When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the response of those watching went from stunned shock to ecstatic rejoicing. The tears that were flowing before the miracle never stopped. They just changed in an instant from sorrow to joy.
Pulling the robe he had borrowed from Rock closely around him, Lazarus walked straight to Jesus. “Lord, You brought me back!” the former corpse said with a smile.
Jesus nodded and gave his friend a large grin. “It was fitting that you and I reveal the glory of God.” Turning, Jesus presented Lazarus to his astonished sisters, who both flew into his arms.
Jesus stood to the side as the celebration with all the friends and neighbors intensified. After a few minutes Mary walked over and stood beside the Teacher. “Thank you, Lord!” she said as she gripped His arm. “You are wonderful!”
As she said this, a movement in the distance caught her eye. A man was standing near the tombs with his face covered. Seeing him, Mary tugged on Jesus’s sleeve and said, “Lord, look! Do you see that man over there?”
“He is a leper, is he not?” Jesus returned, observing the face covering the man wore.
“Yes, he is, Lord. His name is Simon, and his parents are neighbors of ours. He’s had leprosy for years. He lives out here near the tombs now. His parents used to bring him food each day until his mother died, and his old father is now too ill to come. Martha and I have brought him food for the last few months.
“I was wondering, Lord,” Mary said, looking into her Lord’s eyes. “You’ve done so much for us. Could you do something for Simon?”
With a smile Jesus answered, “Let’s go see him.”
As the Teacher and Mary walked towards the leper, the disciples reluctantly followed.
Drawing near the diseased man, Mary called to him. “Simon, this is Jesus, the Teacher from Nazareth. I have been telling you about Him. He just raised my brother from the dead!”
“I…I saw!” Simon returned, obviously amazed.
“He’s here to help you.”
Jesus stepped near the man. “Simon, do you believe?”
The leper fell on his knees. “Oh, Lord! After what I’ve seen, I believe that everything Mary told me about You is true! You are the Christ, the Son of God, and I now believe that You can do anything!”
“Then because of your faith, Simon,” Jesus said, placing His hand on the man’s leprous head, “be healed of your disease.”
Instantly numerous scabs fell from the man, and his body, once covered with oozing, necrotic sores, was suddenly clean, whole, and well. Staring in amazement at his hands and then pulling off his face covering and rubbing his now-smooth face, Simon jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you for what You’ve done for me!”
Delighted at his healing, Mary started to reach out to Simon, but the nasty robe he wore stopped her. “I’m so happy for you, Simon!” Mary exclaimed. “You must go home and show your father what has happened. Then change that filthy robe and come to the house. Our funeral has suddenly become a new birthday. We have plenty of food to share with you and your father.”
“That’s so kind of you, Mary, but I’m afraid I don’t have another robe.”
“We can fix that,” Jesus said with a smile. Turning to His disciples, Jesus looked for the one who carried the money box. “Judas, take our friend Simon into town and buy him a new robe.”
Judas reached into the leather pouch he carried by his side and instinctively gripped the small wooden box containing the donations they had received. “Uh…okay, Lord,” he said unenthusiastically. He watched as Jesus, Mary, and the other disciples walked away to join the excited crowd at their house. Seeing Simon standing nearby and looking expectantly at him, Judas gave a snort, nodded his head toward Bethany, and started walking.
There was a shop near the west end of town that Judas was familiar with. When they reached the place, Judas turned to Simon and said, “You wait here.”
Entering, Judas walked up to the owner. “Raza, I need a robe.”
“Judas!” Raza exclaimed “It’s been months since I’ve seen you in here. Is your master back in town?”
“Yeah, we came for Lazarus’s funeral.”
“Oh, yes, I heard he died,” Raza returned. “It’s a shame. He and his sisters were some of my best customers.” As he said this, he elbowed Judas and gave him a covetous grin.
“Don’t worry, my greedy friend, my Master did you a favor,” Judas answered. “He just raised Lazarus from the dead.”
“Nope,” Judas shot back. “I saw it myself. He called Lazarus’s name, and he came walking out of that tomb pretty as you please. He’s back home right now with his sisters and all the mourners, partying like there’s no tomorrow.”
Raza turned away, rubbing his head in deep thought. Finally he faced Judas again. “You know, when the leaders in Jerusalem hear about this, they will lose their minds.”
“Oh, I know,” Judas returned. “They probably are hearing about it right now. I saw some of the rabbinical students at the tomb. As soon as they saw the miracle, they ran straight for Jerusalem.”
“They’ll get him this time,” Raza said. “And as one of His disciples, their wrath will fall on you too, Judas.”
“I know! I know!” the disciple answered anxiously as he paced back and forth. “I tried to warn Him that He needed to work to get the support of the religious leaders, but He won’t listen! He keeps saying and doing things that drives them further and further away from Him.
“I use to think that He was the Messiah, the King, because He did all the miracles, but He refuses to act like a king. I committed everything to follow Him because I thought He was the One, but now…I don’t know.”
“Well, you better make up your mind pretty quick,” Raza urged. “The rumor is that the chief priests and elders have been wanting to kill your teacher since last Passover. When word gets out about this miracle, the people will turn to him in mass, and the leaders won’t stand for that. They will kill him for sure now…and all those with him.
“Hey, what was it you said you needed…a robe?”
“Yeah,” Judas answered.” You know that guy, Simon the Leper?”
“Yes,” Raza nodded. “He‘s that disgusting fellow that lives in the tombs.”
“Well, Jesus healed him too.”
“Yeah,” the disciple returned. “He’s standing just outside.”
“You aren’t bringing him in here, are you?” Raza asked anxiously.
“No, I told him to wait out there for me. Jesus wants me to buy him a robe so he can go their party.”
Anticipating a sale, Raza walked over and pulled a very nice embroidered robe from a nearby shelf.
“Not that one,” Judas said. “Give me the one on the bottom shelf.” The disciple pointed to a plain looking coat that was obviously less expensive.
With an annoyed sigh, Judas counted out the money and then snatched the article from Raza’s hands. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Walking to the door of the shop, Judas tossed the newly purchased robe to Simon. “There you go,” Judas said and turned back into the shop without waiting for an answer.
“So what are you going to do?” Raza asked when Judas returned.
“I’m not sure yet,” Judas answered thoughtfully, “but I can tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to go down with this sinking ship.”
Judas reached into the money box again and pulled out some more coins. “Give me a small skin of your best wine and a loaf of that bread I can smell your wife cooking back there. I need to go come up with a plan.”
“If I know you, Judas,” Raza said with a shrewd smile as he gathered the asked- for items, “you’ll figure out a way, not only to save your skin, but to come out on top.”
The council meeting called by the chief priests and Pharisees was just getting started when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea arrived. Two students of Rabbi Abdiel were describing what they saw that afternoon at the cemetery in Bethany. When they finished, the meeting erupted.
“Did you hear that, Joseph?” Nicodemus said excitedly to his friend. “The Teacher raised a man from the dead! These two students saw it with their own eyes!”
“I understand that,” Joseph returned. “It’s wonderful, but the council is not going to take this news well.”
After several minutes of bedlam, Rabbi Zeraph shouted for quite. “What are we doing? This charlatan is performing many signs! If we let him go on like this, everyone will follow him like sheep, and then the Romans will come and wipe us out! They won’t stand for someone challenging their rule!”
“LISTEN TO YOU! YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF IMBICILS!” Caiaphas, the high priest, shouted. Zeraph slunk back to his seat as the enraged leader took his place. “DON’T ANY OF YOU REALIZE THAT IT IS GOD’S WILL THAT ONE MAN DIE FOR THE PEOPLE SO THAT THE WHOLE NATION WON’T PERISH? THIS MAN MUST DIE, AND I’M TELLING YOU THAT’S GOD’S WILL!”
As the rest of the council took in these words, Caiaphas slowly turned, looking at all of those present. “We must make it happen!” the high priest demanded. “We will no longer talk about killing this pretender! Today we will plan it!”
“What can we do?” Joseph whispered to Nicodemus.
“I will send one of my servants to Bethany to warn the Teacher.”
As soon as the message was delivered to Jesus, He gathered His disciples and secretly led them thirteen miles north of Jerusalem into the hill country, to a city called Ephraim.
“Master,” Rock asked, “shouldn’t we leave Judea and get back to Galilee? You’d be safe there.”
“My time draws near,” Jesus returned thoughtfully. “The Passover is coming, and I must not miss it.”
At these words the disciples looked at each other with concern. Judas, sitting by himself, fingered the money box.
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 11:46-54 and Matthew 26:5-6)