Today the Eastern Orthodox church commemorates “Lazarus Saturday.”
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)
On the day before the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday, John records that a great crowd of Jews came to Bethany because of Lazarus’ resurrection.
“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 12:10-11)
I have heard many sermons glorifying modern-day stories of miraculous resurrection, but when Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead, the religious authorities sought to put the resurrected man to death. And the next day in Jerusalem, the witnesses to Lazarus’ resurrection continued to bear witness, which only provoked the Pharisees. (Jn. 12:18-19)
The disciples are probably wondering why Jesus’ soul is “troubled.” Lazarus had become an overnight celebrity. Many of the Jews were turning to Jesus! Christ’s most public and powerful miracle was bringing a great number of converts even days later, as the witnesses testified that Lazarus had truly risen from the grave.
But Jesus knew his mission. He knew that he was going to Jerusalem to die, and he knew that publicity means trouble for the Son of God. Only with great difficulty did any of his disciples perceive that he was going to die. When the disciples are celebrating success, and the Pharisees are conspiring to end it, Jesus alone understands the full picture. During this weekend before Passover, Jesus truly was alone in a crowd.
Jesus had done several other great miracles, but he had kept away from the spotlight. During other resurrections, he strictly forbade most people from being there. The feeding of the five thousand was stupendous, but it happened in the wilderness; now, he knew that his hour had come.
In many different passages, Jesus calls it “his hour,” or “the hour.” (Matt. 26:45, Mark 14:41, John 2:4, 12:27, 13:1, 17:1) He calls it the hour that the Son of Man is glorified, and the hour that the prince of this world is cast out.
This trouble is exactly where Jesus is meant to be in his mission. The Father did not keep him from all confusion or pain. He knew that he was being placed in the hands of a mob, and worse. But he knew that his trouble would not last forever. The devil, who had waited so long for that “opportune time” to trouble the Son of God (Luke 4:13), would now be cast out. By his death and resurrection Jesus enabled believers to triumph over the “prince of this world.”
Jesus, you faced trouble for the sake of your mission, knowing that God would turn what others meant for evil into good. Strengthen us now; give us vision to see that our own trouble may issue out in good for others.