by David Sisler

Lazarus was dead. There was no denying that fact. His sister Martha made a poignant observation: “He has been dead four days. His body has started to stink.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha told Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.”

Jesus said, “Your brother will rise and live again.”

Martha had heard those words of encouragement so often that she was tired of them. As a Jew, she believed in life after death. She believed in a bodily resurrection. No doubt every mourner who had approached her had said those same words to her.

Her voice was filled with impatience as she answered, “I know that he will rise and live again in the resurrection on the last day. That’s enough comfort! My brother is dead, now. What about life, now?”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha do you believe this?”

“The Last Day” seems so far off, so dim, so distant. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection. I am the life. I am not distant. I am not future. I am here. I am now.”

Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” God is not the God of the dead, Jesus said, but the God of the living. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, therefore they must still live.

The actions of Jesus in Bethany’s graveyard shows that the individual’s personality survives after death. When Jesus called the dead man to life, he used the same old name, “Lazarus.” This man who had trusted in God while he lived, continued after he died.

Acknowledging the death of Lazarus, Jesus referred to the deceased as, “our friend, Lazarus.” When he spoke about Lazarus to Mary and Martha he called him, “your brother.” Lazarus’ body was decaying in the tomb, but Lazarus was not dead. He was still living. He may have been gone, but he was still their brother. They were still his sisters. Death does not change those relationships, it only transforms them.

Do you ever wonder about your loved ones whose bodies you have laid in the ground? How many times have you wondered, “Will we know each other over there?” Based on this graveyard scene there seems to be not the slightest doubt – we will know each other. Our relationships will be expanded by a power and a love we cannot now understand, but we will know each other with the same tenderness and the same love we experienced before death’s interruption.

You have a right to speak of those who have gone on before as “My wife” and “My husband.” You can still call them “My son” or “My daughter.” Those who have died with personal faith in Jesus Christ are still ours. They have simply become part of that great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on in our race.

“Roll the stone away,” Jesus commanded and several people rushed to obey him. Jesus offered a prayer of thanksgiving and then with a loud voice cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!”

Still wrapped from head-to-foot in the grave clothes Lazarus hopped to the front of the tomb. The burial cloth was still over his face. “Loose him,” Jesus said. “Take the cloth and the windings off of him and let him go.”

One moment Mary and Martha were overcome with sorrow. The next moment their hearts were filled with joy. Their Lord had restored their brother to them. What had been their darkest day was flooded with the brightness of new life.

You, too, can experience that joy. If you do not, right at this moment, know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are as dead spiritually as Lazarus was physically. That same Jesus can give you new life. Listen! He just called your name.


Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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