Lazarus is a person who had more than just a near-death experience. Dead for four days is more of a full-death experience. Psalm 116 could have been Lazarus’s prayer (Psalm 116:3-4):
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
On the fourth day after Lazarus’s passing Jesus stood outside his tomb. What happened outside the tomb was just as interesting as what was going on inside the tomb.
A week ago the sisters Martha and Mary had sent word to the Lord to come see them because their brother Lazarus had fallen ill and his condition was worsening. Then He succumbed to his illness and passed away. Martha and Mary had been mourning the loss of their brother for several days when Jesus finally reached Bethany. Jesus decided to wait outside the village with His disciples. Meanwhile, word spread quickly about His arrival and as soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him. Seeing Jesus she stated, had He been there in time, Lazarus would still be alive. She firmly believed that Jesus would have had the power to heal her brother. But then she went a step further and boldly declared (John 11:22):
“But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
This was the moment Jesus openly talked about resurrecting Lazarus. Martha who moments ago claimed that God will do anything Jesus asks for seemed to doubt her own words. When Jesus point-blank asked her whether or not she believed that He is the resurrection and the life Martha said (John 11:27)
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
This did not exactly answer His question, and her heart was revealed later when they went to see Lazarus’s tomb and Jesus requested the tomb stone removed. (John 11:38-40):
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?”
And so, the tomb stone was rolled away. Outside the open tomb in front of everybody Jesus prayed to the Father (John 11:42):
“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.”
It is probably a good idea to mention that the loss of a close relative is followed by a week-long mourning period in Judaism. The custom is referred to as “sitting shiva” and involves the immediate family and friends of the deceased. It seems that Mary, Martha and Lazarus had many friends and relatives sitting shiva with them at the time Jesus arrived. It was clearly a public event and many witnessed what happened next. With a strong voice Jesus called Lazarus “Come out!” and Lazarus emerged from the grave with his grave clothes still on him.
In Psalm 116 we read (Psalm 116:15):
The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. * New Living Translation (NLT)
As long as we have breath, let’s use it to pray. Prayer opens our eyes and paints the picture that the Lord is real. He does not just sit there to receive our prayers, He bends down to listen. He cares. He is there – especially when we need Him most. Death is no walk in the park. We all have to face it, and we are reminded of our mortality when loved ones pass away. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We are called to trust in Him. Believing in Jesus we will see God’s glory.