John 11 Death to Life to Death

Standard
Questions: Where is Jesus when we are suffering? Why doesn’t he come? Would it matter if he did? What is God’s glory worth, anyway? What price will we pay to protect our own glory? What price will we make Jesus pay?
“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Now a certain [man] was sick, [named] Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

I honestly can’t imagine how Mary and Martha must’ve been feeling at this time. Clearly, his illness must’ve been pretty severe for them to send to Jesus. I am touched by both the confidence and plaintiveness of their plea.

Oddly, though, Jesus isn’t moved — at least not physically:

When Jesus heard [that], he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

Okay, so did he just mean that it wasn’t that bad, so there was no need to go?

Then after that saith he to [his] disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.

Um, I guess not. And apparently this isn’t a small decision on his part:

[His] disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

I suspect they assumed Jesus didn’t go because both i) the illness wasn’t that serious, and ii) Jerusalem was rather unsafe. Clearly the latter doesn’t bother him; as for the former:

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

I’m sure they were completely baffled by this point, but kudos to Thomas for sticking in there regardless:

Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

He may not have believed Jesus knew what he was doing, but that didn’t keep him from following him.

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already.

If Jesus wanted to enhance their faith by his missing Lazarus’ death, he surely succeeded. Heck, they even have witnesses:

Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

T

hen Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat [still] in the house.

I wonder if Mary didn’t come to Jesus because of a lack of faith, or an overabundance of feeling.

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give [it] thee.

Martha certainly doesn’t lack faith, even if there is a bit of an edge to her comments. However, that doesn’t stop Jesus from catechizing her:

Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Martha’s confession seems to satisfy both of them — for now. Now it is Mary’s turn:

And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

Perhaps I was unfair to Mary, and she didn’t know Jesus had come. After all, if I were a servant bringing news of Jesus, I suppose I’d tell Martha first, and I can understand why she might’ve initially kept news of Jesus from her sister to avoid making a scene. Since that’s what happened:

As soon as she heard [that], she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Mary starts with the same plaint as Martha, but from there things go in a very different direction:

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

Again with that portentous “come and see” that echoes throughout John. But this time, Jesus is on the receiving end, with surprising results:

Jesus wept.

When I was working my way through a dark tunnel of unbelief a few years back, this was the verse that finally cracked through my stony heart and opened my eyes to God’s love for me — but that’s another story. Though it seems to have the same impact on his listeners here:

Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

But even though Mary gets the tears, Martha still has one more test to pass:

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

By itself, this sounds cruel. Seen through the tears of Jesus, though, I can believe that he did this to glorify Martha’s faith, by granting her a share in her brother’s salvation:

Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

To be honest, I often find Lazarus’ resurrection anti-climactic after the psycho-theological drama with Mary and Martha. Of course, the people there are less blase about the whole thing — for both good and ill:

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

One might hope that such a dramatic miracle would open their eyes to who Jesus truly was. Alas, once you start down the road of willful blindness very little can stop you — especially when you have a stake in the status quo:

Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all [men] will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

The tragic thing about this is that, at one level, they were sincere. They had convinced themselves he was a false Messiah, and that if the whole nation followed him it would lead to a futile insurrection that would destroy the remnant of Jewish independence and culture they had worked so hard to preserve. From that perspective, I can almost sympathize with — even admire — Caiaphas’ ingenious solution:

And one of them, [named] Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Almost — but not quite. See, even though I believe survival is good, that only holds true if we survive for the sake of something bigger than ourselves. The problem is that in the name of protecting Judaism, they were willing to sacrifice everything Judaism stood for, fueled by their mistaken assumptions about the Messiah.
Like most of us, they were quick to question Jesus but slow to examine themselves. And, as usual, Jesus has to pay the price for that:

Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew [it], that they might take him.

Tragically, the one thing they don’t know is that he is willing to pay that price.
Prayer
God, I so see myself in Martha’s intellectualism, Mary’s despair, and the Pharisees self-protectiveness. Father, I confess that I have but the barest glimpse of who Jesus is, and what he is trying to do. Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see Jesus, and know him as my resurrection and life. Let me not sacrifice him on the altar of expediency, but obey him as my Lord. I ask this in His name, and by His sacrifice, Amen.
Advertisements