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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Lazarus

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LAZARUS or ELEAZAR ("God helps".)

1. Of Bethany; brother of Mary and Martha (John 11:1). (See BETHANY.) The sisters were the better known, from whence they are put prominently forward here, and in Luke 10:38, etc., are alone named. Lazarus was "of (apo , 'belonging to at that time') Bethany, from (ek , implying his original settlement) the village of Mary and Martha" (still it is likely the same village is meant in both Luke 10 and John 11, namely, Bethany). Curiously, Ganneau found close to Bethany a tomb, probably of the first century, containing the names all together of Simon, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus' subordinate position at their feast in Christ's honour (John 12:2) makes it likely he was the youngest. Moreover, the house is called that of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3); who was probably therefore their father, but either by death or leprosy no longer with them, though possibly he too, as a leper healed by Jesus, was then one of that happy family.

Their friends from Jerusalem (John 11:19), according to John's use of "the Jews," were of the ruling elders and Pharisees. The feast; the costly ointment, the family funeral cave (compare Isaiah 22:16; 2 Kings 23:6; Jeremiah 26:23), all bespeak good social position. The sisters' warm attachment to Lazarus was strengthened by their common love to Jesus who loved all three (John 11:5). Lazarus had won the disciples' love too, for Jesus calls him "our friend" (John 11:11). At the time of Lazarus' sickness and the sisters' call, Jesus was in Peraea beyond Jordan, on His way to Jerusalem, two days' journey from Bethany. He delayed two days to give time for that death which He foresaw, and from which He was about to raise Lazarus. On proposing to go to Judea, His disciples remonstrated on the ground that He would be going into the very danger from which He had just escaped (John 10:39-40; John 11:8-10).

He replied that while His appointed day yet lasted He was safe, and that He was going to awaken Lazarus out of sleep. He was "glad" that He had not been on the spot before, that Lazarus' death and rising might awaken the disciples out of the deadness of unbelief. The sisters grieved at His seeming neglect. God sees cause for joy where even His people see only cause for grief. Four days had elapsed after the call when He arrived. Martha went and met Him, while Mary sat in the house, in beautiful harmony with the character of each respectively, described in Luke 10:40-42. Martha's faith had now become stronger; so she says, "Lord, I know that even now whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee (more buoyant in spirit than Mary, and cherishing even now a vague hope of her brother's restoration) ... Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ the Son of God ... the Resurrection and the Life." Upon Martha telling Mary of Jesus' arrival and "call" for her, either expressed or implied ("secretly," through fear of Jewish informers, see John 11:28; John 11:46), the latter also came "quickly" to Him.

The Jews her friends, not having heard Martha's communication, supposed Mary was gone to the tomb to weep, but found her as of old "at Jesus' feet." Her words were fewer, but her action more impassioned, than those of her sister. So the whole company, Jesus, His disciples, the sisters, and their sympathizers, were met at the grave. At the sight of their weeping, Jesus "groaned in spirit," and troubled Himself, but checked His emotion which would otherwise have choked utterance. cf6 "Where have ye laid him?" Sympathy with their sorrow, which He was instantly to relieve, at last found vent in tears: "Jesus wept" (compare Luke 19:41; Hebrews 4:15). "Behold. how He loved him," the Jews, His adversaries, were constrained to exclaim. Their unbelief, "could not this man which opened the eyes of the blind (John 9, they allude not to the raising of Jairus' daughter and the widow of Nain's son, which took place in Galilee, but to the miracle which made such a stir in Jerusalem; they never thought of His raising the dead) have caused that even this man should not have died?" made Him "groan again."

cf6 "Take away the stone." Martha, retaining still remainders of unbelief (she believed in Lazarus' future resurrection, but she hardly dared to believe what she herself had hinted at in John 11:22, that Christ will raise him now), objected on the ground of the body's presumed decomposition by this time. He tells her to cf6 "believe, so she shall see the glory of God." With a preparatory thanksgiving to the Father for the already felt answer to His prayer, He said, cf6 "Lazarus, come forth," and he came forth bound hand and foot, the graveclothes and napkin about his face. cf6 "Loose him, and let him go"; contrast Jesus' resurrection, the graveclothes and the napkin folded separately, because, unlike Lazarus, He was to die no more (John 20:6-7). The same miracle which converted some Jews to belief furnished others only with materials for informing the Pharisees against Him. It brought the plots of the rulers and Caiaphas to a crisis (John 11:45-53).

The very sign which the Pharisees desired in the parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:27-30) is now granted in the person of one of the same name, but only stimulates them to their crowning sin, to kill Jesus, nay even to kill Lazarus too (John 12:10). The same sun that develops the fragrant violet strengthens the poison of the deadly nightshade. This is the crucial miracle of the truth of the Gospels. Spinosa said if this were true he would tear his system in pieces and embrace Christianity. As the Lord's Judaean ministry was not the subject of the first three evangelists, but the Galilean, they omit the raising of Lazarus. The Jews' consultation to kill Lazarus, and his own probable shrinking from publicity after such a mysterious experience, perhaps further influenced them in their omission of the miracle. By John's time of writing the brother and sisters were dead, and no reason for reserve any longer existed.

Tradition says that Lazarus' first question on coming back was whether he should die again; on learning he must, he never smiled again. Such an impression was made by this miracle that many Jews flocked to Bethany to see both Jesus and Lazarus. The eye witnesses bore record, and the people who heard of it from them met Him on His way to Jerusalem, and formed part of His retinue in His triumphal entry with the palmbearing multitude (John 12:12; John 12:17-18). E. H. Plumptre (Smith's Dictionary) identifies Simon the leper with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-40); Martha had the Pharisees' belief in the resurrection (John 11:24); Mary's gift of the ointment was after the example of the sinful woman in Simon's house; the leprosy came on subsequently.

Also he identifies Lazarus with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19; Mark 10; Luke 18); Jesus' words to him, cf6 "one thing thou lackest," answer to His words to Martha. cf6 "one thing is needful"; "Jesus beholding loved him" (Mark) is said also of Lazarus (John 11:5); Jesus' love at last wrought out his conversion, possible to God though not to man; a sharp Palestine fever is sent to discipline him; his death and rising through Jesus' power is accompanied by his spiritual resurrection (John 5:24-25). Judas and the eleven expected, that the feast in John 12:2 was the farewell feast of Lazarus, renouncing his former life and obeying Christ's command, "sell that thou hast, and give to the poor"; hence, Judas' bitter objection, "why was not this ointment sold for 300 pence and given to the poor?"

On the night of Christ's betrayal Lazarus, whose Bethany home was near and was Christ's lodging on the previous night, in the hasty night alarm rushed eagerly with "the linen cloth (the term applied to graveclothes always, the same which he had on when the Lord raised him from the grave (John 11:44), sindon ) cast about his naked body" (Mark 14:51-52; Mark 15:46), and was seized by the high priest's servants as a second victim (John 12:10), whereas they let the other disciples escape.

2. Lazarus in the parable, Luke 16:19-31. The one unknown on earth has a name with God; the rich man, well known as a great man among men, has no name with God (Revelation 3:1). The historic Lazarus (John 11-12) belonged to the richer classes. Yet it is not a rich Lazarus, but Lazarus the beggar whom the rich scarcely noticed, that is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom. The historic Lazarus raised from the dead, yet not convincing the Jews, proves the truth stated in the parable of Lazarus that cf6 "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." The rich man was not so much a glutton as a self-pleaser. It is not said he did not relieve Lazarus, nay Lazarus lying at his gate implies he did, but with ostentation, "justifying himself before men" (Luke 16:15), having no true "repentance" (Luke 16:30).

Servants attended him, "dogs" Lazarus; these showed more pity and sympathy than his fellow men. The rich man's "burial" is mentioned, implying a grand funeral and flattering epitaph, while his soul was in hell. Christ takes care of the dust of Lazarus against the day of His appearing, and receives his soul to Himself "in Abraham's bosom" (image from a feast; compare John 13:25), whose faith Lazarus followed. Once he had shared "crumbs" with the dogs (Matthew 15:27), now he shares the heavenly banquet with the first father of the people of God. Not Lazarus' sufferings but his faith brought him there. Not the rich man's wealth but his practical unbelief (Luke 16:27-31) shut him out "in torments"; he was one of those" covetous" whom Jesus just before reproved, "justifying himself before men," "highly esteemed among men," but one whose practice was "abomination in the sight of God."

He now begs a drop of water taken up by Lazarus with "the tip of the finger," but in vain. Once he scarcely and only for show, not from love which alone God recognizes, allowed Lazarus to gather the "crumbs," the portion of the dogs. Abraham himself ventured all on God's promise of an after inheritance, having here "not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:13); appropriately then he told the rich man, "son (by privileges on which the Jews prided themselves, Luke 3:8), remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things (Matthew 6:19-21) and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented."

The rich man's desire for his brethren's conversion to belief, by Lazarus being sent from the dead, is a covert expression of the fact that he was an unbeliever, and that unbelievers lay the blame of their unbelief on God as not giving them proof enough; whereas neither the raising of another Lazarus, nor that of Jesus who dieth no more, could win the willful rejecters to belief (John 12:10-11; John 16:29; Acts 26:8). The five brethren coming to the same hell, so far from relieving by their company, (as many virtually think by walking with the many on the broad way rather than with the few on the narrow way), would only aggravate his anguish by reproaches, because he had countenanced their unbelief. The dialogue is not between Lazarus and the rich man, for they are utterly apart, but Abraham (God's mouthpiece in Old Testament as father of the faithful, who sit down with Him, Matthew 8:11-12) and the rich man.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Lazarus'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/l/lazarus.html. 1949.

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