THERE ARE TWO New Testament passages that feature the name Lazarus. The first is John 11-12, about Jesus' friend Lazarus, who lived (and died... and lived and died again) in Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus called him out of the tomb after he'd been dead four days.
This great miracle surprised everyone. But it didn't please everyone. Even after seeing a man raised from the dead, the religious authorities not only refuse to be convinced about Jesus, they actually redouble their efforts in opposing him.
The only mention of a Lazarus in the other Gospels is the parable in Luke 16 about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man dies and goes to a very nasty place while Lazarus goes to paradise. The rich man (name not given) begs for a drop of water on his tongue but doesn't get it. Remember the story?
So does Jesus just choose a name at random and wind up with Lazarus (it's common enough, Greek for "Eliezer") or does he deliberately use the name of his friend for this poor man who died? Because here's the thing the conclusion to the parable is when the rich man is told: "If they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
Dr Conrad Gempf is a lecturer in New Testament at London Bible College. He also writes for and edits the monthly webzine there.
© Conrad Gempf 2004