Series 18


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: John 11:1-45)

Perhaps the miracle performed by our Lord which most impresses us is that of the raising of Lazarus who had been dead and buried for four days. What is the spiritual teaching of this incident for us today? For all these great incidents are not only of great historical value but they are illustrations of great spiritual truths. In this account of Lazarus, which is given to us in John’s Gospel alone, we have an illustration of five stages in the experience of a soul passing out of death into fullness of life and liberty; in other words, it is an illustration of a full-orbed Christian experience. Let us study this incident and see in what measure we are enjoying that fullness of life and liberty which the Lord Jesus came to give us.

1. First of all, Lazarus was DEAD.

The little home in Bethany, in which Lazarus and his two sisters lived, must have been a very happy one – see what verse 5 tells us. Of course, our Lord loves everyone, yet it is true to say that He has a special love for His own (Ephesians 5:25). Now a great tragedy overshadowed that home. Lazarus became ill, and he died. Mary and Martha did all they could to save him, but it was to no avail – see what verse 14 tells us. By the time Jesus reached Bethany Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days – see verse 39. All this is true in a spiritual sense of every man and woman who has not found life through the Lord Jesus Christ, for just as truly as Lazarus was dead physically, so every unconverted man and woman is dead spiritually, that is, dead towards God. Look up and compare Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:1; 4:18; 1 John 5:11-12. Many respectable and religious people are spiritually dead – look up John 3:3 and 5. How is it with you? Could John 5:40 be true of you? What folly for anyone to refuse to come to Him – look up John 10:10.

2. Second, Lazarus was RAISED TO NEWNESS OF LIFE.

Verses 43 and 44 tell us this. It was a miracle! But every conversion is a miracle – look up 2 Corinthians 5:17. Here was a man who had died and his body was becoming foul and loathsome. What a picture of those who are in the grip of sin and Satan! Thank God, the power of Christ is sufficient for the worst, for all! Every Christian is one of the Lord’s miracles, and every minister, missionary and servant of God can recount stories of countless numbers of people who have been dead and raised to new life by the power of the risen Lord. Can you say 1 John 3:14 (first part)? Have you been born again (1 Peter 1:23), and raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4)? Do you belong to that great company of people described by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:1?

3. Though Lazarus had life, HE WAS BOUND.

Verse 38 tells us that Lazarus had been buried in a cave, and John tells us that “It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.” But although Lazarus was raised from the dead and became alive, he was bound – read verses 43 and 44, and notice that it was his hands, feet and face which were bound. In other words, poor Lazarus had life, but no liberty; he was in bondage. He was bound by the graveclothes, just as many Christians are bound by the graveclothes of the old life – of impurity, some evil habit unrenounced, worldliness, a temper not brought under control, worry, fear or doubt. How sad it is when a Christian is in bondage, when a child of God is bound – hands, feet and face, so that his work, his walk and his vision are defective. God cannot use fettered Christians. Their graveclothes must be removed – and thank God He can remove them! – look up Romans 13:12. Maybe you have received life, but you have no liberty? What can be done about it?


Look at verse 44, and try to visualise the scene. One moment he was bound; the next moment he was free – set free at the command of Christ. All this is gloriously possible for the child of God who is in bondage, for – look up John 8:36, and compare Romans 8:2. Every provision has been made by the risen Christ, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, for every single one of God’s children to be freed from every form of satanic and fleshly bondage. Do you know such glorious liberty? Have you been loosed and let go? If not, ask the Lord Jesus to liberate you. “He can break every fetter, He can set you free!”

5. Finally, Lazarus became A LIVING WITNESS FOR CHRIST.

John 12:9 tells us this. Changed lives are the best arguments for Christianity. When the world sees men and women who were once slaves of sin and in bondage to death and the Devil raised to newness of life and set free, then they begin to think, and they recognise the mighty works of God.

A woman, who had been a drunkard but had since come to Christ, was standing at an open-air meeting when she noticed one of her former evil companions suddenly leave the crowd and walk away. She ran after her and found her in deep distress. “I listened to the speakers,” she said, “but when I saw you standing there so wonderfully changed from what you used to be, I couldn’t stand it any longer!” She was persuaded to return to the meeting, and she was wonderfully saved by the Lord. It was not the preaching that had arrested her – it was the transformed life of her friend.

The blind man witnessed to Christ’s sight-giving power (John 9:25); the demoniac witnessed to Christ’s delivering grace (Mark 5:20); the leper witnessed to Christ’s cleansing touch (Mark 1:45); the woman witnessed to Christ’s satisfying love (Luke 7:37); the crooked woman witnessed to Christ’s straightening might (Luke 13:13); the disciples witnessed to Christ’s excellent glory (John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16); and Lazarus witnessed to Christ’s resurrection power (John 12:9). Are you a witnessing Christian?