Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:23-26)
There was a time Jesus had to make difficult decision in Judea, where there were known Jews’ hostilities against His public ministry. Jews who rejected Jesus were ready to kill Him.
Why Jesus did what He did?
The incident involved Lazarus. Together with his two sisters Martha and Mary, they were very close friends of Jesus, those whom you would consider as deeper inner circle of contacts in our modern society.
In consideration of the known expected hostilities Judea would be the place to avoid at all cost.
By all means, Jesus could have continued with His disciples to other parts of Israel preaching the Gospel, going to places where they were more accepted. Why take the risk going to enemy ground with known certainty of death?
One interesting thing to note was that, before Jesus made the journey to Judea, He knew and was informed Lazarus was already dead (John 11:14).
Jesus’ conversation with His disciples suggested that this incident with Lazarus would be for the glory of God, but how? What would Jesus have done?
With all the power and authority Jesus had, to work another miracle seems possible, but to change the hearts of dis-believing Jews who were ready to kill Him may be impossible if their will power is harden beyond measures.
A person as an individual need to make that personal will and decision to receive Jesus for salvation – the opposite is true, it is also possible for an individual to reject Jesus in a willful, adamant state of mind and thus making the salvation plan of God impossible for such a person.
Jesus took the risk, for the sake of the Gospel and for people.
So Jesus brought His disciples to Judea, and Lazarus was already dead and “sleeping” in the tomb four days.
Now when you have a friend come visiting from far away, a simple act of hospitality would be something like welcoming them first into the house, have a drink of water and wash.
The first thing Jesus did before entering the house, He raised Lazarus from the dead!
Although this is not the first time Jesus had raised the dead during His public ministry, but the intention and declaration were deliberated. Lazarus was to be raised from the dead in broad-daylight, in plain sight and public display, among Jesus’ opponents.
The other time He did that in public was in a town called Nain (Luke 7:11-17). The situation then was different. Jesus and His disciples were en-route to somewhere, a family funeral procession crossed path with them. Jesus had compassion, being informed the dead man was the only son of the widow.
What Jesus intent to do with Lazarus was deliberate and for a purpose.
The results and responses of the people who witnessed Lazarus coming back from the dead provided important clues why Jesus chooses to raise Lazarus from the dead in Judea –
1. Many of the Jews who witnessed Lazarus coming back from the dead believed in Jesus (John 11:45).
These were people who had the law and ordinances of God handed to them through Moses, and they also had the writings of the prophets keeping them informed of the coming Messiah.
These were the people who were prepared to receive Jesus as the Messiah but somehow there have been lots of resistance on the ground in the form of “dis-believes”
So Jesus chooses to confront His opponents with more proof, evident and honesty. Jesus was making it as plain as direct and as clear as He could, that He is the chosen Messiah.
Although Jesus knew these people’s hearts were hard as rock, yet He had compassion on them.
Jesus’ act of faith, kindness and patience overcame their dis-belief.
2. The community and national leaders, including chief priests, Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, decided ‘enough is enough’ (John 11:46-51).
They made a formal, deliberate and unanimous plot to kill Jesus, and some suggest including Lazarus too.
One of the obvious reasons was that these leaders lost many of the followers, which means losing crucial manpower and resources support from the grassroots, with that one incident where Lazarus was raised from the dead.
If one could read between the lines, it was pretty obvious how these leaders have had their hold on the large numbers of common folks and their gifts, offerings and tithes, benefiting themselves. Furthermore, as appointed “agents” by the Romans for social-political stability bargains, they had their privileges.
It’s was special status in society they will not want to lose.
That one incident, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in broad daylight in the witness of the Jews, became an indisputable proof which break-through that mental, religious strong-hold these leaders had held over the populations.
These leaders knew from then on the people will have legitimate ground to “revolt” and follow Jesus. Why continue with the chief priests who habitually live off people’s resources? When you can have a great leader like Jesus who raised the dead and bless the people?
3. News was spreading far and wide; many more dis-believing Jews came and believed in Jesus. (John 12:9)
Perhaps also due to Lazarus’s connection to the Jews community, his coming back from the dead is a fool-proof testimony. Lazarus was a Jew himself.
Throughout the public ministry of Jesus, the Jews had many complaints about Gentiles receiving miracles and blessed by the Lord. So now you have it, the Jews themselves had a taste of their own kin-folk enjoying the miracle of God.
It wasn’t a case of being healed from some sickness or disease, but raised from the dead. In fact Lazarus was dead four days already! That man should have been more than dead, and decomposing. Martha warned his brother’s body would really stink by then (John 11:39).
The tomb was re-opened and Jesus called forth Lazarus back from the dead.
The Jews came, not only to believe in Jesus but also to make friend with Lazarus
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:41-44)
For the sake of the people, Jesus did what He did.
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