Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews learned that Jesus was there. And they came not only because of Him, but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
I. THE ATTRACTION OF JESUS. "Much people of the Jews," etc.
1. He was attractive in his work. In the sick he had healed, the blind to whom he had given sight, and the dead he had restored to life, especially in his last miracle on Lazarus. In this he manifested:
(1) His complete mastery over death. Death had done its work completely; decomposition and corruption had set in. Lazarus had been in his grave for four days. The mastery of Jesus over death was complete in the miracle.
(2) His complete mastery over life. This was the secret of his mastery over death, because he possessed all the resources and energies of life. As the Prince of life alone he could be the Master of death. Death will only yield to almighty life.
(3) His unquestionable Divine power and mission. If this would not prove the Divinity of his Person and mission, no act of power ever could. It had this effect on all who were open to conviction. The supernatural and the Divine brought to counteract the forces of nature are ever attractive. They were pre-eminently so in this instance.
2. His work was attractive in him. Lazarus restored to life was his immediate and undeniable work, and Lazarus was attractive, and the people came, "not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also," etc. Lazarus was attractive:
(1) As the subject of the most wonderful changes. From life to death, and from death back to life again; and all the changes had taken place in a short period of time. He had only just returned from the land of death. A most wonderful phenomenon!
(2) As the subject of supposed strange experiences of life and death and restoration. His experience, perhaps, could not be related. All to him was like a pleasant dream of flitting beauty - broken music and delightful sensations which could scarcely be reproduced in human language but in very general and indefinite terms. He was only a babe four days old in the spirit-life. The first thing, probably, he could distinctly remember was to hear the voice of Jesus say, "Lazarus, come forth!" Many questions were doubtless put to him on the subject of his strange experiences, but nothing is recorded only as, having experienced such dispensations, he attracted many.
(3) As the living monument of the most wonderful Tower - the power of Jesus of Nazareth. They came to see Lazarus also, but he was attractive on account of what Jesus had done to him. He had many monuments, but this was his masterpiece, and from it every reflective and earnest mind would turn with reverence and awe to the great Artist.
3. He was very attractive at this time.
(1) He attracted very many people. "Much people of the Jews," etc. They came to know where he was. The miracle of Bethany had stirred up Jerusalem. He could not be hid. His fame now blazed with peculiar brilliancy.
(2) He attracted many in spite of difficulties. There was much popular prejudice and unbelief. He had the bitterest opposition of the leading spirits of the nation; wealth, learning, power, and authority in Church and state were against him. Every obstacle to the flow of the populace to him was placed in their way, but in spite of all, Bethany mightily attracted Jerusalem in those days.
(3) He attracted many to faith. "Many of the Jews believed on him." To attract attention, curiosity, general interest, and personal presence and attendance was but little to him, after all. Many came to Jesus, but believed not on him; they admired and even believed the work, but not on the Worker; but he attracted many to real faith - faith which was spiritual and lasting.
II. THE OPPOSITION OF HIS FOES. "The chief priests," etc.
1. Their opposition was really to Jesus.
(1) They opposed Jesus in Lazarus. The Master in the disciple; the great Operator in his work. They had nothing personally against Lazarus; but thought that they could not so effectively strike Jesus as through ]aim. He became the target of their hatred. This is not the first time, and certainly not the last, Jesus is persecuted in his followers, and his followers persecuted on his account.
(2) They opposed Lazarus because he was a loss to them. Because on his account many of the Jews went away - left them. The miracle of which Lazarus was the living monument attracted many from them. Their ranks were quickly thinned, and their reputation on the wane. This enraged their anger against Lazarus.
(3) They opposed Lazarus because he was a gain to Jesus. Many on his account left them and believed on Jesus. This, after all, was the sting of his offence. They could bear their own loss better than his gain; their own ebb than his flow. They would rather backsliding adherents should take any direction than this. This was a mortal offence. In connection with Jesus Lazarus had become intolerable.
2. Their opposition was most wicked and cruel.
(1) It involved murder. The taking away of life. This was the bitter end. They could go no further. They had no right to this. Life is sacred.
(2) It involved willful murder. "They consulted how," etc. Anyhow, only let Lazarus be put to death. It was not the impulse of the moment, the outburst of passion, but the deliberate and united act of the will. "They consulted," etc.
(3) It was the willful murder of the innocent. Jesus was innocent; but if to perform miracles and attract the people constituted real guilt, he was guilty. But what had Lazarus done? Was it an offence to be raised from the dead and breathe the old air, mix with old acquaintances, and enjoy the old life once more? True, he was a most genuine and dear friend of Jesus; but a most quiet and undemonstrative one, much beloved by his nation in life and mourned in death. In a sense he was the passive monument of a most benevolent and Divine power. And what could he help that his miraculous restoration engendered faith in Jesus? Blind and cruel bigotry could scarcely select a more innocent victim, nor contemplate a more wicked deed.
3. Their opposition was increasingly wicked and cruel.
(1) The death of Jesus was already determined. His life was already doomed as far as the Jewish authorities were concerned. There was a reward already offered for his capture.
(2) The death of Lazarus was now contemplated. Lazarus was the first contemplated martyr for Jesus on record. We have no proof that they carried out their purpose; probably not. They had Jesus, and this satisfied them for the time, and Lazarus escaped.
(3) One sin leads to another. Sin generates and multiplies very fast. The determination to murder Jesus led to the determination to murder Lazarus.
(4) The capacity to do the greater involves the capacity to do the less. If they can put Jesus to death, they can easily put Lazarus. The violent death of Jesus made the violent death of his follower a comparatively easy matter.
4. Their opposition was most foolish. Reason was off its throne. For:
(1) The death of Lazarus could not undo the miracle and its results. The miracle by this time was an established and an admitted fact. It had in a sense gone from Jesus and Lazarus and was a public property, and, whatever would become of them, the miracle would still remain. It was well known to these authorities, and there is no attempt to deny it, but a most foolish attempt to destroy it.
(2) The death of Lazarus could not prevent the performance of another miracle. It is foolish to attempt to dry the stream while the fountain is still springing. It was foolish to put Lazarus to death whilst Christ was still alive. They could not send his spirit so far to the invisible world that his voice could not reach and recall it. They could not hope to mangle his body to such an extent that the chemistry of his Divine power could not reunite it. He could cause Lazarus to appear before them and scare them, till they would be only too glad to let him alone.
(3) Lazarus was not the only monument of Christ's Divine power. He had hosts of them throughout the whole country. The destruction of all these monuments would involve such a massacre as would be beyond their power and authority to perpetrate. Their opposition was foolish.
5. Their opposition was pitiably futile.
(1) Physical death cannot destroy Divine life and energy.
(2) Physical death cannot destroy Divine purposes. They flow on like a mighty river, increasing in magnitude and force, and sweeping every opposition before them. The futile devices of priests and stratagems of Pharisees are seen carried away on its crested and sweeping flood.
(3) Physical death cannot destroy spiritual principles, but rather increase and intensify them. Faith, hope, and love can thrive in chains, feed on flames, and leap with life, even in death. If Lazarus were put to death and fell a martyr to these priests and never again return, thousands would leap to life from his grave and feed upon his ashes. The futility of physical opposition to truth was aptly expressed by the Pharisees, when some of that sect said, "Perceive ye not," etc.?
6. Their opposition came from an unexpected quarter. "The chief priests."
(1) They were in the best position to examine the genuineness of the miracle and understand its meaning. As a class they were educated and highly privileged. They were the leaders of religious thought, and one would naturally expect that they had sufficient philosophical insight and integrity, apart from their religious position, to inquire into such a strange phenomenon and accept its plain and inevitable teaching.
(2) They should be the foremost to accept the claims of Jesus, see in him the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the substance of all sacrifice - the Lamb of God.
(3) What ought to breed faith bred in them murder. The reason which led others to believe in Jesus, led them to hate and oppose him. The miracle of life revived in them the vilest passions for death. What stronger proofs of Christ's Divinity and Divine commission could they wish or have? How could faith be satisfied better than by an outward sign? And yet the reason for faith they want to destroy, and the light of faith they want to extinguish; the monument of faith they want to overthrow, and the object of faith they want to murder. What moral depravity and blindness does this reveal!
1. The leaders of the people have often been the bitterest opponents of truth and progress. They have opposed every true reform, and instead of leading the people to the light, they have stood between the people and it, and have attempted to extinguish it.
2. If the leaders of the people are so opposed to truth, what can be expected of the people themselves.
3. When they will not lead the people, the people should lead them and help themselves.
4. All people, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, have a true Leader in Jesus. - B.T.
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there.1. Where Christ pleaseth to make Himself known, He will get respect and followers, were there never so much hazard and opposition in the way; for albeit the Rulers had concluded to put Him to death, and He had withdrawn upon that, and they had given charge to spy Him out (chap. John 11:53, 54, 57), yet much people of the Jews, so soon as they heard of Him, they flocked to Him.
2. Christ gives so glorious proofs of His power and love, as may invite men to flock unto Him; for He hath with Him Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead, to make them flock unto Him.
3. It is an argument to persuade Christ to help His people in their difficulties, that by so doing, He not only doth them good, but doth also bring about the manifestation of His glory, and an increase of followers; for, by raising Lazarus, He draws them out to wait upon Him (Psalm 7:6, 7).
4. Albeit Christ will get glory, even by the unsound actings and appearings of men for Him (Philippians 1:16, 18; Psalm 66:8), yet it is the sin of many, that they flock to Him rather out of curiosity, than in sincerity, and that they choose rather to gaze upon His works, than fall in love with the worker; for such was their fault here. They were curious to see such a rare sight, and possibly also, to inquire somewhat of Him concerning the state of the dead.
Not for Jesus' sake only.I. SPECIFY SOME OF THESE ATTACHMENTS. Those whose attachment is influenced.
1. By custom. It was the fashion of the hour to be interested in Christ (vers. 12, 19). May we not truly say that the power of fashion has something still to do with assembling men about Christ.(1) For His sake only ought we to worship in the sanctuary; but we go also because the respectable multitude is there.(2) For His sake only ought we to give; but are not our givings prompted and regulated by social considerations?(3) For His sake only ought we to work; but do we not cast side glances at the public and reckon somewhat on their approbation?
2. By intellectual considerations. "For my sake," i.e., personal love to Christ ought to bind us to Him, and prompt all our obedience and service. "But that they might see Lazarus" — intellectual interest — learn something per. chance about the unseen world. Not for His own sake, but because of the light He may shed on great questions. How many in our day congregate about Christ as a prophet, and only faintly realize in Him a Saviour!
3. By secular considerations. Interest sways men in the matter. Virtues are valued as they pay; and Christ is chosen not for His own sake only, but also because of the immediate bearing that Christianity has on our worldly interest (chap. John 6:26).
4. By a regard to moral aesthetics. Not loving Christ only, enamoured with His grace and righteousness, but "cultivating holiness as so much personal adornment." Not loving Christ because He is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, but admiring Christianity because it fashions noble nations. Thus there may be much that is false and mixed in the feelings which lead men to throng Christ. Fashion is there, because Christ has acquired social credit: intellect is there, because Christ can satisfy some of the hunger of its curiosity: taste is there, because in the shadow of Jesus it can realize some of its ideals: and prudence and policy are there, not because Christ is truth and love, but because He creates loaves and fishes of which they eat and are filled.
II. THE PLACE AND VALUE OF SUCH ATTACHMENTS.
1. They may be allowed as the starting point of Christian discipleship. Many are drawn to Christ not by the highest, and yet by legitimate, motives. Their first ideas, motives, and hopes, mixed and inferior, and yet leading on to what is purer and more perfect. As Matthew Henry says, "God makes the best of the green ears of wheal"; and because He does so, the green ears become golden, fit for the garner of God.
2. But the prize to which we must all press is that of a personal love to Christ. For His sake only. Not only when He will answer our mental questionings, but also when He is silent; not only when He is fashionable, but when He is forsaken; not only when discipleship insures honour and wealth, but when it involves poverty and disgrace; not only because He makes us perfect, but because He is perfection. Conclusion — Jesus only.
1. Here we are safe.
2. Here we are supremely joyful.
3. Here we, forgetting everything else, shall find far more than we have forgot.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death:1. Such as betake themselves to bear down Christ do engage themselves in an endless vexing life and an harder task than they are able to undergo; for they who would kill Jesus would put Lazarus also to death. Yea, they would kill many who would kill all whom Christ made objects of His mercy, for inviting others to come to Him (Exodus 1:12).
2. Men once engaged in opposition to Christ will not readily be reclaimed by insuperable difficulties, nor the convincing beams of His glory shining in their eyes; for, albeit this was a glorious work prevailing on others, and albeit they see more and more impediments in their way, yet they will go on.
3. None are so malicious and bitter enemies to Christ as corrupt churchmen, when they once decline; for it is the chief priests who are so cruel as to kill a man for being the harmless occasion for drawing men to Christ and whom God had newly delivered from death, and testified He would have Him live.
4. It is the great preferment, and most special mercy that can be conferred on any when they are made means and instruments of advancing Christ's honour and kingdom; for this was Lazarus' dignity, that because many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus. It is not needful to assert that the faith of the most of them was sound, but the least degree of it in the worst of them was enough to irritate the rulers.
5. Such as have received special mercies from Christ, or are made instruments of His glory, may expect that they shall meet with a rub, and be made the butt of the malice of enemies; for there is a resolution against Lazarus' life, who was thus highly honoured.
6. How mad soever enemies be, or their projects cruel; yet they would be far enough from their point, if Christ pleased, though they got their will; for, suppose they had put Lazarus to death, could not Christ raise him up again as He had done even lately to their knowledge, and so make His glory shine yet more brightly?
(G. Hutcheson.)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.
II. IN THE ATTITUDE OF PERSECUTORS TOWARD THE GOSPEL.
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.
III. Is our OWN ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE TRUTH.
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.
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