Back with Lazarus: 26 February 2015

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri won international fame with his Raising of Lazarus. A local nobleman having lent him rooms in his house, Barbieri founded there an Academy of the Nude, where he and his followers were able to draw from the model. The figure of Christ in this painting relies on just such a study from life.

John 12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

Psalm 111 2Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures for ever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant for ever.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant for ever –
holy and awesome is his name.

To Bethany, the doubters went to watch a once-dead man eat. Lazarus may have been the first person in history to attend his own funeral dinner. It’s enough to make the blood run cold. But then, look! Jesus sat eating right beside him. Perhaps scores of villagers crowded about the house to peek in and have a look at Lazarus—back from the dead and eating once again.

The Pharisees attending this "resurrection sideshow" realised the wonder and yet did not retreat before it. They knew that if Jesus was going to be stopped, they needed to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. It would do little good to kill Jesus and leave Lazarus alive. Someone who was formerly dead would always stand as proof that Jesus—who had raised him—was someone of note. Perhaps what is most remarkable about this highly observed dinner is that the Pharisees never saw the wonder of it. They were out to kill Jesus’ reputation, even if they had to kill Jesus to do it. They could no longer widen their vision to see the wonder.

So much for the Pharisees. How about you and me?  Be careful. With such preoccupation the Pharisees lost the wonder of Jesus’ mighty acts . . . and forged a crucifixion.

Lord, when did I go from the vital to the busy? When did I trade the wonder of following Jesus for the business of playing church? Give me back my former love. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.