In the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we find some very valuable lessons on salvation and our new life in Christ.
Lazarus was dead. In verse 14 of John 11 we read: “The Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Here we learn that the unsaved person is not just sick or spiritually blind, but they are spiritually dead. Death is the result of sin. Look at Genesis 2:15-17. God told the first man that if he ate of the forbidden fruit that he would die. The warning here is that disobedience to God brings death. Sin brings two types of death. One, it brings physical death. Physical death was not in existence until sin entered the world. Death came by sin. This physical death is a separation of the soul from the body. It is not an ‘end all.’ In other words, you and I will live forever. Our souls never die. Physical death is when our soul leaves our body. This process of death can be very painful and fearful. It is especially fearful for those who are also dead spiritually. That brings us to the second type of death that sin brings and that is spiritual death. Some may argue that the Bible contradicted itself when Adam did not die on the day that he ate the forbidden fruit as God said he would. However, he did die. Though in that moment he did not experience physical death, he did experience spiritual death. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. Revelation 20:14 describes hell as the second death. This second death is an eternal death. It is an eternal separation of the soul from God. Therefore, when one dies without coming to faith in Christ, he or she is not only separated from their body, but also separated from God throughout all eternity. What a terrible state to be in, separated from your creator for eternity without any hope! This death comes not as a judgment or punishment from God but as a result of one’s own choice to reject God’s gift of grace through Jesus. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3. This passage tells us that we who have come to faith in Christ have been made alive through Jesus. We were once ‘dead in sins.’ We were bound to the curse and the penalty of sin. Read Colossians 2:13. Before we met Christ, we were dead in sin. We had no life. If you have never accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior then you are as dead as dead can be. There is no life in you.
Lazarus was decayed. In verse 39 of our text we read: “Jesus said, take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” The body of Lazarus was in a state of decay. In the gospels, we find three resurrections other than the resurrection of Jesus. One of those was that of a young girl found in Luke 8:49-56. In her case, she had not been dead very long and there was not much of a stench about her. Another resurrection is that of a young man found in Luke 7:11-17. In this case we find the body being carried in an open casket. Therefore, the body has not decayed too much to cause an unbearable stench. In the case of Lazarus we find that he had been dead for four days and his body has an unbearable stench. There is a neat spiritual lesson we learn here. That lesson is that the longer you are dead, the more you stink. In other words, the longer you go apart from Christ, the longer you continue to be spiritually dead, the more that sin has its toll on you. We have all been touched by sin on different levels. Some has sinned very little; others have lived dark and evil lives. The point here is that though we may experience sin on various levels, we are all dead apart from Christ. In the accounts of these three resurrections the underlining truth is that all were dead. It does not matter as to the level of your involvement in sin, apart from Christ, you are still dead. You may be the best churchgoer this world has ever seen. You may do a lot of good things. You may have never committed a crime. Yet, without Christ, you are just as spiritually dead as the most murderous and immoral person that has ever lived.
Lazarus was given life. As terrible as death is, there is good news. Read John 11:41-44. Jesus came and gave new life to Lazarus. This is an amazing thing. Here we find a man who has control over life and death. This incident alone gives us further proof that Jesus truly is God. Now, how did Jesus do this? He raised Lazarus from the dead by the power of His word. This is the same way that the other two resurrections occurred in the gospels. Jesus spoke, and life sprang forth. This is a remarkable thought. Who was it that created the world? John chapter one tells us that it was Jesus. It was by Him that all things were created. How did He create the world? He spoke it into existence. When He formed man in His image with His own hands, before that man became a living soul, God breathed life into Him. He used is mouth, His breath. Think about it. It is this same ‘word’ of God that is described to us as the Bible. Praise God! His word brings life! Look at John 5:24. In order for one to be saved, He must hear the Word. Read Ephesians 2:1-10. You and I are made alive the same way. When we come to Jesus through faith and receive His grace, you are given life through the power of His Word. All those who hear that Word and receives, they go from death to life and they are no longer spiritually dead and never will their soul be separated from God! Jesus gives us this life out of His great love for us, the kind of love that is ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ Salvation is not a set of religious rules, it is life. Life is a Person and that Person is Jesus. When a dead sinner hears the voice of the Holy Spirit of God drawing them to salvation and they believe, then they are given eternal life. When one rejects that Word, when one turns away from the drawing of the Spirit to Christ, he or she will remain in their sin and will be dead forever.
Lazarus was set free. In verse 44 of John 11 it says, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, loose him, and let him go.” Here we learn that the believer is not to be bound by the grave clothes of their past life. Instead, we are to put on the grace clothes of new life in Christ. Read Colossians 3:1-17. As believers in Christ, we are no longer bound to sin and to the things of this world. We are to put on new life found in Christ. This, my friend, is freedom in Christ. This is true Christian liberty. Freedom in Christ is not a license to sin. Freedom in Christ is not indulging earthly things. We must be careful that we do not participate in things simply in the name of Christian liberty. There are things that may be free to do but that does not mean it is best for us. Freedom in Christ is freedom from the chains of sin, the penalty of sin, and the power of sin. Being free in Christ does not mean that we do whatever we want to do or whatever we think is right. Being free in Christ is a freedom from the chains of sin and a freedom to live in the love of Christ and to enjoy the abundant life that He has given to us.
Lazarus witnessed to others. John 11:45 we find people coming to faith in Christ as a result of Lazarus being raised to new life. When you give your life to Christ, things will change in such a way that your life will point others to Jesus. This is a privilege and responsibility that all believers have, to share their life in Christ with others.
Lazarus fellowshipped with Christ. Read John 12:1-2. Lazarus finds himself sitting at a table and feasting with Jesus. This is the rightful place for those who were once dead and is now alive in Christ. Read Ephesians 2:5-6. When you are saved, you now have the honor of fellowshipping with Jesus. He is everything to you. He is your friend, your King, your Savior, and your God. New life in Christ brings with it a deep and burning desire to be with Jesus. This, I believe, is a sure sign of true salvation. When someone cannot get enough of Jesus, then you know that they have come to life in Christ.
What about you? Have you passed from death to life? Have you trusted in Jesus as your Savior? Are you alive?