I’ve always been fascinated with the last week of Jesus’ life. About one third of the gospel record is devoted to this very short period of time, so the details matter a great deal. We know that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead, but did you ever notice that they wanted Lazarus dead too?
About a week before Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany to spend some time with his friends, Lazarus (who had recently been miraculously revived from the dead by Jesus) along with Mary and Martha. With the approach of Passover, the Jewish leaders knew they had an opportunity to rally against Jesus, humiliate Him, and even had hopes of seeing him dead. But notice John 12:10-11,
Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. (NLT)
Wow. The jealousy of the leaders toward Jesus had turned to irrational rage. No doubt they justified their feelings and intended behaviors on the grounds that they were the protectors of God’s established order of things, which Jesus had shaken up. But not only did they want Jesus dead, but anyone whose life gave testimony to the life-changing power of knowing Him.
For me, Lazarus highlights an essential element of Christ-following we often would like to ignore. To truly follow Jesus by faith and identify with Him publicly and openly means to be so associated with Him that you’re hated as His representative.
Contrast Lazarus with Joseph of Arimathea…
(After Jesus died) Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body down.
~ John 19:38, NLT (emphasis mine)
This is not a rant against Joseph so much as it is a call to so fully follow Jesus that we are perfectly willing to be fully and openly identified with Jesus no matter the cost. There are places and times when being a disciple of Christ is fashionable, but those times in history are very rare. Fully following usually means a repudiation of prestige and sometimes even the loss of friends, family, votes, jobs, or even life itself.
Here’s the simple question. Would people who hate Jesus hate you too?