Who Can Raise Lazarus?


Who Can Raise Lazarus?

April 27th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM

John 11:14-17

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 11:14-15; 17

4-27-80    8:15 a.m.



Thank you, young people.  Your ranks have been depleted by two or three excursions that have taken a score of you at least, out.  But the rest of you do better than the bunch when they are all here.  And we appreciate it and love you for what you do.

On the radio we welcome you who are listening to this service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor delivering the message entitled Who Can Raise Lazarus From the Dead?  It is a message concerning our present day, and our present hour, and who has an answer for it.

In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, beginning at verse 14, these words are written:


Then said Jesus unto His disciples plainly, Lazarus

is dead.

And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to

the intent ye may believe . . . .

[verse] 17 –

Then when Jesus came, He found that he had

been dead in the grave four days already.

[John 11:14-15, 17]


This is a harsh and a stark fact of life, and however we seek to hide our faces from it, sin and death reap their toll through all the earth.  And our problems are international and national; they are political; they are domestic; they are community;  they are collective; they are personal; they are individual – all typified in the sorrow and the tragedy that overwhelmed this home in Bethany, with Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus.  "And Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead [John 11:14].  And when He came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already" [John 11:17]. 

Now the sermon is, who has an answer to the complex and diverse and infinite problems of human life?  And who has an ultimate triumph over the waste and ravages of sin and the grave?

First of all – and in our generation above all – there appears the pseudoscientist.  And with boast and bombast, and with ridicule for the Christian faith and for the superfluity of religion, he announces to the world, "I have the solution.  I can raise Lazarus from the dead."  And he comes with his sacred cow; for science is a sacred cow.  And gathered around his golden calf are the multitudes by the uncounted thousands.  And they watch as the pseudoscientist enters into the grave to raise Lazarus from the dead.  And he stands before the corpse with all of the accouterments of his great academic and intellectual background: he has his chemical formulae, he has his physical graphs, and he has all of his anatomical charts.  He is prepared.  He has the answer; he can raise Lazarus from the dead.

So he surveys the corpse.  There it lies before him: here is the brain, complete and in order, here is the heart, here are all of the organs in place – everything just as it should be arranged.  Here is the cranium.  Here are the vertebrae.  Here is the clavicle.  Here is the pelvis.  Here is the femur.  Here is the tibia.  Here is the fibula.  Here is the tarsus.  Here is the metatarsus.  Here is the tensor fasciolatus.  Here is the semimembranosis, all of it arranged just as it should be.

And we press him, as he stands before all of the organs and anatomical features of the body, just each one in its order.  And we expect him, because of his boasts and his pride, to raise Lazarus from the dead, to make the body instant with life.  And nothing happens!  And we press him, "You have all the answers, you say.  What has happened to him?"

"I don’t know," he replies.

"What is death?"

"I don’t know," he replies.

"What is spirit?"

"I don’t know," he replies.

"What has happened to this man?  Something has departed from him.  What is that something?"

"I don’t know."  And he finally comes out of the tomb with his head bowed in humility and in desperation; his golden calf has fallen on its face before the world.  The pseudoscientist has no answer.  He can’t raise Lazarus from the dead.

Next appears the false sophist philosopher.  "I have the answer," he says.  "I can raise Lazarus from the dead."  And he enters into the tomb.  And there before him is the corpse – the waste of sin and death.  This man is a modern philosopher.  He is an existentialist.  And the basic persuasion of the modern existentialist philosopher is this: there’s not any truth except it is truth for you.  There is no such thing as propositional truth.  There is no experience, except the experience as it’s known to you.  And in your opinion and in your judgment, he may be dead; but not in my opinion and in my judgment.  In my opinion and in my judgment, he is alive.  He’s alive.

The existentialist philosopher is the first cousin of the so called Christian Scientist.  There’s not any sickness.  It’s in your mind.  There’s not any death.  It’s just an idea.  And if we can get rid of the idea, and if we can be healed in our minds, then there is no more sickness, and there is no more death.

In one of my churches located in a university town, there was a professor.  She belonged to that persuasion.  Her mother was a devout member of our First Baptist Church.  And her mother fell down the basement stair-steps and was terribly hurt – bruised and black all over.  I went to see her in the home.  No doctor was allowed.  No medicine was prescribed.  You see, when the daughter saw her mother there on the basement floor – broken, and hurt, and bruised – she said, "There, mother.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not broken.  You’re not bruised.  Now, let’s get up."  A marvelous philosophy: this existentialist persuasion.

Ah dear!  The little girl came running into the kitchen and said, "Oh!  Mother, Mother.  You know that lady down the street who is so sick?"

And the mother broke in, "There, there, child.  She just thinks she is sick."

And the little girl paused and said, "Well, mother, now she thinks she’s dead."

What a blind persuasion, to stick your head in the sand and to deny the reality of the over-sowing of Satan.  Sin is real, as real as the universe is real.  And death is a harsh, cruel fact, as harsh and cruel as existence itself.  And no hiding of it and no philosophical, semantic playing of words will take it away.  The harsh visage of death, and wrong, and sin is always present.  And the pseudo-philosopher leaves the tomb saying, "I haven’t seen death, nor is there a corpse there.  It’s just in your mind and in your imagination."  But it still doesn’t go away.

Next comes the evolutionist, the revolving, evolving evolutionist.  And he says, "I have the answer.  I can raise Lazarus from the dead."  And he makes the grand and sublime announcement.  He says, "All life is coming up, and up, and up, and up.  And it’s always upward and onward.  And give us time, and we shall be angels, or maybe, archangels.  We shall arrive at resurrection and immortality.  And sin and death are nothing but the drag of our bestial ancestors."

So he comes into the tomb to raise Lazarus from the dead.  And as he stands there, he says, "You don’t understand the true facts of life."  He says, "Dead, inanimate matter suddenly gave birth to a living cell.  And that living vegetable cell became an animalcule, an animal cell.  And that amoeba and paramecium became a coral.  And the coral cell became a tadpole cell.   And the tadpole cell became a fish cell.  And the fish cell became a serpent cell.  And the serpent cell became a bird cell.  And the bird cell became a marsupial cell.  And the marsupial cell became an anthropoid, a simian cell.  And the simian cell became a Homo sapiens cell.  And Homo sapiens cell, the man cell, the human cell will become an angelic cell.  And the angelic cell will reach the immortality and resurrection and life; and this corpse shall rise from the dead!"

So we say to the evolutionist, who stands before that dead corpse, "But I don’t see that.  I never have seen inanimate matter, like a dead rock or a dead anything, I never had seen inanimate matter give birth to a living cell.  And these amoebas are still here, swimming around in the water.  And these parameciums, they’re still there too.  And that coral – man, there are coral reefs that are a mile high.  And the coral, dead animal down there on the bottom of it that lived fifty million years ago, is just like that coral that’s up there on top of the ocean, making his coral reef today.  He hasn’t changed.  Nor have any of the others changed. 

I looked at a little piece of amber that they said was thirty million years old.  And inside of that amber was caught a mosquito.  And thirty million years ago he was the same dirty, nasty, sorry insect as he is today – just the same, just the same; I don’t see that.

"Ah!"  but he says, "Give me time."

So we wait for him in the tomb a million years.  And after a million years, that corpse is still dead!  And he finally comes out of the grave, and he says, "I cannot raise him from the dead.  What I have said is a sterile, and barren, and empty hypothesis."

Next, I see four strong theologians coming.  And they announce to the world, "We can raise Lazarus from the dead."  And the first one is a man of the cloth who is eminent for his message on social redemption.  He believes in collective salvation; not individual regeneration, but he preaches a social gospel for the regeneration and the redemption of all culture and all society.

So he says, "See, I have a bowl of salt here, the salt of social regeneration.  And I’m going to rub him with this salt and make him sensitive to his collective and community duties.  And he will rise from the dead."

So this first theologue enters the tomb, and he rubs the corpse with his saline solution of social responsibilities.  And he rubs and he rubs; and the operation continues and continues.  And we who are watching him shout to him down there in the grave, "Does he show any symptoms of life?  Does he breathe?  My brother, have you raised him from the dead with the rubbing of your social solutions?"

"No," he cries.  "He’s still dead.  He’s still a corpse."

And so the second theologian calls, "Well, come you out, my brother, and let me enter in."

So the second theologian enters in to raise Lazarus from the dead.  He preaches a gospel of hysteria, of the dancing shakes, of the second blessing.  And he says, "I will raise him from the dead with the gospel of the baptism of the Holy Ghost."  So he addresses to that dead corpse a whole barrage of tinny tenebrific incantations, using gibberish, and words, and syllables, and languages he himself doesn’t understand.  And he finally in his gyrations rolls on the floor; but the corpse is still dead.  And he finally says, "I cannot raise him from the dead."  And he comes out.

The third theologian, standing there watching the inability of the second one, says, "I will enter in, and I will raise him from the dead."  So he enters in, dressed in flowing, flowering robes with gold chains, and he has all kinds of gorgeous rituals and sublime litanies, and he sprinkles the corpse with holy water.  And he says all kinds of things in Greek or in Latin, and after he is done with his genuflections, and his perfume, and his ointment, and his incense, the corpse is still dead – dead, dead!

The fourth theologian says, "Come you out, my brother, and let me enter in; and I will raise Lazarus from the dead."  So the fourth one enters in.  Brother, does he do it?  He enters in with the latest hit tunes.  He comes in with all of his Hollywood antics.  He’s there with his rock-and-roll persiflage.  He’s there with his jive quartet.  And man, do they get with it.  You never heard such sounding and such goings on and such swaying in all of your life!  But isn’t it strange?  There’s no jive rock-and-roll in the grave.  He is still dead.  He’s a corpse who has lain there four days already.

Finally, some humble follower of the Lord Jesus says, "Let me go get the Savior.  He is the resurrection, and the life [John 11:25].  And let us bring Him, and maybe He can raise Lazarus from the dead."  So a humble follower of Jesus crosses over the Jordan River on the other side, where the Lord is with His apostles, and says to Him: "Your friend, Lazarus, is dead.  Come.  Come.  Come.  The waste of sin and death has entered this house and destroyed this home.  Come."

And He who flung the worlds out into space by fiat [Genesis 1]; He who said, "Let there be light: and there was light" [Genesis 1:3]; He who is omnipotent and invincible, who is the Lord of life and the conqueror of death, He comes and stands before the grave.  And He lifts up His voice, and He says, "Lazarus, come forth" [John 11:43], and immediately, that dead corpse became instantaneously instant with life and stood up, raised from among the dead [John 11:44].

Somebody said, "Why did the Lord say, ‘Lazarus, come forth’?"  And the other replied, "My brother, had He not said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ the whole cemetery would have stood up to rise to meet our Savior."  He can raise Lazarus from the dead.

And this marvelous story in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John is a type, and a parable, and a figure.  Who has the answers to human life?  And who can solve our human problems?  Who can meet the ravages of sin, and of death, and of the grave, and stand up triumphant, undefeated, victorious?  Who can do it?  The Lord Jesus Christ and none other!

I say, this is a type, it is a symbol, it is a parable, it is a lesson.  It is a type, first; it is a parable, first; it is an harbinger, first; an earnest, first – of the great, ultimate triumph of our Lord at the end of the age, at the consummation of God’s elective purposes of grace in this world.  "The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:52].

And what the Lord did, standing before the grave of Lazarus, is a type and a parable of what God shall someday do at the end and the consummation of the age [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].  We shall live again in these bodies.  Though worms through this skin destroy this physical frame, yet, in my flesh, shall I see God [Job 19:25-27].  It is a parable, it is a promise, it is an harbinger and an earnest of the tremendous victory of our Lord at the consummation of the age.

Sin and death shall not reign forever [1 Corinthians 15:55-57];just for a while, just for a little while, the Bible says.  "And He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" [Hebrews 10:37].  And He shall bring with Him these elect saints whom He hath raised from the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth, and who live to praise and glorify His name forever [1 Thessalonians 4:14; Jude 14].  He can raise Lazarus from the grave.

Number two: this is a type, and a symbol, and a parable of what the Lord is doing in the tremendous spiritual regeneration of the human heart today.  The apostle Paul says that we are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13].  The wrong of our life has brought with it an inevitable and always present judgment, namely, the judgment of death.  "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23].  "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. 

And we are spiritual corpses, lying in the presence of the Lord who can raise us to life, who can make us sensitive to the presence of the Lord, who can give us eyes to see the wonders of God’s love and grace, who can regenerate us, who can make us born anew, who can make us over again, who can give us new life and new hope, who can give us promise of a more beautiful and more precious and a more glorious day; our Lord Jesus Christ.

He makes all things new [Revelation 21:5]; even someday, a new heaven, and a new earth, and a new city wherein dwelleth righteousness [Revelation 21:1-3]. 


And there shall be no more tears, neither sorrow

nor crying, neither shall there be any more death,

for these things are all passed away. 

[Revelation 21:4]


Our Lord has the answer.  Our Lord has the ableness and the omnipotence to raise us to Himself in the likeness of His own glory, even from the dead [2 Corinthians 4:14].

Now may be stand, together?  Our Lord in heaven, forgive us when we seek the ultimate and final solutions of the ravages of wrong in this world in any other place except in the able, capable, omnipotent hands of our Lord Jesus.  And forgive us, Lord, when we seek answers that come out of the fallibility of men.  May we find our hope in the infinitude of the wisdom, and the ableness, and the glory of God?  And, our Lord, may that answer begin in each one of us humbly.  As a recipient, as a penitent, as a confessor, may each one of us find his/her way to the blessed Lord Jesus, and there, under the touch of His hand and under the sound of His mighty voice, may we find life, and hope, and forgiveness, and regeneration, and new birth, and heaven.  Dear God, to each one of us, may the Lord Jesus come in mercy, in grace, in saving power.

And in this moment that we stand before our Lord in quietness, in adoration, in deepest love – a family you, to put your life with us in this dear church, a couple you, coming down that aisle together, just one somebody you, "Pastor, today I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior.  I open my heart to Him.  I’m answering His call with my life."  Make that decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing this hymn of appeal, be the first down that stairway or down that aisle.  And, our Lord, for the souls Thou shalt give us this sacred and holy hour, we shall love Thee and praise Thee and thank Thee forever, in Thy dear and keeping name, amen.  Now while our ministers and our deacons wait, and while our people pray just for you, as we sing this song, down a stairway, down an aisle, "This moment, pastor, I have decided for Christ, and here I am," while we pray, while we wait, and while we sing. 


Dr. W.
A. Criswell




I.          The pseudo-scientist

A.  With boast and
bombast ridicules Christian faith; brings his sacred cow

B.  Enters the tomb with
chemical formulae, physical diagrams and graphs

C.  Lazarus does not
rise; he cannot answer why


II.         The fake philosophers

A.  Modern
existentialist says nothing true except it be true for you

B.  Spiritual sophist says
sickness and death illusions of the mind


III.        The evolving evolutionist

A.  Believes we are evolving
upward toward angelic life

B.  Lazarus will rise
from the dead, but we have to millions of years


IV.       Four strong, enthusiastic theologians

A.  Social gospeler brings
regeneration of fabric of society, collective redemption

B.  Gospel of hysteria
speaks in gripping incantations, dancing shakes

C.  One arrayed in
gorgeous robes anoints with holy water, speaks liturgies

D.  One brings hip
tunes, swinging with rock and roll


V.        A humble follower of Jesus invites Him
to come

A.  He comes and stands
at the tomb

      1.  He calls,
"Lazarus, come forth."

B.  Raising of Lazarus a
picture of the consummation of the age

Harbinger of the resurrection of the dead (1
Corinthians 15:26, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

3.  Type
of our spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:1, Ezekiel
18:20, Romans 6:23, Revelation 21:5)