There is a great scene that John paints for us after Lazarus has been restored to life. Witnesses seem to have one of several reactions, either putting their faith in this Jesus, or wanting him dead. Jesus ruins a perfectly good funeral by undeading Lazarus. A certain few run off and snitch to the Religious leaders. What is there to be upset about? Jesus has made it clear to Martha…he is about resurrection and life.
Meanwhile the religious leaders call for a meeting of the Sanhedrin. And behind closed doors they discuss this Jesus. It is safe to assume that John gets his inside information regarding the meeting of the Sanhedrin from a rogue member named Nicodemus. John records an interesting clandestine meeting with Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and refers to him several times through his biography of Jesus. This Sanhedrin is a group of jewish sages who are responsible for the strict religious life of the jewish people. They are the Jehovah police, and they are having a hissy fit. “What are we accomplishing?” they say. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.” For a group of individuals waiting for the Messiah to come, what are they worried about? The next line explains their fears..”The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation”. So this is about pride and power. After this conversation John records that they decided –Jesus needed to die…and not just Jesus. The situation has collateral damage too as many were hearing Lazarus’ story and in turn coming to life spiritually by following Jesus, so they decide Lazarus must die too. Poor guy, only alive for the second time for about a week or so and they already want to take his life. Martha is right ‘Resurrection can stinketh’.
As I ponder this ancient religious establishment that is worried about its own survival. I can’t help but see the eery similarities in our 21 century. Jesus is at work in our world breaking all the religious rules and protocols. Restoring lives that were dead, and bringing hope and purpose to that which was lost. All the while the conservative establishment meets and discusses how to protect it’s own reputation. Their weakened version of God is so feeble that it needs them to protect their precious Christendom from the liberals, from the gays, and from anyone that doesn’t conform. Unlike the Sanhedrin they would never admit it is all about pride and power. But it is. Like the Priests of Jesus day who feel they control the path to God, our Christian Sanhedrin’s gather-asking what are we accomplishing? They would love to hunt down and silence the Lazarus’ of our times. They don’t care if people are finding resurrection on account of them. ‘Their books are unorthodox’, they claim. ‘Their ideas too dangerous because they are different than the way we have always done them.‘ (By the way, how is that working for ya?) Allan Hirsch says it best, ‘we are currently set up to produce what we are currently producing’….hypocrisy. In a world that is dying, resurrection is unorthodox. I am coming alive, and am discovering resurrection all around me. Gay and Straight, liberal and conservative alike are coming to Jesus and not necessarily to the religious system. ‘But how will they know how to live in their new life?’ -Good question…not by following you. This Jesus is big enough to say ‘just follow me’.
Resurrection is messy, and like Lazarus, sometimes it stinks. I am sure many of the details varied regarding the how or why’s of Lazarus’ new life. But they don’t seem to matter as much as the ‘WHO’. Jesus is about Life not death, about freedom not control. The truth is Lazarus isn’t the Zombie in this story the Pharisees are, people who think they are alive but are really dead. And I have come to realize that the ‘Walking Dead’ isn’t the only Zombie show on TV right now, but many of the others are on Sunday mornings.