So, “The Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him’.
But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man from dying’?” Once again, even here, we see the different reactions. On the one hand, some would wonder why He didn’t keep this man from dying? He could have if He had wished to do so. When we think about this, the fact that he accomplished a miracle from a distance before, in chapter four, why didn’t He do that here? You see the point? He could have healed him from a distance, just as He did the nobleman’s son in chapter four. Why didn’t He do this? So, they were wrestling with this.
So, “Jesus being deeply moved from within, came to the tomb.
Now, it was a cave and a stone was lying against it.” Now, just so we know something about that idea, in those days you had tombs that were actually cut out of the rock. The formal mourning in Israel lasted for seven days. It commenced immediately on the day of burial. The Jews would quickly bury the dead. They would usually bury them on the day they died. One of the differences we have in our own lives is that we have taken death and made it something that is sanitized, and we no longer have an immediacy with that. People a hundred years ago, it was very rare to find someone who hadn’t seen someone die. They would typically die at home and then they would prepare the body.
Now, we have removed that from our own experience. Now we put them in oversized jewel boxes. This amazes me. In fact, a lot of people look better dressed in death than they ever looked in life. It is a strange, strange thing that we do because we don’t know what to do with them. All throughout human history there has been mystery associated with human death because people just don’t have a clue as to how to handle it. Without the hope of the resurrection, it is just a mystery that they want to be with; a lot of mumbo-jumbo and a lot of avoidance. The only window of vulnerability is at the funeral service where we finally have to acknowledge the reality of what is before us. That window, typically, doesn’t last long.
But, during that window our defenses are overcome, and we well recognize that life is, in fact, short. Ultimately, it is an intimation of our own destiny. Regarding the burial cave, they had these horizontally cut burial slabs and there was an open area inside the tomb. It was around 10 feet by 15 feet, and that is where they would prepare the body. The body was prepared using various linens and spices.
It was a very elaborate procedure and then they would put the body in a ‘kochim’, which was about six feet deep. They would leave it there for about a year. At the end of the year they go and collect the bones and they would put the bones in a bone box, called an ostuary. That is how the Jews did it then. In fact, Caiaphas, who we will see in a moment, his ostuary has been found and we know this because of the markings that were on it. It is in the Israel Museum. In any event, they had these caves in this manner and then you would have this circular stone that was rolled into a trench in front of the opening. Once it was locked into that trench you could not push it over. It would take several men if you wanted to roll it back out.
Some of these caves, with the actual stones are still around.
So, Lazarus had been wrapped up and placed inside the tomb and he had been there for four days.
So, “Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone’. Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days’.” She was right. He was now decomposing. “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to that if you believe, you will see the glory of God’?” Go back to verse 27, and she says, “I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” Now, she believed, but she surely didn’t believe He was going to do what He did, or she would not have made this objection. It is important for us to realize that Jesus was glorified by waiting those two extra days, so there would be no question that the glory of God made this possible. “So, they removed the stone.
Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me’.” He has already made His prayer and knew what He was going to do, but He says this publicly so that His disciples would hear it. “When He said these things, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’.” Now, the word, ‘kraugazo’, that is used there, is used six times in John’s Gospel. It is also used for the crowds on Palm Sunday in chapter 12, verse 13, and four times again from the crowd calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. It indicates a very loud noise. The idea is that He raised His voice with the voice of authority and power and said, “Lazarus come forth!”
Some people have quipped that if He hadn’t of said ‘Lazarus’, the whole place would have emptied out. We know, though, that something surprising happens because it says, “The man who had died came forth,” but then it goes on to say, “bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him at let him go’.” Do you ever wonder how he got out of the tomb? They rolled the stone away, of course, but it says, “he was bound hand and foot.” How did he come out? Did he roll out? Did he hop out? No one knows, and I find it to be exceedingly strange. I’ll let you mull it over.
But, it is one of those understatements of the Gospel that makes you wonder what was going on. Moving on, “Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things that Jesus had done.” Here is the point. John emphasizes again and again in his Gospel that the issue comes down, not to the evidence, but to attitude. It depends upon a man’s willingness. If a person is willing to know the truth, he will know the truth.
But, if a person is unwilling to know the truth, then, in fact, instead of finding the truth they will find their own ways of explaining it away. And so, we always have this dual motif of people reacting in one way and some in the other way. Although, we have a reverse motif in the other sense. In the first six signs you have this pattern. You had sign, discourse, sign, discourse.
But, here you have discourse, sign. It is reversing the pattern. Jesus gave His discourse and then He performed the sign. The thing I want you to notice, though, is that His words and His works authenticate each other. You see Him say, “I am the Light of the world,” and then you see Him give sight to a man born blind. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and then He raised a man from the dead.
So, His words and His work are authenticated. You see a miracle not just done as a raw miracle but contextualized in revelation. That is a very important thing for us to understand. The experience must also be understood, from a theological stance, so that we can contextualize how they work. Explanation and sign go hand in hand. I must stress, again and again, that propositional revelation, which Scripture is, is exceedingly important. Having said that, I also want to stress that proposition itself does not lead to personal revelation.
So, the propositional truth, which is true, and is warranted historically, must lead to personal truth. It must lead to a relational truth. It is not a matter of having it in the head, it must also respond in our heart. It comes down to the issue of will I believe, or will I choose not to believe? You cannot ignore this One. If you were there, I promise you that you would have to either believe Him or reject Him. You can’t be neutral about a man who just raised someone from the dead like that. You see the point here? The same is true with a man born blind. He caused the division that we see, and one of the things that always bothers me when others accuse Christians of being anti-Semitic is a failure to grasp that Jesus actually divided His own people.
The fact is that some of the Jews embrace Him and others did not. The issue was not anti-Semitism. How can you be anti-Semitic when Jesus was a Jew? All the disciples were Jewish, and the entire New Testament was written by Jews, except for Luke, so how can you possibly be consistently anti-Semitic when your Lord was a Jew? I don’t understand that. The whole New Testament is a Jewish document written in the context of 2nd century temple Judaism. It amazes me. In any event, many of the Gentiles rejected Him as well. He divides, He does not unite. “I came to bring a sword.” That sword divides and there will be those who embrace Him and those who do not. That is really the final point of departure. The person who seeks will find, but the person who is a skeptic and chooses not to seek will, of course, find ways of rationalizing it away, just as they managed to rationalize this obvious miracle.
Now, in verse 47, we see, “Therefore, the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council.” They are terrified. Whether they believed it or not is not the point. They understood the implications and the implications were frightening. They were saying, “What are we doing? This man is performing many signs.” There were other Messianic claimants who would come, and it put them in a dangerous political situation. “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.” Now, again, they are saying more than they knew. This would, in fact, happen. From the years 66 to 70 AD, the Romans would put Jerusalem under siege. For just a short time, only two months, the siege was removed and that gave the believers who listened to the Olivet discourse, (The Olivet Discourse is the name given to the orderly and extended teaching given by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives,) the opportunity to leave. Those who believed Him fled. Then the siege continued and the ultimately destroyed the holy temple, the palaces and the walls. Everything was destroyed.
So, they were terrified about this situation because there was an uneasy political alliance. “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was a high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man dies for the people, and that the whole nation not perish’.” Those were amazing words, because, “He did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation.” And John goes on to add, “And not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the Children of God who are scattered abroad.” Remember when He says, “I have other sheep who are not of this fold”? It is an intimation of the Gentiles as well. I might point out that Caiaphas ruled the Sanhedrins from the year 18 to the year 36 and Pilate was the ruler of that area from the years 26 to 36.
So, the last ten years of Caiaphas’ rule was associated with Pilate and they had sort of an uneasy truce for political expediency.
Now, when Pilate was forcibly removed from office, Caiaphas immediately lost his control on the high priesthood and both of them were out in the same year. Certainly, the idea here is that he is prophesying, and in that position, it is something that would not normally be done. The high idea of human sacrifice was anathema and yet now we have this whole idea that it points to a voluntary sacrifice. He had to be God for His sacrifice to really be efficacious. Otherwise it would merely just be the death of a man.
But, He had to be a man for it to be a real sacrifice. That is the emphasis. The Eastern Church emphasizes more the resurrection and the Catholic Church emphasizes more the crucifixion. That is just the nature of it.
So, as we look at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher the Orthodox don’t call it that; they think of it as the Church associated with the resurrection.
So, there is little bit of a different theology there. The early theology was more of a ‘Christ’s victor’, the idea of the victory of Christ. He was called the ‘Ponto Chroctor’, the ‘ruler of all’. When you visit the earliest Basilicas and see the mosaics, that are the emphasis you have. The emphasis of the crucifixion, as almost an end in itself, became more and more characteristic in the Western Church.
Yes, Caiaphas was the ruler of the Sanhedrin from the year 18 to the year 36. Pilate was in office in Judea from 26 to 36, so that lasted 10 years and when Pilate was forcibly removed, that was when Caiaphas lost his connection and he was no longer high priest.
Here is the thing. Nobody understood when Christ came that, that would be His agenda. Remember earlier in the Gospels you see Him saying, “I have not come for the Gentiles, but for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now, as rejection begins to mount and rejection by His own people is certain, and when I say His own people I am particularly referring to the leadership. When that becomes certain He then makes the Gospel available for all because that is why the great commission says, “Go into all the world.”
So, because of the rejection by His own people, and if you want to study this, Romans 11 is a good place, it is possible for us to be in a position to receive God’s favor. No one knew it in advance, but God knew it well before hand. Here is the point that Paul makes, in Romans 11:25, “For I do not want you to be uninformed of this mystery,” and there is that word again, mystery, something that has not been known before, “so that you will not be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.” This hardening, by the way, is partial and it is temporary as is the veil over their eyes.
But he goes on to say, “For just as once you were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all is disobedience so that He my show mercy to all.” He is saying that in the wisdom of God, He had a plan that nobody could have guessed or anticipated in advance. Indeed, the Jews had to struggle with these two images of the Messiah, one a suffering servant and the other a reigning king. How could it possibly be that the two could be one and the same?
So, they looked for the reigning king, just as we would have, too. The natural bent of human nature being what it is, if you had a choice between being healed of cancer or Jesus saying your sins are forgiven, most people would choose the former. The visible takes precedence over the invisible. Yet, being healed of cancer is nothing compared to being healed of your sins. The greatest miracle is not the physical resurrection, but the spiritual resurrection of a new birth in Christ.
That is an amazing understanding. As we conclude I want to make a quick comment about how we are to handle this rich teaching, and I must say that our graveside experience is not to ever be trivialized. We do have a very real and present tense experience of the power of Christ because we can understand that death is not a terminus, it is a passageway. If we understand it that way then we realize that this life, compared to eternity, is as a moment in time. I am fond of using this analogy: My firm belief is that if you could spend an hour in the presence of the living God, and the pleasure that would be, and then He tells you to go back to earth and suffer loss and pain for another 80 years to spend another hour with Him, would you do it? You see where I am with that? Actually, you would do it. Because once you have experienced that glory, the 80 years would seem as nothing compared to an hour in His presence. I want to tell you though; the obvious difference is that the 80 years is as nothing and the hour is as everything. It is not an hour, it is eternity.