The Raising of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus in John chapter 9 is a fascinating event for me to read—not just because of the event itself, but even more so because of all the descriptive text surrounding the individuals that were in attendance when Lazarus is raised from the tomb.   Did you know that the translations of this text reveal that Jesus is angry in several of these passages of scripture?   Why?   What is going on all around him as he enters the scene to raise Lazarus from THAT tomb, and what can we learn from these interactions between Jesus and the people standing by?  


I was standing on the road, a safe distance away from the shore of the beach.  As I looked off into the distance, I saw a huge crowd of people sitting in the sand watching the waves roll in.   I had a newborn baby in my arms, and my middle child Eliana was standing next to me.   All of the sudden, a tsunami size wave crashed onto the shore, and EVERYONE (the families and their children were sucked out into the sea).   


I stood in calmness as it happened because the newborn baby I was holding in my arms was safe and I was safe, and my daughter Eliana was right beside me.  But then, in a panic, I yelled, “Where is Cadence and Alora?”  (Alora is my youngest, and Cadence is my oldest) as I realized that they must have been down on the beach.  In my heart, I immediately began pleading to God to help me find my children.  I passed the newborn baby in my arms to the bystander next to me, and I ran down to the beach into the waves to find my children, who I now realized had been sucked out to sea.  I saw a body floating in the water that was a child.  I reached down and pulled out the small, limp figure, hoping that it was my youngest who couldn’t swim, but the child was covered in mud and so I couldn’t tell if it was her or not.  As I held the body in my arms waiting to see if it was actually her, I felt heat rush through my body, and I woke up.  


It was just a dream.  It happened last night.  The heat from my body was my adrenaline kicking in to wake me up.  After it happened, I immediately began talking myself out of the dream.   I said to myself, “First of all, this would never happen to me because I would never leave any of my children alone on a beach.”   Then as I said that to myself, the second thought that came to my mind was how calm I was as I watched the tsunami come onto the shore over all the other people, because I was safe and sound—and in THAT moment,  I IMMEDIATELY FELT SELF-ABSORBED.   


I’m at a place in my life where I currently am at total peace.   There’s nothing wrong in my life.  I couldn’t be more prepared (for the first freaking time ever), financially stable, healthy, and all my relationships are complete and total bliss (which hasn’t always been the case), and so, I have been refusing mentally to join the fear party that’s been going on in the world.   


But in all my self-absorbed peace, I realize that there have been people sitting down on the beach minding their own business, having a good time who were not prepared for this moment JUST LIKE I often have not been, and I realize also that as a person who believes in prayer, how self-absorbed it is for someone like me to not be praying with greater intensity for others during my moment of peace.   That God knows that I KNOW that he answers prayers, and if I know that, why am I NOT praying until it’s my own children that get sucked out to sea!


Yesterday I got news that a beautiful woman that I have recently gotten to know just passed away.   She was a young mother of four children, and a beautiful wife to a devoted husband.   She didn’t die of the virus.  She died of terminal breast cancer. She was younger than me. 


Life is still happening for so many people right now, and I mean all the tragic things in life that already come with all this chaos going on in the world.  This woman’s death is tragic for so many reason, and honestly her whole story just eats at me BECAUSE I HATE DEATH!  


I can think of no greater pain than being separated from the people that we love—no greater!  It eats me alive, and honestly, isn’t that the risk we take when we love deeply, that we know someday we will experience a loss connected to that love?   I mean, just the mere thought strikes fear!!!


I got a phone call from a friend yesterday, who seriously is one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life, and she was freaking out because she has loved ones who are immune-compromised right now, as well as family members who are working in hospitals.  She called me to tell me that she was almost having a mental crack about losing the people she loves.   Honestly, if you knew this woman, you wouldn’t even believe it because she has been through and experienced great loss already over and over, and overcome tragedy each time. She’s survived before, but why the mental crack now?   Why was she losing it now when nothing had even happened yet, and she had already overcome various levels of grief in her life before?


Sometimes the fear of loss is greater than the actual loss itself.  I have experienced this before, and even right now, as I venture to love more deeply.   Also, when things are good, I mean really good, and we finally have everything that we’ve ever wanted in our relationships and with our families, all of the sudden that fear of losing what we love so deeply takes over and it nearly breaks us.  “NOT NOW GOD,” we cry out, “Not now when I finally have everything I have ever needed and wanted.”  


To actually take the risk, and love—I can see why people choose to stay hard-hearted.   Honestly, I can!  Because to venture out and love something means you have to face its opposite one day, which is the knowledge that one day you will lose it.   We will all lose it because in the world we live in right now, we all die. I hate death.  So can somebody give me a new earth? (Revelations 21:1)


You’re listening to a non-expert right now.  What I mean by that is, I have gone through quite a bit of turmoil to come to this knowledge because it came through repeated experiences that I am still analyzing in my mind.  


I believe there is a God.   To all the non-believers: I get it.  I see your eye-roll.   I have had to figure out if this was all in my head or not.  I’ve asked the questions, and I will tell you why I keep believing in God in a world where innocents still die and tragedy exists.     It’s a very simple answer, that most of you are going to reject.  


The answer is because of prayer.   Based on the fact that when I have cried out my sorrows WITH REAL INTENT to God from my heart (not even in words), someone has heard me.  Someone keeps rescuing me.  Some unseen force comes to my aid, not every time, but at times when that unseen force intends to make a point.  And this is the point at which some of you will stop reading this article.


I don’t talk about it often, because I worry people will think that I am weird, but I have had some “weird” stuff happen when I have prayed from my heart.  I have prayed to God, in the middle of the night, as soon as I said AMEN, someone knocked on my door with with the “EXACT” answer I was praying about, I repeat, in the middle of the night.  THAT story in detail is even weirder (and because of length, I’m not sharing it).  For another instance, I’ve been sick a million times before, and had a zillion priesthood blessings from people at my church (pardon my exaggeration of the number), and have never been healed, and yet, when I finally spent a few days despairing about it to God through prayer (and sadly coming to the conclusion that I must lack faith), I got sick that very same weekend and was healed instantly at the close of a blessing from my spouse (for the first time ever) and that came on the heels of a long week of wrestling with why God hasn’t healed me in the past.   I have spent countless YEARS, applying self-therapy, books, personal commitment programs, church attendance and obedience, paired with pious living to try and lift my own emotional burdens that I had been carrying for years, and yet in a few days of pleading to God though mighty prayer because I HAD NOTHING LEFT,  HE lifted every single one of them in an instant.  I felt it.  And He has given me more witnesses than that, but this is enough to make my point. So what is my point? THERE IS POWER IN PRAYER.  THERE IS POWER WHEN YOU CALL ON HIS NAME.  Do you claim to be a believer?


I have poured over John chapter 11 for more hours than I can count now. It’s about the raising of Lazarus.  I can’t explain why, but I am incredibly drawn to these passages of scripture.  And I, like Jesus in these passages (pardon me for the unjust comparison because there is no comparison to HIM) have indignation when people mock me and others for claiming to have had these experiences.  When I am mocked for it, it is one of the few times when I feel indignation in my soul.  


Everyone wants to focus on how Jesus Wept…Jesus Wept…Jesus Wept…WHY???? Supposedly because he loved Lazarus? Because he missed him? Because he’ll never see Lazarus again? Because life and death aren’t in his power? Because he’s soft and gentle, and weepy, and lovey-dovey for Lazarus?.…Blah Blah Blah.   It’s the shortest verse in scripture, and it says “Jesus Weeps,”  and everybody is saying he weeps for the same reasons we weep when people die.  Is that why Jesus was weeping?  


No. I don’t personally think that’s it.   Those are the reasons we weep when people we love die.   I don’t think those are the reasons Jesus was weeping when he came to the tomb of Lazarus.  You know why I say that? Jesus already knew Lazarus was dead.   Lazarus was ALREADY dead four days before Jesus even got there. 


Jesus kept saying, “He sleepeth,” while his own disciples in their ignorant bliss and peace-like state are like, “Oh yeah Master, that’s great.  Let him get some rest.”   But Jesus is like, (cough, let me clear my throat you blind fools), “He’s Dead!” (John 11:13-14).  And guess what, Jesus has no tears at this moment, ALREADY knowing when no one else did, that Lazarus was ALREADY dead.  So, no, I don’t think the text indicates Jesus wept because he loved Lazarus or because Lazarus was dead.  People who love, weep long before they are faced with the death of the ones they love.  They weep at the moment they are faced with the FEAR of that death of losing the one they love—and to know that fear, means they have loved first.   They don’t wait several days until they get to the grave.  Enter Mary Magdelene to the intro of John Chapter 11 with a giant bottle of oil, weeping at his feet “to prepare Jesus for His burial” to make that point.  


Hang with me, I want to explain.   I think He wept because he had “indignation” because no one who claimed to believe in Him actually did. He wept because he saw Mary, one of the women who followed Him, just as blind as Martha and the Jews that followed her. He wept because His own sheep couldn’t see Him. He wept because these sheep were in bondage to the “experience” of death and it’s impact on the soul. Did you know that Jesus was actually angry when he arrived at the scene of Mary weeping with the Jews? 


When Jesus therefore saw her (Mary Magdeline) weeping, and the Jews which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have ye laid him?” They said unto him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.   Jesus’s disciples say, in earlier verses of this same chapter, that the Jews wanted to “stone” Jesus if he came back into town to heal Lazarus. So now that we potentially know the motives of at least some of those Jews, as described in the previous versus,  what did these same Jews say about Jesus’s weeping.   It tells us directly, right after the verse that says, Jesus Wept.  It says,  “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him (Lazarus). ” 


By the way, that word “groaned” in greek,  is the same word for “indignation, to murmur, blame, to sternly enjoin.”   Indignation also means to have “righteous anger.”  It even means to be angry so as far as to“flare ones nostrils” in the same way we do in anger, or as a horse snorts.” Can you see Jesus so angry inside that he is flaring his nostrils?  Can you understand why he might have this indignation? Can you see why he was troubled, and why HE WEPT? (Jeremiah 15:17) But let’s not stop there.


Jesus groans not just once, but twice. Let’s look at what the Jews say right before he groans the second time:  

And some of them said, (“some of them” is referring to Jews that followed Mary Magdalene), “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man (Lazarus) should not have died?”   Jesus therefore AGAIN GROANING in himself cometh to the grave.  It was a cave and a stone lay upon it.  


The Apostle Paul, a Jew, upon hearing the voice of Jesus Christ, is struck blind for three days when Christ appears to him on the side of the road. It was the very “light” that appeared to Paul that blinded him. The others with him saw it, but they heard NOT the voice (Acts 22:9).  The Apostle Paul, is told by Jesus why He came to him. So what exactly does Jesus say to Paul? He says he comes “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that which are sacrificed by that that is in me (Jesus Christ).”

Throughout the Apostle Paul’s ministry, he refers to the blind state of those who could not and would not “receive” the Lord, after also recovering from blindness himself. “According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears they should not hear: unto this day.” Romans 11:8, Matthew 4:16


I find these two statement’s from the Jews that followed Mary Magdalene at Lazarus’s Tomb very telling:

Then said the Jews, “Behold how he (Jesus) loved (phileo) him (Lazarus). 

The Jews also say, 

Could not this man (Jesus), which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man (Lazarus) should not have died?”


There are many different “types” of love described in scripture, but for the sake of the length of this article, I won’t go into it in too much depth.  But I want to make a point that might encourage further study of scriptural text beyond what you may be used to.   


Mary and Martha say when they send for Jesus in the beginning of John chapter 11, “Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest (phileo) is sick.”   The Jews also say, “Behold, How he loved (phileo) him (Lazarus).”    But the text clarifies how Jesus felt about all of them.  It says, “Now Jesus loved (agapao) Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”  The text makes a point to explain that Jesus loved them using the word agapeo, immediately following Martha and Mary’s description of Jesus’s love for Lazarus.  Everybody claims they know in what way Jesus loved Lazarus. But what type of love does the text say Jesus had for Lazarus? (John 11:5)


While the use of phileo and agapeo is not always distinct, in this instance, I believe the text was purposeful.  Just like it was when Jesus asks Peter, lovest (agape) thou me?  Peter replies, Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee?” Three different times Peter responds with phileo while Jesus is questioning with agapao.  There’s a little food for you to munch on.  (John 21:16)


Mary enters the scene because she is “called” by Jesus after and ONLY after Martha finally confesses that she believes Jesus is the Christ.  Then the scene proceeds to more doubts from Martha, and the stinking body.  Then, it goes on to Jesus reminding Martha, that if she would “just believe” she would see the glory of God.  And this Glory of God, by the way, is often only seen by the believers of God, as recorded in scripture, AND those that experience miraculous healings like that of the blind man and the clay.   Jesus even has to pray OUT LOUD to God in this scene in front of Lazarus’s tomb so that people standing by (the Jews and Mary and Martha) can hear Him speaking to God even though HE already knows that God can hear Him. He’s saying it OUT LOUD so that others know that HE KNOWS God hears HIM when he prays.  


I know that God hears me, and if he hears me, I know that he will hear you. Sadly, most of the time when I finally hear him it’s because he’s speaking OUT LOUD to make a point.   I’m frequently trying to course correct myself and I am doing it in this article.   At various times in my life, I am one of those blind followers of Him who lives in ignorant bliss and self-absorbed peace in this story, who just realized that I hadn’t been praying from my heart for others who may have just been swept out to sea with their loved ones, and yet I know that YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN JUST AS MUCH AS I LOVE MINE.


A lot of people are worried about the health and safety of their loved ones.  People are worried about their jobs.  People have been laid off.   How will they will pay their bills? How will they take care of their children in the coming weeks and months?  What about those who are elderly or weak?  Will they get sick? What about our mental health?  Will we have a mental crack? What about those who are already suffering because life just happened, and people just die? 


I know that just about everyone is worried about something—everyone.  But for those of us who haven’t been worrying because God just happened to take care of our every need—are we mourning with those that mourn?  I’m asking myself now. Am I praying for others?  Not just praying, but connecting with their suffering, with real intent so that I can tell God what I see?  Am I praying for God to rescue them like He did me?  Do I see Him? Do you see him?


Will you pray for those who are being swept out to sea?  Will you pray before the wave sweeps the ones you love out to sea—whatever that wave may be!    And maybe you don’t believe in God, and maybe you don’t even know how to.  Will you put Him to the test, and pray for Him to rescue you?  And then will you bear witness of the glory that appeared to you in the darkness?  Because, as Jesus said about Lazarus, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” (John 11:4)

Additional Suggestions for Reading for my Book of Mormon Readers:

It may be beneficial to pair this article with the events in 3 Nephi.