Have you ever wondered what Lazarus thought when Jesus called him from the tomb? He had struggled with an illness that weakened him to the point of death. Death was a relief. Then he woke up in a tomb, wrapped like a mummy and had to return to everyday life instead of spending the time with God. And then he died again.
It does seem a little unfair from his perspective, but Jesus had a more important goal, that of defeating death. Lazarus was only a parable of what was to come. God did not defeat death by raising Lazarus, He conquered death by raising Jesus from the dead. Lazarus pointed the way.
So what was different about Jesus? Why was his death so important? Why couldn’t God raise all of us from the dead?
The answer to the last question is that he could at any time. But like Lazarus, death would claim us again. Jesus had to defeat the Angel of Death and more than that, the Angel of Lies. That is what sets him apart from the rest of us.
Yet, both death and sin continue as before. Did Jesus fail?
The old hymn says he succeeded.
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
So why do we still face death?
This is where the readings in Isaiah and Revelation come to play. Death is not yet defeated. Jesus has done the heavy lifting so far, but the final work is yet to be done. Our general conception is that Jesus lay in the grave wrapped like a mummy until sunrise when he jumped up to meet with the disciples. He did not. Jesus spent the three days in Hell doing battle with evil, a battle that continues for us today.
If you are a fan of Star Trek, you might imagine that all that battling of the three days in Hell took place, or is taking place, in another deminsion or another time warp. Or perhaps Jesus simply came out of the grave to let us know that the battle is going well and the victory is assured. However we view it, the final battles will come in our future as described in The Revelation of John.
Be righteous and do good.