Study Guide

Lazarus in Gospel of John

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Lazarus's big moment comes when he's been dead for four days. Jesus visits his tomb, says a little prayer, and Lazarus comes stumbling out, very much alive (11:44). That's right, Jesus brings this guy back from the dead. Once again, the writers of John are giving Jesus a chance to show off his miracle-working abilities. And we have to say, this is easily Jesus's most impressive miracle to date. Seriously—try to follow that.

You might think that death and resurrection sounds familiar. Oh right, that's because it happens to Jesus, too. Foreshadowing, anyone? If Jesus brings Lazarus back, you can bet he'll be making his own return appearance, too. It's kind of like a teaser trailer for Easter.

Supporting Actor

Being the subject of a miraculous rebirth can have its down side, too. First, it can put your newly restored life in danger. The religious authorities, who by this point have decided that Jesus must be stopped at all costs, also plan to kill Lazarus (12:10-11). Jesus is winning new followers left and right after this display, and they all want to get a glimpse of Lazarus. The plan: kill Lazarus and end the show.

And yeah, that's about it. In fact, even Lazarus's sisters get to shine more than he does: they have sophisticated discussions with Jesus about life and death; and later (12:1), Mary washes Jesus's feet at a dinner party while Lazarus, presumably, sits back and enjoys the dessert course.

Really, Lazarus is there to let Jesus show off his skills and to host a party where his sister will anoint Jesus for burial. No speaking or agency for this guy. Just some being dead and letting others shine.

He's an Inspiration

Lazarus's character has become synonymous with coming back from the dead. Not a bad legacy.

  • Lazarus syndrome is a medical term for a person whose body starts functioning again after being declared dead.
  • Sylvia Plath wrote her poem, "Lady Lazarus", about her failed suicide attempts.
  • "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" also name-drops Lazarus ("I am Lazarus, come from the dead,/ Come back to tell you all").
  • An episode of Doctor Who features a character named Richard Lazarus who has invented a way to cheat death.
  • Finishing up the side plot in John's Gospel, in the movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, a weakened Lazarus is killed to discredit Jesus.

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