“When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there…
“When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him,’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.
“Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'” John 11:31; 33-37 NIV.
Once again, the Jews are in the mix! John has consistently called Jesus’ opponents “the Jews”. Are these ones here with Martha and Mary the same people – the ones who were planning to kill Him?
Is it possible that He was using this situation as His trump card against them? In His altercations with them, He had insisted that they see His works as His calling card. ‘Who are you?’ time and again they demanded. His response was always the same. ‘Look at my works and decide for yourself. Whom do I resemble?’ In their perversity they responded, ‘You look like the devil. Demon-possessed! You’re the son of Satan!’
“Funny!’ He replied, ‘You are remarkably like your father, the devil! Your works look just like him – thief, liar, murderer!’ In spite of their protestations, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants; we are disciples of Moses; we are God’s sons,’ there was an unmistakable likeness to their real father and they hated Jesus for pointing it out.
Now they were in Bethany with the sisters, milling around, observing, even mourning a little with them. Give them their due; perhaps their grief over the death of Lazarus was genuine – or was it also part of their practised religion, sitting shiva with those who mourn?
How was Jesus ever to convince them that He was the Father’s Son, showing them what the Father was like by the works He did? Miracles didn’t do it – the Jews assassinated His character because He broke THEIR rules by healing on the Sabbath. Perhaps raising a man to life who had been decaying in the tomb for four days might do it.
And what about the two bereaved sisters? It was time to take their faith to a new level, especially since Jesus would soon be where Lazarus was, although they didn’t know it yet. What would happen to their confidence in Him when His battered body lay in the tomb and their shattered hopes died with Him? Would they recall His words, “I AM the resurrection and the life?’ Would their memory of Lazarus keep their faith in Him alive?
Jesus knew exactly what He was doing! This miracle of all miracles would either convince the Jews or drive another nail into their coffin – and His! Did they really want to know who He was or were they looking for another excuse to kill Him? When He called Lazarus from the grave, it was His way of saying, ‘Take that, you Jews!’ and their response. ‘Kill Lazarus! Get him out the way! He’s the reason for all this!’
And Martha and Mary? Time would tell whether this event would forever cement their trust in Him and bind them to Him in adoring love forever. And Lazarus? What would this experience do for him? After all, he was the one who had crossed the great divide and come back again? We never hear the story from his lips, but we have hints in John’s record that help us make up a story that could well fit the evidence.
How true it is that God always has a reason and a plan for everything He does. Life is lived forward and understood backwards. Our hearts break for the sisters in their grief and disappointed hopes and celebrate with them in their joy when they received their brother back alive. We suffer in our own anguish and pain but, when we trust Him, somehow, we receive back in abundance more than we ever lost – and the ecstasy of knowing, after all, that He knew what He was doing!
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.