WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS AND THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS?

When it comes to the Christian faith, one of the most important doctrines is the resurrection of the dead/the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. From a soteriological perspective, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” Jesus could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Jesus took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1 John. 2:2; Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23, 51-53; 1 Pet.1:3; Phil. 3:20-21; John. 5:25-29).

An important aspect of possessing eternal life is the ability to raise the dead. The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13).Therefore, by claiming the authority to raise the dead, Jesus was exemplifying both the same actions and attributes of the God Israel. The resurrection also marked Jesus as the one who will be the judge all men (Acts 17:31).

The Difference between Resuscitation and Resurrection

The Greek word for resurrection is “anatasis” which means “a raising up” or “rising.” I think the key is to differentiate between a resuscitation and a resurrection. There are resuscitations in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) such as the example of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35).

Likewise, there are three resuscitations in the Gospels (Lk. 8:49-56; Jn. 11:38-44; Lk. 7:11-15). So if look at the life of Lazarus it seems like he was resurrected. He was “raised up.” However, Lazarus went on to live on in his old mode and still had to face a second death. Hence, Lazarus and these other accounts are similar to the raising of the dead as already mentioned in the examples of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35).

Even two non- conservative scholars such as John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed say:

“It did not mean that an almost revived Jesus had been revived once taken down from the cross. Individuals could survive an interrupted crucifixion, as Josephus mentions in his Life. He begged Titus for three acquaintances already on crosses after the destruction of Jerusalem , in 70 C.E. and, although, “two of them died in the physicians hands, the third survived.” (421). So also could criminals hung by strangulation be taken down from London’s eighteenth century Tyburn Tree and resuscitated (“resurrected” as they put it). But the Christian traditions’ on “after three days” or “on the third day” is its way of emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly dead. Only a visit to the tomb after such an initial period could certify the person was actually dead. That is why in John 11:17 notes that ‘when Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.” He was, in other words, certainly and securely dead.”–J.D. Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 261.

As far as Jesus, he was not only but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore, one way to approach this is to say Jesus is not the only one in human history that has been raised from the dead (if we call it resuscitation). However, He is the only one who has been raised immortal!

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