Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (John 11)

John chapter eleven is pretty much the turning point of John's gospel. Jesus does another miracle, and it's the biggest one, and after this it's just a countdown to Jesus's crucifixion.

Lazarus is sick, very sick, and his sisters, Martha and Mary, send a message to Jesus, knowing that Jesus is a healer. The Bible gives a side note that Mary is the one who anointed Jesus's feet, which is a scene we're going to see later in John's gospel. The SAB gives links to other anointing stories in the gospels, but I personally don't believe they are all the same story, because the details are off just enough. I'll save that for the actual story, though. The SAB links to an article discussing the possibility that Jesus was gay. I'm sure most Christians would dismiss the idea out of hand, but I myself have often wondered what Jesus's sexual orientation was. I don't believe Jesus ever actually had sex, but he was human, and the Bible says in Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
So I feel like Jesus was not asexual, just celibate.

The SAB puts a footnote on verse 15, but in the footnote, it quotes verse four; I'm not sure if this is an error, because these two verses are definitely related matter. Jesus says Lazarus is not going to die, which I'm surprised the SAB doesn't mark as Jesus lying, because I feel that you can't skirt it here; Jesus lied about Lazarus. Jesus waits two days to go to Lazarus, apparently so that Lazarus will be very dead. When he finally sets out with his disciples, he informs them that Lazarus is dead.

The question of "Must everyone die?" was talked about most recently in John chapter eight. It's actually very interesting that Martha talks about "the resurrection at the last day" because it shows that while Old Testament Jews didn't have much of an idea of an afterlife, there is some theology about it that's more sophisticated in the first century. However, Jesus tells her he's here to grant something else.

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, but a profound one; "Jesus wept." Jesus is not weeping for Lazarus, clearly, because he knows that situation is going to be cleared up in a moment. Jesus is weeping in commiseration with his friends who are in pain, because he feels their pain. Jesus feels for people, and isn't afraid to show his emotions. I feel that this is another way that people should strive to be like Jesus.

Jesus tells them to roll away the stone from the cave where Lazarus's body lay, and proceeds to pray. Should Christians pray in public? This is a good question, as Jesus does seem to say no to this practice in Matthew six. Yet here in our story, not only does Jesus pray publicly, but arguably for the purpose of showing off, which seems to be the point of the Matthew passage. I think the very specific point Jesus was making in Matthew was that there are people who pray in public because they want people to see how religious they are, when prayer should be about making a personal connection with God. I don't think what Jesus says in Matthew is intended to be a command so much as a guideline: prayer is not for showing off. While here in our passage, as I said, you could argue Jesus is showing off, it's not to make himself look better, but to reinforce the faith of the people in his audience. So, should Christians pray in public? Only if their motives are selfless in doing so.

Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave, and he comes out. Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead? The SAB is right that there were certainly people who came back from the dead before Jesus. The issue here is that the way in which Jesus rose from the dead was different. All of these people who came back from the dead listed on the page (except Samuel, who was just a spirit) were essentially revived; that is, they came back to being the live person that they were before. Jesus was resurrected, which, while the dictionary makes no particular distinction, is different in the Bible. Jesus came back, but not the same; he was in a glorified body which allowed him to be both physical and spiritual at the same time. Supposedly, this is what will happen to every believer in Jesus after they die, which is why 1Corinthians 15:20 talks about Jesus that way; Jesus's resurrection is the proof of more resurrection to come.

So the chapter ends with the Pharisees hearing about Jesus's miracle, and they are upset because they're worried that Jesus will become too popular and the Romans will have to put down a rebellion, ruining the way things are in Palestine. The high priest, Caiaphas, says not to worry, because they can see to it that Jesus dies to save everyone else, and apparently, while what he meant was that they would get Jesus out of the way, the Bible tells us that unknowingly he is being prophetic. Indeed, Jesus dies to save not just the nation, but the world. The Pharisees hatch a plot to have Jesus killed.

No comments: