Resurrection of Lazarus by Gustave Doré.

The Miracle of Raising of Lazarus

In childhood we learn about our mortality through the death of a loved one or even a pet. If we live on a farm or in a war zone, we discover death much sooner than others. Death is a reality that has shaped philosophies and religions since the beginning of humanity. Even our theories in science are driven by the observations of death. In our sciences, death and decay have lead to theories of about entropy and chaos that we have applied to the universe itself. As a result, some profess that all the universe's systems will one day halt or at least slow down to a grind of minimal energy. But what if it won't? What if death is only what we 'think' is beyond the horizon because our scope is so limited?

Raising of Lazarus
Material: Lazarus
Formal: Lazarus is alive again
Efficient: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Faith)
Final: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." (Love, compassion)
"No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it." (Glory of God's son)
Aristotle's Four Causes

The second law of thermodynamics simply says that the entropy of a closed system will increase with time. 'Entropy' is a specific term with a particular scientific definition, but practically speaking it is equivalent to disorder. So, we could say that the second law of thermodynamics tells us that the universe will become more disordered as time progresses. Fresh energy in a closed system will not be available to do what it previously did. The universe will slowly die.

But does this definition really represent reality? What if God is creating all the time? Then the system is not closed and our universe, God's creation, will not die.

I agree that entropic systems do exist and that they will surely die, but the creation that God called "good" is not entropic. How could life ever die? The only entropic systems are those systems that are self-oriented. Selfishness systems will grind to a slow, everlasting death. Death is ever-looking inward and never seeking beyond 'me'.

But life with God is different. He is everlastingly creative. When we allow him to work within us, through us and among us, we will always become more. We will never be a 'closed system' and never slowly die.

The death of Lazarus was the miracle that set the stage for Jesus' own death and resurrection, but through this particular act he tells us, "You too do not need to fear death. You can have everlasting life and life in abundance. Just believe. You must learn what death really is. It's not a flatlined heart." But let me stop putting words in Jesus' mouth, here is the full and only account of this miracle according to the gospel of John.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:1-44

Jesus teaches us a wealth of faith-building truths through this miracle. He stresses how we must walk in the light. We learn more about the complex and deep faith and love of Mary and Martha. We begin to see the early beginnings of doubting Thomas. We learn that this event was the last straw for the Jewish leadership who wanted Jesus out. But I want to focus on the fact that Jesus says of himself, "I am the resurrection and the life."

He is telling us that we are not doomed to death. Lazarus was only sleeping. Jesus has come to wake us all up from our entropy. God's creative impulses don't just quit for his beloved. He never says, "Now I'm done with you." And God does not act willy-nilly like other religions' gods. Even when we call out and say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died," we know he has his purpose. It moves him greatly to see the suffering upon this earth. He weeps with us and feels all the pain we feel—all of it. With purpose, compassion, mercy and love, he comes to each of us with real tears and says, "I suffer your suffering."

In plain words, Jesus lays out the fact that he is Life. He is the creator of all life. All that is alive is in him. Without Jesus, all we can ever be is dead. Life never dies or it wouldn't be called life, would it? If we live within life, the only way to ever be dead is to be expelled or to walk out on our own. But Jesus explains that the loving father has the intentions of life for us and will do everything to keep us with him and bring us closer. Life in him doesn't include sadness, or death or dying. Life is meant to be all good and all righteous.

Jesus also makes it clear that he is the resurrection. While life does not beget death, with great irony Jesus is saying the opposite is in his power: the dead will rise. He has come to make that which has died come to life. With Lazarus, he calls us all out of our tomb of entropic decay. In a loud voice Jesus calls to each of us, “Lazarus, come out!” We are all Lazarus in our sin and we must obey his command that we awake into the land of the living.

It's our sin that leads us to visions of failing hope. Our sin imprints our heart with decay. Many of us live a life which would be more akin to death. But we can't live under that false-spell—that lie. Like a baby in utter helplessness, we must cry out as hard as we can for comfort from God. If we are not crying out to God with the babies and the psalmists, we should be. Sin has told us that "I" am most important: "Just have faith in the god of Me." When we cry our sin reinforces itself with a self-mocking voice, "Don't be a crybaby!" Never accept the the mocker within, but pray for him. We'd be better off as a simpleton in the love of Christ, than a pride-filled genius who loves only himself. Jesus says it himself, when he states, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." We must cry out in our impoverished state to our Lord and Savior.

Through Jesus, God has come to us to say, "I am not done with you. I am still the creator of the universe and you must arise." We arise by his vision of life. The vision of life is our hope. Hope is the opaque lens of the lamp of our body that allows us to walk with our creator as he cleans us of our blinding sin. It is the eye of our faith. It's the only real eyes we have until that glorious day when we can see clearly once again.

We are also Lazarus' sister Mary when fall at Jesus' feet crying out, "Lord, if you had been here, my baby would not be friend not tongue not tied." Thankfully, John captures Jesus response for us. Knowing that "Jesus wept" teaches us about his suffering. It redirects our self-pity to Jesus. Once again, we are moved out of our self-orientation. Jesus' heart is "deeply moved" in our suffering. As God in Man he suffers more than we ever will. We are comforted to learn that the ancient fathers rightly came to understand Christ as truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus weeps with and for Mary and Martha. He weeps as he suffers for and in Lazarus. If he had not been wholly man, he could not truly know the despairing condition of the human race. He could only have witnessed us from afar, distantly, insensitively and lacking compassion, like viewing man's passions from a telescope on a remote planet. Rather, Jesus lived fully in Adam, yet did not sin himself, so he could know us fully and take the full wrath of God's vengeance on his shoulders. He suffered in Mary. He suffered in Martha. He suffered in Lazarus. He suffers in you.

We can't fully understand God's purposes. How odd it is that John records Jesus' reaction to Lazarus sickness with seemingly dull inaction? "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days." Two more days! Wouldn't you hurry off to your friends bedside? Have you called on Jesus and he waited two more days, two more years, two more decades for comfort? Are you still waiting? He is working right now to fulfill all that you ask, even though you don't see. He is suffering in your impatience or even in your resignation. It's easy to say and difficult to know Christ's acute nearness in the middle of a crisis. That is why the Bible is full of psalmists and prophets and many others who beat their chests toward God and cry out, "Why!?" He wants us to do the same because when we do, we look outward to him. We come out of ourselves we allow a slit into our sealed and hardened hearts, the gap through which our healing begins. When we look beyond ourselves we take one more step away from being entropic beings.

Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. They didn't need to pay Jesus for his life-raising services. The God of Abraham is not like other religions' gods. In Christ, we don't need to appease him with this or that offering. Our prayers and even our sins are enough. He wants more than anything to be our father and in loving compassion say to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

Life outside of the Father has no meaning, is entropic, and will fall apart. But what I’m realizing is that there are supernatural laws that govern and guide our lives and help to make us whole. More powerful than any of the fundamental forces of nature, they are faith, obedience, love, and brokenness as well. In Lazarus' brokenness, Mary and Martha are healed. Have you, in your sufferings, ever helped to make another person whole? The disabled, the sick and the dying can shine the brightest light to those who are open to seeing it.

Unlike the law of entropy, the supernatural law of brokenness states that God will make that which is broken whole again. Jesus waited to return to Mary and Martha to teach us this truth. It's really the way the universe works with our beloved Jesus.

This is one reason that we worship God. When we worship the creator, we glorify the creator. We become totally outward-dwelling, even beyond nature. When worship God, we look beyond all of his creation. This is why the greatest commandment is to love God. It prevents his creation from being inward dwelling and entropic. The first commandment is "You shall have no other gods before for me." When God's creation worships itself, it becomes self-referencing and starts to die.

Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Why is belief so important? In our sin, we are closed systems. God's light cannot shine into our darkness unless we open our heart and allow God to shine in. We do that through belief. Belief is how we open up for God's power to shine within us. In belief in God, we look beyond ourselves. We become an open-system and are entropic no more. Then we are given that energy, that power, that comes from beyond nature, and we receive life in abundance.

Jesus' disciples said, "Increase our faith." In response, Jesus explained how through the Parable of the Unworthy Servant. He explains that we must be thankful. When we are thankful, our belief increases because we see all for which we should be grateful. We see how God pours graces upon us despite the darkness. When we look upon our lives with thankful hearts, our belief blossoms and ever increases. Let us be thankful for the life that God gives us and know in our deepest places that this life doesn't come as a trick, only to be taken away at the end. In fact, true life is something that most of us as of yet do not know. But Jesus explained the reality of life to his disciples when he said:

"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

Matthew 16:28

Jesus is the resurrection. He is life in abundance. The "some" of whom Jesus spoke are all those who are 'open systems', open to the Father, open to the Spirit, open to Jesus. Some are already navigating in the kingdom through the supernatural powers of hope, faith and love. For these children of God, every last breath leads to a first breath. Only the pause is different.

Tags: commentary, miracles