“Now a large crowd of Judeans learned that Jesus was there, and so they came not only because of him but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too, for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus” (John 12:9-11 NET).
As Jesus approached Jerusalem for his last Passover week, his situation was very different from previous Passovers. He had reached what we, today, would call “celebrity status.” As a result, wherever he was, he attracted large crowds. In fact, the Jewish people had been looking for him since they had arrived in Jerusalem (John 11:56). In addition to this, just a few months earlier he had been called to Bethany where he brought Lazarus back to life from the dead, even after he had been buried for four days (John 11:39). No wonder Jesus’ popularity had risen among the people!
But there was also a negative effect – the Jewish leaders were out to get Jesus. They had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, they should report it so they could arrest him (John 11:57). They had earlier had a meeting in which they had decided that Jesus should be executed (John 11:53). No wonder the people were wondering if Jesus would show up for this festival!
When the people heard that Jesus had arrived in Bethany, just two miles from Jerusalem, a large crowd went out to Bethany to see him. But they weren’t just interested in seeing Jesus, they also wanted to see Lazarus – it wasn’t everyday you could see someone who had been brought back from the dead! Lazarus was also a local celebrity because of what had happened to him.
But notice how the Jewish leaders reacted: they planned to kill Lazarus (again!) because too many people were going to see him and then believing in Jesus! I cannot help but wonder how they expected to succeed in their plans. Lazarus had already died once and Jesus had restored him to life. Did they really want to kill him again so Jesus could restore him to life again? In fact, how did they even expect to kill Jesus and keep him dead?
These thoughts do not seem to have gone through the Jewish leaders minds. They were so upset with Jesus that they really did not know what to do about it. As Lazarus had been returned to life, their first reaction was the need to get rid of the evidence – if there was no Lazarus, then there would not be a reason for people to believe in Jesus.
Yet it was this very evidence that should have caused them to realize who Jesus was, that he was the very Messiah they had been searching for. Instead, all they could see was a threat to their positions and a need to get rid of the evidence.
May we always be willing to examine the evidence and follow where that evidence leads us. Let us continue to examine “the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Readings for next week:
5 January – John 16
6 January – John 17
7 January – John 18
8 January – John 19
9 January – John 20