Different people responded for different reasons to Lazarus’ death in John 11. Some responded to comfort Mary and Martha (19). Some responded to honor Lazarus (19). Some responded because they knew Jesus would be there or would eventually come and they expected to possibly see Him perform another miracle (37). Some came to reinforce or even make decisions on their faith. (45) Yet others came to see if Jesus would again stir controversy, would again make a statement against the church (37, 46).
It seems that, with little exception, the people of Jerusalem came with an agenda, to a funeral. Why anyone would come with any other motive than to honor the loss of an individual or provide comfort to the family is beyond me, but we do it. The most egregious efforts are those who come with negative intentions, or even critical attitudes.
Some years ago a Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, with seven others tragically lost their lives in a plane crash. His wife, one of his children, the pilots, his driver and two campaign staffers were also lost. The sad truth is that, instead of honoring him and the other lives lost, the politically minded individuals in attendance determined not to loose this opportunity to promote their agenda. How disgusting to make this solemn event about politics, there were six others who lost their lives as well. Instead of a time of support for a family who lost mother and father and sibling, as well as other families impacted remembering the wonderful life of their lost ones, this event is turned into an ugly pep rally to turn out the vote.
We should take comfort, Paul Wellstone’s family was not the first to suffer this insensitivity. Here in John 11 leaders in Jerusalem did the same thing, except they had enough couth to at least make their motivations private (46-47).
Make no mistake, it is not just funerals where individuals come to hear about or see Jesus for the wrong reasons. The sad truth is that people go to church every Sunday with the wrong motives. Instead of worship it is a social event. Instead of worship it is a slot in the week to fill with that ritual. Instead of worship it is a study in progress through life that seeks what is satisfying to self. Instead of worship it is a place to receive weekly entertainment. Instead of worship it is a place to escape the world’s troubles. But God’s requirement has never changed for church or synagogue and our leadership of old knew this long ago.
In Psalm 51:17 David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” In 34:18 we find, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Do you come humbled to be in God’s house. Do you come to receive what God has for you? Come with that broken spirit and contrite heart. That is the only acceptable sacrifice you can give God, so don’t be afraid, give it.