Raising Lazarus From the Dead

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Question: Was the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life?

Answer: The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was a powerful and irrefutable testimony that Jesus was truly the Son of God and the promised Messiah, and that He is the resurrection and the life.

John 11:24-17

24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life (I have power over death and can give eternal life): he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26 And whosoever liveth (is spiritually alive) and believeth in me shall never die (spiritually). Believest thou this?

27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (I believe that you are the promised Messiah.)

John 11:39-44

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39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone (open the tomb). Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God (you would see the power of God in action)?

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it (I said it out loud for the benefit of the people who have gathered around), that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him (unwrap him), and let him go.

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The raising of Lazarus from the dead was one of the most remarkable miracles in history. Before this miracle occurred, the Savior had brought two individuals back to life: the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain. However, the raising of Lazarus was different from these miracles and had important purposes, as explained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“With Lazarus it was different. Two reasons in particular stand out. (1) As our Lord neared the climax of his mortal ministry, he was again bearing testimony, in a way that could not be refuted, of his Messiahship, of his divine Sonship, of the fact that he was in very deed the literal Son of God; and (2) He was setting the stage, so as to dramatize for all time, one of his greatest teachings: That he was the resurrection and the life, that immortality and eternal life came by him, and that those who believed and obeyed his words should never die spiritually” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:530–31).

“Lazarus was dead for four days before the Savior brought him back to life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out the significance of these four days: “Decomposition was well under way; death had long since been established as an absolute certainty. … To the Jews the term of four days had special significance; it was the popular belief among them that by the fourth day the spirit had finally and irrevocably departed from the vicinity of the corpse” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:533).

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President Ezra Taft Benson taught that the raising of Lazarus witnessed of Jesus Christ’s divinity:

“One of the greatest of these miracles was the raising of His friend Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus was sick, He deliberately delayed coming to Bethany to minister to His friend. It was a custom among the Jews to bury their deceased on the same day they died. It was also a superstition among them that the spirit lingered around the body for three days, but on the fourth day it departed. Jesus was very familiar with their beliefs. He therefore delayed His arrival in Bethany until Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. In that way there would be no question about the miracle He was to perform.

“On arrival outside of Bethany He was met by Martha, sister to Lazarus. She said, ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother Lazarus had not died.’ Jesus said, ‘Thy brother shall rise again.’ Not understanding, Martha replied, ‘I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Then Jesus proclaimed, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die’ (see John 11:21–26). Jesus was then taken to the place of burial, a cave with a stone in front of it. He commanded them to remove the stone, after which He offered up a prayer to His Father. He then cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ (John 11:43). Here is the Apostle John’s record of what took place: ‘And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin’ (John 11:44).

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“That miracle was such irrefutable proof of the messiahship of Jesus that the Sanhedrin determined Jesus must die because, they said, He ‘doeth many miracles’ which will cause the people to believe...

“...But I say, Jesus’ entire ministry was a mark of His divinity. He spoke as God, He acted as God, and performed works which only God Himself can do. His works bear testimony of His divinity.”

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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 72; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 297-298; New Testament Student Manual, John 11-13; Excerpt from “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” by President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, December 2001.