Today’s reading: John 11:28-57
It’s the shortest sentence in the Bible and if you think about it, it is kind of a strange idea. Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus cry at the death of Lazarus?
I know why I cry when someone dies. They are lost to me. They won’t be around anymore. And although I trust in the mercy of the Lord, I don’t know for certain that they have been granted entrance into heaven – they could be in purgatory or even hell.
However, Jesus does know. Jesus knows that Lazarus is not truly dead. Jesus knows that in just a few moments he will raise Lazarus. Why then does Jesus weep?
The text says that Jesus loved Lazarus. Most suggest that Jesus’ weeping is the “natural” reaction to death. I think that has some merit but I think the real reason is slightly different. I think Jesus weeps because Lazarus has to experience something that none of us were supposed to experience. I think Jesus weeps because death is unnatural. Jesus cries because God loves man and man, because of the fall, has to experience something hard, something he never was supposed to experience.
There is another interesting aspect to this story. Today, we see the first appearance of the high priest Caiaphas.
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. John 11:45-53
Caiaphas is the high priest who will lead the crowd against Jesus and bring about Jesus’ crucifixion. He has become corrupt. Even though he hears of Jesus raising the dead Caiaphas is more concerned about the political situation with the Romans than the spiritual well-being of the people and nation. But EVEN THOUGH Caiaphas is corrupt and unfaithful the Holy Spirit STILL PROPHESIES through him because OF HIS OFFICE. Caiaphas held the office of high priest under the old covenant and even though he had become personally sinful the office still retained its authority.
This is the same as under the New Covenant. There may be bad, sinful and even corrupt clergy but the Authority of the Church continues. Jesus gave the Church authority and only Jesus can take it away. If the sin of Caiaphas, plotting the death of the Son of God, could not negate the authority of his office, then we see that sin does not negate authority. The Holy Spirit still works through the Church and always will. The bible clearly teaches that under the New Covenant the relationship between the Church and the Lord is even closer than the relationship between God and the Temple in the old covenant. We are told that the Church is the Body of Christ in the world, the fullness of him who is all in all. We are told that the Church is the Bride of Christ – and the two shall become one flesh. We are told that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of Truth (and the Lord is the Truth). Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church. Such a close bond cannot be severed by any human weakness. In fact, it is established that way because of our human weakness. It is because we are weak that we need a Church that is so closely connected to God. Look what has happened when men, in their weakness, broke away from the Church. Truth is now up for debate and thousands of denominations proliferate, each one claiming to have reestablished something that was lost, each one claiming to have begun again with truth, yet none able to agree on even the simplest fundamentals. We are weak and therefore we need a pillar, a bulwark, to be established and unmoving, the eternal source of Truth.
Tomorrow: John 12:1-26