The Power of Jesus Even Over Death

Many scholars have called the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’s seventh sign and last public sign, the climax of Jesus’s ministry and the greatest of His public signs. In this chapter, John is preparing the reader for the cornerstone of our faith in Jesus Christ, which is the resurrection of the dead. We cannot have Christianity without the resurrection, and there cannot be resurrection without Jesus having authority over death.

The resurrection of Lazarus shows Jesus has authority over death, and His own resurrection from the dead shows that all who die in Christ will be resurrected unto eternal life (John 11:25). In this moment with Martha, Jesus claims that faith in Him can conquer death itself, and Martha’s trust in Jesus is the source of her own life.

Jesus Changes Our Response to Death

By raising Lazarus, Jesus overturned our instinctive response to death, which in the first century was no different than our response to death today: death is final. John carefully includes details in this passage to make it unmistakably clear that Lazarus was really dead, not sleeping nor unconscious. Jesus really brought a dead person back to life. There is an assumption among those mourning that had Jesus been there, Lazarus would not have died (John 11:21, 32, 37). These people had faith that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying, but they failed to comprehend Jesus’s power over death.

When Lazarus is brought back to life, the authority of Jesus is seen in His authority over death. Death is no longer final. The purpose of the resurrection of Lazarus was to glorify God, to prove Jesus was sent by God, and so people would believe (John 11:15, 40, 42).

Jesus Asserts Himself into Our Lives

By raising Lazarus, Jesus asserts Himself into our lives. If we take the Bible seriously, when we read this account in John 11 about the resurrection of Lazarus, then we are changed by the knowledge that death is not final.

To those who are skeptical of this account and do not believe, please consider the following implications. If this account is true, then Jesus has earned the right to tell us whatever He wants, including telling us what He wants us to do. Jesus wanted those around Him to know that He came from His Father (John 11:42). Jesus had authority because He came from God. Death is our greatest enemy, the consequence of sin. Death is not a threat to Jesus, who said He is the Resurrection and the Life and who raised a man from the dead. In Jesus, there is hope and eternal life (Romans 6:23). This miracle demands a decision. We must put our faith in the one who has authority over death.

To those who are in Christ and believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it would do us well to grasp the full significance of what we say we believe. Martha demonstrates this truth (John 11:24, 27, 39). Her faith in Christ was legitimate; however, Jesus was to reveal to her the fuller significance of what she believed.

Let us consider the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Christ Himself. As Christians, we agree and believe, but we need to grasp the fuller significance of that belief in our lives today. Jesus changes lives. We must consider the changes Jesus can make in our lives. We believe in what God can do, and it must come into agreement with what He has purposed to do.

Application Points

  • Do you take this account of Jesus raising a dead man seriously? God would have you grow in your understanding of the significance of what He has done in the resurrection and in what He is still doing in your life and the lives of others.
  • Are you praying believing that God will change you and those you pray for? Do not shortchange the power of God in salvation to change your life and the lives of others.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 2, Romans 6
A Hymn to Encourage: "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied.
For every sin on Him was laid,
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again.
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.