People believed that there were multiple people in Lazarus’ tomb. If Jesus didn’t speak Lazarus’ name, would all of the bodies have come out?
What an interesting question! I have never really thought about this. But I believe Scripture gives precedent that the answer to this question is, “yes.” If Jesus had not specified for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, everyone would have.
First of all, tombs in the first century were usually above ground in Palestine. There were caves hewn out of the rock with a stone in front that would either be in the track pulling away from the opening or sliding to the side of the opening.
They were also family tombs, so multiple people were buried in them at one time. They left the bodies on slabs until they had decomposed to bones. Then they would put the bones in a little bone box called an ossuary to save space in the family tomb. It is likely that there were multiple bodies in the tombs that had not yet decomposed.
Most tombs in the first century in Jesus’ day did not have a circular stone that would move from side to side. The most common was a “cork -like” stone that would need to be pulled away on a track or simply on the ground.
It is apparent from Jesus’ words that this was most likely the type of stone the tomb had (John 11:38-39, 41). The Greek word here may mean that they lifted the stone up or pulled it away from the tomb.
Consider that in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, God did not simply say, “Be created.” If he would, everything would have flown together and many things would’ve happened all at the same time. Instead, the God of order, the great Creator, called on things one at a time.
In the same way, the voice of the Lord is so strong that all of creation responds to it (Psalm 29). After Jesus gives up his spirit on the cross, Matthew makes note that at the resurrection of Jesus many saints came out of their tombs, went into Jerusalem, and witnessed about God’s power (Matthew 27:52-53).
This is an example of God’s general power because no one specifically was called out of a tomb, so many saints came out. So Jesus had to be more specific in what he wanted to happen. He was specific on the name of Lazarus but he said, “Come forth,” a more general word.
Lazarus was still bound hand and foot with the linen cloths of burial. He would not have been able to move on his own. It is possible that he floated out because he could not walk out of the grave.
This should not surprise us because Jesus is a miracle-working God who doesn’t do things the way we expect. Remember that this resurrection was so surprising and astounding to the people that the Jewish leaders sealed his fate in the Sanhedrin by declaring him a dead man walking. And they would stop at nothing until he was hanging on a cross.