He had been in the tomb four days

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. John 11:17

Why did John think it important to mention how long Lazarus had been in the tomb? Lazarus was not the first person Jesus had raised from the dead. He had already raised the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter so what Jesus was about to do was nothing new. But in a way it was. The other two had only been dead for a few hours at most. How do we know this? It was the Jewish custom to bury the dead as soon as possible after death and this was usually done the same day they died.

When Jesus raised the widow’s son they were carrying the young man to be buried. The burial would have taken place as soon as the body had been prepared for burial. We see this today in the Middle East where bodies are wrapped and carried for burial soon after some tragedy. For first century Jews to leave a corps unburied after dark would desecrate the land. And for Jairus’ daughter, she may have been dead only minutes and certainly less than an hour as her body was still on the bed. We know Jesus was close to the house because Jairus had walked to find Jesus and the servants had come to let Jairus know his daughter had died. Then Jairus and Jesus went directly to the house.

Why does any of this matter? Jewish tradition held that a person’s spirit would hang around the body for three days. After that the spirit would leave. Also, after the third day a corpse is going to be changed by decay, the face will blacken and become unrecognizable. So maybe some would think that rather than raise people from the dead, Jesus had just revived them. Maybe they weren’t really dead. But four days, now that was really dead.

As we will see in the next few verses Lazarus had been dead long enough for the body to start to decay. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lazarus was dead. Today we know that the brain would by then be hopelessly decayed. The body’s cells would have already started to break down and every organ would be beyond useful. When you are dead for four days you are as dead as Scrooges’ door nails. Nothing man can do is going to revive you. You are beyond all earthly hope. Fortunately you are not beyond all hope. With God all things are possible.

Have a blessed day,


About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
This entry was posted in Bible, Devotional, God, Gospel of John and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to He had been in the tomb four days

  1. Thank you for your blog. I’m blessed. God bless you more and keep writing and inspiring others.

  2. George Ghirlando says:

    Thank you for this because I am writing an article about the miracles of Jesus, and I will quote this article and refer to it. I will post the source of my info.

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