Jesus once told a story of a beggar named Lazarus who lay full of sores at the gate of a rich man. When both men died, Lazarus entered into the joy of God’s heavenly kingdom, but the rich man entered into torment in the place of punishment (Luke 16:19-23). The rich man called for Lazarus to come and bring relief to his suffering, but he learnt to his disappointment that no person could pass from Lazarus’ world to his (Luke 16:24-26). He then asked to send Lazarus back from the world of the dead into the world of the living, to warn the rich man’s brothers of the horrors that lay ahead.
Again he was disappointed. If people are so self-centred that they ignore the plain message of the Bible, even the miracle of someone rising from the dead will not make them change their ways (Luke 16:27-31). Some time later, another man named Lazarus did in fact rise from the dead. This was Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha (John 11:1-44). But, as Jesus had pointed out, such an event had little effect on those who had consistently resisted God through rejecting the message of the Bible. They still resisted, even when they witnessed the miracle of someone coming from death back to life (John 11:46-50; cf. 5:38-40,45-47). Rather than accept the evidence and humbly submit to God, they tried to destroy the evidence. They planned to kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11). Jesus’ raising of Lazarus started that final burst of hostility which, within one week, brought about Jesus’ death (John 11:53; 12:1,17-19). (For details of Lazarus’ family see MARTHA.)