Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

From Death to Life

This week, I was reading the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from death to life. As I read, I was struck with the realization that Scripture never records Lazarus’s reaction. To my knowledge, we never hear anything from Lazarus himself—only his sisters. Here’s the first passage about Lazarus following his resurrection:

Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. John 12:1-3

As I read these words, I began to wonder what Lazarus would have said. Obviously, anything we think about Lazarus’ reaction is all speculation since we don’t have anything from his point of view in scripture. But, I also believe there’s nothing wrong with using our holy imagination to conjecture what Lazarus might have experienced.

I have spoken in the past about how I have experienced my own resurrection from the dead. When I was going through my divorce, I felt as if my life was over. I even contemplated ending my life. The pain was unbearable, and I couldn’t understand how God would allow my marriage to fail. It was as if God had waited until He knew it was too late before coming to my rescue (see John 11:5-6).

As I languished in my own grave of pain and devastation, I wondered how I would ever find life again. Jesus Himself said He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10), but I felt as if my life was over. As I wept over my marriage, God wept with me (John 11:35). He was truly near the broken-hearted even as He promised (Psalm 34:18).

Then, He called me out of the grave (John 11:43-44). He promised my death would be for my good and His glory (John 11:4). He told me to throw off my graveclothes holding me down and live my life to the fullest.

And that’s exactly what I have experienced—the opportunity of seeing my life resurrected from what I felt was certain death.

So what would Lazarus say to us today if he were walking amongst us?

It was dark and lonely. Have you ever been in that dark, lonely place? Have you felt as if you were never going to see the beauty, the abundant life God promised? Have you doubted His promises—maybe His ability or maybe just His willingness to set you free from the darkness? Maybe you have wondered if God truly is good—or if He is good, how could He allow something like this could happen to you?

We don’t know what happened to Lazarus during his days in the tomb. Was he in heaven with the Father? Was he in a place of darkness, isolation? Since scripture doesn’t tell us, we can only guess. For us walking the earth today, it is the places of darkness and isolation that leave us longing for an earthly death. Maybe that’s what God allowed Lazarus to experience in those days in the tomb.

I thought my life on earth was over. Have you felt that way? Have you wondered if you would ever experience the beauty, the promise, life once held?

As much as our heads know and understand that heaven is far greater than life on this earth, we also recognize how much pain death causes those here on earth. As you read John 11, you see the pain and grief from Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters. You hear the anger in their voices as they tell Jesus things would have been different if only He had shown up earlier.

Death, although we have the promise of an eternal future, leaves a hole here on earth and I’m certain Lazarus felt that way.

Jesus called me to take off the graveclothes. As Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave, His command was simple: take off the graveclothes. So many people walk around today wearing their graveclothes, paralyzed by the pain and devastation of whatever circumstances have caused them to experience a death of their own. We walk around carrying around the baggage of our past failures and pains.

If Lazarus was here, he would tell us that life was meant to live in abundance. He would remind us that He was once dead, but now He has a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He eats and drinks with those he loves. He enjoys the simple things in life. He put off the baggage of his past and embraced the present. He chose to live a life filled with the best things in life.

Jesus has the power of life and death. There’s no doubt God is all-powerful. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He raised Jesus from the dead. He holds all the power necessary to bring your life back to death, too.

There’s no reason to doubt God can change your life, take the old and make something new and beautiful and better. He has the power and the desire to make all things new for you.

Coming from death to life brings intimacy. There’s something amazing about experiencing God in the hard times. We get to know Him, His character, His goodness, His grace, His provisions in ways we never have before. We experience an intimacy we never dreamed possible.

And it’s something we can’t keep to ourselves. We see this as Lazarus’s sister, Mary, falls at Jesus’s feet and anoints them with perfume. Her love and gratitude for who Jesus is, for all He has done, is obvious as the tears fall from her face and drop on His feet. When we experience a resurrection, all those around us have the joy of experiencing more of the Father.

There’s always more to come, and God always has the last word. There’s no doubt that as long as we have a relationship with the Father, He is still working. Even when we don’t see it. Even when we don’t feel it. He is still working. When we can’t see His hand at work, we need to trust His heart—the perfect goodness and grace that is who He is.

When God is in us, we can be assured there is always more to the story.

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know what pain and experience is in your life. But I do know my Father. I know His goodness and grace. I know His love, a perfect love that can only emanate from Him.

As we enter this Holy week isolated and alone, don’t forget there’s more to the story. God is still alive. He is still on the throne. He is working to make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). In the end, we will have 20/20 vision that looks back and sees His sovereignty woven throughout our lives, our circumstances.

Keep holding on. Jesus is on His way. He will set all things right. He will call us from the grave. He will bring the power of resurrection

Hang on. We may be living on Saturday today…but Sunday is coming.

And we will shout, “He’s ALIVE!”