The Raising of Lazarus is described in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11 and is a significant item in the Christian religion. Rembrandt took in several bibical stories across his career and also use them in a variety of mediums, besides just the oil on canvas found here.
There were several etchings by Rembrandt which addressed the same topic, but with different compositions. The last one of these came as late as 1642, a good decade after this painting. This work was produced whilst he still lived in Leiden, prior to his move to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. The early influences from his teachings are more visible here than in later paintings.
The most similar painting produced by Rembrandt to this would probably be The Resurrection from 1635-1639 which features a similar display of figures and the artist may well have used this earlier painting as a study aid. The content within this painting tells us of the importance of faith and how sins can be forgiven if the subject follows the right path afterwards.
The influence of Caravaggio is evident in many of Rembrandt's paintings, and again in this one. The chiaroscuro (contrasts of light and dark) which the Italian master is so well known for is used here to add a feeling of atmosphere and drama. The Dutchman creates a clear focus for this composition and also uses light to produce a greater realism to the portraits.
The inspiring original artwork can now be found in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This large gallery also holds art by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse and Roy Lichtenstein.