"Jesus said to her, ‘I Am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die…” The truth of this statement is evidenced by what happened next. Jesus and His disciples had traveled to Bethany where His friend Lazarus, got sick, died and has been buried in the tomb four days. We know the story; Jesus stands in front of the tomb and after some convicting conversation with Mary and Martha, Lazarus sisters, He gives the command to remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb. Then He shouts in a loud voice the words of life “Lazarus come forth!” And a resurrected Lazarus comes out from the tomb. Talk about party time! Lazarus had been dead and buried four days, his body was decaying and smelly. A mind-blowing miracle of life and cause for a tremendous celebration. That’ll preach!
Ancient history suggests that’s exactly what the early church did. They commemorated the resurrection of Lazarus with festivals and feasts the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Thus the name Lazarus Saturday. Although, Lazarus Saturday has largely been ignored by much of Christendom, both the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox church still celebrate Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in various commemorative ways. And unless you’re Orthodox, you probably have never heard of or paid any attention to Lazarus Saturday.
Western Christians focus primarily on Jesus' entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which falls on the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Orthodox Christians begin their celebration the day before, Lazarus Saturday, the second Saturday before Easter. This observance commemorates Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead (John11:1-44). According to the Bible this incident took place just before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The Orthodox Church combines this celebration with that of Palm Sunday. “In triumph and joy the Church bears witness to the power of Christ over death and exalts Him as King before entering the most solemn week of the year, one that leads the faithful in remembrance of His suffering and death and concludes with the great and glorious Feast of Easter.”
It is a time that the entire Body of Christ should celebrate together as One, proclaiming the supremacy of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ! Happy Lazarus Saturday!
- Ravon Johnson