The Lazarus story in John often makes people question why Jesus was late and how Lazarus had suffered. Why are we so concerned for Lazarus? John’s passage says that Jesus waited 2 days before heading to Lazarus, who had been dead 4 days by the time Jesus arrived. So if Jesus had left right away, He would have been too late anyway. And according to the Jewish tradition of the time, 4 days dead meant the soul of the deceased had moved on. So Lazarus has been with God. He’s tasted eternal life and knows what is to come for all who pass on in the future. And then Jesus brings him back to Earth. Rips him away from warmth and security and eternal life with God and brings him back to a life of work and doubt and sickness, a life where death is imminent but at the end of a road whose distance is unknown.
Season 6, episode 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer actually deals with this, when Buffy tells Spike she thinks she was in Heaven when her friends brought her back to life. She confesses to Spike that being “back” is her Hell. How difficult must it be to really know what Heaven is like and to know that it has been taken away from you by someone who thinks they know better, who thinks that you should be back on Earth because they need you more than you need to be with God.
Why would Jesus being Lazarus back, and only Lazarus? Was it because Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus? Was it because Jesus wanted to show his friends and the crowd mourning Lazarus that death is not permanent in God? Did this showboating, as some believe it to be, actually happen? John is the only writer of the gospels in the Bible to tell this story? Perhaps John gave us this example, to preface Christ’s death and resurrection. To show us that it has been done before and will happen again.
From Nicole Allbee:
“Everyone says that Lazarus was Jesus’s friend. But the scripture (from our pew bible) paints Jesus as an uncaring “oh, here we go again” self-centered person. I read back, starting at John 11:1, and in verse 5, it does say that Jesus loved Lazarus. But Jesus says that Lazarus will not die from sickness, that “it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” So He waited two whole days before leaving to see Lazarus. Two more days for Lazarus’s dead body to rot. Verse 39 states that Martha says there is already a stench. Ok, in my mind, I’m seeing Jesus roll his eyes at Martha and the crowd that has gathered as if to say [to them] “Wow, where’s your faith, woman?” Martha says to Jesus that she knows Jesus will resurrect him. Mary, Martha’s sister, asks Jesus why He let Lazarus die. Jesus says to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
This is the only story of this Lazarus. There is another in the Bible, but it is not this Lazarus. John is known for being a drama-queen storyteller, and this is the only scripture where Jesus was moved to cry. It does not specifically say why he was crying. The verse before says that Mary and the Jews that were with her were crying. And then He cried after he asked where Lazarus’s body was. Crying does not mean that Jesus was sad for His friend. Jesus knew all along that He would be resurrecting Lazarus. So why did He cry? Compassion for His friend’s sister? Frustration in Mary’s lack of faith?”