Jesus waited for two additional days, timing His arrival to resurrect Lazarus to take place exactly on the fourth day after Lazarus’ death (11:17). But why?
The answer may lie in a Jewish tradition that can be traced back to the time of Jesus. The soul of a deceased person was believed to linger behind, hovering over the dead body for three days, desperately trying to get back inside the body.
“Berei and R. Pappi, R. Joshua of Sikhnin in the name of R. Levi: ‘For the first three days after death the soul floats above the body, thinking that it will return to the body. When the soul sees the body, that the appearance of the face has changed, it leaves the body and goes its way.’” (Jerusalem Talmud, Yebamot 16:3)
In a fairly recent discovery of an ancient stone, found in the same geographic location where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were also found, there is an intriguing phrase that can be translated as: “In three days, live, I, Gabriel, command you” (Gabriel’s Revelation Stone, Israel Museum). While the resurrection of Lazarus is surely not the event described here, the discovery shows that the idea of resurrection within three days was not a foreign concept to the ancient Jews.
Jesus waited for two more days, timing his arrival in such a way that he got to Bethany on the fourth day – when resurrection was no longer possible! When Lazarus was finally resurrected a very important point emerged