This is a guest post from Sam Beshara - a good friend of mine who lives and works in New Jersey, but someone that I consider a virtual member of STSA because he's always been there to support us when we needed it. Below is a nice pre-Holy Week meditation to help you get you ready for the week to come. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Has anyone tried to kill you recently? I certainly hope not.
As Fr. Anthony wrote about earlier this week, we in the Coptic Orthodox Church are now preparing to enter Holy Week. Believe it or not, it actually begins tomorrow with Lazarus Saturday. After that is Palm Sunday, then the events of Holy Week through Covenant Thursday, Good Friday, Bright Saturday, and what many church fathers call the ‘Feast of Feasts’, the Holy Resurrection.
On Lazarus Saturday, we read John 11 - the story of when Jesus Christ called Lazarus forth out of the tomb after he was dead for four days. Understandably, the magnitude of such a miracle led many to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. That's because He just raised someone from the dead! That isn't something that you see everyday is it?
Just a few chapters later, Jesus tells His disciples something encouraging but somewhat difficult to believe when He says “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).
What's that? Greater works? Who...me? What can I do that is greater than raising someone from the dead?
During Holy Week, each day has one central event upon which the focus is placed. On Wednesday night, the main event is written about in Mark 14:3-7 - where a woman anoints Jesus with oil.
There were three accounts where Jesus is anointed with oil by a woman, which led me what I wanted to share today. In John 12, Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, anoints Him with oil. Just after the mention of it, the evangelist says "Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well." John 12:9-10
For this first time, this verse that I usually just skip over jumped out at me! Why would they want to kill Lazarus? Didn’t the Jews know that Jesus raised him from the dead, and He could just do it again if they tried any funny business? They were on a mission to kill Jesus, and any proof of Him being the Son of God had to go as well.
So, why Lazarus? I didn't fully understand it, until I recalled a saying of St Gregory of Nazianzus, "To celebrate a feast authentically, one must incorporate the saving events into their daily lives (Festal Orations: Anamnesis and Mimesis).
That's it! That's why they wanted to kill Lazarus - he was a living proof of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And he was living proof before Christ had even raised Himself! Lazarus was actual, tangible, seen by many, proof of the Resurrected Christ, and that's the exact reason why they plotted to kill him.
Which brings me back to my initial question: has anybody ever tried to kill you recently?
Forget sermons, Bible studies, Sunday school attendance, blog posts - all that. Are we actual living, breathing, walking proof of the Resurrection? This is a lot for me to swallow.
So, what is a greater work than raising the dead? Bringing the dead back to Jesus. If we really were living this out and were walking proof, there would be swarms of people around us headed out of our ‘tombs’ and walking towards Christ.
I dream to be like the resurrected Lazarus where people rejected me, put me down, and try to kill me - all for the sake of Jesus Christ. How about you???