“Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.” (John 12: 10-11)
The Jewish religious leaders had been plotting Jesus’ death for most of His public ministry. They understood that they had to tread carefully because so many of the people embraced His teaching and were amazed at the miracles He performed. Jesus needed to die but they did not want to lose the support of the populace.
The irony here is that Lazarus, it is decided, also has to die. Lazarus has done nothing wrong. Part of his crime is that Jesus is his close friend and often dines in Lazarus’ and his sisters’ house. His main transgression, however, is that Jesus raised him from the dead. Lazarus had gotten sick and died. His family had buried him. Jesus had responded late to a summons and had gotten there after the funeral.
Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, were angry and hurt that Jesus had not come right away. After all, He had responded to other requests promptly and had always gotten there in time to bring healing. This time, though, Jesus showed up after Lazarus was already buried.
Rather than quietly paying his respects to the dead, however, Jesus ordered that the tomb be opened. Martha tried to talk him out of it. “The stench…” she said. Jesus again demanded, that the stone be rolled away. The heavy stone was pushed out of the way and Jesus called his friend out of the tomb. Lazarus came stumbling out, still wrapped in the grave clothes, but alive.
The family and friends were stunned. John wrote, “Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.” Others, though, were not convinced, even after this incredible miracle. “But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”
So, now the religious leaders are plotting to kill Lazarus and Jesus. I wonder how that conversation went:
Pharisee #1: “Okay, so we need to kill Jesus. We also need to kill that Lazarus guy. He is partially to blame for this.”
Pharisee #2: “So we should kill Lazarus, too?”
Pharisee #3: “Wasn’t he just dead? Didn’t Jesus just raise him from the dead? Are you sure we can even kill him? Didn’t Mel Gibson do a movie about a guy like that?
Pharisee #2: “What if we kill Lazarus but mess up and can’t kill Jesus? Jesus might raise that guy from the dead again and then we are really going to look silly!”
As crazy as this all sounds, this is what religion always tries to do. Religion delights in killing that which God has given life to. Religion loves to destroy anything that does not conform to its own standards. Religion will ignore a miracle to maintain the status quo. Let’s never forget that it was not the sinners that killed Jesus. It was the religious establishment.
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