Preached FCCW, April 7, 2019
In the town of Bethany in Judea there was a party going on. You could say that it was a welcome home party, but what an understatement that would be! I dare say that there has never been a homecoming to compare with what was being celebrated that evening.
Lazarus sat at the dinner table. He had returned from a unique journey. Not from a trip to some far-off land, but from a four-day sojourn within a sealed tomb. Lazarus, you see, had been raised from the dead.
As remarkable as it was for him to be present among the living though, he was not even the guest of honor at this party. His presence was overshadowed by another that night. Jesus, who had been the one who had brought him back to life. It was for him that they were celebrating.
|The last time Jesus had passed through Bethany it had been to attend Lazarus’s funeral. When he got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus commanded some of the mourners to roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. Then he prayed to Heaven, shouted into that dark hole in the rock, “Lazarus! Come out!” and waited… for the impossible to happen.
Now, there was Lazarus sitting at the table with him and his disciples. Yes, this was a welcome back party. What almost nobody realized was, that it was also a farewell party. In fact, the Greek word that John uses for this dinner will be used only one other place in his gospel. That will be for Jesus’s last dinner with his disciples on the night before his death. What we will commemorate this morning in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
For all the joy of this evening among friends there was also a sense of destiny and inevitability. Bethany was only 2 miles from Jerusalem. Close enough that the walls of that great city could almost cast their shadows over the house where Jesus and his friends ate this night. Jesus alone knew that a final farewell waited only 6 days and 2 miles from the doorstep of the house where they dined together.
You see not everyone who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the grave or who heard about it from eye witnesses thought that it was grounds for a celebration. Those people who were already troubled by Jesus’s ministry and who were growing increasingly concerned about his spreading popularity were more desperate now than ever. How could they stem the tide of believers rushing to follow Jesus when this news got around? If they did not do something to put and end to this, surely the Romans would, and everybody would end up suffering. Better that one man died then many innocent people. So, they made up their minds to find a way to eliminate Jesus and Lazarus who was living, breathing testimony to Jesus’s power and the authenticity of his ministry.