AS SPRING APPROACHED, Jesus again crossed into Perea. While He was there, word was sent to Him by Martha and Mary of Bethany that their brother, Lazarus, was sick. “Lord, behold,” they said, “he whom Thou lovest is sick.”
Christ sent back this message:
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that through it the Son of God may be glorified.”
After two days He said to the disciples:
“Let us go again into Judea.”
Pointing out the danger from His enemies, they sought to dissuade Him. “Rabbi,” they said, “just now the Jews were seeking to stone Thee; and dost Thou go there again?” But Jesus quieted their fears, the time for Him to suffer had not yet arrived.
“Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if he walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him. Lazarus, our friend, sleeps. But I go that I may wake him from sleep.”
The disciples misunderstanding this, He explained:
“Lazarus is dead; and I rejoice on your account that I was not there, that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Near Bethany they were met by Martha. She expressed her faith in Jesus’ power to help them, even though Lazarus was already four days dead. Jesus consoled her, saying:
“Thy brother shall rise.”
She thought He referred to the final resurrection, but Jesus corrected her:
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die. Dost thou believe this?”
She affirmed her faith in Christ, and went to summon Mary, who came to Jesus weeping, accompanied by the mourners, who had already assembled.
When He saw her tears, He groaned in anguish and said to her:
“Where have you laid him?”
Weeping, He went with them to the cave where Lazarus was buried. Then He said:
“Take away the stone.”
Martha began to protest, but Jesus said:
“Have I not told thee that if thou believe thou shalt behold the glory of God?”
The tomb having been opened, He looked upward and prayed, saying:
“Father, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast heard Me. Yet I knew that Thou always hearest Me; but because of the people who stand round, I spoke, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”
Then He called in a loud voice:
“Lazarus, come forth!”
At once the man who had been dead came up from the tomb, still wrapped in the cerements. And Jesus ordered the mourners:
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
A number of Jews from Jerusalem had witnessed the raising of Lazarus. Many of these were converted to believe in Christ. But some returned and told the Pharisees what Jesus had wrought. The Pharisees and chief priests then called a council to decide what could be done to offset the influence of this great miracle on the people.
They apparently expected some public disturbance would result which would involve reprisals by the Roman authorities. “If we let him alone as he is,” they said, “all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
Caiphas, the high priest, decided their course of action. “You know nothing at all; nor do you reflect that it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing.”
As Saint John comments, Caiphas was unconsciously delivering a prophecy: “He prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation; and not only for the nation, but that He might gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”
The high priest’s reasoning, that Christ’s life must be sacrificed for reasons of state, was obviously fallacious, but the council accepted his proposal; and from that day on their plan was to procure His death.
But the time for His suffering had not yet arrived, and Jesus withdrew to the town of Ephrem, in a rocky wasteland about fifteen miles north of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Passover was approaching, and the country people were already arriving in Jerusalem, for it was required that they be cleansed of their contact with Gentiles before celebrating the feast. In the Temple these people began asking where Christ was and whether He was not going to be present for the Passover. But the Jewish leaders who had formed the conspiracy against Christ had given an order that anyone seeing Jesus was to report to them so that they could arrest Him.
After about two weeks at Ephrem, Jesus and the disciples went down to Jericho, about fifteen miles southeast of the desert town. The disciples were troubled with vague fears, and to allay their anxiety, Jesus told them plainly what was going to happen to Him:
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written through the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and scourged and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death; and on the third day He will rise again.”
But they did not understand Him.
Meditation: We all must pay the penalty of death. But we, as Christians, do not believe it is the end of our lives–not even the life of the body, for belief in the resurrection means the resurrection of the body. Do I have the pagan attitude of the world toward this body of mine or do I reverence it as a “vessel of election” destined to share in eternal glory?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 183-186. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.