When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-26530d" data-link="[d]”>[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-26531e" data-link="[e]”>[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-26538f" data-link="[f]”>[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-26540g" data-link="[g]”>[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
…Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.
—the Gospel of John, chapter 11
According to the Bible, how many Old Testament prophets raised people from the dead? Answer: Two. Elijah and Elisha. That’s it.
And they only did it three times. (For details, read here.) So the act of raising someone from the dead would have been seen as a very, very big deal. It was not like healing someone of a disease or casting out demons. Lots of people, it seems, could do those miracles. Nope, raising someone from the dead was the big kahuna of all miracles!
And check this out: Is there any instance in the OT of a false prophet or a prophet of another god raising the dead? Is there any instance in the OT of Satan raising someone from the dead? Answer: No. So by raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus demonstrated, in the most powerful of terms, that he was either the Messiah, or at a minimum, a prophet equal to the greatest of all Old Testament prophets! The Pharisees had asked Jesus for a sign and he had just given it to them! The raising of Lazarus from the dead was not done in secret like many of Jesus’ miracles performed in the Synoptic Gospels. Nope. This miracle was done in the spotlight. All of Judea knew about it. The Pharisees could no longer get away with accusing Jesus of possessing powers given to him by Satan. Satan could not raise the dead! Jesus had just proven that he was the real deal!
In the passage from the Gospel of John above, we are told that Lazarus had been dead for four days. His body was decomposing to the point that he stunk. Lazarus death and burial were very public events. His tomb was a known location. Many Jews had come to mourn with Mary and Martha and some of them were wondering why the great miracle worker, Jesus, had not come and healed his friend Lazarus; essentially blaming Jesus for letting Lazarus die.
Bethany was a suburb of Jerusalem. It was not an obscure village in the outback of Galilee. If a great miracle happened in Bethany, everyone in Jerusalem would know about it, and according to this passage, that is exactly what happened. Many Jews believed in Jesus due to his miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead; so many that it greatly disturbed the Pharisees and the High Priest when they were informed of the miracle.
Let’s step back and look at the facts asserted in this passage: Only two OT prophets had raised people from the dead, and these two prophets were considered probably the two greatest Jewish prophets of all time: Elijah and Elisha. If this story is true, the supernatural powers of Jesus were on par with the supernatural powers of the greatest Jewish prophets of all time! If this event really did occur, it should have shocked the Jewish people to their very core—a new Elijah was among them! This event must have been the most shocking event to have occurred in the lives of every living Jewish man and woman on the planet. The news of this event would have spread to every Jewish community across the globe.
And yet…Paul, a devout and highly educated Jew, says not one word about it. Not one. Not in his epistles; not in the Book of Acts. Think about that. What would be the most powerful sign to the Jews living in Asia Minor and Greece—the very people to whom Paul was preaching and attempting to convert—to support the claim that Jesus of Nazareth himself had been raised from the dead? Answer: The very public, very well documented raising from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus!
But nope. No mention of this great miracle by Paul. (A review of Paul’s epistles indicates that Paul seems to have known very little about anything about the historical Jesus. Read here.)
And there is one more very, very odd thing about the Raising-of-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Miracle: the author of the Gospel of John, the very last gospel to be written, is the only gospel author to mention this amazing miracle! The authors of Mark, Matthew, and Luke say NOTHING about the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Nothing.
Do a google search on this topic and you will find some of the most bizarre excuses made by Christian apologists for the absence of this miracle in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. One such excuse is that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written during the time that Lazarus and his sisters may have still been alive. The authors of these Gospels may have left out the Lazarus story to protect Lazarus and his sisters from retribution by the Jews and others. Since the Gospel of John was written near the end of the first century, or even early in the second century, the author of the Gospel of John could safely mention this miracle without endangering the lives of Lazarus and his sisters.
Really, dear Christians??
Is that the best you can come up with??
Come on! Let’s call a spade a spade! This story is a blatant fabrication! It never happened. It is a supernatural tall tale for the very purpose of propping up yet another supernatural tall tale: the magical resurrection of Jesus himself from the dead. It is a story of magic told in an attempt to convince superstitious, gullible, first century people of the veracity of a new religion—Christianity. It…is…not…true!
Lazarus (if he existed at all) and Jesus are still DEAD.