The Chief Priests condemned Lazarus to death. Why? Because Lazarus was a living testimony of who Jesus was.
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)
Lazarus was a walking talking witness that testified against the evil of his generation. He was also a walking talking witness of the goodness of God and the power of Jesus.
And who was Jesus? He was the Righteousness of God (1 Corinthians 1:30). That is, God’s truth, justice and mercy, walking the earth. In Him, we who were once condemned and without hope are justified. We are declared righteous, never to be condemned again.
It’s a powerful truth and when rightly understood should cause us to put a hand over our mouth in fearful wonder.
Being what it is – powerful – it is not surprising that the devil would very much like to have a dog in this race: To have standards of his own to determine who is in and who is out. And so he does.
In all societies, there are two, and only two, groups of people. The justified and the damned. And in every such society, it is the god of that system who gets to decide who sits where.
Justification is permanent (Romans 8:1). If one group is under condemnation, there is nothing that group can do to get right with the god of that society.
For the believer, the gospel takes care of this through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of a new creation.
Likewise, if a group is justified, there is nothing that group can do that will cause them to be ejected from the favour of that justification.
Living in a strange land, as we are, does not remove the categories. It just inverts them. Good becomes evil and evil becomes good.
When some politician declares that boys are girls and girls are boys, because, you know, feelings, he is applauded by the god he serves as a hip, cool and compassionate progressive. In other words, he is among the justified. He can’t be touched.
But if I respond to a 12-year-old boy who’s struggling with his identity by saying that there are plenty of young men who once felt that same struggle but who grew out of it with age, the streets are suddenly lined with placard-wielding hangmen in rainbow vests.
In that situation, the god of this present darkness, along with his servants, will quickly pronounce damnation on me. Whether I am actually right or not doesn’t matter. I have offended and blasphemed the new righteousness, the new ‘cool’, and nothing short of exclusion, condemnation and death will do.
As long as I maintain my Christian position, as long as I am a living witness of Jesus, I am never going to be justified by the god of this system – and neither was Lazarus.
But I don’t want that gods’ approval and neither did Lazarus – and neither should you. Lazarus had united himself to Jesus and was sitting beside true righteousness. A righteousness that the priests condemned to death, but which God would raise from the dead.
And so, like Jesus, Lazarus found himself condemned by the little gods of his day.
I suppose he could have sought their justification if he had wanted to, but it would have meant leaving Jesus and joining Judas.
And you can’t have it both ways.