The people came to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. That was why there was a crowd at the triumphal entry. Raising Lazarus causes quite a stir. Even today, if someone was raised from the dead at the Wheatland Cemetery, people would come to see, to meet the guy. To find out if it was true. And to wonder if they were eligible for such treatment. The leaders of the people realize they are losing their grip. Jesus is a liability – He has to go – and so does Lazarus. He’s been raised from the dead. His presence causes problems for the leaders. So, he must be gotten rid of as well.
This stands as proof once for all that, unless the Spirit enlightens our hearts, we will not believe. The sin is too strong in us to believe the word of Jesus. You would think that raising someone from the dead would make people say, “Gee, this guy is something special. We should listen to him.” But their hearts are hardened. And so instead of praising God, they decide to get rid of the raising people from the dead guy, and the guy he raised. Well, we’ll have to kill them both to put a stop to this… Hardened hearts are hardened, and will remain hardened. It is only the Spirit of God working in our hearts that allows us to believe. And so contrast that hard hearted unbelief with the simple faith of Mary, whose brother Lazarus was raised from the dead. She takes an expensive perfume – worth thousands of dollars – and pours it on Jesus feet. Unknowingly, she anoints his body for burial. She doesn’t know the burial is coming. She doesn’t realize this is a final loving act toward Jesus before his death. Jesus does. She is just trying to show honor and praise to the one who gave her brother back to her. It is one of the most tender and touching moments in all of scripture.
Judas, like the leaders of the people, has a hardened heart that remains hardened. He can not see the gift she gives to Jesus. He is wondering how he could have gotten his hands on the money. What may have begun as faithful service, has now been changed into desire for greedy gain. How can I fill the money bag a little more, so that I can empty the money bag… Sin begets sin. What may have begun as small time theft will lead to betrayal of Jesus. If I can’t take the high value of the perfume, I can at least get a slaves price for Jesus – 30 pieces of silver. He works harder than the others. He has to worry about the funds. He is entitled to something. Small sins build into bigger sins. Sin corrupts, until finally there is no desire for the word of God at all. The only thought is for the sin.
Sin and death, betrayal and love, tribute to God. All the elements of a gripping drama are in the first few verses of this chapter. And yet, they are not fiction, dreamed up to enthrall. They are what actually happened in the days leading up to Holy Week. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. The people crowd out to see him. The leaders are frightened and so plot his death, Judas is turning away from Jesus, to Satan. His heart growing ever colder.
And all of this will lead to the death of Jesus. And that question of the people – could such a resurrection apply to me? – is answered in the affirmative. When a new drug to treat disease comes out, the commercials always talk about the benefits, and the limitations. If you struggle with… then this is for you. But if you have these other conditions… then you shouldn’t take it. New miracle drugs are only for some. Jesus came to save all. The promise he gives is that Lazarus can be your story too.
Not exactly that way – not four days in a tomb and then raised again in this world. Raised to one day get sick and die again. Rather, you die to this world, but are only sleeping as far as God is concerned. Death is not death. The grave is not your final resting place. Jesus will return. All those who believe in his name will be raised to a new life. A life that is given in Baptism, but finds its fulfillment in the resurrection.
For a few minutes all of that is in view. The disciples did not understand all of this right away. After Jesus was raised from the dead, it became clear to them. But now, Holy Week, is the moment of Jesus glorification. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus means the cross. That’s his response to the Greeks who would see him. His response to Judas hardened heart, his response to Mary’s tender and loving gesture. It’s the center of everything.
Not only everything in this dramatic account from John, but everything in human history. Everything changes in that moment of the cross. The world itself will be recreated. And all who believe on Jesus name, are given the life, the resurrection, that the people came to see in Lazarus – and even greater than that. A resurrection that never ends.