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Lazarus, Come Forth

by David A. DePra

     The Bible is filled with teachings. But it is also filled with stories;

with accounts from the life of Jesus and others. These too are

teachings. They show us how God works, and how God reacts.

They teach us about God and His ways. They are historical

accounts which God inspired to be written accurately -- but with a

certain emphasis and detail. In them is spiritual Truth.

     The account of Lazarus being raised from the dead is one such

story. We often remember only the miracle. But it is wise to read

everything leading up to it. It is there that much of the revelation

about God resides.

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town

of Mary and her sister Martha.....Therefore his sisters sent unto Him

saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." When Jesus

heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the

glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Now

Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had

heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the

same place where he was. (John 11:1-6)

     Lazarus was sick. And of course, Jesus had healed many

people. Mary and Martha knew that. Furthermore, they had a

relationship with Jesus that was as close as could be. It was only

natural that they would send for Jesus. They knew He would want

and come to heal His friend, Lazarus.

     The first response of Jesus is important to notice. He said, "This

sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God." The reason

this statement is important is that almost as Jesus spoke, Lazarus

died. In other words, Jesus was clearly stating what the will of God

was for Lazarus -- but at that precise moment, it was not happening.

In fact, what was happening was a direct contradiction to Jesus'


     Herein we see a Truth: God will speak a word -- His will -- to the

complete disregard of circumstances which oppose it. And He will

perhaps do absolutely nothing to keep those circumstances from

happening. Why? Well, for one thing, God is not worried about

circumstances which contradict Him. He can change them anytime

He wants.

     Have you ever had a situation where you knew the will of God for

something -- only to see the opposite happen almost immediately?

Well, if you have, John 11 tells you that this means nothing. In fact,

it is normal. God will do what He desires regardless.

Making the Impossible Necessary

     The second response of Jesus is related to the first. Not only

does He proclaim that Lazarus' sickness is not unto death -- right in

the face of him dying -- but Jesus stays two more days right in that

same place. He doesn't rush over to Lazarus at all.

     Here again, we see one of the ways of God. Even though we

might think God needs to rush to our aid in a serious situation, He

often does not. But this is not because He is indifferent. Rather, He

is going to do something even greater for us -- something only

made possible by the wait.

     God could have seen to it that Lazarus had lived long enough for

Jesus to get there. Then Jesus could have healed his illness. But

instead, Jesus let Lazarus die. Now, the miracle would have to be

even greater. In fact, it would have to be greater than anyone who

was involved with this situation had dared hope for.

     If you read the account in John 11, not once -- not once -- does

a single person ever suggest the possibility that Jesus could raise

Lazarus from the dead. After all, it is one thing to heal the sick. But

now it is too late. Lazarus is dead. But worse, he has been dead

four days. Corruption has set in. Now, it is really too late.

     This teaches us that no matter how outside our frame of reference

the miracle may be, Jesus is still able to do it. We may not even

have considered it, or asked it, or hoped for it. But Jesus is not

limited by our frame of reference. All things are possible with God.

     We find in this account that God will deliberately allow things to

progress to the point where it seems too late. Impossible. Not even

in our thinking. Then He will do what He pleases. He will bring to

pass His Word. Jesus had said, "This sickness is NOT unto death."

And that Word was going to stand no matter whether Lazarus had

died, had been put in the tomb, or whether His body was rotting.

     God will often make the impossible necessary. Why? So that

we will finally surrender. We have to be convinced that we cannot

do it. And then He will bring to pass His Word.

That You Might Believe

     The purpose, of course, behind all that God was allowing in this

situation was more than to show everyone what Jesus could do.

This was part of it, of course, to bring Him glory. But Jesus had an

even greater purpose: To the intent that you may believe. Jesus

was doing things this way to strengthen the faith of those who would

witness it.

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend

Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then

said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus

spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of

rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you

may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. (Jn. 11:11-15)

     Do you see this? "To the intent you may believe" is the purpose.

That is why Jesus didn't immediately go. Jesus waited until the

situation was impossible "to the intent you may believe." He waited

until the tomb was sealed and the body began to decay. Then He

said, "Let's go." All of this to build our faith.


seems that these things would be to strengthen our faith. Rather, it

will seem like circumstances are exposing our faith as nonsense.

But we have to hang in there. If we know God has spoken, we can

be sure that His Word will not turn to Him void.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not

return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and

it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

     Faith is strengthened if we stand despite everything that

contradicts it. We can do this even if we are not sure what God is

going to do specifically. How? By trusting God. In other words, we

may not know what God is doing, but we can rest in the fact that HE

knows what He is doing. That is faith. And if we endure to the end

of the matter we will not only see the glory of God, but we will have,

along the way, grown in faith.

Our Lazarus

Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four

days already. (Jn. 11:17)

     We all have a "Lazarus." It is something or someone we love. It

may be our own spiritual condition. Our "Lazarus" is whatever had

died. We asked God for help but He did not respond. He did not

come. Thus, our "Lazarus" is in the tomb and has begun to decay.

     Our "Lazarus" may be a loved one who we want to see saved,

or brought out of bondage. It may be someone who seems long

past the point of redemption. He may even be some part of us -- a

part of us that seems dead and buried; unable to function in


     It is not always obvious what God wants to do in a specific

situation -- that is -- HOW He will answer our prayers. But the Bible

already tells us that God "desires all men to be saved, and to come

into a knowledge of the Truth." (I Tim. 2:5) So we can be sure that

redemption IS God's will and purpose. We are always on safe

ground praying that the Redemption of Jesus Christ will be brought

into a life or situation.

     God is telling us in this story that it is NEVER too late for a

resurrection. Never. It does not matter whether it seems that Jesus

is indifferent to us. It does not matter whether things have

progressed to the point where they are impossible. God IS at work.

Jesus is on His way.

     Lazarus was in the grave four days when Jesus arrived. Martha

would say to Him, "Lord by this time he stinks because he has been

dead four days." Not only was Lazarus dead, but decay and

corruption had begun to take place. The foul odor was evidence of


     There is a spiritual and moral corruption which occurs when

something abides in death. After all, corruption is what happens to

that which was alive, but now is dead. And the fact is, everyone of

us continue to carry this corruption. God had made Adam alive.

He died. And we inherit the corruption and decay.

     For some of us, this corruption is emotional and tempermental.

We wear things like bitterness and anger. Depression and despair.

These are the things which speak of death. Not life. They are the

decay and corruption which has taken place in the human race.

For others, we carry corruption which is the result of our choices to

sin. Moral corruption. Corruption of conscience. All of this is OF

death. It is NOT of the new creation in Jesus Christ.

     And then there are hurts and disappointments. Tragedy. There

are scars so deep that there seems NO solution. This is the "odor"

of death -- that which continually reminds us of our condition, or the

condition of our loved one. Yet Jesus was not intimidate by this

odor -- by this proof that Lazarus was dead. He still isn't.

     Some Christians are confused because they think that because

they are born again that they should have no emotional or mental

pains. But this is usually based on the false notion that our emotions

or temperment are also born again. They are NOT. The core of

our being -- the real, moral us -- is born again. But our minds, our

emotions, and our bodies are NOT BORN AGAIN. No, these are

the "tent" in which we live. They are NOT what is born again.

     If our body, mind, and emotions were born again, then the minute

we receive Christ, they should function perfectly. But they don't.

They usually keep functioning the way they have been functioning,

imperfectly and with a level of corruption. God's solution is to renew

our minds according to the Truth. This, in turn, fixes our emotions.

And our body will also benefit.

     So while our body, mind, and emotions are NOT born again, they

are to come under the influence of resurrection. These are able to

be sanctified and made healthy and whole, brought into good

obedience to God.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in

you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your

mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore brethren,

we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (Rom. 8:11)

     The point is this: There is nothing about us -- even that which is

fully corrupted and broken -- which cannot be brought out of the

grave. It is never too late for the Redemptive power of Jesus Christ

to invade us.

Calling Forth the Dead

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus,

come forth." And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and

foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.

Jesus saith unto them, "Loose him, and let him go."

     One thing we notice is that Jesus did not enter the tomb, and

drag Lazarus, kicking and screaming, out into the light. No, He

called to him. Lazarus had to get up, as bound in grave clothes as

He was, and walk out of the tomb.

     It is like this with us. Jesus will give us life. And He will take away

the "stone" which makes walking out of the tomb impossible for us.

But WE have to respond to Him and walk out. We may not be able

to walk very well. But we have to take that step and "come forth."

     Now notice something here. It is not up to us to find Jesus. No.

He comes to the tomb. Neither is it up to us to strain and struggle to

hear His voice among many. No. There is only one voice calling

us forth. And it isn't even up to us to move the barrier between us

and life. No. In other words, everything is done for us EXCEPT the

choice to leave the tomb. WE have to leave the tomb and

everything in it, and come out into the light.

     Some people won't. They are so used to the tomb that they are

at home with it. It's not that they like it, but they will not believe that

there can be any better of a place. So they just stay where they


     Others want to walk out of the tomb, but not without the baggage

they have accumulated while in there. They say they want God, but

they also want to live the way they please. Of course, they don't

really think they live in a tomb. To them, it is home. But to God, it is

a place of death.

     Others do get up and respond to Jesus. But they continue to be

bound in grave clothes. They aren't living IN the grave, but are

wearing the clothes which speak of it. They wear those clothes in

their attitude and actions.

     One of the reasons people do not answer the call of Jesus to

come forth from death, is that they do not believe it is that easy. Too

often we have been told that there are conditions to answering His

call. This can be a subtle deception. For instance, we have been

told that we are required to "repent" before we are allowed to

answer the call of Jesus and come out of the tomb. This sounds so

right. After all, how can we expect to be raised out of our dead

condition if we will not repent?

     The question is: What are we supposed to repent of? Well, in

order to answer the call, we have to repent of only one thing: Our

refusal to answer the call! Our refusal to believe.

     You and I have been taught that we must repent of sins before we

can come to Jesus. But what we usually make this mean is that we

have to almost become perfect people before Jesus will receive

us. That is impossible. Rather, repentance of sins is really the

RESULT of coming to Jesus. What we really need to repent of

BEFORE we come to Jesus is this: Refusing to come to Jesus! In

effect, we need to repent of unbelief. THAT is THE SIN.

     Once we repent of unbelief and simply come to Jesus out of the

tomb, we are leaving our place of death. Consequently, we are

leaving sin behind. Once we are out of that tomb, God will be free

to convict us of all the specific ways we have sinned against Him,

and to renew our mind in repentance regarding those things. But

until we repent of our unbelief we cannot BELIEVE!

     Again and again, the Bible says, "Repent and believe." But

repent of what? Repent of NOT believing! Then, you will believe!

Do you see that? And once you believe, you will see that every

sin you ever committed is under the Blood. And that you can walk

in freedom from sin.

     It is morally impossible for someone to repent of unbelief and

then to "sin that grace might abound." For no one will truly answer

the call of Jesus to come forth out of the tomb unless they are sick

of the tomb. True conversion does not result in license because

true conversion involves forsaking license, legalism, and every

other substitute for Christ.

     Then there are those like Lazarus. They are not only given life

by Jesus, but they walk out of the tomb. And then they get rid of

their grave clothes -- usually with the help of others.

The Subtlety of Satan

     I mentioned above that some people give up. They resign

themselves to the fact that their "Lazarus" is too far gone. The

smell of death is upon "him," and it's too late. And if you read the

passage, this is exactly the place to which Mary and Martha had


     What I am talking about here is a despair -- a resignation to the

belief that things in my Christian walk will never be any better than

they are right now. I may have problems with depression, sin, or

other issues. Perhaps I have spent years in the tomb struggling

with these. And now, well, I have just given up. I will no longer allow

myself to believe that things will get any better.

     Now notice: It is not that I have given up on God. Not really that.

I trust God. But I have convinced myself that I hope for more than I

should have. I have come to the place where I have settled for life

on the outskirts of the promised land. Entering in was too much to

hope for.

     This also applies to a "Lazarus" who is a loved one. Perhaps we

have spent years praying for them. But nothing. So we settle for the

unwelcome fact that nothing will ever happen. We give up.

      We need to understand something very clearly. Everything I

have just described with regard to "giving up" and "settling for less"

is nothing more than a tactic of SATAN. What you and I interpret as

us simply "facing the facts" and "resigning" ourselves to defeat, is

nothing more than the outcome of SATAN wearing us down over a

period of time to get us to this point.

     It is right here that we MUST see something. It is very subtle, but

vital to see. All this time you and I have thought that the whole issue

is to get our "Lazarus" out of the tomb -- our "Lazarus" being any

part of our life we think is dead. A person or an issue in our lives. Or

even a personal spiritual bondage. We have focused on THAT as

our "Lazarus." But wait: Maybe our "Lazarus" is something else.

Maybe our real "Lazarus" is the FAITH which has died in us. Maybe

the REAL DEFEAT is the fact we have given up.

     Can you see what is happening here? It is exactly what is going

on in John 11. Mary, Martha, and the Jews were walking around

crying over Lazarus. They were disappointed in Jesus. Not once

in the entire story of Lazarus in John 11 is there one suggestion to

Jesus that He could still raise up Lazarus. They HAD given up on

that. But all the while they are lamenting about Lazarus, and about

the fact that Jesus had not been there in time to save him, it was

THEY who were the problem. THEY had slipped into unbelief.

THEY had allowed Satan to bring them down into this place of

spiritual resignation.

     This was so bad that Jesus wept. (Jn. 11:35) Do we actually

think Jesus wept because Lazarus had died -- when all the while

He knew He was going to raise Him from the dead? This IS what

the Jews who were there assumed. They thought that Jesus was

weeping for Lazarus. In reality, He was weeping for THEM. For

their unbelief and surrender to defeat.

     One question we might want to ask at this point is this: Was it

unfair of Jesus to expect them to assume that He was going to

raise Lazarus from the dead? After all, people die. Jesus didn't

raise everyone who died from the dead. He even stood by and

allowed John the Baptist to be executed. So how could these

people be expected to assume that Jesus would raise Lazarus?

     It isn't a matter of expecting them to assume anything. It is never

wise to assume God will do this or that, unless He has specifically

promised it. And we do not find Jesus promising Mary or Martha,

ahead of time, to raise Lazarus from the dead. So where did they

do wrong?

     They went wrong assuming that Jesus would do nothing. They

went wrong assuming He was indifferent and didn't care. Both

Mary and Martha had said to Him, "If you had been here -- that is --

if you had cared enough to come when we called, Lazarus would

not have died."

     Again we see a resignation to a situation -- and the reason? God

doesn't care. God was indifferent. We called and You did not

answer. And now it's too late.

     It is one thing to assume God will do a specific thing. That

COULD be presumption. But it is another to assume He will do

NOTHING. We must see the difference. It is important. Faith knows

and stands in the fact that God will ALWAYS DO SOMETHING.

But what? God will always do HIS WILL.

     Jesus said to Mary, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe,

you would see the glory of God?" (Jn. 11:40) Note that Jesus did

not promise her anything less, or more, than GOD'S glory. God's

will. THAT is the promise.

     So the point is this: Jesus promises us that God is going to do

His will regarding our Lazarus. He is not indifferent. We must not

give up. And this is true no matter what circumstances look like. It

is never too late for God to do His will in our lives.

     Thus, what is it that we are supposed to do with our "Lazarus?" If

we cannot assume Jesus will raise him, and must not assume

Jesus will not, then what? Well, we are supposed to SURRENDER

Lazarus into the hand of God. And then let GOD decide what to do.

This is totally the opposite of accusing God as being indifferent.

It is easy to think God is indifferent if He "stays in the same place"

when we call. But faith KNOWS God is never indifferent. So if we

want to "assume" something, what we should "assume" is this: God

is on the way to deal with Lazarus. He cares more about him than

we do.

     There are many things in this life which we wish God would

resurrect. Some of them are even "good" things. But have we the

faith to allow God to decide that? Remember: Lots of people,

including John the Baptist, died during Jesus' time on earth. Jesus

did not rush over and bring them all back to life. For some people,

in was entirely within the will of God that they die. The point is, God

knows things we don't know. He sees an eternally bigger picture.

We need to believe that and trust Him.

     The story of Lazarus is a story which shows us that it is never

too late for God to do His will. There is no obstacle -- not even death

-- which can keep back the life of Jesus Christ. The question is: Will

we believe that God is able to get His will no matter how far things

seem to have fallen? Do we believe it enough to let it carry our


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