Jesus had a rather short earthly ministry. However, the short ministry was full of miracles. From turning water into wine to healing the deaf hear and blind, Jesus performed miracles that had never been witnessed before in Israel. Even when he performed miracles that had been performed by other prophets, he did it on a grander scale – like raising the dead for instance.
So, who did Jesus raise from the dead?
The three gospels contain the details of three people that Jesus raised from the dead. The three are the daughter of Jairus (a synagogue leader), the son of a widow from Nain, and Jesus’ friend Lazarus who came from Bethany and was brother to Mary and Martha. Jesus resurrected the three and would later conquer death by His own resurrection.
Gospel Accounts of the Resurrections
The gospels give the following three accounts of the people that Jesus raised from the dead.
Jesus Raises the Daughter of a Synagogue Leader
Mathew 9:18 tells the story of a synagogue leader who approached Jesus and said:
“My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”
Evidently, he had faith that Jesus has the ability to raise the dead. In verse 25, the scripture records;
After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.
Later on the same day, Jesus heals a woman who “had been subject to bleeding for twelve years”, gives sight to two blind men, and drives out demons from a mute who henceforth starts to speak.
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son
The second person that Jesus raised from the dead is the son of a widow from Nain. the Bible does not give any more details about the widow or her son – all we know is the city where they came from. Unlike the case of Jairus’ daughter where the father sought Jesus’s intervention, the widow from Nain didn’t go looking for Jesus. It is not even clear whether or not she had heard about him. Their paths just crossed because Jesus was passing by when they were transporting the corpse out of the city.
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her (Luke 7:11-12)
This chance encounter changed the life of the widow for good because Jesus raised her son back to life. In verse 14, Jesus touched the bier that they were carrying him on and commanded the young man to rise again and the Bible says “the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Jesus Raises Lazarus from Bethany
Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. He came from a village called Bethany and was brother to Mary and Martha. From a previous encounter, Lazarus’ sister Mary had done the unthinkable – she had washed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped the feet with her hair. Mary’s act did not go down well with one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas. This man, who would later betray Jesus had protested wondering why the expensive perfume was used on Jesus’ feet rather than being sold “and the money given to the poor.”
The account of Lazarus’ sickness and eventual death is found in John chapter 11. When Lazarus fell sick, his sisters delivered the message of his sickness to Jesus and he assured them that their brother’s sickness “will not end in death.”(John 11:4).
However, after receiving news of Lazarus’ sickness, Jesus did not go to see him immediately. Later, when Jesus went to Bethany, John 11:17 tells us that Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
While the sisters mourned and told Jesus that he had taken too long to come, Jesus reassured them that he was going to raise their brother. Says John 11:43:
When he had said this, Jesus asked to be taken to the tomb and then asked for the stone covering the stone to be rolled away. He then called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Incredibly, “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face.” (John 11:44).
Jesus’s Own Resurrection
While Jesus raises three people from the dead during his ministry, something amazing happens when he dies and resurrects. When Jesus dies on the cross, Mathew 27:51-52 says:
The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’s resurrection, went into the holy city, and appeared to many people.
While Mathew’s account does not give us the number of the holy people that were resurrected with Jesus, we can guess that they were very many.
Other Accounts of the Resurrection in the Bible
Apart from the resurrections in the gospels, the bible has other records of people who were raised from the dead. In the Old Testament, we find three accounts of dead people who came back to life.
Prophet Elijah never died but was taken to heaven in a chariot. During his prophetic ministry, Elijah also performed a feat that other prophets didn’t – he raised a dead boy back to life. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah is being hosted by a widow whose son falls sick and eventually dies. Distressed by the death, Elijah cries out to God and verse 22 says: The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.
When Elijah is taken to heaven, his successor in the ministry is the prophet Elisha. Like his predecessor, Elisha also raises people from the dead. The first person that Elisha raises from the dead is the son of a shunammite woman as recorded in 2 Kings 4:32-36.
The second resurrection associated with Elisha takes place when Elisha himself is dead. In 2 Kings 13:21, a dead man comes back to life when his corpse is thrown in the same place where Elisha’s bones are.
Other people who raised people from the dead are Peter and Paul. In Acts 9, Peter raises a woman called Tabitha or Dorcas back to life. In Acts 20, Paul raises a young man called Eutychus.
The people that Jesus raised back to life from the dead bear witness to what the Lord told Lazarus’ sister Martha in John 11:25. He says: I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. Jesus promised his disciples that they could also perform the works they had seen him do and we see Peter and Paul following suit. Besides, prophets Elisha and Elijah had already demonstrated it for them as well.