Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead and the High Priest and Pharisees are Furious
Journeying through John (John 10-11)
By the time we get to the tenth chapter of John we find that Jesus has infuriated a large influential group of Jewish religious leaders with His teachings, healings and miracles. This powerful mob has taken up stones to kill Him. They won’t rest until He is dead. But wait, this is the very group that should have accepted Jesus! These are the priests and Pharisees who have spent their lives studying the Scriptures, the very Scriptures that foretell the coming of their Messiah and Savior. Shouldn’t they have been waiting and looking for Jesus? What is happening here?
Even though Jesus knows that these prestigious men of God are out to get Him, He continues on with His ministry. In chapter 10 Jesus has dodged several attempts by the religious leaders to stone Him and He is off teaching the people that He is our Shepherd and the Door of the sheepfold. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:7-9) And, “…, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish: neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Jesus is telling us here that there is just one Door into the fold and just one Way to salvation. Jesus is the only Door and the only Way. Other ways to eternal life are fake and invalid. Christians down through the ages have been comforted by Jesus’ words here telling us that He is our Shepherd and that He will lead us and keep us. We are able to hear His voice in our lives because He gives us His Holy Spirit when we believe. Isn’t it wonderful that He speaks to each of us today just as He spoke to His followers so long ago? Isn’t it amazing that He knows each of us intimately and we can hear His words spoken just for us, giving us directions and comfort for our own personal journey? I try to hear His voice, but sometimes unfortunately I don’t hear the same voice that some of my fellow Christians hear.
During this Christmas season a church in our area has started a war against local businesses that aren’t displaying Christmas decorations that honor Jesus. The good church members have been patrolling the streets of the city checking for businesses that aren’t displaying either a manger scene or a religious message as part of their
Christmas outdoor lighting displays. One little store nearby our house has a lighted “Happy Holidays” sign out this year. “How dare they put up a secular greeting?” Our good church members reported the business in the newspaper with a photo of the offending “Happy Holidays” sign. The name of this store along with a list of other unlucky businesses that didn’t measure up to their “Jesus-centered” Christmas standards were written up in the newspaper for all to see. They labeled it their “naughty” list. Good Christians were encouraged to boycott these “naughty” businesses. Maybe if we all stop buying from these stores, the owners will start putting “Jesus” into their Christmas displays!
Jesus tells us that we will hear His voice. Maybe I’m deaf but somehow I can’t hear Jesus’ voice or sense His spirit in this boycott by my fellow Christians of stores that don’t display “Christ centered” decorations. Jesus said; “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, ...” (Matthew 11:29) I can’t picture my humble Jesus putting people on a “naughty” list and boycotting them for not using His Name at Christmas. He will never force anyone to choose Him. And we shouldn’t either. Jesus calls us to freedom and we are free to choose Him or not. This proud political brand of Christianity scares me. It doesn’t represent the Jesus I know and love. I almost feel like going out and buying a “Happy Holidays” sign for our front yard this year!
As we continue reading in John we find that Jesus is called to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, his beloved friends. Lazarus is very sick and Mary and Martha send Jesus an urgent message asking that He come quickly. But by the time Jesus gets to their house, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha comes running to meet Jesus and she says, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.” (John 11:21-22) Jesus assures Martha, “…Your brother will rise again.” ((John 11:23) And Martha answers: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:22)
And then Jesus proclaimed: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) And Martha says yes, she believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus goes to the tomb and Martha warns Him that Lazarus’s dead body has started to decompose and stink. Jesus doesn’t listen but He prays and then calls Lazarus out. Immediately Lazarus walks out of the grave with his hands and feet bound with grave clothes and with his face wrapped up like a mummy. After his excited sisters and friends pull his grave clothes off, Lazarus goes home excited and amazed that Jesus has given him back his life. The word gets around that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and many people believe in Jesus as Lord. But, as usual word gets back to the Pharisees that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.
Again, instead of rejoicing in this good news, the religious leaders are freaked out and try to do a cover up. These miracles of Jesus’ were more than they could handle! The high priest, chief priests and the Pharisees call for a council meeting and put out a command that if anyone knows where Jesus is that they must report it so that they might seize Him. Caiaphas, the high priest insists that killing Jesus would be for the good of the whole nation. They needed to get rid of Him quickly for political reasons, he decides. The clock has started ticking and it’s just a matter of time before these so called men of God will catch Jesus and put Him to death.
We ask again, why did this happen? Why were Jesus’ murderers the very religious ones who claimed to know the ways of God? Did this phenomenon just happen in Jesus time or has it happened in other generations? Can people who call themselves Christian today still not recognize Jesus? Can religious legalism triumph over love today like it did back then? Can religious groups today still pit their power against our Lord and His kingdom of love like they did back then? Has Christianity today become a political power that has idolized the very wealthy and put down the disenfranchised and the sick, all in the Name of Jesus?
It was so easy for the Pharisees in Jesus’ day to reject Him. They were so dedicated to their religious institutions and to their traditions. They quoted Scriptures against Him and tried to catch Him up in their legalistic traps. They found fault because He healed on the Sabbath and because He claimed to be one with God.
If Jesus had come in all of His power and glory and impressed them, they would have acknowledged Him! If He had come the way they had expected their Messiah would come- with riches and might and shock and awe- then they would have recognized Him. But Jesus came as a simple man without status or education and he hung around with plain ordinary folk. He wasn’t impressed by the wealthy and He was even seen talking to women and sinners. They overlooked Him because they were expecting their Messiah to play their game and He didn’t.
These men of God had given their lives to their religious institutions and to the wealth and status they had gained from them. They would have had to change some of their ways of doing things if they had acknowledged Jesus. And perhaps the bottom line was that they didn’t want to change! They didn’t want to pay the price. They didn’t want Jesus to shake up their system. And when Jesus comes in He most often shakes things up!
Could we make the same mistake they did? Have we dedicated our whole lives and reputations to our institutions and our ways of doing things? So much so that if Jesus were asking us to change around some things would we block out His Voice? If Jesus doesn’t play our game, will we still listen for His Call ? If He comes to us in the guise of the poor or afflicted, would we still recognize Him? Can we let Him shake up our way of doing things? Let’s pray and ask Him if we are missing something? Let’s not let anything get in the way. Let’s not allow our most beloved project block us from hearing what He is trying to tell us? Let’s not be so set in our ways that we won’t allow Him to change us around. Let’s be willing to pay the price to follow Him. It is the most important thing that we can ever do.