Who Was Lazarus in the Bible?

The name, Lazarus, in Greek is Lazaros, which comes from the Hebrew, Eleazar, meaning “He, (God) has helped. Lazarus in the Bible lived in Bethany, two miles southeast of Jerusalem and was the brother of Martha and Mary. One day, he died. But Jesus chose Lazarus to demonstrate His power as he foreshadowed what would happen to Himself on Easter.
Who Was Lazarus in the Bible?

Meaning of Lazarus’s Name

The name, Lazarus has been used for all kinds of titles— from a Davie Bowie rock and roll album to a video game. The name brings up images of overcoming death and stems from a passage in the Bible.

The name, Lazarus, in Greek is Lazaros, which comes from the Hebrew, Eleazar, meaning “He, (God) has helped. Let’s revisit the story to see how God helped him.

Who Was Lazarus? He was a friend to Jesus and a brother to Mary and Martha.

Lazarus’s story appears in an account in John 11:1-44, when a messenger shows up where Jesus was ministering and requests Jesus come immediately to the home of a sick man. Lazarus lived in a nearby town, Bethany, two miles southeast of Jerusalem and was the brother of Martha and Mary.  

Jesus had previously visited the three siblings and had enjoyed the family’s hospitality. His sister, Mary, would sit at the Master’s feet and listen to his words. Martha, Mary’s sister was the one who complained to Jesus that her sister needed to help her in the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42).

When Jesus received the invitation, the messenger told Jesus that Lazarus, “He whom you love is ill.” This phrase, “He whom you love,” is significant. Yes, Jesus loved all he came in contact with, but the words hints at how Jesus and Lazarus were true friends. He had visited with Lazarus and his sisters in their home and broke bread with them.

And it may have been because of that very closeness that Jesus decided to use his relationship with Lazarus to showcase his power. So, instead of racing to his friend’s bedside, he stayed two more days where He was before deciding to go to Bethany and awaken His friend.

To our human minds this delay might have seen uncaring, but remember Jesus was God incarnate and knew Lazarus’s life span. Jesus took his time before leaving for Bethany, knowing that the Jewish culture deemed a person dead after three days. Was He waiting so that those around Lazarus would have no doubt that their friend was gone?  Very possibly.

After announcing His friend was dead, Jesus arrived at Martha and Mary’s house. By this time the women’s brother had been dead for four days. Martha chastised Jesus, telling him that her brother wouldn’t have died if he had come sooner. I’m sure she loved her brother dearly, but Martha was fretting over another issue. Because of the economic structure of ancient Jewish culture, Martha and her sister Mary probably weren’t permitted to earn a living and needed their brother’s financial support. Now that was gone. It was a catastrophe on many levels for them to lose Lazarus.

Who Was Lazarus? He was the one for whom “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Jesus, even knowing the good outcome, wept for his friend. Can you imagine a friendship so true that the Son of God would stand at your grave with tears running down His face?  Lazarus must have been a great man. 

Who Was Lazarus? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Then after Jesus grieved, He went to the tomb and called to his dead friend, “Lazarus, come out.” Immediately Lazarus appeared out of the tomb. Jesus chose Lazarus to demonstrate His power as he foreshadowed what would happen to Himself on Easter.

This powerful incident upset the Pharisees and Chief Priests who felt they were losing a grip on their people. They were concerned that this man who did signs and wonders would cause problems with the Romans. It was right after this miracle that these evil leaders plotted to kill Jesus, and as the Bible tells us, they were successful in crucifying Him.

Most likely, Lazarus lived years after Jesus died to always carry the mark of a resurrected man.  (Jesus resurrected two other people but it was right after they had died).  What an honor for Lazarus to not only be resurrected from the dead but to also be the last major miracle Jesus ever preformed. Lazarus must have spent the rest of his life telling the story to all who would listen. Those who hated Jesus despised his story, but those who loved Him had resurrection hope in the form of a man named Lazarus.

Carol Stratton is a novelist, reporter and freelancer. Carol has penned 500 articles, and two books, Changing Zip Codes, and the award-winning debut novel, Lake Surrender, (inspired by her work with autistic students). Currently she working on a sequel to her first novel and keeping up with her blog. She speaks to women’s groups such as Mothers of Preschoolers. Married to her literary muse, John, they have four children and eight grandchildren in North Carolina. She loves to encourage new writers and readers who have moved. Connect with her at her CarolGStratton.com and on Twitter and Facebook

Photo Credit: Getty/Digital Skillet


Originally published August 09, 2019.