The story of the raising of Lazarus has a great deal to teach us. A good starting-point might be the name, “Lazarus.” It means “God is my help” or “God helps.” Isn’t that a great starting-point? It reminds us that God is our Help. It reminds us that God helps us. He helps us to believe in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He helps us to believe that Jesus Christ is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).
Fairly early in the story of Lazarus, we hear Jesus saying, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). The raising of Lazarus was a great miracle. Why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Why did Jesus perform this great miracle? He raised Lazarus so that the disciples might believe. Jesus was not only concerned for Lazarus’ welfare. He was also seeking to increase the faith of His disciples. We may take this a step further. Jesus did not raise Lazarus from the dead only for the benefit of those who were with Him on that day. He is here with us and, through the story of the raising of Lazarus, He aims to strengthen our faith.
How does Jesus strengthen our faith? He directs our attention to Himself. He is not only the One who raised Lazarus all these years ago. He is also the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. Jesus directs our attention to Himself, in John 11:25, when He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though He die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
Let’s look at the story of the raising of Lazarus and see what it teaches us concerning believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s see what it teaches us concerning the resurrection life which He gives to all who trust Him.
Here’s the first lesson. By ourselves, we cannot believe. It is only through the mighty power of the Lord that we are brought to faith in Christ. This point may be illustrated from the story of Lazarus. Before Jesus came along, the situation could be summed up in three chilling words: “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). It was only when Jesus spoke the life-giving Word that Lazarus was raised from the dead: “Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43-44). This miracle of the raising of Lazarus is an excellent illustration of the way in which we are brought to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Through Christ’s Word of resurrection power, we are “raised” to “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This miracle of being raised to newness of life has been described very well by Charles Wesley: “He speaks, and listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.”
Here’s a second lesson. Faith, if it is to make a a real difference in our lives, must be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Jesus came, “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother” (John 11:19). There are many today who will be quick to tell us what they think. They will rush with their offer of help. When we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), our need will not be met by any and every well-wisher who comes along with a word of advice. Our need will only be met by the One who is able to meet our need – Jesus Christ, “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Jesus Christ is able to raise us to newness of life because He Himself is the risen Lord. He is able to give us life because He is the living Saviour. If we are to have a sure hope for time and eternity, our faith must be firmly based on the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25).
A third lesson concerns serving God in the power of the risen Christ. We are not called to faith in Christ for our own benefit only. We are to serve the Lord. If we are to serve Christ in the power of His resurrection, we must do so on the basis of our new relationship with the Father. In John 11:27, we learn that Jesus is “Christ, the Son of God.” Through faith in Christ, we become sons and daughters of the living God. He is our Father, and we are His children. As children of the living God, we dare not imagine that we can serve the Lord in our own strength. Jesus did not do God’s work in mere human strength. Before doing this mighty miracle, Jesus spoke to His Father – “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father … ” (John 11:41), If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must follow Him in prayer. We cannot truly serve the Lord if we do not seek His blessing in prayer. It has been said that “Prayer is evangelism with all its carnal trappings shorn off.” If our so-called ‘Christian service’ is not grounded in prayer, it is not really Christian service at all. The Lord’s work is to be done in the Lord’s power. If it is not done in the Lord’s power, it will be done without the Lord’s blessing. When we look at Jesus’ prayer, we see that He begins with thanksgiving. Jesus remembered the feeding of the five thousand. On that occasion, Jesus had prayed, and the Father had answered prayer (John 6:11). Now, Jesus was saying to the Father: “I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me” (John 11:41). Now, in this situation, Jesus re-affirms His faith in the Father, the God who hears and answers prayer – “Thou hearest Me always” (John 11:42). The miracle of the raising of Lazarus was an answer to prayer. The blessings for which we long – men and women coming to faith in Christ – will also come to us as answers to prayer. Jesus prayed that “they may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 11:42). Jesus prayed for men and women to come to faith in Him. The Father answered His prayer. Can we doubt that God will also answer our prayers? Jesus has said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25). Let us pray, in faith, that men and women will come to believe in Jesus and find life in Him.
A final lesson concerns the fulfilment of our faith. The faith into which we come when we are raised to newness of life is a faith, filled with hope, the hope of heavenly and eternal glory, the hope of “rising again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). This hope is not something which remains distant and remote from our everyday life. It is the “resurrection at the last day” which inspires us to serve the Lord here on earth. We pray and work to the end that many more people will come to have this testimony: “Now, I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
This is the testimony of all who have come to know Jesus Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life.” It is the testimony of all who have received His resurrection life.
What about you? Do you have this testimony?