In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (not Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead – this was just a parable) Jesus tells the people “They have Moses and the prophets. If they will not believe them, then neither will they believe, even if someone should rise from the dead.”
In the Gospel reading today, we see how true that it. Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. He died. Jesus brought him back to life. This was a problem for the leaders of the people, because now everyone was going to Jesus. There are two options for the Pharisees and leaders of the people – either give up your opposition to him – he is raising people from the dead – what is there in the world that would be as good as that? Or harden your hearts to the truth. They choose the second. Their solution is – let’s just kill Lazarus too. Then there won’t be proof that this Jesus fellow raised him. Throughout the Gospel reading, we are told of the firm unbelief of the leaders.
The plot to kill Lazarus, the leaders rejecting the crowds at the triumphal entry. The unbelief after the people hear the voice of God himself. And the men among the leaders who did believe in Jesus, but refused to confess him before men, for fear of also being rejected.
All of it adds up to hatred of God. That is the default position for sinners. We don’t want the things of God. We reject his word. We build for ourselves idols in our own hearts. We are dead already in our trespasses. That is how things are.
We can not improve ourselves. There are those who think faith is just a decision we make, and if we present the right arguments people will have to be persuaded. But look at the Pharisees – they know that Jesus was raising people from the dead, and they still reject him. And it isn’t that some are better than others. Scripture tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
And yet, Mary, Lazarus sister, confesses the truth. She confesses her sin, and she pleads for mercy before God himself. Not in so many words. She does it by anointing Jesus.
We heard of it yesterday. We considered it’s meaning as an ointment for Jesus. But today we hear that it was not just any old sinner. It was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. She owed him everything. And, this would have been part of her former livelihood. Which is to say, she was giving that up. She had heard Jesus speak. Jesus had come to their house. He had taught them. And now, after he raises Lazarus, she takes what remains of her sin and offers it to Jesus.
We have this picture of people hearing Jesus once and then just walking away from sin never to return. But we certainly don’t get that picture form the Holy Scripture. Peter and his denial. Judas and his betrayal. Mary, and her holding on to that perfume until now.
The struggle with sin is real. We say over and over, I’m done with sin. And then like a dog returning to his vomit we sinful fools return to our sinful folly.
This Holy Week we see the cost of our sin. We see it in the wounds of Jesus. The wounds he bore for you. The stripes that were inflicted on him on your behalf. This week we finally see what it all means. Just as Mary finally did when she saw her brother raised from the dead. Can we stand unmoved by the depth of love we see in Jesus? Can we stand unmoved as we look at the cross – semi obscured from us by the veil, which is nothing more than a symbol of our own sin, that would hide from us the reality of Christ’s sacrifice.
When we see the pitiable sufferings of Jesus, we must respond. Either we reject the entire thing. He saved others, he can not save himself. Look we are getting no where the world has gone after him. Or, we see and understand that his death was for the forgiveness of sins. That we need no longer live in bondage to sin and death. That there is a narrow and difficult path to life. It leads to the cross. It leads through death. But it is a death that has already been died for you. And now, you are given the benefit of that death. The life that Jesus offers to you, in love for you, and for the forgiveness of your sins.