Opened Graves: When Stones Are Rolled Away & the Dead Come Forth

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first nineteen verses of the twelfth chapter. “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s’ son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let here alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (John 12:1-8). “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests. Consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:9-11). “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet hill, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’ colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:12-19). When you come to the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will encounter the continuation of the aftermath of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. If you take the time to read the four gospel narratives you will find that there were other accounts of Jesus raising certain individual from the dead and/or healing individuals who were undoubtedly sick unto the point of death. The account of Lazarus, however, is one that is entirely and altogether different for the resurrection of Lazarus took place within the land of Judaea in the town called Bethany not far from the city of Jerusalem. We know that Bethany was located near the city of Jerusalem from the gospel’s presentation and mention of it when speaking of Lazarus’ two sisters—Mary and Martha. What’s more is that with Bethany being so close to the city of Jerusalem it would have undoubtedly been incredibly easy for word to spread of that which took place in the midst of it. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this when we consider the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead for this resurrection was one which was entirely and altogether different. In the gospel narratives there was only one other resurrection where one was indeed buried in the heart of the earth in a tomb with a stone rolled in front of the entrance. In all reality it’s quite interesting to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with the resurrection of one who would experience something incredibly similar to that which Jesus Himself would experience. There is something truly intriguing when you consider that Lazarus whom Jesus loved would indeed die as a result of the sickness which was present within his body and would be buried in the grave for four days before Jesus would show up at the tomb. If you take the time to read the narrative and account of Lazarus’ sickness—and not only his sickness but also his resurrection from the dead—you will find the details of that resurrection being incredibly similar to that of Jesus. We know from each of the four gospel accounts that after Jesus suffered in the flesh and was crucified upon the cross at Calvary His body would be removed from the cross by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus as they would not only clean the body but would also wrap it in linen clothes anointed with myrrh, spices and fragrant perfumes before placing it within the tomb. The four gospel narratives present us with the suffering of Jesus in the flesh—and not only His suffering in the flesh but also His being crucified upon the cross and subsequent burial in the tomb where He would remain until the third day. Each of the gospel authors paint a powerful picture of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the grave and how at His resurrection there would be an earthquake that would strike the earth and the stone before the entrance to the tomb being rolled away. The gospel accounts provide the account of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, however, there were certain differences in them in that each seems to present different key elements which surrounded His resurrection from the dead. What makes this truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it is that prior to Jesus’ suffering in the flesh, prior to His being crucified upon the cross before being buried in a borrowed tomb in the heart of the earth there would be another resurrection which would take place not far from the city of Jerusalem which would be similar to that which Jesus Himself would experience. What’s more is that it’s quite astounding to read the account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead because before Jesus would ever be crucified upon the cross and give up the ghost before being buried in the grave and being raised from death to life on the third day there would be another resurrection that would take place outside of Jerusalem. I sit here today thinking about and considering the account and narrative of the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave and I am brought face to face with the incredibly astounding picture of a resurrection that would bear strong similarities to the resurrection which Jesus Himself would indeed experience. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to a resurrection taking place outside of Jerusalem days before the feast of the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread which would be celebrated by the Jews. The account of the sickness, death, burial and resurrection of Lazarus from the dead is something which is truly remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding this resurrection which would involve some of the same key elements as the resurrection of of the Lord Jesus when He was raised from the grave. The apostle John is the only gospel author to record and present us with the account of the sickness, death and resurrection of Lazarus from the grave and Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave is the only other individual resurrection mentioned in the gospels where the dead was buried in the grave and Jesus showing up at the grave. We know that the gospels mention the only son of a widow being carried out in what might very well be considered a coffin and how Jesus would show up and touch the lifeless body of that one who was dead and raise him from death to life. We also know that Jesus would show up at the house of Jairus and would raise his daughter from death to life and give her her life back as well as give her back to her parents. The narrative and account of Lazarus, however, is entirely and altogether different from the other accounts of resurrection for Lazarus would not only die and would not only be buried in the grave but would be buried in the grave for four days. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am absolutely captivated with and by the fact that Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave was the only other resurrection mentioned in the gospels where one was buried in the grave and a stone was rolled in front of the entrance after the lifeless body was laid to rest in the midst. With this being said I fully realize that when you read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will read how at the death of Jesus the graves of many of the righteous saints who slept were opened. Additionally the apostle Matthew not only presents us with the graves of many of the righteous saints being opened at the death of the Lord Jesus but we also read how at the resurrection of Jesus from the grave the righteous saints who were dead within these opened graves would indeed rise from the dead and would enter into the city appearing unto many. Oh I continue to be absolutely gripped and captivated with what it might have been like in the city of Jerusalem—and not only in the city of Jerusalem but also in Judaea and Galilee—as many of the righteous saints which had been raised from death to life would walk in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and appearing unto many. What’s more is that undoubtedly Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from death to life would also be present during those days and would have either remained in Bethany or would have been present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Oh imagine what the regions of Judaea and Galilee must have been like at and after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as not only would Jesus Himself be very much alive in the flesh and appear unto many but there would essentially be this company and fellowship of the resurrected ones. It would be during the days after Jesus’ resurrection where not only would Lazarus whom He raised from death to life after being buried in the grave for four days be present in the earth but there would also be Jairus’ daughter whom Jesus raised to life again as well as the only son of the widow whom Jesus raised from death to life be present in the midst of the earth. THE FELLOWSHIP OF RESURRECTED ONES! THE COMPANY OF RESURRECTED ONES! I have to admit that I absolutely love the narrative and account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead for his resurrection would be altogether similar to the resurrection which the Lord Jesus Himself would experience not many days hence. After Jesus suffered in the flesh and was crucified upon the cross where He would yield and give up the ghost His lifeless body would be taken down from the cross and buried in a borrowed tomb where it would lie until the appointed time on the third day. Both Jesus and Lazarus would indeed be buried in the heart of the earth in a grave with a stone rolled before the entrance of it as their lifeless bodies would remain inside. When Jesus showed up at the grave of Lazarus He would command the stone which lie in front of the mouth of the grave to be rolled away—a command which would initially get some resistance for they would say that by that time he had been buried for four days and would stink. Despite these words the stone would still be rolled away and removed from the entrance of the grave as Jesus would give the second command on this particular day—the command to Lazarus who was dead to come forth. Upon hearing the voice of the Son of man at the grave outside the tomb Lazarus would indeed come forth from the grave bound hand and foot in graveclothes. Oh what we must needs recognize is that Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave would indeed be an initial fulfillment of the words which the Lord Jesus would speak unto the Jews which the apostle John recorded in the fifth chapter of this gospel. It would be in the fifth chapter of this gospel where the apostle John writes and records the words of Jesus unto the Jews when He would indeed speak of the resurrection of the dead upon hearing the voice of the Son of man calling them to rise. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth chapter as the apostle John describes in detail the words which Jesus would speak unto the Jews—specifically the words and language He would use concerning the dead hearing the voice of the Son of man and experiencing resurrection from the grave: “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life. Verily, verily, I say unto your, The hour is coming, and no is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. HE was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words” (John 5:16-47). It is absolutely necessary and imperative we pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find Jesus speaking unto the Jews and revealing something incredibly unique and powerful—something that would be manifested in the earth during those days. It would be unto the Jews Jesus would declare that as the Father raises up the dead and quickens them even so the Son quickens whom He will. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare that those who hear His word and believe on him that sent Him has everlasting life and would not come into condemnation but was passed from death to life. Moreover Jesus would also declare that the hour is coming and now is when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and those that hear shall live. Jesus would also declare that as the Father has life in Himself so hath he given to the Son to have life in Himself and gave him authority to execute judgment also because he is the Son of man. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality for within we find the very thing which took place in the town of Bethany not far from Jerusalem before the Jewish feast of the Passover. It would be unto the Jews Jesus would speak of the hour coming and now being present and manifested when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of man and would live and during those days there would be one who was buried in the heart of the earth for four days who would hear the voice of the Son of man outside the tomb and would live. Through the narrative and account of Lazarus we find the wonderful and powerful account of Lazarus’ lifeless body being buried in the grave for four days before and when Jesus would show up. There at the tomb Jesus would not only command and call for the stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the tomb but Jesus would also call Lazarus forth by name and command Him to come forth from the grave. I absolutely love the narrative and account of Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave for at His resurrection Jesus would show up outside and at his tomb after he had been buried for four days. There at the tomb where Lazarus’ lifeless body was buried Jesus would show up with Mary, Martha and other Jews who followed them unto the tomb. It would be there at the grave of Lazarus Jesus would begin speaking as He would first call for the stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Once the stone was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb the voice of Jesus would and could be heard all the more clearer for Jesus would then call Lazarus by name and call him forth from the grave and back to the land of the living. Jesus would indeed show up at the tomb and grave of Lazarus and would call him to come forth from the grave and from death to life. This is absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about and consider it earlier on Jesus would speak unto the Jews and would declare unto them that the hour was coming when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and those which heard will live. Jesus made it very clear that the hour was coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and would come forth. Of course we know and understand that Jesus would also go on to declare that those who had done evil would hear the voice of the Son of man and would be resurrected unto the resurrection of damnation. Those, however, who did good would emerge and come forth unto the resurrection of life—and not only life but everlasting and eternal life. Oh how absolutely and incredibly powerful this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the voice of the Son of God being heard at and outside the tomb where Lazarus’ lifeless body had been buried. There at the tomb where Lazarus’ lifeless body had been buried for four days Jesus would show up and would call him forth from death to life as he would indeed be raised from death to life after hearing the voice of the Son of man calling him forth out of the grave and back unto the land of the living. Oh with this in mind consider the following words which are found in the eleventh chapter of this gospel narrative written by the apostle John concerning the resurrection fo Lazarus from death to life as he would come forth from the grave: “Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came to Martha and mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping 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. Then said the Jews, Behold, how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye way the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him god” (John 11:17-44). Oh there is something incredibly powerful about the narrative and account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave for not only did Jesus raise him from the grave but Jesus would also show up after he had been buried for four days. What’s more is Jesus would show up at the grave where Lazarus’ lifeless body had been buried for four days—a grave which was a cave with a stone rolled before the entrance of it. Oh I can’t help but wonder what Jesus thought when He arrived at the tomb of Lazarus knowing that He Himself would suffer in the flesh, would be killed and crucified before being buried in a similar grave. Is it possible that there at the grave of Lazarus Jesus thought about His own grave which He would be buried in before being raised from death to life on the third day? I am absolutely and incredibly gripped and captivated with the words and language found in this passage of Scripture for Jesus would ask where the body of Lazarus had been laid and would follow them unto the place where he had been buried. After learning that Lazarus had been buried in the grave and dead for four days Jesus would make His way unto Bethany unto the place where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and dwelt. It would be there in the midst of Bethany Jesus would come unto the place where the lifeless body of Lazarus lie buried in the grave where it had been for four days. There at the grave of Lazarus which was nothing more than a cave with a stone rolled in front of the entrance of it Jesus would show up together with Mary and Martha as well as other Jews who would come with Him. What’s more is I would also dare say that Jesus’ disciples might very well have been there together with Jesus for earlier on in this passage of Scripture we find Jesus speaking unto the disciples and speaking unto them of returning unto Judaea again. The narrative of the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave is one which is incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding Jesus’ showing up at his grave. It would be there at the grave of Lazarus Jesus would show up and would call for the stone which was before the mouth and entrance of the cave to be rolled away and remove. Moreover, it would be during this time where Jesus would declare unto Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again. Within this passage we find Jesus declaring unto Martha even further that He was the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him—although they were dead yet they would live and whosoever lives and believes in Him shall never die. Later on at the grave Jesus would ask Martha “Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God” after He had commanded the stone be rolled away and she responded by speaking of her brother being dead and buried for four days by that point in time. Jesus would indeed show up at the tomb and grave of Lazarus whom He loved and would first and foremost call for the stone which was before the entrance and mouth of the cave to be rolled away and removed. Once the stone was rolled away Jesus would then lift His eyes and speak directly unto the Father. Oh before Jesus would call forth Lazarus from the grave and from death to life Jesus would speak directly unto the Father and thank Him for hearing Him. Jesus would not only speak unto the Father and thank Him for hearing Him but He would also declare unto the Father that He knew the Father heard him always but because of the people which stood by He said it that they may believe that He had sent Him. Oh there is something absolutely incredible when you read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John for there in the midst of this chapter you will find Jesus showing up at the grave of Lazarus and allowing His voice to be heard. There at the grave of Lazarus. There at the grave of Lazarus Jesus would first call for and command the stone which was before the entrance of the cave to be rolled away that there might be nothing between Him and Lazarus whose lifeless body which was still in the midst of the cave. Moreover Jesus would then speak directly unto the Father thanking Him for hearing Him and expressing His intimate knowledge that He always heard Him but said it that those who were present might believe on Him. After speaking directly unto the Father Jesus would then cry out with a loud voice calling Lazarus to come forth from the midst of the grave. There at the grave which Lazarus’ lifeless body had been buried in he who was dead would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand when thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth of what many can and will experience in the last days when the dead can and will hear the voice of the Son of man calling them forth from the grave and coming forth from death to life. Jesus declared unto the Jews that the hour was coming and now was when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth from the graves and Lazarus would indeed be the first to experience this reality within his own life for he who was dead and buried in the grave would hear the voice of the Son of man would come forth from the grave. Oh if you want to know and see precisely what Jesus spoke about unto the Jews you need look no further unto the narrative of the resurrection of Lazarus from death to life for Jesus would indeed call forth he who was dead to come forth from the grave. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and the resurrection of many in the last days as they would hear the voice of the Son of man calling them forth from death to life: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; ;then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labour Ed more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by m an came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:12-22). “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:23-34). “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou so west is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou so west, thou so west not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raise a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earth, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Sow when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thank be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unloveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Please pay close attention to the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture in the first epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. That which we find in this epistle brings us face to face—not only with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Himself from the grave but it also presents us with the resurrection of the saints at the last day when they would hear the voice of the Son of man and would rise from death to life. Oh there is something truly astonishing and wonderful about the words which are presented to us in this passage of Scripture for they call us into the place where we not only recognize the tremendous power of the resurrection from death to life but also realize the power in the voice of the Son of man when He calls forth the death out of their graves. Scripture is entirely unclear exactly what happened at the death of Jesus when the earth did quake and the graves of many of the righteous saints did open. The apostle Matthew writes and describes how after Jesus yielded up the ghost there would be a great earthquake that would strike the earth and the graves of many of the righteous dead would be opened. Despite, however, those graves being opened the righteous saints which still slept would remain in those graves until Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you understand that it would be through Jesus’ death the graves would be opened and yet it would be through Jesus’ resurrection those dead which slept would rise and come forth from those graves. What a truly and wonderful picture this truly is of graves being opened as a direct result of the death of the Lord Jesus and resurrection occurring as a direct result of His own resurrection. It would be there in the land of Judaea—perhaps even in Galilee—when the graves of many of the righteous were opened and at the resurrection of Jesus many of those righteous saints whose graves were opened would indeed come forth from the midst of those graves. Scripture is very clear that it was the Father who raised the Son up from the grave through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the Father Himself who called forth the Son from the grave and it would be through the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus would indeed come forth from the grave. We know that the earth would indeed quake, we know the stone would be rolled away, we know an angel would sit atop the stone and we also know that angels would appear at the grave when the women came to the grave expecting the stone to still be rolled in front of the entrance of the grave and the lifeless body of the Lord Jesus still being present in the midst of it. Much to their surprise, however, the stone was rolled away, the linen clothes in which Jesus was buried would still be present within the tomb with the napkin which was about His face would be in the tomb in a separate place. Oh on the third day the Father would Himself raise His only begotten Son from death to life and would undoubtedly call Him forth from death to life and would call Him back into the land of the living. Oh there is something truly wonderful and powerful about this narrative and how the voice of the Father would indeed call forth the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God from death to life and would bring Him forth from the midst of the grave. Scripture does not quite reveal what took place on this particular day other than the earth quaking, the stone being rolled away, the grave clothes remaining in the tomb, Jesus’ body no longer being buried in the tomb and Jesus being raised from death to life. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider how the resurrection of Lazarus would indeed be very much similar to that of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It would be there at the tomb and grave where Lazarus would be buried where Jesus Himself would show up and would not only call for the stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the tomb but would also call he who was dead to come forth out of the grave and would do so by name. I continue to read the narrative and account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave and I find it absolutely intriguing when you consider the fact that his resurrection was the only other resurrection mentioned in the four gospels where one was buried in a tomb with a stone rolled before the entrance of it and Jesus coming to the tomb and raising Him from death to life. We know that Jesus Himself was buried in a tomb which had a stone rolled before the entrance of it, however, there was another who would be buried in a tomb with a stone rolled before the entrance of the tomb. This is something we must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible and powerful truth surrounding the Son of man showing up at the tomb of one whom He loved and not only calling him forth from the grave but also calling him forth by name. It was indeed Jesus who declared that the hour was coming when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth from the grave and what we find in the narrative of Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave is Jesus who was the Son of man showing up at his grave and calling forth him who was dead out of the grave and back unto the land of the living. There at the grave where Lazarus’ lifeless body had been buried we find the Son of man showing up after it had been present in the midst of it for four days. We know that Jesus’ lifeless body would also be buried in a tomb where it would remain until the third day when it would be raised from death to life. Oh there is something truly wonderful and powerful when reading the narrative and account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave for he would indeed be sort of a firstfruits of one who would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth from their grave. Of course we know that this resurrection took place in the natural and physical sense as Lazarus would be raised from death to life and would be restored to the land of the living, however, that which the Lord Jesus spoke and declared unto the Jews was referring to a resurrection unto eternal and everlasting life. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as the final chapters of each of the Synoptic gospels and that which is found within this gospel. Within these passages of Scripture we encounter the absolutely wonderful truth concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—and not only concerning the resurrection of Jesus but also how Jesus would be the firstfruits of those who would rise from death to life. I firmly believe that Lazarus would indeed be the firstfruits of those who would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth from their graves unto life—this despite the fact that Lazarus would be raised from death to life and would be restored unto the land of the living. Lazarus would indeed hear the voice of the Son of man calling him forth from death to life as he would be restored unto the land of the living and what we find within the narrative and account of his life would indeed be very much similar to that which we find in the words Jesus spoke unto the Jews in the fifth chapter of this gospel. In all reality there would essentially be different firstfruits of resurrection present in the midst of the four gospels as Lazarus would indeed be the firstfruits of those who would hear the voice of the Son of man and would come forth from the midst of the grave unto life. Those righteous saints whose graves were opened at the death of Jesus and who would come forth at His own resurrection would indeed be the firstfruits of those who would be resurrected and raised from death to life as a direct result of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that Jesus Himself would indeed be the firstfruits of resurrection as it would be because He was raised from death to life that many others would be raised from death to life. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words found in the four New Testament gospels and the book of Acts beginning with that which is found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veiled of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and Cameron out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:50-56). “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone tot the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre” (Matthew 27:57-61). “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure unitilo the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:62-66). Within these passages of Scripture we not only see Jesus breathing His last and yielding up the ghost but we also find that upon His death there would be a great earthquake and the graves of many of the righteous saints being opened. What’s more is that within these passages—even before Jesus was buried in the grave—we find a picture of His resurrection as well as the implications of that resurrection. It would be here in these verses where the graves of many of the righteous saints being opened at the death of Jesus yet none of those righteous saints would emerge from the graves until Jesus Himself was raised from the grave. What’s more is that within this passage of Scripture we find Joseph of Arimathaea who was also a disciple and one who waited for the kingdom of God entreating Pilate for the body of Jesus. Pilate would indeed grant Joseph his request and as a direct result of this he would remove the lifeless body of Jesus from the cross, would clean it, would wrap it in linen grave clothes and would lay it in his own tomb where His lifeless body would remain. Not only this but within this passage of Scripture we also find the chief priests and the Pharisees coming to Pilate concerning the body and tomb of Jesus asking for a seal and a guard to be set upon it for He had declared that after three days He would rise from the grave. The chief priests and Pharisees were concerned with whether or not the disciples could come in the secrecy of the night and steal away the body of the Lord Jesus and begin propagating the possibility that He had indeed risen from the grave. It is in this context we must needs understand the resurrection of the Lord Jesus when it actually took place for it would be the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that would serve as the catalyst for future resurrections—not only those resurrections which would take place during those days but the resurrections which the apostle Paul wrote about in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly powerful about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus for it would be through His death the graves of the righteous would be opened while it would be through His resurrection the dead which were in those graves would come forth into the earth. I find it absolutely astounding and remarkable to read the words presented in these passages of Scripture for Jesus would be the only other person whom we know was buried in a tomb which had a stone rolled before the entrance of it. Scripture does not describe the graves of the righteous saints which were opened at the death of the Lord Jesus so we are left to wonder how and what happened at those graves. The apostle Matthew does in fact mention that the graves of many of the righteous saints were opened at the death of the Jesus when the earth did quake, however, we don’t know if some of those graves were caves as well with stones rolled before the entrance or not. What would actually be quite remarkable when you take the time to think about it is if many of the graves of the righteous saints were indeed caves with stones rolled in front of the entrances of those caves. We know that the stone which was rolled in front of the entrance of the cave in which Lazarus was buried was rolled away and removed at the command of Jesus. We know that an angel from heaven would come down and roll away the stone which was at the entrance of the grave which the Lord Jesus was buried in. Concerning the graves of the righteous saints which the apostle Matthew wrote of and mentioned, however, we aren’t given any indication as to what those graves were like. Wouldn’t it be just like God to roll away the stones of multiple graves at the death of the Lord Jesus and would either do so by and through the earthquake or would use the earthquake and the sound of it to mask the noise of stones being rolled away from the entrances of graves? How absolutely phenomenal it would be of the living God to cause the graves of many of the righteous saints to be opened—and not only would He cause them to be opened but much like the stones which were before the tombs of Lazarus and Jesus were rolled away so also would the stones which were before the entrances of the graves of the righteous saints also be removed. THE GOD WHO OPENS GRAVES! THE GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD TO LIFE! THE GOD WHO CALLS THE DEAD FORTH FROM THE GRAVE! THE GOD WHO ROLLS AWAY THE STONES FROM THE ENTRANCE OF THE GRAVE! Oh there is something truly wonderful and powerful about the words which are found within the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ for within it we find the description of the graves of the righteous saints being opened which would indeed lead and make room for those righteous saints to emerge and come forth from the graves. There is something absolutely wonderful and beautiful when you consider the opening of the graves of many of the righteous saints which were opened at the death of Jesus for Scripture describes how the earth would indeed quake and how the veil in the Temple would be rent in twain from top to bottom. At the death of Jesus Christ the graves of many of the righteous saints would indeed be opened and we must needs recognize and understand this for it causes us to wonder whether or not there were many stones which were rolled away from the entrances to tombs at the death of the Lord Jesus. Is it possible that on this particular day when Jesus breathed His last and yielded up the ghost—not only would the graves of many of the righteous saints be opened but it’s very possible that stones were rolled away from the entrances of those graves. Pause for a moment and imagine those which were once dead and who were raised from death to life returning to the graves which they were buried and seeing the place where their physical bodies had once been laid. Imagine Lazarus returning to the grave where he had been buried and seeing the stone being removed from the entrance of that tomb knowing that Jesus commanded the stone to be rolled away and then commanded him to come forth. Consider the righteous saints which were raised from death to life at the resurrection of Jesus returning to the graves in which their lifeless bodies once lie and seeing the stones rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. I sit here today writing these words and I can’t help but think about and consider the words which the apostle Matthew wrote concerning the graves of many of the righteous being opened. Outside of Lazarus’ tomb being opened by and with the stone being rolled away from the entrance and outside of Jesus’ own tomb being opened with the stone being rolled away from the entrance there are no other accounts of tombs and graves being opened. I have to admit that when I read and consider the words which the apostle Matthew wrote in his gospel narrative I am brought face to face with the possibility that those graves opening would indeed be the result of stones being rolled away. How absolutely incredible it is to read and consider the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew for when he writes and speaks of the graves of many of the righteous being opened. I have to admit there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder at this and get the strong sense within myself that these graves which were opened might very well have been caves which had stones rolled in front of the entrances which were effectively rolled away. Pause and consider an earthquake taking place at the precise moment Jesus yielded the ghost and breathed His last and in the midst of that earthquake countless stones were being rolled away from the entrances of the graves of the righteous saints. There is a part of me that most certainly believes that when the apostle Matthew writes concerning the graves of many of the righteous saints being opened there were a number of stones which were rolled away at the death of Jesus. For the apostle Matthew to write that the graves of many were opened at the death of Jesus and knowing that the stone was rolled away from the entrance of Jesus’ own grave as well as Lazarus’ grave I can’t help but get the strong sense that there were countless stones which were removed from the entrances of graves at the death of the Lord Jesus. It is with this being said I now invite you to consider the following accounts of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus which were described by the physician Luke in both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts and the gospels written by the apostle Matthew, John Mark and the apostle John: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of ALphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:1-14). “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed there about, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalen, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arose Peter, and ran to the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:1-12). “IN the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the LORD descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matthew 28:1-10). “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they sat that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long whit garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid” (Mark 16:1-8). “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalen early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she run the, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciples, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away unto their own home” (John 20:1-10). “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepiest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepiest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her” (John 20:11-18). As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to that which we find in the twelfth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John. It is in the twelfth chapter of this gospel where we find Jesus coming to Bethany six days before the Passover. The apostle John emphatically describes Jesus as coming to Bethany where Lazarus was which had been dead whom He raised from the dead. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about the fact that in the house where they were all present it was Lazarus’ sister who would take a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with the hairs of her head. What makes this all the more astonishing when you think about the fact that when the disciples—specifically Judas Iscariot—sought to rebuke this woman for her actions Jesus Himself would speak up on her behalf. Not would Jesus speak up on her behalf but He would also acknowledge that her actions were being performed against the day of His burying thus directly linking that encounter to His own resurrection. Pause for a moment and consider how within the first eight verses of this chapter—not only do we read of Jesus being in Bethany where a resurrection had already occurred in that He raised Lazarus from the dead but now He is speaking of His own resurrection from the dead and how Lazarus’ own sister prepared Him for His burial. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with the fragrant ointment and did dry them with the hairs of her head she was in fact preparing Him for His own burial when He would be buried in a borrowed tomb before rising from death to life on the third day. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider this truth and how the Lord Jesus would indeed be prepared for His own burial—and not only for His own burial but also for His resurrection. The words and language we find in this passage of Scripture not only look back to the resurrection which Jesus would perform in the life of Lazarus but would also look ahead to His own burial and resurrection which is indeed the hope which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of and the foundation of our faith and confidence in the sight of the living God.

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