Small Voice Calling > The Call > Moved to Tears > Adventure

The Song: Adventure

The day that Jesus
Arrived in Jerusalem
The adventure almost over
That night he hadn’t slept
Dreams and premonitions
Made him tired and emotional
And that’s why Jesus wept

The Bible: The raising of Lazarus

The Gospel according to John, Chapter 10, Verse 22 to Chapter 12, Verse 1 (John 10: 22 – 12: 1).

The Story:

Jerusalem, December, c. AD32. The Feast of the Dedication of the Temple.

The city heaves with pilgrims. Street vendors vie for their trade, pick pockets for their purses. Roman soldiers patrol the walls, keeping the peace. The pax Romana.

That’s the rub. The ancient scrolls promised Yahweh’s shalom. But two hundred years ago the Greeks desecrated our holy altar. We drove them out and rededicated the Temple, but our freedom did not last long. Now we are occupied by the Romans, and we ask God the Old Question: “When are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” There is no sign of God’s answer.

Or is there? There is a growing expectation among the common people that a radical young cleric might be the Anointed One. The promised Messiah. In Greek, the Christ. There have been others, of course, down the years, but so far none has delivered. But this one is different. Even his name fits the bill – Yehoshua, Yahweh saves. Yeshua to his friends. Or Jesus. He comes into our provincial synagogues and reads the scrolls with an unnerving authority. He comes into our poor homes and heals our sick with a word.

Now he’s here, in the Temple court, openly preaching – and drawing large crowds. The religious authorities – the Temple elite – have their eyes on him, and make sure their spies are in the crowd. The last thing they need is a rabble-rouser. The Romans won’t stand idly by if things get out of hand.

Jesus speaks freely about God, and calls him ‘Father’. He says that everything he does is with the Father’s authority. He says that he and the Father are ‘one’. That’s it! He’s claiming to be God. The penalty for blasphemy is death. Rent-a-mob distributes stones and tries to have Jesus lynched. Not for the first time, Jesus ducks and flees the city.

Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, lived in Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. Lazarus was ill, so his sisters sent for Jesus, who was staying with friends across the valley. Out of the way. Jesus did not respond to the call immediately – he delayed two days, then announced, “Our friend Lazarus is dead. Let’s go to him.”

By the time they got to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried four days. Martha, Mary and the professional mourners from the city, met Jesus on the road. “Had you been here”, the sisters told him, “Our brother would not have died.” Seeing their distress, Jesus wept. He had the stone removed from the burial cave, and ordered Lazarus to come out.

Line drawing by Annie Vallotton
from the Good News Bible

And he did! In his burial shroud, stinking of death – but alive again.

Many of the mourners, who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, believed Jesus was the Messiah. But the Temple spies hurried back to Jerusalem to report to the religious authorities. The ruling party – the Sadducees – thought that once you were dead, you stayed dead. So they saw this claim of a ‘resurrection’ as a direct challenge to their authority. Worse, Jesus was attracting ever larger crowds, and the Romans would be getting twitchy. So they called a meeting and decided the only way to put a stop to the escalating situation was to have Jesus killed. (And Lazarus, too. Properly dead, this time.)

So Jesus retreated again, to the countryside, with his closest friends. But the Feast of Passover was fast approaching, and many pilgrims were making their way to Jerusalem, hoping that Jesus would be there too. And the Temple spies were out in force with orders to have Jesus arrested on sight.

Six days before the Feast, Jesus returned to Bethany. He would be in Jerusalem for Passover.