impressed; they were dismayed and skeptical. The curious were awestruck, and many became followers of Jesus. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had a reunion like no other known on earth. Tears of gladness and thanksgiving were shed. The tomb was empty; Lazarus was alive; and he was whole. Jesus was happy for this little family. Unfortunately, arguments with the Pharisees prodded him to move on.
Lazarus’ outbreak from death was miraculous. But, the most miraculous outbreak is our rescue from sin and death when we trust in Jesus. His work on the cross set us free. Let us remove our grave clothes; be happy; and glorify him.
The information for this story was obtained from the NIV John 11.
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