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§ 232. The Death of Lazarus.—Christ’s Conversation with Martha (John, xi., 21-28) and with Mary (v. 33, 34).—Jesus Weeps (v. 35).

The intelligence of Christ’s approach to Bethany reached Martha sooner than her less practical sister. Mary, lost in grief, gave no heed to the busy world about her. The former went out to meet the Saviour; and when she saw him who had done so many mighty works, and whom she believed to be Messiah, a ray of hope beamed into her soul, but she hardly dared to cherish it. “Lord, hadst thou been here, my brother had not died; but I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” Jesus replied, “Thy brother shall rise again;” referring directly to her own words, and not to the future resurrection; for had he wished to give her that consolation, he would not have done it in such bare and naked terms. He wished to confirm her hope, but yet did it in rather indefinite language, either designedly, or because her impatience interrupted him. His language was too general to satisfy her feelings; she wished a definite assurance that Lazarus should be raised; and, therefore, said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day;” intimating what she did not venture to express, viz., her wish first mentioned. Christ made use of her misunderstanding (as was his wont) to lead her mind to the great central truth of religion—the ground of all the believer’s hopes —as the source of a new hope in her brother’s case. He points to himself as the true life, the source of all life, the author of all resurrection: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” He then asked her the direct question, “Believest thou this?” He intended to teach her that the faith of Lazarus had been rewarded by a life beyond the power of death; and that He, 341the author of the resurrection and of a life which death could not even interrupt, could now also call her dead brother back again to life.

Although she did not fully comprehend his words, they gave her new hopes; and, after expressing anew her faith in him as the Messiah—which included for her all things else—she hastened away to call her broken-hearted sister, who had not even yet heard of the Saviour’s approach. Nothing could rouse her from her profound and passive grief but her love for Him to whose words of life she had so often surrendered herself, as passively and humbly. She hastened toward Jesus. The Jews that were condoling with her in the house, fearing that she was going to her brother’s grave to give up to an excess of sorrow, followed after. She saw Jesus, but offered no such request as her sister had done; falling at his feet, she only cried, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Tears choked her further utterance; nor, indeed, was it her wont to anticipate Him whom her soul so revered and loved. The Jews around, sympathizing in her sorrow, could not refrain from tears.

And Jesus wept in the depth of his compassion. It has been inferred from this, that although he hoped to restore Lazarus, he was not, as yet, sure of it; had he been so (it is said), the consciousness that he was soon to turn the mourning into joy would have banished all grief from his mind. But surely the expressions of bitter lamentation, the tears and agony of all around, were enough to stir the corn passionate heart of Him who sympathized so deeply with all human feelings, even though he knew that he should soon remove the cause of grief itself. A physician (though the analogy is utterly inadequate), standing by the bedside of a patient surrounded by weeping friends, may well be affected by their grief, though he may be sure, so far as human skill can give surety, that he will heal the disease. And we must bear in mind, too, that Christ was Man as well as God; and that the blending of the Godhead and the manhood, the Divine infallibility with the human hesitancy, must, in the very nature of the case, offer many enigmas for our contemplation.

The Evangelist gives a graphic description of the effects produced upon the Jews around by the sight of the tears of Jesus. The better disposed saw in them only a manifestation of his love for Lazarus. Others affected to doubt the truth of his miracles; he loved Lazarus, and his family; why did he not save him? “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind,625625   Strauss finds a contradiction here between John and the other Evangelists: “The Jews quote only the curing of the blind; why did they not quote the raising of the dead, of which the other Evangelists give several instances?” But how do we know that these Jews at the city were acquainted with what had occurred in Galilee? Was it not natural for them to recur to the miraculous act performed by Christ in the city itself so short a time before, and which had excited such virulent opposition against him? If John’s Gospel were an invention, the inventor must have heard other narratives of Christ’s raising the dead; and had he wished, as must have been the case, to invent a stronger example than any of those recorded, he would surely have alluded to them. The question, then, is just as applicable if the narrative be fictitious as if it be true. have caused that even this man should not have died?

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