This past week I was reading through a passage of Scripture in preparation for our family worship time, and it hit me with renewed force—in a way that it hasn’t in the past. Perhaps I’ve been guilty of reading over this text too quickly or without giving the necessary attention. However, when I read John 12:9-11 this week with my family, it was clear—discipleship is dangerous. Today, we approach discipleship casually, but in the early days and all through church history—discipleship has always been dangerous.
The World Hated Lazarus Too
After the dramatic resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, the word undoubtedly spread faster than a California wildfire through Bethany and the surrounding regions. Not far from Bethany was Jerusalem—which served as ground zero for the religious establishment of the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin gathered in Jerusalem where the center of the religious life of the Jewish people was focused.
After Jesus claimed to be one with the Father and after Jesus claimed to predate Abraham (John 8:58), the gospel of Jesus was not exactly good news to the religious leaders of Israel. They hated Jesus because they felt threatened by his preaching and teaching. He taught as one who had authority—unlike the scribes of the day. Yet, Jesus was rejected by the religious community as the promised Messiah. Time and again, Jesus validated his claim of deity by controlling the wind and waves, feeding a multitude of people with a small boy’s lunch, and healing the sick. However, each time the skeptic would reject it by refusing to believe it actually happened as the witnesses stated.
Something was different about the miracle with Lazarus. Suddenly, it wasn’t like a storm that had long passed or a group of people on a hillside who walked away well fed. This time, it was a man who many people knew and had witnessed his burial in Bethany who was now walking around alive and well in the same town. People were coming from all over to see this man who once died and had now been raised by Jesus. Could it be true? Was Jesus really the Messiah of Israel? As a result—the religious community hated Lazarus too and plotted his death. Think about Lazarus for a moment. He had already died once apparently due to some unknown sickness and now he’s being targeted by the Jews. Certainly the thought crossed his mind that he wasn’t going to live to a ripe old age and then die in peace.
Why Did the World Hate Lazarus?
It’s not enough that they wanted Lazarus dead—again. Why did they want Lazarus dead? They wanted him dead in order to stop the spread of the gospel. They thought if they could kill Jesus and Lazarus, it would stop the spread of the good news, but as we all know—that is not the end of the story. Lazarus had been marked by Jesus, and as an intimate follower of Christ, they hated him too.
The text says that many people were coming to see Lazarus and as a result—they were placing their faith in Jesus. Anyone who has been marked by Jesus, changed by Jesus, and seeks to make that known to the world—that person can expect that the world will hate them too. No servant is greater than his master, according to Jesus (John 15:18-19). If the world hated Jesus, the followers of Jesus should expect nothing better. David Platt once remarked, “To everyone wanting a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger—stay away from Jesus.”
Discipleship is dangerous. The closest circle of Jesus’ followers were brutally murdered for following Jesus. Discipleship is teaching others and helping others to follow Jesus. That sounds like what Lazarus was attempting to do following his resurrection. As a result, the world hated Lazarus. Discipleship was far more than sitting around in the local Starbucks with a group of hipsters in Bethany for Lazarus. He was a marked man. He was making disciples and the world hated him.
Does the world have any reason to hate you? Have you had a spiritual resurrection (salvation) that has caused your life to be marked by Jesus? Does the world know about it? Is the devil threatened by it?
John 12:9–11 — When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.