Background to the gospel narrative
Before we look at Lazarus and his family, let us first establish the broader context: which can be summed up in the parable of the Vineyard (Mark 12). The “vineyard of Yahweh of Armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant”, planted in the land and protected from the animal like nations surrounding it (Isa 5). The nation was not ready for the Father to dwell in their midst, his vineyard was “let out to husbandmen”, who initially, were the priesthood who were to minister unto the vine and nurture it to maturity.
However this was not so, the Jewish leaders corrupted with pride and the power bestowed upon them, sought after their own welfare and devoured the vine (Mal 2, Jude). The Father sent them many of his servants the prophets, but the leaders chose to kill them rather than listen. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mat 23:37). Finally he sends his only Son, “who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” shined as a “great light” in an otherwise land of darkness (Heb 1:3, Mat 4:16). Upon seeing him, the Scribes and Pharisees confirmed “this is the heir”, yet for their own greed and personal aspiration declared, “all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me”… and when he refused they said, “come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours”! (Mark 12:7, Mat 4:9).
The gospel narrative then is largely concerned with Christ exposing the apostate Jewish leaders, and building up his apostles as “other husbandmen” to replace them. The parables recorded of the Kingdom of heaven throughout Matthew describe the kingdom of Israel in existence (Mat 11:12), under the governance of the prince of this world – the apostate Jewish leaders (John 12:31, 16:11, Eph 2:2, Luke 10:18, Mat 24:27), and then later to be replaced with the new heavens founded upon Christ as the Abrahamic seed stars are raised to the political heavens (Gen 15:5, Dan 12:2-3, Psa 19:4, 1 Cor 15:40-49, Apoc 4:1).
The first explicit meeting we have recorded with the family in Bethany is in Luke 10:38-42. In the third year of his ministry, Christ comes secretly to Jerusalem for the feast of tabernacles1. And after the envious Jewish leaders attempt to stone him in Jerusalem (John 8:59), he withdraws to the surrounding area sending out seventy of his disciples to preach to all the cities of Judea (Luke 10:1-16). Staying in the region until the feast of dedication two months later the Jewish leaders attempt to stone him for a second time (John 10:22-39), after which he departs into Perea, which is the area beyond Jordan (John 10:40-42). It is at some point between these two feasts when Christ enters Bethany, a little village perched on the top of the mount of olives overlooking Jerusalem on the west and down into the deep Jordan valley on the east.
And when he comes into the city, “Martha received him into her house”. Martha demonstrates the character of her father Abraham in inviting sojourners into her house.
For Yahweh your Elohim is Eloah of the Elohim, and Adon of the Adonim, a great Ail, a mighty, and a terrible, which respecteth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgement of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the sojourner, in giving him bread and a coat. Love ye therefore the sojourner: for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deut 10:17-19)
If we are truly sons and daughters, then we will welcome into the household all who seek to enter into its refuge in honesty and truth and feed them with the bread of life with which we have so graciously been provided with. and offer them the covering of baptismal covering of Christ by which we have been clothed (Gal 3:27, Col 3:3).
Verse 39 introduces us to Mary the sister of Martha, “which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word”. Mary demonstrates a humble and meek attitude to the words of Yahweh, hearing such words she was blessed indeed with an understanding of the Gospel preached to Abraham (Apoc 1:3, Gal 3:8). Let us dwell together building each other up with one mind, by listening and discussing the scriptures as Mary did, rather than sitting with the scornful of this world (Psa 133:1, Mal 3:16, Psa 1:1).
In contrast Martha was “cumbered about much serving”. This statement shows the wonderful character of that virtuous sister, it shows the love and care that she showed for others (Prov 31). Christ says, “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant”, and how many of us live up to that as Martha did? (Matt 23:11)
Yet there was an imbalance that our Lord had to address which we can learn much from. In her enthusiasm Martha had decided upon a list of things that needed doing and these were her priority which excluded all else. How often do we do the same, overwhelm ourselves by stacking up things that seem important at the time to the detriment of the more weightier matter such as sitting down together and discussing scripture, and visiting the fatherless and the widow (Mat 23:23, Mal 3:16, James 1:27).
Whilst we know that it is a good thing to be diligent in what we do, and that those who are not diligent will ultimately have nothing (Prov 6:6, 13:4). In the other extreme, neither should we get caught up in the natural things of this life, worrying about the things of tomorrow (Mat 6:34). Perfect peace have they that trust in the name Yahweh (Isa 26:3,4).
Christ replies, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). And what is that one thing? To love Yahweh Elohim, with all our heart, body and strength, and to love the brethren and sisters as ourselves – which is really one and the same commandment – for upon these two hang all the law and the prophets. Yahweh is the gospel, the memorial name which reminds us of the Fathers plan an purpose with his earth, to fill it with people manifesting his character. Elohim is the plural of Eloah, a multitude invested with El (the spirit Power of our Father), and describes the Angels and also those mortals on this earth who are driven by his spirit. Yahweh Elohim then, is the saint body… those who have his name written in their foreheads, those to whom the future kingdom will be given (Apoc 14:1, Heb 2:5, Apoc 3:21).
One thing then is to love the Ecclesia, the body and bride of Christ, serving it as best we can to build up that body to further fill the earth with his glory. Or put another way, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat 6:33). The kingdom of God was founded upon Christ and existed from then unto this present day – we wait the day when it will be given a territory, the land of Israel, re-establishing the throne of David in Jerusalem. All things should be done with that purpose in mind, to preserve and protect the household of faith. If we love our Father, we will love his children (1 John 5:1-3). If we have not Love, we have nothing… let us show faith by our actions to others (1 Cor 13:1-2, James 2:18).
The gospel narrative then continues with several parables warning of the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees (Luke 11:1-13:21). After which, Christ goes up to Jerusalem for the feast of dedication and the Jewish leaders again attempt to stone him, and he takes leave to Perea (John 10:22-42). It is on this journey beyond Jordan that our lord gives the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, explaining the events just happened and the events soon to take place (Luke 16:19-31).
While it is not important if the Lazarus in the parable and the Lazarus of the house of Bethany were the same person, as symbolic parables they both represent the same things. The identity of the symbolic Lazarus is given in that Lazarus was carried into “Abraham’s bosom”, thereby identifying him with the multitudinous seed promised to Abraham, which Christ says is those that do the works of Abraham (Gen 22:17-18, John 8:33-39).
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:20-21)
Who then is the rich man and his table? The rich man is symbolic of the Jewish leaders who “devour widows houses” and the table is the table of Yahweh that they had “polluted” (Luke 20:46-21:1, Mal 1:12). They had been given the symbolic bread from heaven in the wilderness in the form of the Mosaic law, which was to bring them to Christ in it’s typical significance (Gal 3:24). The table of Yahweh set before them, typified in the table of showbread. All had an opportunity to come and eat of the words of the spirit and be filled (Mat 4:4). The leaders of the people were elevated to their positions of great responsibility to minister unto the welfare of the people, to ensure the poor were fed (Mal 2:7). But instead they were left begging for the crumbs that fell, and often, the dogs or people of the nations around, showed more faith than those of the natural seed (Mat 15:25-28, Mat 8:10).
But what can we learn from this? What is it that so angers our Lord when he addresses the Scribes and Pharisees in Mat 23 – “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees… Hypocrites”, over and over again. The leaven of the Pharisees which was permeating all of the kingdom of God causing it’s spiritual death “is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1), preaching one thing to others and demonstrating openly another thing! This is the final charge against the leaders of the people of that day. Let each of us examine ourselves, casting out of our own eyes first (Mat 7:5).
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Apoc 1:3)
The rich hypocrite will remain in his grave once his mortal coils cease to wriggle… whereas ultimately the righteous seed will be gathered together in the promise of their father, and raised as stars to rule in the political kingdom. Christ is that singular seed which will become a multitudinous seed when joined as one flesh with his wife (Gal 3:16).
Not long after giving this parable, word comes to Christ from Mary and Martha with news of their brothers Lazarus’ illness – “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3). Christ replies, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”. As the minutes grew longer and Lazarus’ grew worse in his last hours… Christ did not arrive, so it must have been difficult to understand the purpose of Christ in prolonging his arrival.
At times like these we must hold on firmly to the words of Christ, knowing that all things work together for the good of those that love God (Rom 8:28). Though weakness we are made perfect, therefore we ought to glory in our infirmaries knowing that it is to mould us and those around us (2 Cor 12:9-11). In our darkest despair let us be strengthened with absolute strength that it is not unto death if we love our father and work with his moulding, for it is to the glory of our father and the life of the millennium.
Although there are general lessons we can learn from these events, they were arranged by the spirit in the very specific context of the events of the time. Christ was to go to Jerusalem one last time to give the Jewish leaders an opportunity to repent. Then he would depart to go one last time into all the parts of the land where he had preached, to return to Jerusalem to offer himself as a sacrifice for his bride in fulfilment of the law (Mat 5:17-19). Showing the way for us that we too should mortify selfish flesh and dedicate our lives to helping our Brethren and Sisters, and bearing their burdens (Gal 6:2, James 2:8).
Through the death and resurrection of Lazarus, Christ showed to all the people that he was acting in the power and strength of his father (Heb 1:2-3). Building on the previous parable, Lazarus here is also typical of the seed of Abraham… hence enacting the death and resurrection of Christ himself, the forerunner and later all those that follow him (Heb 6:20). For standing before the tomb of Lazarus, and speaking of his own death and resurrection he says, “the hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:17). Mary showed she understood these words when she later anointed Christ with ointment (Mat 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8).
We are reminded of the promises to Abraham through the words of 1 Corinthians 15. The natural seed bodies raised to immortality and set as stars in the political firmament of the future age, where the saints will give light to the inhabitants of the land and all those who come up to worship before the throne of David.
There is one further stage to this parable of Lazarus, which is linked to the events immediately following the raising of Lazarus and the supper at the house of Simon the leper – where Mary anointed Christ for his death. This is the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem on the foal of an Ass surrounded by the multitude stirred up by the resurrection of Lazarus, which is prophetic of Christ and the resurrected saints entering Jerusalem (John 12:9-19, Mat 21:9, 23:39, Psa 118:26, Isa 26:2).
The name Lazarus comes from the Hebrew El-Azar, which means El (God, as the ultimate power of everything) has helped. It is the word “helpmeet” in Gen 2:18, and talks of help that the bride provides her husband with in his work – Christ and his bride doing his work of building up the ecclesia. It also speaks of the help which Christ and his bride provide in rebuilding Jerusalem after the destruction of the Gogean invasion.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help is with Yahweh, which IS MAKING the heavens and earth. (Psa 121:1)
Let us prepare ourselves that we may help our husband in that day…