“Jesus the Savior”: Preschool & Kids Leader Training for Unit 25, Session 4—Jesus Raised Lazarus
The raising of Lazarus is one of my (many) favorite passages in Scripture. For some reason, it has always connected with me. As teachers, this story is either a dream because there are so many wonderful details to explore or a nightmare because there are so many wonderful details to cover.
I choose to be an optimist.
Just look at what we can cover this week:
Jesus’ Delay (John 11:1-16)
When Jesus heard that John was deathly ill, He waited to go to him. Why? The reason seems to be that Jesus did not want to merely heal John, He wanted to show the people a greater miracle of resurrection from the dead. Jesus had healed—and every healing affirmed His identity as the Son of God. But Jesus was also guiding His followers to deepen their understanding of Him as He set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited Him there.
John helps us to see this in how he structured his Gospel and what he chose to include. John provided stories of just seven of Jesus’ miracles—known as signs—in his Gospel. Here they are:
- Changing water to wine (John 2)
- Healing the official’s son (John 4)
- Healing the man who could not walk (John 5)
- Feeding the 5,000+ (John 6)
- Walking on water (John 6)
- Healing a man who could not see (John 9)
- Raising Lazarus (John 11)
Each miracle reveals something different about Jesus’ power. But notice also the progression. Every miracle is amazing, but they increase in awe as they move forward. Turning water to wine is great, but healing a child is another level. Healing a child from illness is wonderful, but a man who could not walk for years?
Notice where this story’s miracle occurs. Last. Raising a man from the dead is, in some ways, the most revealing miracle of them all. And, of course, it sets up what would soon follow: the resurrection of Jesus Himself.
Jesus’ Eschatology (John 11:17-27)
All of Jesus’ miracles were done, in part, to reveal His identity to the world—then and now. This one is no different. In addition to John’s seven signs, he also provides seven “I am” statements of Jesus. Here they are:
- I am the bread of life (John 6)
- I am the light of the world (John 8)
- I am the door of the sheep (John 10)
- I am the good shepherd (John 10)
- I am the resurrection and the life (John 11)
- I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14)
- I am the true vine (John 15)
Again, each of these statements reveals something unique about Jesus, but the very phrase “I am” is significant too. It is connected to Yahweh, the most holy name of God shared first to Moses in Exodus 3:14. So at the core of these statements is Jesus’s claim to be divine. If you want further evidence of this, read the ending of John 8 where the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy. What had Jesus said? “I am.”
Here tough, Jesus reveals that He is the resurrection and the life—not merely for now, as Mary and Martha would see that day—but for ever. We need to read this section with eschatology in mind—what is in store for the future, one in which Jesus will return to make all things right and put death to death forevermore.
Jesus’ Compassion (John 11:28-37)
In the next section we reach everyone’s favorite Bible memorization starter verse: Jesus wept (John 11:35). This verse deserves more attention than just for being the shortest one in the Bible though. It reveals something amazingly powerful about Christ Jesus. In this verse we glimpse the deep compassion of the Savior. Jesus knew what He was about to do. He knew sorrow would turn to joy in mere minutes. But in this moment, surrounded by sorrow because of the scourge of sin, Jesus wept. Oh, what a Savior.
Jesus’ Power (John 11:38-44)
“Lazarus, come out!”
The voice that hushed a storm, created the cosmos, and which would soon after cry out, “It is finished,” here beckons a dead man to come out of the grave. Even death must bow at the feet of the Savior. It has been said that had Jesus not begun this cry with “Lazarus,” all of the dead would have come forth from the grave. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Possible? Without a doubt. This is the power of the words of the Word.
Jesus’ Purpose (John 11:45-57)
Notice the polar response. Some of the Jews who had gathered around Mary and Martha that day believed in Jesus because of this miracle. This is why Jesus had delayed His arrival.
Others, though, went to the Pharisees to report what had happened. Many people today might claim that if Jesus were only here now doing what He did then, more people would believe. Such a sentiment, however, is unfounded. Most of the people in Jesus’ day disbelieved despite seeing His miracles firsthand.
The Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin and we reach a turning point in John’s Gospel. From this moment on, the religious leaders sought to kill Jesus. The rejection of Jesus is complete. If people would not believe now, after Lazarus’ resurrection, what would change their hardened hearts?
Jesus’ Impact (John 12:9-11)
Not enough for you? How about some extra credit. Lazarus’ story does not end with John 11:57. Look ahead with me to John 12:9-11.
9 Then a large crowd of the Jews learned he was there. They came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, the one he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests had decided to kill Lazarus also, 11 because he was the reason many of the Jews were deserting them and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 CSB)
Many people believed in Jesus because of Lazarus. Have you ever thought what it was like for Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead? Reading the Bible with a sanctified imagination is so helpful. We have to remember that the Bible is all true. Lazarus was real. Lazarus really rose from the dead. And Lazarus really had a story to tell for the rest of his second life.
Imagine inviting Lazarus over for dinner.
“Hey, have I ever told you about the time I was dead?!?!”
“Yes, Lazarus. A few times.”
“Well, let me tell you again…”
And this leads me to one of the greatest takeaways of this account. We can understand why Lazarus would have told everyone he met—surely many times—about the day Jesus raised him from the dead. It is an amazing story. A miracle.
But we should not be jealous of Lazarus. We have a story of resurrection to tell too. We were dead in our sin. Until the day when a voice called us by name and bellowed for us to come forth out of the grave.
When was the last time you asked someone, “Hey, have I ever told you about the time I was dead?!?!”
I am the voice of life that wakens the dead. I am the good odor that takes away the foul odor. I am the voice of joy that takes away sorrow and grief … I am the comfort of those who are in grief. Those who belong to me are given joy by me. I am the joy of the whole world. I gladden all my friends and rejoice with them. I am the bread of life.” — Athanasius (c. 293-373)Athanasius, “Homily on the Resurrection of Lazarus,” quoted in John 11–21, ed. Joel C. Elowsky, vol. IVb in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007), 13.