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tations of her brother's immediate resurrection; and leaving JESUS in the field, ran and called her sister, according to his order, being willing that both Mary and her companions should be witnesses of this great miracle.
Mary accordingly, no sooner heard that JESUS was come, than she immediately left her Jewish comforters, who only increased the weight of her grief, and flew to her Saviour: and the Jews, who suspected she was going to weep over the grave of her brother, followed her to that great prophet, who was going to remove all her sorrows. Thus the Jews, who came from Jerusalem to comfort the two mournful sisters, were brought to the grave of Lazarus, and made witnesses
of his resurrection.
Mary having approached the great Redeemer of mankind, fell prostrate at his feet, and in a flood of tears poured out her complaint, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. No wonder the compassionate JESUS was moved at so affecting a scene: on this side stood Martha pouring forth a flood of tears; at his feet lay the affectionate Mary weeping and lamenting her dear departed brother; while the Jews, who came to comfort the afflicted sisters, unable to confine their grief, joined the solemn mourning, and mixed their friendly tears in witness of their love for the departed Lazarus, and in testimony to the justice of the sisters grief, for the loss of so amiable, so deserving a brother. JESUS could not behold the affliction of the two sisters and their friends, without having a share in it himself; his heart was melted at the mournful scene, he groaned in spirit, and was troubled.
However, to keep them no longer in he suspense, asked them, where they had buried Lazarus; not that he was ignorant where the body of the deceased was laid: he who knew that he was dead, when so far distant from him, and could raise him up by a single word,
must know where his remains were deposited; to which they answered, Lord come and see. The Son of God,
now to prove that he was not only God, but a most compassionate man, and to shew us that the tender affections of a human heart, when kept in due bounds; that friendly sorrow, when not immoderate, and directed to proper ends, is consistent with the highest sanctity of the soul, joined in the general mourning : he wept, even at the time that he was going to give the most ample proofs of his almighty power.
Thus the Jews were convinced that he loved Lazarus exceedingly; but some of them interpreted this circumstance to his disadvantage: for, according to their mean way of judging, they fancied that he had suffered him to fall by the stroke of death, for no other reason in the world, but for want of power to rescue him. And thinking the miracle, said to have been wrought on the blind man, at the feast of tabernacles, at least as difficult as the curing an accute distemper, they called the former in question, because the latter had been neglected; Could not this man, said they, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
But Jesus took no notice of these questions; but grieving at the hardness of their hearts, and blindness of their infidelity, groaned again within himself, as he walked towards the sepulchre of the dead. At his coming to the grave, he said, Take ye away the stone. To which Martha answered, Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he hath been dead four days: or as the passage may be better rendered, hath lain in the grave four days. She meant to insinuate that her brother's resurrection was not to be expected. But JESUS gave her a solemn reproof, to teach her that there was nothing impossible with God; and that the power of the Almighty is not to be circumscribed within the narrow bounds of human reason, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?
Martha's objections being thus obviated, she with the rest, waited the great event in silence; and in pur suance of the command of the Son of God, took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. JEsus had on many occasions, publicly appealed to his own miracles, as the proofs of his mission, though he did not generally make a formal address to the Father before he worked this miracle; but being now to raise Lazarus from the dead, he prayed for his resurrection, to convince the spectators that it could not be affected without an immediate interposition of the divine power; 'Father,' said he, I thank thee, that thou hast heard me; and I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me: I entertained no doubt of thy empowering me to do this miracle, and therefore, did not pray for my own sake; I well knewthat thou hearest me always? I prayed for the sake of the people, to convince them that thou lovest me, hast sent me, and art continually owning the work I am come to do.
Having returned thanks to his Father, for this opportunity of displaying his glory, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. This loud and efficacious call of the Son of God, awakened the dead; the breathless clay was instantly re-animated, and he who had lain four days in the chambers of the tomb, obeyed immediately the powerful sound: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin; JESUS saith unto them, loose him and let him go.' It would have been the least part of the miracle, had JESUS, by his powerful word, unloosed the napkins wherewith Lazarus was bound; but he brought him out in the same manner he was lying, and ordered the spectators to loose him, that they might be better convinced of the miracle; for, in taking off the grave-clothes, they had the fullest evidence both of his death and resurrection. As on the one hand, the manner which he was
swathed, must soon have killed him, had he been alive when buried; and consequently demonstrated, beyond all exception, that Lazarus had been dead several days before JESUS called him again to life. Besides, in stripping him, the linen offered both to their eyes and smell, abundant proof of his putrifaction; and, by that means, convinced them that he had not been in a trance, but was really dead; on the other hand, by his lively countenance appearing, when the napkin was. removed, his fresh colour, and his active vigour, they who came near and handled him, must be convinced, that he was in perfect health, and had an opportunity of proving the truth of the miracle, by the closest examination. There is something extremely beautiful in our Lord's behaviour on this occasion; he did not utter one upbraiding word, either to the doubting sisters, or the malicious Jews, nor did he let fall one word of triumph or exultation: Loose him and let him go, were the only words we have recorded: he was in this, as on all other occasions, consistent with himself, a pattern of perfect humility and self-denial.
Such was the blessed work wrought by the Son of God at Bethany. And in the resurrection of Lazarus, thus corrupted, and thus raised by the powerful call of JESUS, we have a striking emblem, and a glorious earnest of the resurrection of our bodies from the grave at the last day; when the same powerful mandate, which' spoke Lazarus again into being, shall collect the scattered particles of our bodies, and raise them to life.
So astonishing a miracle performed in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, before a multitude of specta tors, many of them his enemies, could not fail of being the common topic of conversation, and of producing different effects upon different persons. Many believed that JESUS could be no other than the great Messiah so long promised; while others, who still expected a temporal prince, and therefore unwilling to acknowledge him for their Saviour, were filled with indigna
tion, particularly the chief priests and elders. But this miracle, as well as all the rest he had wrought in confirmation of his mission, was too evident to be denied; and, therefore, they pretended that his whole intention was to establish a new sect in religion, which would endanger both their church and nation: Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
The common people, astonished at his miracles, will if we do not take care to prevent it, certainly set him up for the Messiah; and the Romans, under pretence of a rebellion, will deprive us both of our liberty and religion. Accordingly, they came to a resolution to put him to death: this resolution was not, however, unanimous; for Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and other disciples of our Saviour, then members of the council, urged the injustice of what they proposed to do, from the consideration of his miracles and innocence: but Caiaphas the high priest, from a principle of human policy, told them, that the nature of government often required certain acts of injustice, in order to procure the safety of the state: Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole na▲ tion perish not.
The council now having determined to put JESUS to death, deliberated, for the future, only upon the best methods of effecting it; and, in all likelihood, agreed to issue a proclamation, promising a reward to any person who would deliver him into their hands. For this reason, our blessed Saviour did not now go up to Jerusalem, though he was within two miles of it; but returned to Ephraim, a city on the borders of the wilderness, where he abode with his disciples, being unwilling to go too far into the country, because the pas sover, at which he was to suffer, was at hand.