The raising of Lazarus.
John 11, 1 – 45.
1. The Irony of the Divine.
The sisters of Lazarus had sent word to their Master that their brother was sick. “This sickness,” replied Jesus (v. 4), “is not unto death.”
The answer of Jesus to the messengers”, says Lücke *), “presupposes that he had inquired more exactly about the sickness, that it should comfort the sisters. “The meaning is: “the illness is not fatal in the ordinary sense. “
Jesus is supposed to be omniscient. He always knows where the end is going. He is above the needs and wants of others and therefore does not call things by the names that others call them. It is a heavenly euphemism that death is not death. For Jesus, the sickness of Lazarus is not death.
There is nothing in the text about a more detailed inquiry of the sisters, nor was it possible in the sense that Jesus could have gained insights from them that were inaccessible to the sisters. Rather, they viewed – and rightly so – the state of the sick man as desperate.
Furthermore, Jesus himself said that this illness would serve to glorify God, so that through it the Son of God would be glorified; for when it has run its course on earth unto death, it is meant to be an occasion for the heavenly glory of Jesus to be revealed.
As an appearance at least that it could be so, Lücke admits that Jesus may have wanted to imply that only for him the death of Lazarus was not a death.
But it is not only an appearance, it is so. Lücke also deals with this possibility more seriously and says that Jesus “may have deliberately expressed himself ambiguously. But why intentionally? If Jesus only leaves after two days and Lazarus has already been in the grave for four days when he arrives, the sick man will already have passed away when the messengers return. Jesus must have known this as soon as he knew that he would have to leave after two days if he wanted to find Lazarus in the tomb instead of in the sickbed. So was it ambiguous? “The answer should comfort the sisters”: but if Lazarus was already dead when the messengers returned, the sisters must have been mistaken about their master. His answer was a thunderclap for them, when there was no more talk of illness. If Jesus wanted to give the sisters a few words that suited their situation, he would have had to speak about death, not illness.
Yes, says Lücke, “Christ, knowing well that Lazarus would soon die, foresaw the salutary struggle which his dark word would produce in the sisters, and intended it in order to train them in the struggle for greater things. “But if Jesus still spoke of sickness, there was no possibility of a fight: the matter was decided. The sisters could no longer fight, could not worry about the supposed mystery, but it was clear that Jesus had been mistaken.
We do not need to tell the sensible person, but the theologian, that the educational plan Jesus was supposed to have for the sisters would have been very unsuccessful, since afterwards, when he himself arrived, no one, not even they, thought that Jesus could and would raise the one who had already died.
Lücke is so uncertain that he retracts all his talk and claims that “it can be assumed without violating the divine glory of the Saviour that he did not know beforehand of the sudden worsening of the illness and the quick death of his friend, but only heard about it from others when it happened.” But without violating the divinity of the Bible, this cannot be assumed, it cannot be thought that Jesus received new messengers after two days who reported the death of Lazarus to him. Voluntarily he stayed behind for two more days, voluntarily he set out after the two days to awaken the dead man, whom he certainly knew to be dead.
And the divine glory of the Redeemer? Well, it is only divine, i.e. inhuman, if the Saviour knows from the beginning that Lazarus will die and that he will raise him from the dead, and if he stays behind for two more days in order to make his glory appear all the more glorious.
These people fight for the glory of Jesus, constantly speak of the divinity of the Bible, and even sing of it in sweet songs, and yet they betray both glory and divinity. The critic puts both majesties back into their true light.
Tholuck and Olshausen also assume that “the dark form of the speech was brought about by the consideration of the sisters”. As I said, there could be no more talk of an inner struggle when the death of Lazarus had so clearly and irrefutably refuted Jesus’ statement. Death had decided the matter and put an end to it.
Since the theologians always feel the difficulty – they are, after all, human! – although they do not dare to imagine clearly the whole magnitude of the offence, they do not trust their own explanations and tricks. No sooner have they given one solution to the difficulty than they immediately have another ready, even if it is more outrageous than the first. The set of solutions is to replace the one, the true solution. They do not grasp the point that matters – and they must not if they are not to despair of their presuppositions – they therefore blink and squint back and forth, even to the most distant and remote places. Thus Tholuck, although he assumes that that speech takes the sisters into account, also squints at the disciples. “Had Jesus spoken with certainty about the imminent death of Lazarus, would not the disciples have been very suspicious of his tarrying and hesitating?” But instead of deceiving them by ambiguous words, and making them sure, he could have told them — that would have been better, more moral and manly, more befitting the Teacher too! – he could have simply told them that he was staying to make the revelation of his glory more glorious. That was his motive in staying: could he not, then, open it to his disciples? Would it have been permissible for them to be displeased with this motive? And if Jesus knew that they suspected his intention, would it not have been his duty to cure the evil thoroughly instead of covering it up? Likewise, could he not tell the sisters the truth, his real motive for not coming immediately? Especially since his vacillating expression had by no means “put them in a state of vacillation between faith and doubt” – for the sisters the expression was by no means vacillating – and since this struggle, if it had really occurred, had “no significant, influential consequences for their inner being?”
But now Jesus had the certainty that Lazarus would already be dead when the messengers returned, he already had the intention to raise him up; furthermore: his answer to the messengers was meant for the sisters, it was heard by the disciples – so why was it so dark, so incomprehensible, so contrary to the sensual facts?
For the sake of the irony with which divine knowledge regards human knowledge, with which divine language mocks human language, in order to contrast the certainty of the divine with the sorrow and weakness of the human, in order to contrast the divine in its cruel, hard and terrible sublimity with the human – in order to give expression to this divine but inhuman irony, the Evangelist has formed this speech of his Master.
The irony comes to the fore in all its glory when we consider the following. The way from Jerusalem to Jesus’ present place of abode is a day’s journey, Jesus stays two days in Peraea, when he comes to Bethany on the third day, Lazarus has already been dead four days, so he must have died just after the departure of the messengers, who needed one day to reach Peraea. Now did Jesus know when he had to leave if the miracle was to be quite great, i.e. if he wanted to raise a man who had already been lying in the tomb for four days, i.e. until the day when the messengers arrived in Peraea? until the day when (11:39) according to the course of nature the rottenness had certainly set in, Jesus knew and intended, as is clear from the structure of the account, that now, when the messengers reach him, Lazarus is already dead; i. e., thus the irony of the speech is absolute, and the sublimity of the divine being and use of language has proved itself in all its enormous grandeur. —-
A new contrast follows, the same irony in the form of a pragmatic remark by the historian. “But the Lord loved,” says v. 5, “Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Why “but”? δε? Not only because Jesus had in mind to raise Lazarus, but on the contrary that he did not set out immediately, but rather took the matter lightly and let the dead man be dead. The harshness of the irony is increased by Jesus’ love for that house. When he heard that he was sick (v. 6), he stayed two days in the place where he was staying. He stayed in spite of his love for Lazarus; he stayed because it was all the more important to him to let the glory of God and of his Anointed be revealed. According to the evangelist, it was self-evident that Jesus had only this purpose of glorification in mind and set aside all human consideration. Only one thing is necessary for God to be glorified, and to this one thing everything human must be sacrificed.
Theologians, like Lücke, who no longer dare to unreservedly acknowledge the one purpose of the world, claim that Jesus stayed because he was “perhaps engaged in happy activity” at that very moment. Olshausen rightly remarks, however, that this explanation “is not sufficient”, for Jesus “could have left behind some disciples and returned there soon afterwards, and in that case, nothing would have been missed.”
But if Olshausen thinks that this motive was also present, but not as the only one, that this explanation was only not “sufficient”, then his explanation itself is not sufficient. Not only is this motive not made clear in the report, but it did not take place at all, because another motive, and only this other motive, determined the gentleman to stay behind for two more days. And even the most splendid theologians are still unclear about this motive! Olshausen thinks that “all, including Lazarus himself, were to grow up through this glorious revelation of God in the inner man”, Tholuck thinks that Jesus had a “pedagogical purpose”, “in the case of the sisters – that is, the purpose, the magnification of the miracle is admitted, but only secretly, not with Christian frankness and very quickly made into a means underhand – the need was to rise to the highest level, so that His help would make all the greater impression. “But the report says nothing about the fact that the Lazari sisters, that he himself, were the purpose, that their spiritual edification was intended. The only purpose is the glorification of God, and for this purpose Lazarus’ death *), the putrefaction of his corpse and the misery of the sisters are the means. There is only one purpose for this awareness and everything else, death and life, preservation and destruction is only a means for this purpose.
*) Correctly, but with a still far too sentimental circumlocution, Bengel says: mori est quiddain non ita refugiendum. Lazarus mortnus est aliquantisper ad gloriam filii Dei.
Jesus stayed behind in Peraea for two days, so that the glory of God, and through it His own glorification, would come forth clearly and boldly.
Indeed, as Calvin says, Jesus acted according to the example of his heavenly Father, who loves to send help only at the moment of greatest need. But the purpose of this procedure is always only the revelation of the divine glory and power and the irony of the divine superhuman custom, calculation, fear and love *). Man helps because he believes he must help, he helps out of compassion and believes that he must not withdraw his help from the sufferer for a moment, he helps not for his own sake but for the sake of the other. God only helps when all help already seems impossible, he helps in order to reveal his glory. —–
*) Calvin himself says: quum sollicitudinem amor gignat, statim aecurrere debuit.
Without noticing why it is necessary now and what moves him to do it, Jesus says to the disciples in v. 7: “Let us set out again for Judea! “Nor do the disciples remember that Lazarus is dangerously ill and that the sisters sent that urgent message two days ago; rather, as if there had never been a Lazarus in the world, they find it incomprehensible that Jesus would want to go back to Judea, since the Jews wanted to stone him (v. 8). Both are very striking, but explained by the following, which is even more striking and takes the contradiction to the extreme. After that remark of the disciples Jesus should have remembered Lazarus; instead he says in v. 9 that he has to go to Judea – well? to help his friend Lazarus? No! – because – yes, why? we do not understand it, because he establishes a principle that cannot even fit him on the one hand. The first half of the first half of the saying (“are not twelve hours of the day?”) can at most fit him: he must use the hours of the day well; as long as it is day for him, as long as he still remains among the living, he must prove himself active. But how does the general expression of this thought fit him? “He who walks by day does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world”? Was there talk before of stumbling, of offence, and did not the first half of this first half of the saying only say that one must seize the hours of the day and use them for action? And how does the second half of the saying fit in for him? Can there be a night for the Lord in which he has to fear that he will stumble? Is there a fluctuation in his inner life between day and night? For in the end this saying must be understood spiritually from the wavering within, which is also indicated by its intensification when it says: he who walks in the night stumbles because the light is not “in him”! Is there a time for the Lord when he does not have the light in him?
It is clear, as even Olshausen admits, that one may turn the saying however one likes, it does not fit “purely” into the context. Nevertheless, it is the most sacred duty of the theologian to turn the saying back and forth until it fits into the whole. We must, says Olshausen, assume a multi-faceted relationship in the saying, Jesus speaks of Himself in a twofold respect, firstly, as Himself doing His day’s work, and secondly, in so far as He Himself is again the light of the disciples. This relationship is carried out in the second half of the saying; the disciples should never want to walk without him and his light. But if Jesus had wanted to give the disciples a saying to take with them on their way, he would have had to emphasise this relationship to them clearly and distinctly, all the more so because the first half refers so clearly to him and the whole saying is only caused by a reflection on his situation and person. Where the starting point of the saying and the relationship of at least the first half to the first half is so clear and definite, the change in the relationship should certainly have been indicated in its place.
This indication is missing, although the saying does contain these two different relationships. The evangelist has introduced the saying wrongly, he has not motivated it, since he has wedged it in here without regard to the situation, he has finally worked it out very unhappily, since he has neither separated the two different relations of it from one another, nor even less has he substantiated the relation to the disciples.
The confusion comes from this. The evangelist abandons any thought of Lazarus, because here, when Jesus is going to Jerusalem and the catastrophe is imminent, he remembers how Jesus, before leaving Galilee, spoke about his highest task and duty, and when a disciple wanted to admonish him from the thought of his duty, he rather pointed out to his followers their duty. If the evangelist wanted to insert this discourse (Mark 8, 38-38), he would have had to forget Lazarus, and if he wanted to squeeze Jesus’ remarks into one saying, he could not have worked more happily, especially in view of his other clumsiness.
Only afterwards in v. 11 does Jesus speak of Lazarus, but he still does not speak humanly. Our friend Lazarus, he says, is asleep, but I go to wake him up. Only then, when the disciples understand this speech literally and conclude from the circumstance that Lazarus is asleep that he is presumed to have recovered, does he actually say that Lazarus is dead. So again the contrast between the divine language and the inability of men to understand it! The irony of the contrast between the divine language and contemplation of things and the human way of guarding and signifying things!
The evangelist loves such profound and instructive misunderstandings so much that he often forms them without reflecting on the fact that they must be impossible even according to the presuppositions he had just given. Jesus says that he is glad that he was not there, because now they would believe *), so he says most definitely that he will raise Lazarus. Nevertheless, Thomas says to his fellow disciples: if he wants to go to Judea, let us also go and die with him. What a treasure trove for the theological portrayers! But as if there could still be talk of death when Jesus says that he wants to raise a dead man. The evangelist has fallen back into his completely inappropriate thoughts of the proximity of the catastrophe!
*) How theologians squirm to and fro! Lücke says (II, 380) “Christ did not rejoice directly that he was not there, but over what followed from it.” Well, then he rejoiced indirectly over his absence (and deliberately so)! But not secretly, inwardly, hidden: No! No! He openly rejoices in the means that made the revelation of his glory more powerful. The Gospel of John does not acknowledge the crowds of unbelievers!
2. The unbelief of Martha.
Jesus arrives in Bethany. The body has been in the tomb for four days. There are many Jews with the sisters to comfort them.
Martha heard – from where? would be a superfluous question in an account that is dissolute at every point – that Jesus was coming. She goes to meet him, so that she meets him before he reaches the place. But Mary was sitting at home (v. 17 – 20).
Martha, according to her character, appears to be the busy one, Mary the pensive one. “Alone”, says Olshausen, that does not seem quite right. According to Mary’s character we would expect her to hurry to the Saviour immediately and under all circumstances. Sitting quietly, knowing that he was there, was not at all suitable for her.
All the worse! All the more dangerous for the evangelist that he did not help Mary to stand up! All the worse! Then it is clear that the almighty historian has used very superficial and therefore very unfortunate means for his purposes, what he learned about the character of the two sisters from the scripture of Luke (Luke 10:38). He read that Martha was busy, so he quickly portrayed her as such and only made a mistake in not letting her run around in the household or run to the kitchen, but instead to the Lord. Mary is the contemplative one who sits quietly with her thoughts. But since she only remains seated, it has come to the point that she is estranged from the Lord, at whose feet her place is.
“Lord, if you had been here,” Martha says to Jesus, “my brother would not have died,” so it seems or rather it is clear that she has given up all hope of help. Therefore, it is difficult when she continues in verse 22, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Olshausen says, “what she actually means by these words, that Christ’s prayer is still possible, is unclear.” But the contrast to the words, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” makes it completely clear. If Jesus’ absence was to blame for Lazarus’ death, she thinks that there is still a moment when Jesus can help, because his Father will not refuse him anything.
It is not obscure, but rather clear, why Olshausen wants to make Martha’s speech obscure: namely, when she says in verse 22 that she still has hope even now when everything seems lost, it does not only “seem” as Olshausen says, that she is not thinking of the resurrection of the dead in further conversation, but she really is not thinking about it. Immediately after expressing her hope, Jesus says, “Your brother will rise again!” Shouldn’t her hope have been revived and strengthened by these words of Jesus, even if they are still so general? But no! “Yes, I know that,” she answers as if Jesus’ words could not be applied to the present moment, “he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus responds (v. 25-26), “I am the resurrection and the life,” and goes on in a very convoluted tautology to explain that whoever believes in him, even if he dies, will live. He then explicitly asks if she believes. “Yes,” she answers, “I believe that you are the Son of God.” But she says nothing about believing that her deceased brother will be raised back to life by the Lord even now. On the contrary, as if everything were now done, when she has only expressed her faith in the Messiah in general, she runs off to tell her sister. But does she say a word to her sister that now, since the Lord has come, there is still hope for their brother? Not a word! She only says, “The Master is here,” and – but nothing had been said about this – tells her to come quickly. Even later, Martha gives no slightest proof of her faith that the Lord will now or can now raise her brother. Even at the moment when he makes arrangements to raise Lazarus, even when he commands the stone to be removed from the grave vault, she still wants to resist the Lord by reminding him that now everything is in vain: Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days and already smells.
*) If Tholuck is so precise and diligent that he refers to the word Master in C. 1, 39, where Jesus is called Rabbi and this word is translated as Master – what a profound reference! – he should also have shown us where Martha received this commission from the Lord. When, by the way, Tholuck says: “Drawing hope from the Saviour’s foreboding words, she hastens to the beloved sister”, we do not only ask where something of this hope is written, but in order to get to the bottom of this omniscience once and for all, we hereby request that a critical revolutionary tribunal be set up and all believing expounders of the Holy Scriptures be summoned, with the instruction that they bring with them the Bible editions on which they base their so instructive commentaries, and subject them to close scrutiny. We will find out some beautiful things!
The contradiction is very great, but it cannot be solved in such a way, it cannot be resolved in such an edifying way, as Olshausen tries to do, after he has nevertheless admitted it in the end. He says: “Martha’s mind is to be understood as wavering in her hopes and doubts. “But from the moment when the Lord teaches her about his reviving power, yes, from the moment when Jesus assures her that her brother will rise again (v. 23) to her remark that her brother is already a prey to decay, she does not doubt, she does not waver, but is determined that a resuscitation of the dead man is no longer to be thought of. Even after Jesus’ statements, which should have revived her hopes, if she had any, she shows that she has resigned.
Olshausen – we cite him in particular because he struggled with these difficulties more diligently and thoroughly than the others – says further: “in Martha’s longing to possess the beloved deceased again, there was still much that was material and her own that had to be stripped away. “Jesus had wanted to take care of this business by pointing her to him as the Saviour. But if this had really been his intention, then he did not work towards this point in a definite and explicit way, or Martha must have been horribly obdurate, for even when she confesses her faith in the Messiah, she does not say a word to indicate that she is now prepared to embrace her brother again in a dignified and godly way. On the contrary, she seems to have abandoned her brother’s cause.
Where, then, does the contradiction come from? Before we answer, we have to consider the behaviour of the other persons with whom Jesus comes into contact here. Mary, the faithful Mary, who also here proves her attachment to the Lord, since she immediately, as she perceives his arrival, runs out to him and falls at his feet, she does not speak a word that could betray *) that she expects help from the Lord and Master. The first value with which she greets him, the only one she speaks to him, is the same as her sister had already spoken: “if you had been here, my brother would not have died! (v. 32), so she is also of the opinion that everything is now lost.
*) Tholuck must here again have had in his possession a very special edition of the Holy Scriptures. He says: “Her further speech (which should come after v. 32) is stifled by tears. She is not able, like Martha, to add the utterance of a joyful, bold hope.” (Likewise de Wette, p. 137.) It must not take long with that tribunal. It must be set up immediately.
Further! In order that the picture may be properly filled up, and that all persons may express their conviction that the matter can now no longer be changed, the Jews must also appear, who had followed Mary, because they thought she was going to the tomb to weep there. They therefore came with her to Jesus, and said, when all had spoken his mind, Could he not, since he had opened the eyes of the man born blind, make it so that he should not die?
The contradiction now has its explanation: no man may think that the resuscitation of a dead man is possible; all must have already given up the cause of Lazarus, so that the decision to do the deed, as is the custom in the fourth Gospel, may proceed purely and solely from Jesus, and through this contrast the omnipotence and glory of God may appear all the greater.
Martha, too, must consider the deed impossible. But she had previously declared (v. 22) that she still hoped for help from the Lord! The evangelist had to banish this thought from her mind immediately, or not let it enter her mind again, especially since he only let Martha speak (v. 22) with the outward intention of holding out the prospect of the resurrection of the dead man, in order to bring the Lord to this subject. He did not know how to introduce the conversation more skilfully.
But that the Lord, when he sets about raising a dead person, first speaks of his reviving power and describes himself as the life and resurrection, seemed to the evangelist to be appropriate and necessary in his reflective, theological manner. If Mark has elaborated the postulate of faith, that Jesus in a single case proves his death-surviving power, plastically in the form of history, if the two others let the Lord refer to the raising of the dead as proof of his Messiahship – (in the answer to the messengers of the Baptist) – then the fourth evangelist has formed the dogmatic formula for this power of the Messiah and put it into the mouth of the Lord himself. Moreover, he lets him speak in such a way that his speech remains in a certain limbo, that is, it is suitable both for the future and for the present case, and the contrast is renewed so that the other who hears the words does not understand them completely. Martha understands the speech as if Jesus were speaking only of the future resurrection.
Let us now see how Jesus behaves in the midst of these expressions of the other’s mind.
3. The behaviour of Jesus.
First, it is said (v. 33) that when Jesus saw Mary and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he was angry in spirit, shaken, and asked – in what tone, one can easily imagine – where have you buried him?
Again, when the Jews remarked that he could have helped Lazarus, he became angry and went to the tomb and commanded – in what tone, again, can easily be imagined – take away the stone!
Why was Jesus angry? Why? answers Olshausen, he was not angry at all, he was not angry, “for the Jews did nothing that could have aroused his anger. “Beautiful knowledge of the evangelical world view *)! That would not have been wrong if everything was so unbelieving that no one thought of the possibility of raising the dead? Jesus’ anguish is the expression in his inner feelings of the contrast between his great power and the pitiful dullness of others.
*) And of the Greek language, we add. For all newer believers know that εμβριμασθαι sometimes, namely, when their very purposes so require, does not mean to be angry.
Jesus had just expressed his extreme displeasure that Mary and the Jews in her entourage were weeping when he himself began to weep. But how was he allowed to weep himself, after he had scolded the others and was enraged by their mourning, because they had shown their unbelief in his miraculous power in their tears? He would have justified the others in doing what he had just rebuked them for. Furthermore, he was not in the least surprised by the death of Lazarus, rather he had directed the whole thing from the beginning – since he remained quietly in Peraea for two days at the end – in such a way that he would already find his friend in the tomb when he came to Bethany. Jesus not only knew the death of Lazarus beforehand, but he wanted it; but we can only weep over an event that surprises us against our will. Even more: one weeps only over an event that can no longer be changed or undone by us. The tear is our subjective help against a power which we can no longer change and which is superior to us in actual appearance. Jesus did not only know that Lazarus would die, he did not only want to find him in the grave, but he was determined from the beginning to call him back to life. Right from the beginning he said to the disciples: I am glad that I was not there, I am glad that you will now believe. Afterwards, when he ordered the stone to be removed from the tomb and Martha told him that all hope was in vain because Lazarus was already a prey of decay, he chastised her for her unbelief and reminded her of how he had told her that if she believed she would see the glory of God, i.e. a miracle that would bring the power and omnipotence of God before her eyes.
This statement gives rise to a new difficulty, since, as even Olshausen remarks, Jesus “had not spoken the same words before. “But this difficulty has already been explained and is minor in comparison with the greater one in which the remark that Jesus wept is involved. To be sure, Jesus had not spoken the same words to Martha, only in general he had spoken of the power of life, which he himself was, but in doing so he had nevertheless indicated, even if secretly, that the death of Lazarus was no death for him. In the same sense, he had described the death of his friend to the disciples as a slumber, for him death is not death, for him there is no serious death at all, he had therefore from the outset been beyond the collision into which the death of his friend could put him, he was therefore also above the pain into which others are put by the death of a relative. So why cry? Inexplicable!
Olshausen answers that the object of Jesus’ pain was “not the individual death of Lazarus, but rather death and its horrors in general. The spirit of Christ always embraced the generality. “
This is first of all a very incredulous view of this story. It is not for nothing that Jesus, in his conversation with Martha, described himself as the life and resurrection in general; for the raising of Lazarus is not to be interpreted merely as an individual story, but as the proof of that universal life-force of the Saviour in it. If he awakens this man, he proves that he is the universal life; if he overcomes death, it is a sign that he is always and absolutely superior to it; if he can conquer death, he demonstrates that it has no sting at all for him. So why weep?
There is another side to Olshausen’s explanation that is wrong. When Jesus wept and the Jews saw it, they said: Behold, how he loved him! So they explain Jesus’ pain in such a way that it was purely and solely related to his personal relationship with Lazarus. If the object of this pain had been a completely different one, Jesus would have made this clear, as he usually does in the case of such misunderstandings in the Fourth Gospel. He does indeed express his displeasure afterwards, but not because the Jews believed that he wept over Lazarus, but because they noticed that he, who had restored the blind man’s face, could have saved Lazarus if he had used the right time *).
*) Earlier critics asked, why do the Jews only remember the healing of the man born blind, why not rather the raising of the daughter Jairus and the young man of Nain? Why do they not think of more similar examples? Why do they fall for that heterogeneous and insufficient example? Probably, answers Strauss (L. I. ll, 172), the evangelist knew nothing of these events. No! he read these “events” or at least the reports of them in the writings of Mark and Luke, but he was not allowed to weave any reference to them into his work, because he had not excluded them himself. Besides, a reference to them would have been inappropriate in any case, since the Jews only think of the time when Lazarus was still lying on the sickbed, and never, at that time, would the physician have been able to help the blind man.
It therefore still comes down to Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus, i.e. to a result which is excluded and made impossible by the whole other account. The account contains a very external contradiction, and its pragmatism is not even adequately carried out in itself and in its own presuppositions, since a merely momentary and, what is more, very external consideration induced the evangelist to add here precisely a feature that ought to have been missing. Nothing else induced the evangelist to make Jesus weep than his intention to help the Jews to speak and to make them say that if he had been here, he could have caused Lazarus not to die, especially since, as we now see, he loved him so much that he himself wept.
His earlier note (v. 5) that Jesus loved Lazarus, the evangelist has thus here proved to be correct in a very inappropriate way.
In passing we still have to pay attention to the fact that Martha, when Jesus wants to have opened the grave, remarks: Lazarus already smells, because he has already been dead four days. Olshausen claims *) that this can only be taken as a supposition. As if the evangelist would give even the slightest hint that in the end it probably did not happen as Martha stated. But the theologian has his intentions and Olshausen is so open as to confess them. Instead of sticking to the simple understanding of these words, he says, it is far “simpler” – that is, not trickier? not crazier? – to suppose “that the corpse of Lazarus, precisely because it was to be revived, was preserved from decomposition according to God’s guidance. “Therefore it is easier, not because this assumption is founded in the report and its basic view, but because the theologian can no longer appropriate the view of the report, in short because he has private views, private intentions and wants to assert them in spite of the report.
*) So do all the newer believers. The presupposed occurrence of decay is inconvenient to them, and since, with their material interest in the event “and with their presupposition of the historical basis of the account, they believe that Martha could have been mistaken in her supposition, they do not notice that the evangelist, in his ideal work, wants to state the facts in such a way that he lets Martha say them.
“It would, says Olshausen, by animating an already decomposed corpse, give the miracle a monstrous character. “What a disbelief! As if every miracle were not in itself monstrous, since it dissolves the harmony of nature and transforms it into indissoluble dissonance! It is important to make the miracle certain! As if the evangelist did not for this reason overlook the fact that the corpse of Lazarus must surely be embalmed! Only then, when Lazarus was already a prey of decay, does it become certain beyond all doubt that Jesus had power over death; only then, when Lazarus has become completely like us all, who will one day be raised by the Lord, does his resurrection become what it should be, namely a symbol and guarantee of what the Lord will do now to the prey of sin and one day to the prey of sensual decay. The miracle must *) retain its monstrous character.
*) For, as Calvin rightly and truly says in v. 14: quo propius ad ordinariam naturae rationem accedunt, dei opera, eo magis vilescunt ac minus est illustris eorum gloria.
Now, the last and most dreadful feature of the account! After the stone had been removed from the tomb, but before commanding Lazarus to come out, in this moment of preeminent certainty of his success, Jesus prays to the Father, thanking Him for having heard Him. He prays aloud, adding that he did not need to make supplication and thanksgiving to Him, as he was always certain of being heard, but that he prayed only for the sake of the people present, so that they might believe that He had sent Him. As if the miracle as such could not have instilled this conviction in Lazarus, and as if it had required such hasty and deliberate manipulation of the people!
A prayer which the praying man does not hold out of his own heart, not on his own impulse, but only for display before others, a prayer which the praying man disavows at the end in regard to his person, a prayer which dissolves at the end in irony upon itself, a prayer which thus also disavows even the others for the sake of which it is held, must leave cold, since they experience the intention of it, such a prayer is of the kind that – – that – – but let us strive, let us not be too much put out by such things! – it is the expression of the same religious irony in which the fourth evangelist is a kind of master, the irony that in all the circumstances in which Jesus is involved or voluntarily enters, he declares that he is beyond them; the expression of that lofty tendency of the fourth, who, putting the Lord – for once it cannot be otherwise! – in human situations, but is always careful to present this involvement as only apparent, it is the culmination of all the ironic contrasts we have found in our section; – it is the last means of once again impressing the faith quite strongly on the people and readers; it is a drumbeat, but not such a drumbeat as is a beneficent shock in a symphony after the repeated development of the melodic theme, but a horrible, barbaric drumbeat that tears our ears apart, destroys the instrument, a blow that shatters the whole, as it deserves no better, even if against the will of the holy artist!
When a scarecrow has been torn to pieces, the intention for which it is set up has been seen, then nothing is left of it.
To the end, then!
Before – but everything is cheerful! – a cheerful conclusion! Tholuck *) gives us for our recreation an example of truly theological language, way of thinking and logic. He calls our report “the narration of one of the most remarkable miraculous deeds of Jesus, which, because of the so irrefutable – do you hear the thunder? – you hear the thunder?, it has always been regarded as one of the most powerful proofs of the miraculous power of Christ.” (As an example of how powerful this proof is, how irrefutable this character of inner truth, he cites – yes, whom does he cite? – Spinoza, who once said that if he could convince himself of the resurrection of Lazarus, he would break his system into pieces, also felt this. Wonderful proof! Delicious proof! Excellent logic! Beautiful “too!”
*) Comm. p. 210.
Of course, as a punishment for his stupid prank *) the theologian must now add a “of course,” he must, out of anger at the fact that not everyone feels as he does, rail against the malicious will, against obduracy, in short, against the “interior” of man unknown to him, who “of course is not able to rise above the laws of the earthly world to the contemplation of a higher order of things”! He must blaspheme a man like Spinoza, who always has the order of the idea in his conception, while the theologian is only concerned for his “maggot bag” and its needs; he must ridicule a man like Spinoza, who taught us to view things sub specie aeternitatis, while the theologian calls him a dog. In short, the theologian knows how to mock very comically! But for that, he still has his logic, his seraphic admiration of the fourth Gospel, his ‘this was also felt,’ and we leave him his ‘factum confirmed from all sides,’ without it costing us any particular effort. Furthermore, we even leave him his ‘excellent ascetic-psychological considerations,’ such as Ewald’s ‘Lazarus for educated Christ-worshippers.’ **) We want to give the theologians all their commentaries and lives of Jesus once we have completely destroyed them. We are not worthy of them anyway!”
*) as well as a punishment for having copied Bengel wrongly. Bengel says to C. 11, 4: Resuscitatio Lazari tantum est veritatis Christianae argumentum, ut Spinoza dixerit, se, si eam credere posset, totum suum systema abjecturum. That can be heard at best: Bengel speaks of the meaning of the miracle itself, and Tholuck? – he has made the sentence meaningless by forcing in the modern, sentimental chatter about the vividness of the report. At the same time – thus also a proof, how Mark is edited by Matthew.
**) Tholuck, Comm. p. 211.
Now another conclusion! But still funny!
The question, why only the fourth evangelist knows to report this awakening of Lazarus, why the synoptics know nothing about it – a question, which for our point of view is just as shabby, as the answers, which it has caused, are silly – this question we do not need to treat as something special or to answer with tricks, evasions or folly, after the secret of the origin of the gospels has been betrayed. The synoptics know nothing about this miracle, because it came into being after their time in the mind of the fourth evangelist and because they did not know his writing.
But with which means did the fourth one form his report? Answer: First of all from his religious irony, i.e. from his view moving in ironic contrasts. Then the first elements of his report are in the synoptic gospels. The behavior of Martha and Mary towards Jesus, of which he reads in Luke’s writing, is anxiously painted by the Fourth, but clumsily and without meeting the real relationship. But the main subject! the raising of a dead man. All three synoptics tell about the raising of a dead person and one of the key words of their report is that Jesus says that the dead person – the daughter of Jairus – is asleep. This trait, but again not understood and expressed in its true meaning, is processed by the fourth one to the statement of Jesus that Lazarus sleeps. In addition Luke, but he alone, reports of the revival of the young man of Nain. This young man appeared again in Lazarus, died and was raised again *).
*) Gfrörer (in “Das Heilige und die Wahrheit”, p. 317-318) says in another sense: “Lazarus is hidden among the youth of Nain.” “The Galilean legend (which has long since ceased for us), followed by Luke, has moved the story, which originally took place in Judea, to Galilee, their homeland, and gradually substituted the name of a Galilean village (Nain) for the Jewish one (Bethany).”
Through another, but the correct starting point, we have come to the opposite, but correct result.
Gfrörer says (ibid. p. 323), “the story of Lazarus is in its true historical context in John.” We saw that it stands here in fiction and is a ghost. Above, we saw that Luke and how he first formed the story of the youth of Nain.
In Luke’s account (C. 7, 11 -17) the Lord meets the funeral procession at the gate outside the city and here Jesus raises the dead man. This is also the scene of the raising of Lazarus outside the town. The widow, the mother of the young man of Nain, became the abandoned sisters of Lazarus. A large crowd had followed her, so there were also many Jews with the sisters, and they followed Mary as she went to the Lord and witnessed the miracle. Jesus saith unto the young man of Nain, I say unto thee, Arise; so saith he unto Lazarus, Come forth, Lazarus. Jesus gives the young man of Nain to his mother, so he gives orders that Lazarus be freed from the shrouds so that he can go out to his own. Those present who saw the revival of the young man praised God, the Jews who witnessed the revival of Lazarus believed. “The fame of the revival of the young man spread throughout Judea and the surrounding area, as did the fame of the miracle of Lazarus, except that because of the time and the circumstances in which it happened, i.e. because of the pragmatism of the Fourth, it has dangerous and more significant consequences.
The Fourth allows a dead man to come back to life who had already been a prey to death for four days, thus already a prey to decay; Luke, in the young man of Nain, allows a dead man to be resuscitated who is already being carried to the grave; Mark, the original evangelist, only knows how to tell of the resuscitation of a dead man who had succumbed to an illness the moment before. Theologians always speak so much of the contrast between the canonical and the apocryphal, and they could already find this contrast in the four Gospels if their eyes were not too enlightened.
But how – (think, what highly important questions the theologians treat all their life – – in the name of nonsense! when mankind will be finally overridden of these questions!) – Lazarus would not be a historical person? Did not he have Mary and Martha for sisters? – (how interesting! how important for the history of the world!) – What should the sisters do without him? – (the poor sisters!) – Did he not live in Bethany? – (What local knowledge! How extremely interesting) – Didn’t the Lord come to him before and after? — (Ei! Ei!) — What arbitrary, superficial criticism!
Quiet! Gentlemen! I ask you now: in the end Lazarus is not only a metamorphosis of the young man of Nain, in the end Abraham had other thoughts and sent Lazarus back on earth after all. The rich man once asked him to send Lazarus to his five brothers, so that he could testify to them and make them reflect; “for if one of the dead comes to them, they will repent. No,” Abraham answered, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, even if one of the dead rises, they will not believe. ” (Luke16, 27-31.)
In the end, Abraham changed his mind and, seeing that the resurrection of Christ could not force faith, did not consider it useless to send Lazarus back to the living so that they would repent. Or rather, in the end, for this holy purpose – but in spite of Abraham’s warning and wise remark – the fourth evangelist cited Lazarus.
All this will be answered when we consider the report of the anointing in Bethany, on which occasion it will also become clear from where the fourth evangelist drew the elements for his report of the adulteress.
I have been reproached for declaring this account to be a genuine part of the fourth gospel. Luke will vindicate me. Everything has its time! There is nothing so small that it won’t eventually come to the surface!