What God has brought into the light cannot be hidden. The Bible makes very clear that the human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). In that desperate state, human beings are capable of anything when attempting to suppress the truth about God in personal unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Hence our scripture for reflection today taken from the New Testament reading on June 7th.
The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11, NASB)
Before I make application to everyday life, just a brief historical note. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is arguably one of the most significant miracles that Jesus performed while on earth. Critics often cite that it is very unusual that only John records it and not Matthew, Mark, and Luke; questioning its validity since it would have been so extremely notable. I believe an answer to this lies in our chosen passage today. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were recorded much earlier than John. They would have omitted the miracle because most probably Lazarus and his two sisters (Mary and Martha) were still living when they wrote. To record the event, based on what John shares here, would have put Lazarus in grave danger following the ascension of Jesus. John writes his gospel at a later date when Lazarus was most likely deceased; or at least the threat had diminished.
I find the disposition of the chief priests astounding. For one thing, how blind were these men not to perceive that He who had raised Lazarus, after he had been dead four days, could do it again though they successfully murder him a thousand times? While it is true that they want rid of Jesus and they have a live man who used to be dead roaming around whose very existence was gathering crowds to Him; yet their behavior insinuates pure insanity. What could motivate such irrational behavior? I submit the impetus underlying such dastardly reasoning is absolute godless self-worship.
This is reflected first in the premise that they were threatened politically. They feared all those gathered around Jesus might start an insurrection and then the Romans would be forced to come and squash it. Consider verse 48 of chapter 11 in John’s gospel; these religious leaders state, “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (NASB)
Yet even beyond the aforementioned incentive, they were really threatened theologically. Many commentators suggest that the majority of the chief priests were Sadducees (notice that the Pharisees are not mentioned in regard to this particular decision and the most wealthy ruling class of Jewish society at the time were Sadducees; which would be individuals who most likely held such influential posts as chief priests). Sadducees had taught that there was no such thing as resurrection; and here they must contend with Lazarus who resurrected. To “save face” their only choice, destroy the evidence; God’s truth suppressed in their own unrighteous desire. What stunning indifference and blind self-ambition! John Calvin, when remarking on this event, stated, “For this wicked consultation is thus described, for the purpose of informing us that the enemies of Christ were led to so great obstinacy, not by mistake or folly, but by furious wickedness, so that they did not even shrink from making war against God; and also for the purpose of informing us that the power of God was not dimly seen in the resurrection of Lazarus, since ungodliness could contrive no other method of banishing it from remembrance than by perpetrating a base and shocking murder on an innocent man.”
What lesson can we take from this? We must seriously examine our aspirations and motivations for life. To assume that personal ambition can diminish Godly truth (we the creatures and He the Creator) is undeniable insanity. A human life lived with any objective other than glorifying the Eternal God revealed in Jesus Christ is a fool’s errand and will lead only to ultimate disillusionment and destruction. Without a clear understanding of who we are and our place in this universe, behavior similar to these chief priests will also characterize our lives. God’s light shines regardless of any effort to suppress it!