So says Jesus in John 11:3 to a man 4-days-dead in the grave. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were weeping bitter tears because Jesus had been too slow to help them.

John 12:18 casts this miracle as a “sign,” an actual, factual, historic event that points beyond itself to a greater, spiritual truth. In other words, when Jesus raised Lazarus, He was not just doing it for Lazarus or his sisters, He was doing it to make a spiritual point.

So what is it? John never directly tells us, but here are some possibilities.

Lazarus’s name ironically means “God helps.” While the throes of death racked Lazarus’s body, Mary and Martha hurried off messengers begging for Jesus’ help. As his sisters whispered Lazarus’s name, Lazarus heard “God helps.” But where was God now?

Perhaps, Jesus wants us to know that all of us will face days like that. We will wonder, fret and beg God, and all the while, God seems silent or painfully slow. It is okay. The answer is coming.

Perhaps, Jesus means this miracle as a picture of our final resurrection. Though our bodies molder in the grave, Jesus will raise our once-dead bodies.

Another possibility suggests that this miracle is a sign of what God does for a person in salvation. We are all born spiritually dead (Psalm 51:5; Job 15:14; Ephesians 2:1-3). Until Jesus comes with spiritually-quickening power and calls us from the tomb, we lay dead in our sins. Jesus commands the dead, and we obey and walk out of the tomb because of Him.

Lazarus came out the tomb fully alive but oddly still bound by his old graveclothes (11:44). He was taking his first stumbling steps into a new life, but he was still hindered because of the leftover graveclothes.

I wonder if those clothes still reeked with the fetid stench of death. Why would Jesus raise Lazarus but leave him bound? Why does Jesus command Lazarus’s friends to untie him?

If this is part of the sign, perhaps it is an apt picture of Christian life now. When God’s grace grants us new life in Jesus, we are reborn. At that point, we are fully alive, but, at the same time, we come forth bound with leftovers of a fallen nature. God renews us in order for us to experience the freedom of faith in God, but we are bound in old graveclothes.

It takes our spiritual friends to help us experience the full freedom God intends for us.

Only Jesus can raise the dead like that, but He invites others to help the redeemed out of their graveclothes.

What do you think Jesus meant in raising Lazarus?