This is being written on April 6th, the fifth Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Passiontide. The gospel this morning was the raising of Lazarus and this story, according to some theologians, is where the ÂtideÂ really turns against Jesus. JohnÂs gospel which can be divided into two parts. The first part is the one about the Signs that Jesus performed. The second is about ChristÂs ÂGlory,Â a word John uses all the time to talk of the Passion: JesusÂ arrest, torture, crucifixion and death. For John the glory of GodÂs love in Christ shows forth through these terrible events:
For God so loved the worldÂ Â
The raising of Lazarus is the last of JesusÂ Signs but also the event that determines the religious authorities to have him killed, rather than the remarks he makes about the temple, according to John. What happens, other than the most extraordinary event that would make you think they would turn to Jesus (the raising of Lazarus) to bring them to this pitch of fear and hatred?
There is some evidence in the text that there is a breakdown in attitude within the religious authorities themselves. At the end of the set gospel we read this,
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. (John 11:45)
When John writes Âthe JewsÂ this is his shorthand for the antagonistic Jewish authorities, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Priests Â those who stood for the status quo and were against Jesus from the start. Before this incident with Lazarus there is a sense of a united front amongst the authorities, but here we read that some start to believe in him. If our gospel reading had gone on a little further we would have read:
But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the councilÂ Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to themÂ Â50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.Â
The greatest fear when it comes to power is when those who we thought were on our side and thought as we did, change sides. Our position is crumbling. The authorities had begun by ridiculing Jesus. As his influence grew so did their smear campaigns and their intellectual attack. Now, afraid as they see even their friends succumbing to his influence and the terrible threat of Roman reaction, they are determined Jesus must be eliminated.
We may not think we are prone to such reactions but perhaps we should look at ourselves more closely; look at the way you feel about your culture, your belief system and your politics. Who threatens you? Who would you like simply not to be around so that you could be a little more comfortable inside your skin; a little less disturbed? And where does our pre-conditioned prejudice stop us from seeing and hearing the truth.