Seeing is believing.
You’ve heard it; I’ve heard it. In a lot of areas of life, we function this way. You tell me you can jump over the moon; I want to see it. I may be from Texas, but I feel sometimes “Missourian”: show me. And if you’re actually able to jump over the moon, I am now burdened with a choice. Do I believe what I’ve seen or do I doubt what’s in front of my eyes?
Seeing isn’t just believing. Seeing is divisive. Seeing demands a choice.
The story we have been seeing the last few weeks has finally reached its conclusion: Lazarus has been raised from the dead. And there were a lot of witnesses (see John 11:1-44). Chronologically, the raising of Lazarus has just occurred and it doesn’t take long for news to travel.
Here’s how that starts in John 11:45-48.
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”John 11:45-48
New International Version
We should be used to it by now, but Jesus divides. There is no middle ground: either He is who He claimed to be or He’s a liar or crazy—He might be many things IF He wasn’t telling the truth about Who He is but He would certainly not be God the Son wrapped in flesh.
The mourners with the family of Lazarus (Martha and Mary are two we know about) had seen this miracle. Mourning was not just an individual activity in the Jewish world—it was a corporate activity. And this crowd of mourners also witnessed the defining “sign” of Jesus’ earthly ministry here-to-date: the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
This “road sign” pointed squarely and brazenly to the identity of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.
Many Jews (present) believed in Jesus as the Messiah (verse 45). This should come as no surprise to us. When lives are changed by the power of the Gospel, family and friends are typically drawn to see what happened. Lazarus was living, breathing proof of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
But some of those who witnessed this went to the Pharisees with this information. Although we may not know exactly why they did this, we do see the reaction of the Pharisees.
If Jesus started a revolution (and they had certainly seen enough revolutions in their lifetimes), then the Romans could come in and replace the Jewish government with one of their own. The Sanhedrin, of course, misunderstood Jesus’ motivations—He wasn’t that kind of King.
Fear is a powerful enemy. The Romans used this type of psychological warfare as well as they did physical warfare. When the Romans would conquer a region, nation, or city, they allowed a certain amount of “home rule.” In the case of the Jewish people, this means the Pharisees and Sadducees enjoyed positions of authority on the council and a high degree of prestige. Their fear was losing it to the Romans. And do you want to guess where they placed the blame? Jesus.
Fear was guiding their actions. They were so concerned with preserving what they considered valuable that they were only concerned with self-preservation. They didn’t entertain the possibility that Jesus might actually be telling the truth. Their focus was on the fear gripping them and the terror wrapping its bony fingers around their throats.
But their fear was based on losing power. Power, of any form, is addicting.
The division Jesus created resulted in a problem…a big one. Ironically, the Sanhedrin, which was incredibly torn by politics, agreed on one thing: they must solve this “Jesus problem”. That was worth more than their theological and philosophical differences. The interpretation of God’s Law could wait; this Jesus must be stopped!
When you see the Lord change someone’s life, what do you do? Do you run to Jesus in worship and greater belief in Him or do you run away from Him to find those who can help you fix your “Jesus problem”? After all, Jesus doesn’t always save the ones we think He should and He saves those whom we think He shouldn’t—or won’t.
Consider the reaction of those who saw this miracle. Consider your reaction when you see one. When you see it and are faced with this division, what will you do?