Why Kill Lazarus?
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to read the sentence without some incredulity.
John records, “…The chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death…” (John 12:10). Think about that word–“priests.” It’s plural. One spiritual leader didn’t scheme to murder Lazarus; many spiritual leaders schemed to murder Lazarus. And these guys were supposed to be the religious right–the moral elite of ancient Jewish society!
The ESV says, “…The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” “As well…” In truth, they didn’t want to murder just one man, but two. They wanted to kill Jesus (cf. 11:53) and Lazarus.
“Why?” you may ask. Re-read John 12:9-11. A great many Jews believed in Jesus. And why did a great many believe in Jesus? Because Lazarus had been raised from the dead.
Remember that the Sadducees taught that there was no resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-28). Unfortunately for them, Lazarus illustrated that their dogma was at obvious variance with the Biblical data. He was a living, breathing entity despite the fact that he had been entombed for four days (11:39).
Lazarus was concrete evidence to the contrary; he was the doctrinal deathblow to their misguided, man-made tradition.
It was impossible for the chief priests to argue with or against him. Any sane, thoughtful, sincere individual wouldn’t even attempt to debate with Lazarus. He was absolute proof that Jesus could perform miracles. He was the undeniable corroboration of the divinity of Christ (cf. John 20:30-31).
And that’s why the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus and Jesus.
A few thoughts rattle around in my neocortex as I ponder this curious incident:
- If Jesus could resurrect a dead man, why did the chief priests entertain the idea of killing Lazarus in the first place? Couldn’t Jesus resurrect Lazarus again, if he so desired?
What this teaches me is that you can’t expect coherent thinking and behavior from people who insist on upholding their agenda over truth.
- If Jesus could, and obviously did, bring a dead man back to life–as Jesus had also done on previous occasions–e.g., the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-56)–wouldn’t that serve as affirmation of His divine power? Had the chief priests really thought about the futility of trifling with the miracle Man of God?
The chief priests in John’s story remind me of a critical point: unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence; unbelief is due to a lack of conviction. People don’t reject the truth because there are no facts; they reject the truth despite the facts.
Even when there is incontrovertible testimony, some folks simply choose not to believe. If their hearts are hard and their motives are impure, you can expect them to be antagonist towards truth and to engage in sinful, destructive behavior.
On the other hand, if their hearts are soft and their motives are pure, you can expect them to investigate, believe in, and follow the Lord.
- Was the world created in six literal days?
- Is there life beyond this transient walk?
- Is immersion necessary in order to be saved from sin?
- Is it possible to live in adultery?
- Is homosexual behavior sinful?
It depends. It depends on whether or not a person wants the truth and is willing to follow it to its inevitable conclusion. The chief priests weren’t willing to do that. Dear reader, are you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10)?