Putting the Witness Away
John 12:9-11
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also…

1. The conduct of these men presents the chief difficulty in the way of the hope of some final universal salvation. For hardening themselves against Christ, they reveal the power of the human heart to become utterly blinded to the truth, even while the Life of Love is an increasing light round about it. The difficulty lies not in the nature of God or in the Cross of Christ, or in any temporal bounds put on the omnipresence of the Spirit of God; but the obstacle at which our knowledge must stop lies deep in the will of man and its fearful possibilities of evil.

2. The simple reason why they sought to put Lazarus to death was that "many of the Jews went away (from them) and believed on Jesus." But that thought was only an exaggeration of a common tendency of our human nature. For consider how natural it was. They had no special spite against Lazarus, but they did not wish to lose their power. As consistent Sadducees they could not allow his resurrection, but his existence was an unwelcome suggestion of its possibility, and an evidence of it which was misleading the people. Dogmatists must always close their minds against evidences of new truth. 1500 years later the same men would have put Lazarus to the rack until he recanted. 1800 years later they would have broken down his influence by misrepresentation and appeals popular prejudice in the organs of their sect. If we do not want to receive Christ or His truth, the next thing for us is to put away anything that may remind us of it. This is illustrated —

I. IN THE ATTITUDE OF COMMUNITIES TOWARDS NATIONAL DUTY. In the troubled days before the American civil war there were merchants who did not wish to have their profits stopped. Selfish politicians who for the sake of office and ease were willing to reject the truth of freedom, and ready to put down every Lazarus whose presence was leading the people away after the new faith.


1. In the book of the lives of martyrs and witnesses we find abundant illustrations in the conduct of the Roman emperors, in that of the papacy, and in that of the opponents of popular movements who refuse to inquire what unheeded truths are beneath them, or what more human gospel may be waiting to enter our cities.

2. An obvious exemplification is the counsel of irreligious men to put the Church or the Bible out of the way. Social Sadducees cannot secure their reign in an anarchic humanity, so long as the people have the Bible in their homes, and so long as the churches stand to bear witness to the gospel.


1. Christ draws nigh the cities of our souls in a duty, privilege, opportunity, clearer perception of truth. How do we receive His approach? We saw that it would interfere with our plan of life, disturb our ease, spoil our pleasure, leave us poorer, and we become afraid lest we should yield. And there was something near which reminded us of it. At least we could get rid of that. It may have been the sight of a friend; we avoided him: some spectacle of want or suffering; we passed by on the other side: some inward feeling or thought; we repressed it. So we remembered to forget that duty. We put its Lazarus where he would not trouble us.

2. Christ draws near sometimes in a new sense of faith, or hope, or possibility of life richer, truer, happier; and then we turn and other desires of life gather quickly round us, and the vision fades: we belong to the world again. We put that Lazarus also to death.

(Newman Smyth.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

WEB: A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

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