Lazarus, Come Out!

“Lazarus, Come Out!”
A reflection on John 11:1-45
Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A)
©️2023 by Gloria M. Chang

The Death of Lazarus

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. 

John 11:1-45

Jesus Wept

Who could have invented a figure like Jesus of Nazareth? After predicting that Lazarus’ illness would not end in death, the man of sorrows wept with Mary and her friends, who were mourning.1 Omniscience did not debar compassion—the capacity to “suffer with” mortals. While remaining one with his Father in heaven, Jesus entered into the pain and suffering of his brothers and sisters. A scandal to Stoics and all who seek transcendence from suffering, God in the flesh descended with broken humanity. 

If Jesus had embodied the ideal of a Greek or Eastern sage, he would have approached the tomb with imperturbable calm, shedding no tears. According to the New American Bible translation, Jesus twice became “perturbed.”2 The Greek verb embrimaomai literally means “snort like an angry horse” or “snort (roar) with rage.” Other English translations render the verb “moved” or “groaned in spirit.” Scholars speculate that Jesus expressed anger at the presence of evil and death.3

Lazarus, Come Out!

Thus Jesus, “perturbed,” came to the tomb. With authority, he commanded the mourners to take away the stone. Concerned about the “stench,” Martha protested. “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” Jesus responded. 

Turning to his Father, Jesus prayed aloud before the crowd, then cried, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man, bound with burial bands, walked out of the tomb. Foreshadowing his own death and resurrection, Jesus freed Lazarus from the cords of death. 

Many witnesses came to faith. At the same time, the miracle precipitated plots by the chief priests and Pharisees to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.4 Lacking Christ’s power to give life, his enemies sought to destroy it. 

Praying to his Father before the crowd,
Jesus raised Lazarus wrapped in a shroud.


1 Isaiah 53:3 portrays the Messiah as a “man of sorrows.”
2 John 11:33, 38. 
3 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to John 11:33.
4 John 11:53; 12:10.

2 Replies to “Lazarus, Come Out!”

  1. Martha believed, waited, and wondered.
    Too late for Jesus’ loving intervention?
    Would the stench overcome Jesus?
    Would the rock of death prevent him?

    Perturbed and weeping, he dispelled her doubt.
    Rock rolled away, with commanding voice,
    Jesus calls his friend, “Lazarus, come out.”
    Burial cloths left behind, Lazarus raised to life.

    Lord, strengthen my belief in your life-giving Spirit.
    Dispel my doubts with your Blessed Assurance.

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