The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

By , on February 2, 2010

Mercy, Resurrection, Words of Christ


The story of Lazarus is one of the greatest examples of the power of Savior’s Atonement and of His empathy for all those who sorrow.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus, their brother, were close friends of Jesus.  There is a strong sense that he could relax with them and be comfortable in the midst of all the tumult that his ministry was arousing.

Lazarus became sick and the sisters sent for their beloved friend and Savior, but Christ tarried elsewhere.  Even without hearing further news, Christ knew that his friend had died.

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”

His disciples misunderstood what the Savior said, so He spoke more plainly.

“Lazarus is dead.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  According to Jewish law, a person who died must be buried on the same day he or she died.  Some Jews believed that the spirit remained in the vicinity of the body for up to three days, but even by these traditions, Lazarus was well and truly gone.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out of the house to meet him.

“Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.”

Full of faith, Martha said that she knew that her brother would  rise and be resurrected at the last day.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

“She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

Martha’s faithful insight was rare, even among Christ’s followers at this time.  She recognized that He was the Savior, but did not fully understand the power that He held.

Martha then went ahead of Jesus back to her house to tell Mary that He had arrived.  Mary also has great faith in Jesus’ powers and weeps as she speaks to Him.

“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

Jesus here shows the great empathy He has for all who suffer and mourn.  He knows His power and knows that in just a few moments, He will raise Lazarus from the dead, but His love for these two women and their friends is so perfect that He feels their pain deeply.

John writes simply, “Jesus wept.”

We see here two aspects of the Atonement that the Savior will perform in just a few days.

1.  He will resurrect the physical body of Lazarus from the grave.

2.  Even before He suffers the sins, sorrows and disappointments of all men and whom who have ever lived or will ever live on the earth, He experiences the deepest feelings of Mary and Martha.  He “mourn[s] with those that mourn . . . and comfort[s] those that stand in need of comfort . . . .” Mosiah 18: 9

Christ comes to the grave of Lazarus, a cave whose entrance is blocked by a large stone.  He commands that the stone be taken away.

Martha has a sudden fear of what Christ will find if the grave is unsealed.

Christ calls upon her faith, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”

The stone is removed and Christ acknowledges that He is the perfect son of a perfect Heavenly Father and teaches all present of His Father.

“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Christ then calls Lazarus forth from the grave.

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Of course, Lazarus obeys the commandment of the Son of God.  He is wrapped with cloth in accordance with Jewish funeral practices.

Christ says, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Each of us is Mary.  Each of us is Martha and each of us will be Lazarus.

In like manner, on some future day, Christ will say to each of us, “Come forth,” and, like Lazarus, we will rise from our graves to see our Savior.

John 11:1-45

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