“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.” (John 12:9–11, ESV)
While Jesus had not yet returned to Jerusalem, He was very close. He had returned to the site of His greatest work—the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It was this even that seemed to have tipped the scales and captured to belief of more of the Jews than any other He had done, and it was one that happened very close to home. In fact, for the chief priests and the Pharisees it happened much too close to home, and now hearing that both men were gathered together in one place they saw it as a prime opportunity to eliminate not only the miracle worker but the miracle, the One who came to declare the Word of God and the one who was given back his life to demonstrate its power.
I thought about including this passage into the next several or adding it to the last, but sitting on it a bit I realized that these brief verses which contain none of the words of Jesus do contain a heart attitude which Christians have faced throughout history and are facing in many ways today. The world cannot lay hands on Jesus. He has already gone to the cross, been buried, and raised from the dead just as the Scriptures had foretold (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He has already ascended to heaven and has sat down again at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). These things are done, and He will not return fully to this place until He returns at the end of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21). The big and significant interruption is that He will one day, and hopefully very soon, return in the clouds to take His church up to Himself (Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Just as His religious persecutors could not touch Him until His time had come, now that His time has come no one can ever touch Him again.
But this is not true of us. When Jesus went to the cross, Lazarus remained. We don’t know if they ever laid hands of Him because this is the last we hear of Him. With Jesus’ crucifixion they may have taken their sights off of Lazarus thinking they had cut the head off of the movement. But we know that no one touched Him unless God let Him be touched, and because He was touched we all have been given life and stand firmly planted in eternity. This is true regardless of what man may do to us now. There is nothing the enemy can do to rip us from God’s hands. We are firmly in His grasp. There is no one who can separate us from His love. Jesus is our intercessor and our advocate.
Having said this, however, we also know that God has not yet removed us from this place and while we remain we will have to endure trials of all sorts. But in enduring these trials we know first and foremost that Christ endured much more for us, and because of what He did we have been guaranteed life. When man thinks he wins by striking us down, what really happens is that his efforts are proven futile as we step into the presence of God. Man cannot do what God does not allow. We live in a world that is racked with the ravages of sin and death. There is much evil rampant around us, and God knows this very well. It was because of man’s lost-ness that Christ came. And it is because of man’s salvation that God endures and restrains the evil one without fully removing us. We may not understand all of this, and we truly grieve at the atrocities around us, but even in this we do so as ones who have hope.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, just before He stopped to pray He told His disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV) Later on in life John wrote, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, ESV) The world’s plans are already doomed. That’s just the way it is.