This passage marks one of the many ways that John’s Gospel is radically different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In those three Gospels (called the Synoptics) the climax of Jesus’ early ministry was the transfiguration. Before the transfiguration Jesus was ministering in Galilee, doing great miracles, and experiencing popularity. After the transfiguration, when His disciples caught a glimpse of His true glory and mission, Jesus turned His face toward Jerusalem to begin the death march. In John’s Gospel there is no mention of the transfiguration (that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). John had a different point to make about Jesus. Instead of using the transfiguration as the climax of Jesus’ ministry, John uses the raising of Lazarus as the climax. It makes sense. In this story we see the truth of Jesus and His mission.
- Jesus had compassion on the “dead” people of the world.
- Jesus came to bring life to the world, to pull people out of the death clothes of sin, shame, and darkness so that they can step into the light of life in Him. He is the resurrection.
- Jesus Himself would have to step into the darkness of the tomb in order to lead everyone out into the light of life. Lazarus was a heavy foreshadowing of Jesus’ coming death, burial, and resurrection.
- Jesus’ mission was, and always is, to bring glory to the Father. Our Father in Heaven, YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.
Having performed this miracle and displayed His power and the glory of the Father and the true nature of His mission, Jesus was ready to enter into Jerusalem and face the painful journey that awaited Him.
In many ways we are like Lazarus. We were dead in our sins until Jesus raised us from the dead. Notice something about the newly “awakened” Lazarus. When he came out of the tomb he was 100% alive, but he was still wrapped tightly in his grave clothes. Jesus had to tell the people around Lazarus to take the grave clothes off of him. He couldn’t do it himself. The same is true for us. Many of us have experienced the initial resurrection of receiving Jesus as our Savior, but we are still wrapped tightly with the grave clothes of our sin. We have not taken the next step to allow those around us, our spiritual community to help us shed the baggage of sin, shame, addiction, negative thinking, etc. Jesus didn’t come to simply get us out of the tomb and walk around like a mummy. He called us to shed the clothes of death and step into the abundant life of His truth. The only way we can take those first steps is by allowing others to love us, to encourage us, and to hold us accountable to the issues that we are struggling with. Let someone you trust help you take off your grave clothes.