John 12:10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
My eyes lifted at this line in today’s gospel – a sure sign that the Spirit has something to say or teach. I believe nothing is an accident in scripture – names, places, events are included for a reason – a data point, a dot, to connect to the big story. God is in the details.
I’m aware of back to back readings that include details I have not mastered in scripture. Yesterday it was that Paul had required Timothy to be circumcised. Today? That Lazarus – the Lazarus that Jesus had just raised from the dead only 4 days before in Bethany, the Lazarus who was brother to Mary and Martha, the Lazarus who was Jesus’ friend whose tomb he had arrived two days after Lazarus had died, this is the Lazarus Jesus wept over and then raised from the dead. That Lazarus, as the verse reports today, was targeted for death by the chief priests, too. I hadn’t put this together – hadn’t realized that Lazarus contributed to the chief priests concern over Jesus’ growing credibility and admiration amongst the Jews, to the point that he is named in the bible as having been targeted.
So he must have been aware – and Jesus, too. But, wait – what happened to him?
I realized I had never given Lazarus much thought other than the role he played in one of the most significant miracle stories of the bible and Jesus’ ministry. I had thought of him one-dimensionally and not considered the impact of his resurrection on his own life, but only as a prescient miracle of Jesus’ soon-to-be resurrection. I knew- know – Lazarus’ name but not anything close to his story.
The whisper from the verse, So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death was enough to make me think about how stories are told, what we know, what we don’t know and who is telling. I can’t think of a teaching or sermon I’ve studied or heard that explored the life of Lazarus beyond his resurrection. Not to say they aren’t out there – my quick internet search of his life surfaced myriad resources, sermons, and books too, chronicling all the named people in scripture. I have several such books in my office. And yet – how did I not ever think to wonder more about the only other person to be resurrected in the New Testament from the dead?
I think I am speaking more about emphasis in the story – what is highlighted, what we glean from the life of the different characters in the biblical narrative. And in this case, Lazarus. He has, to my mind, been typecast as the one Jesus resurrected and the emphasis on that story – his story – is rightly with Jesus, the one ordained to save.
But the Holy Spirit didn’t intend for us to ignore or typecast or presume so little about Lazarus beyond his resurrection. He wouldn’t be named at this point in the gospel were there not an intention for us to wonder and to learn more about him. I think he is mentioned by John to beg the question, what happened to him?
Apparently, he fled the area once he learned the chief priests had targeted him along with Jesus. Fled? Well, maybe not fled – but he did not show up with Jesus days later as Jesus made his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. Lazarus is nowhere to be found and there is no further mention of him in the bible. Plenty of online resources will fill in the story of Lazarus – of what became of him (Wikipedia‘s is good, actually) that you might find of interest. Lazarus lived long past Jesus – perhaps as much as thirty years. And though his role – his part, ends at John 12:10 in the bible, God purposed him for a life that glorified his maker. He died in Cyprus and is known today as St. Lazarus of Bethany.
Point is, the Holy Spirit pauses us to wonder about Lazarus today for a reason. To think about his life – what it may have been like, how he was transformed, where he went, why he fled and abandoned his friend Jesus instead of walking with him to Jerusalem. These are the questions raised before me this morning – something about friendship and relationship is being stirred up – about Jesus as our friend – how we take from him but don’t give back, how we delight in him but flee his presence when we feel attacked or vulnerable. And how we may yet live a life that glorifies God even when we flee. Bottom line? It may be our story, but it is all for God’s glory.
I’ll be thinking on these things, today. Maybe you will, too. I’m thankful for the prompt from the Spirit, to stop – to pause – to account for all the little dots and details woven into God’s Word that point me to Him and to how I am called to live a life that glorifies Him.
Our story – Lazarus’ story? Yes, for God’s Glory.