A picture of a man running on the beach with the sun setting in the distance: Used for the sermon notes on the "Death of Lazarus."


The Bible recounts a total of nine incredible accounts of people who were raised from the dead. The OT itself records three miracles out of the nine: the Shunammite Woman’s son (2 Kings 4:32-37), a dead man in prophet Elisha’s tomb (2 Kings 13:20-21), and the son of the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24). In the NT, we’re told about numerous saints in Jerusalem that came back to life (Matthew 27:53), Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-23; 35-43), the Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7:11-17), Lazarus (John 11:38-44), Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43), and Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12). Today I want to consider the death of Lazarus. Some may argue that considering one miracle as superior to another is unwise. However, this miracle stands out because it revolves around the death of Lazarus, serving as the central theme of the narrative. There are eight valuable lessons that we can glean from his death even in today’s context.

Note: This sermon manuscript is eight pages long (A4 size) and contains 2,774 words. If you plan to use it in your preaching ministry, you might want to consider breaking it down into a two-part sermon series, with four major points in each installment. Alternatively, if you prefer to deliver it all at once, you may want to shorten it.

1. God Does Not Play Dice with Your Life

The Hebrew Bible has been written using 305,000 words roughly while the Greek Bible contains around 300,000 – 400,000 words. The English Translations have approximately 810,000 – 820,000 words. Did you know that the word “coincidence” does not exist in any of them? It is not in God’s Word because He doesn’t leave anything to chance. He has a predetermined plan and a purpose not just for your life but also for your death because He doesn’t play dice with human lives!

The word “coincidence” does not exist in the Bible because it does not exist in God’s vocabulary.

Yohan Perera

Jesus himself said it about the death of Lazarus. He purposely delayed helping Lazarus, knowing that Lazarus’ resurrection would provoke the religious leaders. So, the death of Lazarus was a deliberate component of God’s overarching plan for redemption, aimed at glorifying Jesus by showcasing his death and subsequent resurrection. Therefore, don’t attribute the storms of life, to God playing dice with your life. Rather take comfort in the fact that storms are integral to His wonderful plan for you.

2. Do Today What You Must Do Today

People credit the Polish Physicist Marie Curie with the quote “Do Today What You Must Do Today” – Verses 6 – 15 however show Jesus demonstrated the same principle 2,000 years before. With a target painted on His back, Jesus could have postponed the journey to Judea or healed Lazarus the way he healed the Roman Centurion’s Servant but he didn’t. This is Jesus we’re talking about. He was mission-oriented. He knew his earthly mandate was coming to an end, (John 11:9). Time was of essence for Him.

Jesus was walking around with a target painted on His back.

Yohan Perera

Similar to Jesus, you also have a mandate to fulfill. Your mandate is to spread the message of the gospel to your loved ones who are unaware of their need for a savior and guide them toward understanding and accepting Christ. It’s something you should do either before they die or before this world as we know it comes to its end. Beware! The end is not near. It’s here. The clock is ticking. Therefore don’t procrastinate proclaiming the gospel. Do today what you must do today.

3. Imitating Christ is a Do or Die Mission

I conducted some research on the expression “Do or Die” as part of my preparation for this sermon. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Succeed by putting forth maximum effort and taking bold actions, or fail.” The origin of the expression however is a different story. Mahatma Gandhi used the expression for the first time in his daring speech against the British Colonists titled “Quit India” on August 8th, 1942. He urged the Indians to strive for independence or be prepared to face the consequences, even if it meant risking their lives in the process.

Thomas’ words indicate that he was a person who believed in taking decisive action, regardless of the risks or challenges involved—a “Do or Die” individual, (John 11:16). Tradition holds, that Thomas was called “the twin” because of his strong resemblance to Jesus. Jesus’ enemies could have mistakenly killed Thomas instead of Jesus due to their striking similarity. Likewise, when we imitate Christ, the world will persecute us, just as it persecuted Him, (John 15:18). Living as a Christian becomes a mission which we must fully commit, facing persecution with a “Do or Die” attitude.

4. God Controls Even the Time and Tide

After the Jordan River scene, the focus shifts to Lazarus’ home in Bethany. Why does John highlight the fact that four days had elapsed before Jesus reached Bethany? (John 11:17) Jewish superstition was that a soul lingered around the grave for three days, hoping to reunite with the body. After this time, there was no hope of resuscitation. You might ask, “What’s your point?” My point is John wanted to illustrate that God controls even the time because He is the architect of time!

Let me explain further. The Bible begins with the unique phrase, “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1). In the beginning of what? Moses the author of Genesis is referring to the specific moment in history when God caused the earth to spin creating the fourth dimension, called time in the context of physics and spacetime! If God is the creator of time, wouldn’t it mean He has the power to control it as well? The Bible says in Joshua 10:13 He froze time, literally!

God is the architect of the dimension we call time, so He has complete authority over it and can control it entirely.

Yohan Perera

We rush and worry when things don’t unfold according to our plans, just like Martha, (John 11:21). We remember the saying “time and tide wait for no man” but forget that God isn’t a man restricted by time. He dwells outside the constraints of time, in the realm of eternity. It’s why Martha said “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:22) – Like Martha we too can encounter God’s power when we begin to believe that “even now” God can do whatever we ask in Jesus’ name! (John 16:23)

5. All Roads Lead to Rome but Heaven

Continuing from my previous point, let’s consider how Jesus could be so certain when he told Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again (John 11:23). According to the Bible, Jesus possesses a unique perspective on time. He existed before time itself began (John 1:1) and will be present even after time comes to an end (Revelation 21:1). In other words, Jesus although he is 100% human is also 100% God. Therefore he has access to complete knowledge of everything that has happened, is happening, and will ever happen. Hence, nothing surprises him, and nothing is truly new to him. Then why should you?

Jesus cannot be surprised, as nothing is genuinely new to him.

Yohan Perera

Then Martha replies she knows that Lazarus will rise again at the resurrection on the last day. Hearing Jesus’ promise, Martha, though grieving, expressed her faith in the future resurrection, saying that Lazarus would rise again on the final day. Jesus however wasn’t referring to a far-off resurrection day. He was promising that Lazarus would come back to life immediately! Then He delivered a shocking announcement. In verses 25-26, He said He is the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in him will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in him will never die.”

Today, I’d like to pose a question similar to the one Jesus asked Martha. Do you believe that Jesus is truly who he claimed to be? Do you believe that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody will see God except through him, (John 14:6)? A well-known car bumper sticker says, “All Roads Lead to Heaven. Just be Good!” However, this statement is misleading. Neither religion, philosophies, nor your own efforts can guarantee entry to heaven. All roads may lead to Rome but only one road leads to heaven. The way of Jesus is the name of that Road.

6. Earthly Delays aren’t Heavenly Denials

In John 11:27 Martha openly admits that she believes Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who is expected to come into the world. If you believe it you’re blessed. Now John assures us at least three times that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, (John 11:3; 11:5; 11:36) and many times indirectly. Yet, it’s noticeable that both Martha and Mary, along with the crowds, harbored doubts about Jesus’ love for them, (John 11:28-32; 11:36-37). Their feelings are understandable because they were unaware of the purpose behind Jesus’ delay.

Martha and Mary likely found it challenging to wait without receiving any communication from Jesus. It seems both sisters conveyed their frustrations to Jesus in a blaming manner but Jesus didn’t get offended. Instead, he was deeply moved and troubled by Mary’s tears to the extent that he wept. (“…Jesus wept…” is the shortest verse in the Bible.) It indicates that prayerfully expressing our true emotions to God is acceptable, as He won’t be offended. Instead, He sympathizes with us, allowing us to be honest and genuine in our communication with Him.

In the past, Jewish customs included hiring professional mourners skilled at portraying grief, but it was essentially a performance. Unlike them, when we sincerely share our genuine emotions in prayer, God truly sympathizes with us. Yet, God might postpone answering prayers because He has a superior plan. He may stay silent or appear distant. During such moments, it’s crucial to bear in mind that earthly delays aren’t heavenly denials.

7. God’s Word is Causative and Effective

We now reach the most powerful part of the story: the moment when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. Jesus arrives at the tomb and orders others to roll over the stone covering the entrance when Martha makes an important point. The body had been lying there for four days, and the stench would be intolerable. Judging by her words, the body was in a state between stage 2 (bloated) and stage 3 (active decay) of decomposition meaning Lazarus wasn’t unconscious, and there was no way of reviving him.

Judging by Martha’s words, the body was in a state between stage 2 (bloated) and stage 3 (active decay) of decomposition.

Yohan Perera

To grasp the significance of the miracle, we need to first understand what happened to Lazarus’ body when he died, or, for that matter, what happens to our bodies when we die.

The heart, which pumps blood throughout the body, stops beating. The soul probably departs from the body at the same time. The lungs cease to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide as breathing stops. Brain activity decreases, and eventually, all brain functions cease. The body gradually loses warmth as circulation stops. Rigor mortis sets in, causing the muscles to become stiff. The skin may become paler or take on a bluish tint due to lack of oxygen.

Over time, the body undergoes decomposition as bacteria and enzymes break down tissues. Rigor mortis gives way to a stage where the body becomes flaccid, and decomposition gases may cause swelling. Internal organs begin to break down, contributing to the overall process of decay. Bodily fluids dry up, contributing to the mummification process if the environment is dry. (Lazarus’ body did not reach the mummification stage but he was indeed dead.)

Now, it’s crucial to comprehend that when Jesus exclaimed, “Lazarus, come out!” it triggered a chain reaction of events that reversed the entire process mentioned above, similar to what occurred in Ezekiel 37:1-10. Here’s a concise summary of what transpired.

In a miraculous twist, evaporated bodily fluids were supernaturally rehydrated, restoring a sense of vitality. Instead of breaking down further, internal organs underwent a remarkable process of regeneration. Rigor mortis and swelling subsided at once, giving way to a state of natural flexibility. Rather than decomposing, the body underwent a fantastical reconstruction, healing, and revitalizing. The skin took on a radiant glow, signaling a rejuvenation of life forces.

Instead of stiffening, the muscles relaxed, restoring a sense of ease and mobility. The body gradually regained warmth, bringing back a comforting and living temperature. Brain activity reignited restoring all cognitive functions. The lungs, once still, resumed the rhythmic intake of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide. In a miraculous turn of events, the heart, which had stopped beating, began to pulse with life once again. The soul came back together with the body, and behold, Lazarus was alive once more!

I can quote many more verses from the scriptures to illustrate that God’s Word has power (Genesis 1:3-31, Matthew 8:5-13, Mark 5:41-42). However, to experience the transformative power of God’s Word in your life, you must surrender your life to Jesus. John 1:4 shows Jesus is God’s Word incarnated. Some of you may feel like you’re walking through life as if you’re alive, but deep inside, you’re emotionally dead—dead to your grief, sickness, and stress. By giving Jesus a chance, you can start living again and witness God’s glory, for His Word is Causative and Effective.

8. Lazarus shows God knows the Endgame

Jesus revived Lazarus, and this miraculous act led to widespread belief and joy among the people. Yet, God wasn’t done! This remarkable event marked just the beginning of a larger narrative. In John 11:47-57, God’s plan continues to unfold. The passage provides detailed information, such as the Jews who witnessed the miracle reporting it to the Sanhedrin, the plot to kill Jesus, and Jesus returning to hiding. However, there are a few crucial verses (John 11:49-53) that stand out among them all and that reminds me of a story I heard when I was a teenager.

In the year 1997 a Super Computer by the name Deep Blue built by IBM defeated Garry Kasparov a Grandmaster of Chess in a tournament. Did you hear that Garry underestimated the IBM invention, claiming that Deep Blue was no smarter than an alarm clock? He didn’t realize he was competing against a machine that could analyze 200 million chess positions per second. Garry thought he was in control of the game, but to the machine, Garry wasn’t an opponent; he was just another pawn, leading to its triumph [Full Illustration].

Caiaphas, the High Priest, believed he was smart, (…You know nothing at all…). He believed he was in control of the situation. He intended to turn Jesus into a pawn in a political game of Chess. He didn’t have the faintest clue that he, was just another pawn in God’s master plan for the nation of Israel and the entire world, (John 11:51-52). Caiaphas and the rest of the council did not know they were up against the almighty God! They remind me of Psalm 37:12-13.

Caiaphas didn’t have the faintest clue that he, was just another pawn in God’s master plan for the nation of Israel and the entire world.

Yohan Perera

I believe God laughed watching this assembly of fools. In fact, around 70 AD, years after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Romans besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, which the Sanhedrin claimed “their” holy place (though not necessarily God’s holy place). Perhaps today you feel abandoned by God, thinking your enemies have free rein over you. In reality, God is laughing at them because their time is limited. Their joy is fleeting, but your victorious day is just around the corner. They are simply pawns in God’s larger and wonderful plan for your life.


As we reflect on Lazarus’ resurrection, let’s embrace the profound lessons. God’s precise control over our lives offers comfort in storms. The urgency of Jesus’ mission beckons us to share the gospel urgently. Imitating Christ becomes a “Do or Die” commitment, even in the face of persecution. God’s authority over time and delays assures us; to trust Him. Bring your genuine emotions; God sympathizes. Surrender to Jesus for the transformative power of His Word in your life. Recognize God as the grandmaster of life’s chess, leading you to victory. Today, let’s respond to the call: Trust in God’s sovereignty, embrace urgency in mission, and surrender to the transformative power of His Word. Step forward, and let His plan unfold in your life, as I lay my hands and pray for you. Amen.

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