Many would say the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus is not the most important point of the event described in John 11. They would say the coming forth of Lazarus from the tomb is secondary to the anticipated cross-bearing and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder what Lazarus would say about this. He who lay stone cold dead in the tomb; he who was given extra years to enjoy life; what might he say about his raising from the dead being secondary to anything else? Let’s let Lazarus speak for himself. After all, how many people have opportunity to deliver their own eulogy? Let’s hear what Lazarus might say if given the opportunity to speak.
“Something greater than my being raised from the dead? Something greater than my being reunited with my loving sisters? I don’t take these blessings lightly. And yet I would agree there is something even greater than my coming forth from the tomb. I came forth to die again. Jesus’ empty tomb means that the power of death has been conquered once and for all. I died a natural death. He entered willingly into the jaws of death to remove its powerful bite. Something better—you better believe it! But let me get at it my own way.
My eulogy is in three parts. First, I borrow a phrase that my sister spoke while I was in the grave and Jesus ordered it open. She said, ‘Lord, by this time he of course stinketh, for he has been dead four days.’ She was describing the condition of my body. When I say, ‘I stinketh’, I also describe the condition of my spirit without God’s grace. My sinful spirit has a stench about it. With Paul I would acknowledge that I am a child of God, yet I so often live a life curved in on myself. I am nothing without Jesus. I confess with Paul, ‘The good I would, I do not; the evil I would not, that I do. O wretched man that I am.’ Surely the stench of my carnal spirit, of my selfish heart, arises horribly to the nostrils of God. Thanks be to Jesus for His intercession and intervention for me upon the cross. Let the eulogies of others speak of magnificent motivations, their ‘robes off their backs’ noble deeds; but for Lazarus simply say, ‘he stinketh’.
For the second part of my eulogy, I take from my Lord’s words to my sister to reassure her and give her real hope. My Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ Even in odorous death, I am hidden in Jesus and so I live. Jesus met the enemy. He suffered my death. He alone is the resurrection and the life. When one enters ‘the valley of the shadow of death’, as I did, one is given the fruits of the gift of faith. All else is swept away. Only the crucified and risen Jesus is left. At my death, it was said, ‘Jesus wept’. Imagine the Almighty, wrapped in human flesh, knowing what it means to weep, to grieve the loss of a loved one. He is the One who cries with you, Who surrounds your grief with His understanding and love. Yet His love won’t quit there. He endures your death, your wages of sin, upon the cross. That is why He is the ‘resurrection and the life’.
And now, to the third part of my eulogy. I would call it, ‘I believe’. It comes from my sister’s response to Jesus’ question, ‘Do you believe this’? She never specifically answered His question about dying and living again or about eternal life. She simply confessed, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God’. My sister, bless her trust, cut across all the mysteries of life and death and confessed what she absolutely knew, ‘I believe in You, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.’ That’s Who I believe in. I believe in this One—Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried, and on the third day rose again. This One grants me eternal life.
So, say not about Lazarus that ‘he was a good man’. Say only that without God’s grace ‘he stinketh’. Say not that ‘if there is a heaven, he deserves to be there.’ Say only that Jesus is his ‘resurrection and life’. Say not about Lazarus that he knew all about God’s ways. Say only that he believed with all his heart that Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, died and rose for him.”
Spreading, Serving and Sharing with You, Pastor Carl