Good morning. It's snowing again here in Madison. We enjoyed some spring like weather for the past week, but now it's winter again. I hope you are safe and warm. Today we will continue looking at the story of Lazarus. Yesterday we saw where Jesus raised him from the dead. Can you imagine being at the scene and seeing this man walk out of the tomb still wrapped in his grave clothes? I wonder what Lazarus said? Well, that's easy...he probably never said a word. Lazarus never speaks a word at any time in the gospels. However, he is an important figure in the story that John is telling. Why? Because, the raising of Lazarus signals the beginning of the end for Jesus, according to John.
"Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and has seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." (John 11:45-48)
In the synoptic gospels Jesus' attack on the temple was what led to his death. John, began his gospel with the attack on the temple. For John, the attack on the temple turned many against Jesus, but it was the raising of Lazarus from the dead that really set them off. They are afraid of Jesus becoming popular. Why? Because they are really afraid of the Romans and what they might do to all the Jews. The main concern is that the Romans would come and destroy their city and nation. *Ironically they did in 70AD.
"Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." (John 11:49-50)
If you recall at the beginning of the gospel, John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the "Lamb of God." In Exodus the lamb became the sacrifice. The blood was smeared on the doorpost and when the death angel saw the blood it would pass over the house, sparing the residents. Also, You have also heard of the scapegoat. One goat would be killed and its blood smeared onto the altar, while the other was released. There was also a process of transferring sin involved as well. In the above passage the Jewish leaders are looking for a scapegoat. They have found him in Jesus. Instead of allowing the Romans to kill all the people, they decide to appease them and give them one man who will represent them all. "So from that day on they plotted to take his life." (John 11:53)
Jesus is now a marked man. "He no longer moved about publically among the Jews." (John 11:54) So, where does Jesus hang out? At the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We are told that "here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor." (John 12:2) Wow! Usually, we have a dinner after a funeral in honor of the deceased. In this scene the deceased joined everyone for the meal. In this case, they gave the dinner in honor of the one who raised the dead man to life. Where is Lazarus? Oh, he's just "reclining at the table with him. (Jesus) (John 12:2b) I wonder what they were talking about? Did you notice that we are told that they were reclining at the table? They did not sit at the table as is portrayed in that famous painting of the last supper. We will soon look at that in more detail.
Well, Lazarus is at the table with Jesus, but so is Mary. But, Mary isn't just at the table, she takes "a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair." (John 12:3) Oh, Mary! Can't you just see Martha's face? If Martha was mad over the fact Mary wasn't helping her in the kitchen, imagine how she would feel at this sight. What's Mary doing? Well, for one thing she pours out an expensive ointment onto the feet of Jesus. Can't you just hear Judas, "Oh...Oh...What are you doing?" Yes, forget that there is a former dead man sitting at your table, because you have a woman wiping a man's feet with her hair. Oh, boy! In that culture what kind of woman would have let her hair down in the presence of men? Well, I bet you can guess. The point is, this is an intimate moment in which Mary shows her deepest affection for Jesus, while the others are thinking about the waste.
Now, back to Lazarus. I can't help but wonder, does he smell better? Oh well, "a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus." (John 12:9) I'm surprised that Judas is not charging admission here, after all, he could have probably made a "killing". (pun intended) Yes, Lazarus is now a sideshow.
When I was fortunate to travel to Israel the group I was with visited the tomb of Lazarus. As we stood in the place believed to have been the tomb, the guide asked, "Are there any question?" Well, when you are with a bunch of preachers, of course there are going to be questions. A hand immediately went into the air. "Yes?" the guide asked. "Umm...yes, what ever happened to Lazarus?" the person asked. Without blinking an eye the guide answered. "He died." Well, I have thought about that a lot. *we'll get back to that. "So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their trust in him." (John 12:10) Yes, you read that right! They are now going to kill the man who was just dead. If I'm Lazarus I'm wondering: "What kind of joke is this?" I wonder if his tomb is still available? And, I'm really wondering, along with that inquisitive preacher, "what happened to Lazarus?" Hmm...was he killed? If they killed him, wouldn't it have made sense to kill him with Jesus? John does not tell us.
Well, the plan is in motion to kill Jesus. The Jews have their ammo. We have so much more ground to cover. You won't want to miss any of it. Have a blessed day. -Pastor Rick