TRANSFORMED – BY DEATH
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him.” John 12:1, 2a NIV.
I find it strange that, for the first time the name of Lazarus, Martha and Mary’s brother was mentioned apart from his sickness and death in John 11. Although Jesus visited their home in Bethany many times, Lazarus did not feature until after he was raised from the dead. There is no indication that the two sisters even had a brother until now.
Is it possible that Lazarus was unsympathetic, even hostile to Jesus before he died? The sisters called him, “The one whom you love,” but that does not mean than he had any sort of relationship with Jesus. Jesus loved the rich young ruler and yet he chose not to follow Him and walked away.
Did Jesus allow Lazarus to die so that he could go to the grave an unbeliever; to awaken him to the truth that there is an afterlife and that there is only one way to the Father, after all, and that is through Jesus?
For the first time, at the dinner given in Jesus’ honour in his home, Lazarus was among those reclining at the table. John makes sure that his readers understand that it was in Jesus’ honour, not Lazarus’, that Martha arranged this function. The fact that Lazarus was one of the dinner guests meant that Jesus and he were reconciled. Did he refuse to eat with Jesus until now because he did not believe in Him?
Although this is conjecture, if it is the truth, Jesus might deliberately have allowed Lazarus to experience death and then bring him back to life again so that he would know what it was like to be separated from God and then be given another opportunity to believe in Him.
“…with Him.” Is that a loaded statement? It almost sounds as though John wanted to emphasize Lazarus’ new intimacy with Jesus. Jesus would have occupied the place of honour at the table, but where was Lazarus seated? “With Him,” right beside Him; perhaps reclining on Him as John would do at the Passover meal.
I think it was more than gratitude that brought Lazarus to faith in Jesus. He was probably one of those men who was too proud or too stubborn to acknowledge that he was wrong. He needed a wake-up call (pardon the pun) far stronger than Jesus” teaching, or even His healing miracles. Was he one like Thomas who demanded to poke his finger into Jesus’ wounds before he would believe?
Whatever Lazarus needed to shake him out of his unbelief, Jesus met him and he became a convinced and devoted follower. He had tasted death and returned. The Pharisees could argue that the man born blind was not blind or not healed or whatever else they wanted to believe but they could never argue away the truth that Lazarus was decaying in the tomb and Jesus called him back to life.
“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3 NIV.
This verse completes the picture and gives one a feeling of satisfaction. Each member of the Bethany family is in his or her place; Martha in the kitchen, serving; Lazarus at Jesus’ side, reclining; and Mary at Jesus’ feet, adoring; each one worshipping Jesus in the appropriate way! Finally, Lazarus has come home. He has become a member of God’s family and has taken his rightful place in his human family.
It was a long and difficult road for him. He had to endure the suffering of his mortality to gain an understanding of his immortality. In His love for Lazarus, Jesus allowed him to walk right into physical and spiritual death to feel the magnitude of God’s grace and to receive the gift of everlasting life that was wrapped up in His own death and resurrection. In the course of a few days Jesus would be where Lazarus had been so that Lazarus could be where He was.
He did that for him and for us too…!
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.