• Dan Royster

In The Cross of Christ, I Glory #3

The ‘Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back’

Why do we revel in Christ’s Death? One obvious reason that we, as Christians, revel in Christ’s Death on the Cross is because, without His Death and His Burial, there is no Resurrection. Even the Chief Priests and Pharisees were afraid that Christ’s Crucifixion wasn’t enough; that even the death of Christ might be used to proclaim His Glory among His followers—of Christ’s followers claiming the very thing they feared, His Resurrection:

Matthew 27:62-66
62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.[1]

What drove them to be concerned about this is the factual evidence that Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead. Moreover, there was no argument they could present that would refute what Jesus did in Lazarus. Additionally, it is rather difficult to doubt that Jesus is the Son of God if He can be killed and present Himself alive on earth again.

Indeed, it is impossible for the chief priests and Pharisees to dispute that Jesus is the Son of God when He can actually demonstrate that He has the power over death. And this He already did through the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is a rather long passage but be certain to imagine the entire event in your mind and to take note of the details. More specifically, note the unfolding display of Divine Wisdom vs. mortal wisdom. The story is nothing less than incredible but would prove to be Jesus’ ‘Achilles’ heel’:

John 11:1-45
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. 7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. [2]

First, Jesus was warned that, “Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Jesus, however, possessing the omniscience of God, seems to know that, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” God, Christ, and Holy Spirit know all. Yet, Jesus’ profession here would indicate to the human ear that Lazarus would not die at all.

Then Christ appeared to lack the decency of human compassion. He was made aware that His good friend, Lazarus, was sick and chose to abide two more days in the same place where He was. What does a mortal do when his friend is sick, possibly sick unto death? He makes the most expedient effort to visit his friend for fear of regret that he may not have further opportunity to do so.

Jesus confounds the human minds of His disciples by stating, Let us go into Judaea again. In many of the previous chapters of John, Jesus had defied the Jewish leaders on several occasions; and on some of those occasions they sought to stone Him. Often, it was in preparation for, or on the day of, a Jewish religious festival or their Sabbath. What did Jesus do? He healed on the Sabbath, or touched, or spoke with that which was unclean under Jewish Law. Jesus seemed to point out, again and again, that, while the Jewish leaders were excellent at preparing physically for their religious festivals and Sabbath Days, they lacked the proper heartfelt preparation to derive any true benefit from their recognition, worship, and participation in their gatherings.

Jesus then responds with what appears to be a quick lesson but, as usual, there is much more than meets the eye. Jesus employs the traditional religious theme of light and darkness which is usually associated with good and evil. He applied these symbols to the imagery of travel by day and night. Travel by day allows for safe travel but, travel by night refers to the danger of stumbling. In both John 8:12, and John 9:5, Jesus, informs both the Jewish leaders at the Festival of Tabernacles and later the disciples that he was, “The light of the world.” Jesus reminded his disciples that the light enables them to see.

I am reminded of myself when I must get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, take medicine, or get a drink of water. I don’t want to turn on the light because it is blinding, will wake me from my sleepy stupor, and, ironically, cause me to see. In so doing, I have learned what the smallest of toes is for; they are ‘furniture-finders.’ Indeed, I choose the darkness, the stumbling, and the pain of stubbing little toes as opposed to the awareness that the light can bring. Those who do not have the light are in danger of stumbling.

We can also see that Thomas—doubting Thomas as he is more commonly known—while under the veil of darkness is, indeed, a disciple of Christ. He is willing to follow Jesus into Judaea and die with Him. While demonstrating to be one of the bravest of followers of Christ, he still, at this point, was beholden to his own mortal wisdom. Lazarus is dead now and Christ knows this. If Christ resurrects Lazarus from the dead, would this demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God? In the case of Thomas, though he was there, he would still have to be given the opportunity to thrust his fingers through the nail holes in Jesus’ hand to embrace the Light. I regret that I can only see myself as nothing more than a ‘present-day’ Thomas.

Now Martha had a ‘bone to pick’ with Jesus. She went out to meet Him and offered that most piercing to the heart statement: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” She knew that Jesus could have healed Lazarus back to health from sickness. How; from experience and word of mouth. Perhaps, that is why she sent someone to inform Jesus that Lazarus was ill; she feared that Lazarus was ill unto death. She knew that Christ could heal infirmity; she had both heard of and witnessed that. Yet, in her mortal wisdom, she believed that, once death had consumed Lazarus, he was beyond scope of Jesus’ power for, like most of us, she had not realized the omnipotence of Jesus’ power as the Son of God.

Martha engaged in a level of believing in the Light I would call ‘if-ing;’ if God would just do this for me . . .; if God would just do that for me . . .. Unfortunately, God can only do His Will, even if it means someone whose fellowship He enjoys must die, even if only the death of His only begotten Son will bring about the redemption of those who believe.

But Jesus, seeing Martha and the Jews grieved in their hearts, was grieved Himself. It does grieve Him that death grieves us. Jesus assured Martha, much like we are assured when one of our Christian loved ones dies, that they will arise again in the resurrection at the last day. However, it does not change the fact of our lost temporal fellowship with that loved one; nor does it erase the embedded memories of that coveted fellowship. However, we must hold fast to the joy of eternal life not this temporal life.

Perhaps, if Jesus could give those who follow Him a ‘physical’ taste of the hope that lies before them, they would fear physical death no longer, especially as His own Passion, death, burial, and Resurrection would soon occur.

However, Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead would be ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ as far as the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned, because, as stated in verse 45: “45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” Now, how can they refute that He is the Son of God? They cannot. They can only attempt to silence Him.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 27:62–66). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jn 11:1–45). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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