Sunday, January 13, 2013

John 11, Part Two

Gathering at the tomb of Lazarus (vs. 27-37)—Martha may have sensed, given Jesus’ last words to her, that He was going to do something momentous.  She went to her sister Mary, in secret, to tell her that Jesus wanted her attendance as well.  We probably aren’t privy to all of the conversation Jesus and Martha had, so some of the motivation here escapes us.  However, Mary quickly arose and went to Jesus (v. 29), not telling her friends why she was leaving.  They presumed, “She is going to the tomb to weep there” (v. 31).  That would be a reasonable presumption, but erroneous, of course.  Jesus’ presence was, apparently, not yet publicly known (v. 30).  Mary’s agony touched Jesus deeply (v. 33), to the extent to where He even wept (v. 35).  Controversy followed Him, even at this sad time; some couldn’t resist taking a dig at Him:  “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (v. 37).  I am reminded of the current situation in America where liberals, especially, use every event, such as a tragic mass murder, to try to make political gains.  The concern of such people (and, as we see, they existed in Jesus’ days), is not for the well-being of others, but advancing their own cause.  Such small-minded people have always existed, and always will.  If Jesus was aware of their gibes, He wisely ignored them, having a far more important mission.

The raising of Lazarus (vs. 38-44)—John tells us that Lazarus’ tomb was “a cave, and a stone lay against it” (v. 38); apparently, such burial plots were not unusual among the Jews.  When Jesus commanded the stone be removed, Martha, skeptical, was concerned about the smell.  What was going through her mind?  Why did she think Jesus wanted the stone removed?  We don’t know, but her statement doesn’t manifest much faith in Christ at this point.  So, Jesus, with a pointed question, redirects her attention to where it should be:  Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v. 40).  It wasn’t her faith that raised Lazarus, of course, it was the power of God, and Jesus fully intended to bring Martha’s brother back from the dead, whether she believed or not.  In verse 42, in His prayer to the Father, Jesus once again states the purpose of the miraculous:  that they may believe that You sent me.”  Miracles were performed not because of people’s faith, but in order to create it!  Miraculous evidence to support a miraculous claim.  And there is no better evidence than that produced in this chapter, which is, no doubt one reason why the Holy Spirit, through John, spends so much time discussing it.  Only God can raise the dead; man can’t do that.  Jesus raised the dead, ergo, Jesus came from God.  That is the only conclusion that can, logically, be drawn from this story.  The only way to deny that is, of course, to deny that this event ever happened in the first place, i.e., call John a liar, which means that everything he, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, and other Bible writers wrote and said was pure fantasy.  That is an awful lot of evidence to simply toss in the trash without any attempt at refutation.  John, in effect, is saying, “Here is what is happened.  Refute it, if you can.”  Nobody can, so it is easy to simply deny it and, more than that, try, through ridicule and mocking, to intimidate believers into silence.  Historical evidence is stubborn, though.  When Jesus spoke—“Lazarus, come forth!”—not even death could defeat Him.  Can you imagine the awe, and probably sheer terror, of the people standing around when Lazarus came walking out of that grave!  Jesus, however, had only one other thing to say:  Loose him, and let him go” (v. 44).   Human words fail at trying to explain the magnificence of this event.  The reader is invited to use his/her own imagination and creativity in order to properly appreciate what happened on that day.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting to talk to Lazarus, after he was raised, to ask him where he had been and what he had experienced!

Belief and obstinacy (vs. 45-57)—Many honest individuals did, indeed, believe in Jesus after this event (v. 45), but some hearts are so stubborn and cold that no amount of evidence can ever be persuasive (v. 46).  The Pharisees and other religious leaders soon gathered together to take council about what to do about Jesus (v. 47).  They could not deny the miracles He did, yea, admitted them:  “For this Man works many signs.”  Their fear was for their own honored position:  “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (v. 48).  That statement shows such utterly convoluted thinking that it is hard to imagine intelligent men talking like that.  If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, come from God, with the intent of establishing the kingdom the Pharisees wanted, then the Romans could have done nothing against Him; not even Rome could defeat God.  But the Pharisees did not draw the correct conclusion from the evidence they themselves admitted; they did not believe that He was God, and thus, if the people tried to make Him an earthly king (which Jesus never intended, of course), then the Romans, who had no king but Caesar, would come and destroy Israel, and, more importantly, the power and prestige of the Pharisees.  Why not accept the evidence—and the explanation of He who gave it?  But that is something they would not do.  So the high priest, Caiaphas, announced, prophetically (v. 51) that Jesus had to die—it was either him or the nation (v. 50).   So, from that day forward, the plot to kill Jesus picked up at a feverish pace (v. 53), so much so that Jesus could no longer walk “openly among the Jews” (v. 54).  The final Passover of Jesus’ life was near (v. 55), and He continued to be “the talk of the town” (v. 56).  A general order was given that, if anyone knew where Jesus was, they were to report it to the Jewish authorities (v. 57).  Now, the Pharisees were serious about killing him, and the last days of His earthly sojourn are upon us.

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