Jesus’ Resurrection of Lazarus: The Biblical Significance of Bethany

Marie-Claire De Villiers
By Marie-Claire De Villiers
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published March 25, 2022.

Baptist church with gold roof and cross surrounded by palm trees

The village of Bethany lies on the eastern slopes of the holy Mount of Olives, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem within the Judea region of ancient Israel. The distance from Bethany to Jerusalem is just under two miles and is a "Sabbath day’s journey" (Acts 1:12) from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho.

Why Did Jesus Resurrect Lazarus of Bethany?

The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany in the Bible occurs in John 11:1-45.

Jesus had previously visited the siblings, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, as His good friends. When Lazarus of Bethany fell gravely ill, Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus.

He did not rush; instead, He waited two days before traveling to Bethany and said this:

“This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4).

The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany is a miracle of Jesus, retold in the Gospel of John in the New Testament (John 11:1–44). Jesus raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead four days after he was laid to rest in a tomb. The miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus would help the disciples know that Jesus was the Savior.

What It Teaches Us

The story of the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany holds many valuable lessons. The Bible story of Lazarus is the fifth “I Am” statement in John’s gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

When Jesus was outside the tomb, he said, "Lazarus, come forth!" and Lazarus was resurrected. In doing this, Jesus showed he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:43).

“Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

Jesus chose Lazarus to demonstrate His power, foreshadowing His own resurrection at Easter.

Who Was Lazarus?

Lazarus was a friend to Jesus and a brother to Mary and Martha. The Bible says Lazarus was the one for whom Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus, even knowing the good outcome, wept for his friend before raising him from the dead.

Why Else Was Bethany Important to Jesus?

Bethany is referenced frequently in the New Testament and was the setting for many events in Jesus' life. The town is best known as the hometown of Jesus’ good friends Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Bethany was a favorite place of rest and refuge for Jesus. He stayed there for Holy Week before He was crucified and led His followers back there after His resurrection. It's also where He ascended to heaven.

Other Important Biblical Events in Bethany

Jesus visits Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) According to Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visited Mary and Martha's home. Martha complained that her sister Mary, who was sitting at Christ’s feet, had left all the work to her. Jesus Christ replied: “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”.

The anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-8) At dinner in the house of Simon the Leper a week before the crucifixion, Mary poured perfume over Christ’s feet and wiped them with her hair – an act he saw as the anointing of his body for burial (John 12:1-8).

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

What Does Bethany Mean Spiritually?

In the Gospel of Luke, Bethany is spiritually significant as the place near which Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples final instructions at the Mount of Olives before He left the earth (Luke 24:50–51).

Where Is Modern Day Bethany?

Situated on the West Bank, Bethany is cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall. Today, it is in a Palestinian enclave. The modern day name for Bethany is Eizariya, or Al-ʿAyzariyyah in Arabic (derived from the name Lazarus). It is home to the Tomb of Lazarus and is an important place of pilgrimage.

According to the Book of Zechariah, Bethany has an exciting prophesied future. The ancient town of Bethany will be the scene of a world-changing event: “the glorious return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:11–16).

Did You Know?

In 1973, a group of congregants at a church in Bethany heard the voices of angels chime in at the end of their worship song. Here is the recording.