The Cautionary Tale of the Chief Priests
After Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and after He is anointed with oil by Lazarus's sister, Mary the time had come for Jesus to make his last journey into Jerusalem--His triumphant arrival as the King of Israel. The Gospel of John reports that the chief priests, who eventually turned our Lord and Savior over to Roman authority as a criminal were already making plans to have Jesus killed.
Interestingly though, the Gospel also accounts of the plan to kill Lazarus as well:
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
It is not immediately clear why the chief priests wanted to have Lazarus killed. We know that Jesus represented a serious and direct threat to their position of authority as leaders over the Jewish people and because of this it makes sense that they would seek to kill Him. But Lazarus?
As far as we can tell, Lazarus was not an influential man. He is not mentioned in the book of Acts or in the writings of Paul or the other apostles as an important player in the church after Christ's resurrection. We know that Lazarus and his sisters were devout disciples of Christ, but for some reason (which we've already contemplated in previous posts) they did not travel with Him and instead remained at Bethany. We have no reason to believe he was a rich man--it certainly wasn't noted in scripture at any point.
Nevertheless, Lazarus elicited enough animosity from the chief priests that they sought to kill him too, strictly because of his testimony! Lazarus was only a threat because he knew the Truth. He knew, probably better than anyone else on the earth at the time that what Jesus Christ was claiming about Himself was absolutely the Truth. Because of the man's testimony, they sought to kill him--to kill any influence he may have had over their congregations and they wanted to kill the (probably small) sphere of influence he possessed.
How true is this even today? When those that have left the message of William Branham begin speaking out against its false teaching and false foundations message believers, instead of addressing the issues being raised or disputing the facts seek instead to kill the influence and reputation of those speaking out. They are called names, false accusations are made against them, and rumors are spread. When that doesn't work other more sinister methods are employed until their reputations are destroyed or they are unable to carry on because of other pressures placed upon them.
But the bottom line is this: if the Jewish leadership had their eyes truly set upon God and upon seeking out the Truth there would have been no need to plot the deaths of Lazarus and other early Christians. There would have been no desire to falsely accuse Jesus. Instead, they would have done all in their power to demonstrate His false teachings--to show that what he was claiming was wrong scripturally. Their tactics to subvert Jesus's ministry is very telling.
Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD." The context of this verse is a call for those that follow and love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to come before the Lord and determine right and wrong--to think over the things that they are doing, even the high religious things that are done unto God. To take all of the sacrifices, prayers, thoughts, and daily interactions with others and determine he correct course. Not through blind obedience to tradition or one man's instruction--but to lay out the whole, and determine the right course of action from all the available evidence--by the leadership of the Spirit of God to find the Truth.
That is essentially what we all should do, is it not? Come to the Lord in humility and find out the Truth for ourselves. Otherwise, we are simply bringing the Lord our meaningless offerings and though we be as outwardly perfect as the priests were, our hearts can never truly please the Lord and we will remain ineffectual in His Kingdom.
The next time we come across a challenge to our faith let us not seek to kill the influence and testimony of the individuals or group of individuals that are causing the unrest. Instead, let us all humble ourselves and allow for the possibility that we are wrong. By the leadership of the Holy Spirit, let's prayerfully consider all things, treating nothing with undue contempt before first testing it (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). Let us remember to build our house upon the solid rock of Truth--upon the solid rock that is Jesus Christ and His words (Matthew 7:24-27). In order to do that though we must we willing to step outside of our comfort zones.
Message believers (and others as well): it is okay to be wrong. It is okay to admit that you believed something that wasn't true--we have all been there. It does hurt the pride of man, but at the end of the day, it is better to face things head-on and know for sure of where you stand than to continue in uncertainty. It is better for your soul to humbly address challenges to your faith than to crucify the Truth by stubbornness and vanity.
Let's take the story of the chief priests throughout scripture as a cautionary tale about the downfalls of religious zeal that excludes the examination of opposition to one's beliefs. The cost in the case of the chief priests was the death of their Messiah at their own hands.
May we never be likewise guilty.