Biblical People

Biblical People: Lazarus (1)

Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary (3). The Bible writers give more attention to Mary and Martha, but we can only speculate why. It may be that Lazarus is the younger brother, possibly not even an adult.

Maybe he just doesn’t do anything worth mentioning, but the one story about him in the Bible is a story that most people know. 

It starts with Lazarus getting sick. This isn’t a cold, flu, or eating too much of the wrong thing. This is a serious “go get Jesus because Lazarus might die” situation. 

Martha and Mary send word to Jesus: “The one you love is sick.”

Even though the Bible says that Jesus loves the three siblings, he doesn’t drop everything to pay them a visit and heal the ailing Lazarus. He waits two days. Then he heads out. 

By the time Jesus arrives, it’s too late—or is it? Lazarus has been dead four days and is already entombed.

Martha reaches Jesus first and criticizes him. “If only you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died.” Yet she clings to a glimmer of hope. “Even so, God will do whatever you ask.”

Jesus promises her that Lazarus will rise again. Though Jesus means now, Martha thinks he means at the end of time. Then Jesus says, “I am resurrection, and I am life. Do you believe?”

Martha affirms Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

Then Mary shows up and criticizes Jesus, just like her sister.

“Where’s he buried?” Jesus asks.

As the sisters take Jesus to the tomb, he cries.

“Open the burial vault,” Jesus commands. 

After some debate about how bad the decaying body will smell, they do as Jesus requests.

Jesus gives a prayer of thanksgiving to Papa. Then he calls, “Lazarus. Come out!”

Lazarus does, still wrapped with burial cloths.

Thanks to Jesus, Lazarus has a second chance at life. 

Through Jesus, we all have second chances. What are we doing with ours?

[Discover more about Lazarus in John 11:1–44 and John 12:1.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at