In preparation for a youth group lesson tonight on the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11, I turned to A.W. Pink’s wonderful commentary. I thought I’d share some of his commentary on this passage for your edification today.
He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43–44)
Lazarus was addressed personally for, as it has been well remarked, had Christ simply cried “come forth” Hades would have been emptied and every tenant of the grave would have been raised from the dead.
At the sound of that Voice the king of terror at once yielded up his lawful captive, and the insatiable grace gave up its prey. Captivity was led captive and Christ took forth as the Conqueror of sin, death, and Satan. There it was demonstrated that He who was in the form of a Servant, nevertheless, held in His own hand “the keys of death and hades.” Here was public proof that the Lord Jesus had absolute power over the material world and over the realm of spirits. At His bidding a soul that had left its earthly tenement was called back from the unseen to dwell once more in the body. What a demonstration was this that He who could work such astounding miracles must be none other than one “who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom 9:5). Thank God for an all-mighty Savior. How can any sheep of His ever perish when held in such a hand.
Whether we view the raising of Lazarus as a figure of the regeneration of a sinner, or the glorification of the believer, the ‘grave clothes’ here and the removal of them, are equally significant. When a sinner is born again, God’s work of grace in his soul is not perfected, rather has it just commenced. The old nature still remains and the marks of the grave are still upon him. There is much to impede the movements of the “new man,” much from which he needs to be “loosed,” and which his spiritual resurrection did not of itself effect.
That the Lord invited the bystanders to “loose him” points a beautiful lesson. In gracious condescension the Lord of glory links human instruments with Himself in the work which He is now doing in the world… The Lord alone can speak the word which quickens dead sinners; but He permits us to carry that word to them. What an inestimable privilege – an honor not given to the angels! O that we might esteem it more highly. There is no higher privilege this side of Heaven than for us to be used of the Lord in rolling away gravestones and removing grave clothes.
Pink, Arthur W. Exposition of the Gospel of John. (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981) Pages 205-210.
How have we come to be so blasé about this whole story. Jesus stood at the open tomb of a man who had been dead 4 days, and with the command of His voice He summons the dead to life. He signals the truth that He is the resurrection and the life, and that He would conquer death and hell, in fact, death had no claim upon Him. Not only that, but after giving life to a man who was dead, Jesus then sets him free from the trappings of death, that he might live and that to the fullest.
If the message of the Christian faith seems tried and uninspiring, then I think you have not really heard it. This is the stuff of life, of power, and of glory. If you read this and are not moved to wonder, then you fail to see that you are just where Lazarus was – dead in sin, incapable of doing anything to better your position.
Jesus still calls the dead to life. His Word still moves mightily. He calls us to proclaim salvation in His name, and to loose the bonds of those who have been raised. We share the Gospel, and in doing so we call the dead to life in Christ, and help the living be set free in Christ from the cords of death. What a wonderful word. What a wonderful calling.