I have a number of friends who watch the popular television show, “The Walking Dead.” I tried an episode but just couldn’t get into it. My friends say they watch for the drama. I find that funny, yet I cannot point a judging finger because I have also temporarily suspended rational thought and enjoyed weird, bizarre and totally unreal stories. I guess I am not a dead head. Zombie stories are not my thing. Having said that, there is story I like that’s found in Scripture about a guy who died, decayed and came back to life. Who knew? The very first walking dead story is found in the Bible in John 11.
Before taking a brief look at this story, I need to say a word about decay. A decaying body leaves no question concerning death without possibility of resuscitation (except for zombies). In spite of receiving word of his friend Lazarus’ illness, Jesus waited two days before making His way to Bethany, the home of Lazarus (John 11:6). During that delay, Lazarus died. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, four days had passed. The fourth day was considered the day of decay or putrification. Now that is a nasty sounding word.
As you can understand, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were heart broken and disappointed. Martha didn’t mince words. When she saw Jesus she said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You” (John 11:22). Martha seemed to express faith that it wasn’t too late, yet when Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again, Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Mary also believed that had Jesus arrived earlier, Lazarus would not have died. Even though Jesus had raised others from the dead, no one believed Jesus could raise to life a man who had been dead four days.
Martha and Mary were disillusioned, torn and confused. Notice the compassion of Jesus. Twice in the story we are told Jesus was deeply moved and at one point He wept. He did this in spite of knowing He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead.
When Jesus came to the tomb he said, “Remove the stone” (John 11:39). Martha, knowing the reality of decay and the accompanying odor said “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days” (John 11:39). What Martha was saying is, “Jesus, not even you can fix this. This situation is irrevocable. There is no hope.”
This story is so familiar you likely know without looking at Scripture that Jesus indeed called Lazarus to “come forth” and Lazarus came out of the tomb in his grave clothes. With this miracle, Jesus left no doubt for us that He has the authority over death and life. We can trust His promises of a future resurrection and life eternal. We can also take comfort that Jesus has great compassion and He can bring goodness into our lives. Those problems that seem impossible are not impossible for Jesus.