After His prayer, Jesus, in whom is life (John 1:4) and who is the Life (John 14:6), shouts to Lazarus with a strong, confident voice, and he walks from his grave alive. It is an almost incredible thing to read. Can we imagine the effect it had on those who witnessed it?
As the conclusion of the chapter shows, this miracle had diverse results. Many Jews believed in Him, but it only angered His enemies, making them more determined to rid themselves of Him. The high priest, Caiaphas, a dupe of Rome and a Sadducee, who did not believe in resurrection, suggests to the Council that they must kill Jesus rather than lose their positions. The words and works of Jesus divided light from darkness, the believing from the unbelieving. There is still division because of Him (Luke 12:51).
The word John uses thirteen times for “miracles” in his gospel and in Revelation suggests “wonders,” “foreshadows,” or “signs,” and not “mighty works.” E.W. Bullinger explains it as
a signal and ensign, a standard, a sign by which any thing is designated, distinguished or known; hence, used of the miracles of Christ, as being the signs by which it might be known that He was the Christ of God, a sign authenticating Christ's mission; a sign with reference to what it demonstrates. (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, p. 503)
As John sees them, Jesus' miracles are symbols, proofs, messages, and object lessons of spiritual truth embodied in the wonders themselves. They are living parables of Christ's action, embodiments of the truth in works. They are not merely signs of supernatural power, but dramatic indications of the goal of His ministry and of His own all-loving character. His visible works of power and mercy foreshadow the spiritual restoration of all things. Because of these elements, a lesson, discussion, or sermon usually follows them.
John recorded only eight of Jesus' miracles, choosing typical ones to elucidate while recognizing their greater extent: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). In the next chapter, he provides a glimpse of the fullness of His ministry: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen” (John 21:25).
Martin G. Collins
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Part Two)