When we Christians read the story of the resurrection of Lazarus recorded by John, we should get excited. We understand raising Lazarus as an allegory of the raising of Jesus from the dead.
Non-Christians often negatively see this story, using it as proof that Christianity is a hoax.
Consider the problem. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are completely silent about Jesus raising Lazarus after he was entombed for three days. All three tell us about raising Jairus’ daughter—Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56—and Luke describes raising the widow’s son—Luke 7:11-16. John’s account is more powerful and has a more detailed foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection. Why did they not include it?
John 12 moves right into the Palm Sunday triumphal entry. If the resurrection of Lazarus occurred two miles from Jerusalem a day or two before, it would better explain why so many people cheered him, yet the Synoptics just have him come to town.
Having raised the issue, I have to say that it has no solution. Oh, we can give a laundry list of explanations, but cannot support any of the suggestions with facts.
In the end, Faith is required.
In his commentary on John, William Barclay included this story.
Robert McAfee Brown, an American professor, tells of something which this story did. He was an American army chaplain on a troopship in which 1,500 marines were returning from Japan to America for discharge. Greatly to his surprise he was approached by a small group to do Bible study with them. He leapt at the opportunity. Near the end of the voyage, they were studying this chapter and afterwards a marine came to him. “Everything in that chapter,” he said, “is pointing at me.” He went on to say that he had been in hell for the last six months. He had gone straight into the marines from college. He had been sent out to Japan. He had been bored with life; and he had gone out and got into trouble—bad trouble. Nobody knew about it—except God. He felt guilty; he felt his life was ruined; he felt he could never face his family although they need never know; he felt he had killed himself and was a dead man. “And,” said this young marine, “after reading this chapter I have come alive again. I know that this resurrection Jesus was talking about is real here and now, for he has raised me from death to life.”
Barclay goes on to write, It does not really matter whether or not Jesus literally raised a corpse to life in A.D. 30, but it matters intensely that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for every man who is dead in sin and dead to God today.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.
Be righteous and do good.