Lazarus, Come out!

Jn 10:22-39    Jesus is in Jerusalem in December 29AD for the mid-winter festival of Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) – the festival commemorating the dedication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC after it had been desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes.

Jesus is walking in Solomon’s Porch (see Map 12) when the people ask him to tell them if he is the Christ (the Messiah)? Jesus answers, “I have already told you, but you did not believe” (John 10:25). He continues, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). When Jesus declares “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30), the Jews attempt to stone him again for claiming to be God – blasphemy in their eyes.

Jn 10:40-42    Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem, follow the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho and cross the River Jordan (see 1 on Map 10), staying near the place where John baptised earlier (at Bethany, on the east bank of the River Jordan) (see John 1:28). Many people come to him and believe he is the promised Messiah or Christ.

Jn 11:1-3        At the beginning of 30AD, Jesus receives word that Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus is seriously ill. Lazarus lives at a different Bethany – the Judaean village on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles / 3 km outside Jerusalem, on the road from Jericho. The Bethany where Lazarus lives is about 18 miles / 30 km away from Bethany near the River Jordan – a full day’s journey.

Jn 11:4-6        Jesus delays leaving “to bring glory to the Son of God” (John 11:4).

Jn 11:7-16      After two days, Jesus and his disciples set off back to Jerusalem even though the disciples remind him that the Jews there tried to stone him a short while earlier.

Jn 11:17-44    When they arrive at Bethany, near Jerusalem (see 2 on Map 10), Lazarus has died and has been buried for four days in a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. Martha asks Jesus for a miracle, and Jesus reassures her with the words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will have life even though they die” (John 11:25). Jesus weeps when Mary declares, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). 

Jesus then goes to the tomb, gets the mourners to remove the stone from the entrance, and calls “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43) Lazarus comes back to life and the Jews take the cloth from around his face and remove the strips of linen that were traditionally wrapped around the hands and feet of a dead person.

 

An open tomb

An open tomb - Biblical Resources Institute, En Kerem  (John 11:41)

 

Jn 11:45-53    The Jews who had come to mourn with Mary are utterly amazed, and some of the eyewitnesses report the event to the Jewish council – the Sanhedrin. The chief priests are afraid that Jesus will start an uprising against the Romans – who may then revoke the powers of the chief priests. Caiaphas, the High Priest, argues “it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed” (John 11:50). So they plot to kill Jesus.

Jn 11:54          Jesus leaves Bethany and withdraws secretly to the village of Ephraim to escape being arrested by the chief priests and Pharisees (see 3 on Map 10).

 

Bethany

Bethany (meaning ‘house of figs’) was the home of Simon ‘the leper’ (see Matthew 26:6-13), and also of Jesus’s friends Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Their home was only 1½ miles / 2 km away from Jerusalem – a half hour’s walk across the Kidron Valley and over the summit of the Mount of Olives (see Map 10). So it was a convenient place for Jesus to escape from the crowds when visiting the city for the Passover festival (see John 12:1-11 & Mark 11:11).

Bethany was also the site of one of Jesus’s most amazing miracles, when Lazarus, who had died and had been laid in a tomb for four days, was brought back to life (see John 11:1-44). A Byzantine church was built here, adjacent to the cave that was identified as the Tomb of Lazarus, in the 4th century (see John 11:38). A second church was built to commemorate the miracle after the church was destroyed in an earthquake during the 6th century. From these churches, a passage cut through the rock gave access to the tomb.

In the mid 12th century, a Benedictine convent and church were built directly over the tomb, but both were in ruins by the 14th century when the original entrance to the tomb was turned into a small mosque (now called the Mosque el-Ozir).

Today, visitors to Bethany (now called al-Eizaraya meaning ‘home of Lazarus’) can enter the Tomb of Lazarus down steps leading to a new entrance cut through the rock by the Franciscans between 1566 and 1575. The modern Franciscan church was built on the site of the 4th century church in 1954, while a Greek Orthodox church was erected on the opposite side of the tomb in 1965.

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