The Unexpected

Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. (John 11:38–46)

Only Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. His disciples had no expectations, and neither did any of the other people in the crowd.

Jesus’ prayer to God was short. Jesus did not beg, he did not perform a ritual. He only yelled loudly enough that Lazarus, tucked away in the dark tomb, could hear him. Most likely it was a puzzling experience for Lazarus, who suddenly found himself in a dark, cool place, all wrapped up. He was bound, “hand and foot” probably something like a mummy. So his exit from the tomb would not have been dignified. He would have had to hop out slowly, unable to even see where he was going since his face was covered.

Jesus had to tell the people to help him. One can imagine them standing around rather slack jawed, so much in shock that no one thought of what to do for poor Lazarus.

The results of Lazarus’ coming back from the dead was not universal belief in Jesus. Even someone coming back from the dead was not enough to convince those who rejected Jesus. Once our minds are made up, it is very hard to change them, no matter how much evidence accumulates. We might, therefore, want to be careful about how fast we make up our minds and allow for God to do the unexpected in our lives.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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