As John relayed the events that unfolded around the acim of Lazarus being raised from the dead, many characters were drawn into the narrative. There was Jesus, Mary and her sister Martha, Lazarus, Thomas and the mourners who came to comfort the bereaved sisters.
It is the final of the seven signs that John relayed in his Gospel. It also had an enormous impact on those who witnessed the dead Lazarus reappearing out of the tomb. After this, no one could deny that Jesus was no ordinary man. For some the sign was given in order that they might believe in Jesus as the Messiah. For others this same sign was the last straw and in their mad jealousy of Jesus, were driven to swiftly put into motion the machinery that would get rid of this man: Jesus of Nazareth.
But then, another response: “But some…” Others ran to tell the self-appointed church police what Jesus had done. And the murderous plot was set in motion. They had to get rid of Him before they lose all their church members and sit without an income and lose all the prestige that went along with being high profile in the church. “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 (margin: temple) and our nation.” (John 11:48)
Jesus never fit into the preconceived idea held by these church people of how God should operate and how God should be acting. I often marvel at how God planned the life of Jesus in such a way that He would deliberately not have all the externals attached to Him that would satisfy the appetite for high social standing of the religious hypocrites. For one, the person sent from God should be from the right neighbourhood, but Jesus grew up in Nazareth. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?…” (John1:46). He should have “ordination papers” “Tell us by what authority are you doing these things,” they said, “Who gave you this authority?”
They certainly didn’t give Him the authority, which means He could not possibly have been sent by God. When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath, the church police took him in for questioning demanding that he tell them who this Jesus is. When the man retorted with how remarkable it is that God is undoubtedly at work through this Jesus, and yet the ones who claim to be in on everything God does, didn’t know where He came from, they unceremoniously kicked the poor man out of the church. The thought that God would operate in such a great way through someone without at least informing them, was just a little too much to absorb. So they set out to get rid of everything and everyone that didn’t fit into their box. And they missed God…they missed the awesome reality that He was walking the dusty streets of their neighbourhood. One of the biggest reasons they missed Him was because they were judging by external appearances. It was the humble who found grace, because, undeterred by externals, they received Him.
They even missed the very obvious and great work God did through Jesus by raising Lazarus back to life. Instead of being filled with awe, their response was hatred. They clung to their positions in the church more than they clung to God with the result that not only could they not recognise Him in these great works, but they ultimately crucified the Holy One.
These distinct responses to the same miracle made me think of how dangerous it is to attach too much value to anything, other than God. While some had their eyes opened to the glorious work of God, the ones who fixed their hearts on position and the image of the church were blind to the marvellous work of God through Jesus Christ.