Jesus knew that some of those who came to hear him talk thought more of wealth, and cared more to be rich and lead a life of ease than they did to do God's will and help those who were poor and sick, and in need of aid.
To these folks he told this tale: There was once a rich man who wore fine clothes, and ate the best of rich food; and at his gate there laid a poor sick man, named Laz-a-rus, who had no good food nor clothes, and was full of sores that would not heal. Laz-a-rus hoped that food might be sent out to him, for he would have been glad to have had the scraps that were left from the rich man's meals.
The dogs seemed to feel for him, for they came and licked his sores; but the rich man gave him no food, and paid no heed to his wants.
At last Laz-a-rus died, and angels bore him up to live with God, in a world of joy and light, where no one is sick or sad or poor. Dives (the rich man) died, too, and went where all who do not love God go when they die. In tor-ment when he was in great pain, he raised his eyes to the king-dom of God, and there he saw Laz-a-rus with his head on A-bra-ham's breast. Then he cried out and said, Fa-ther A-bra-ham, I beg thee to send Laz-a-rus here that he may dip his hand in the water and cool the tip of my tongue, for I am racked with pain and thirst in this flame. But A-bra-ham said, Son, bear in mind, that while you lived you had all the joys the world could give, and Laz-a-rus had naught but grief and pain. Now he has bliss and you have woe --- 'twixt him and you there is a great gulf fixed; no one can go from his home to yours; nor can one come from your home to his.
Then Dives said, If he may not come to me please send him to my old home on earth to teach my friends there what to do that they may not have to come to this dread place when they die. A-bra-ham said, they know the laws of God; Mo-ses and the seers have told them what they should do; let them hear them. Then the rich man said, Nay, Fa-ther A-bra-ham ; but if one went from the dead to warn them, they would turn from their sins and try to do God's will. But A-bra-ham said, If they will not do what Mo-ses and the seers bade them, they would not heed the words of one who went to them from the dead.
This story shows that it is just as wrong not to do what one ought to do as it is to do what one ought not to do. The rich man did Laz-a-rus no great harm, but when he had a chance to help him he failed to do so; and for that he was judged.
To some men who thought they were good and scorned all who did not keep the law so well as they did, Je-sus said, Two men, one a Phar-isee and one a Pub-li-can, went to the temple to pray. The Phar-i-see chose a place where all could see him; and he stood up and said, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not like those men who are not just, and do not keep the law --- who take more than they have a right to, and keep what is not theirs. I fast twice in the week, and give one-tenth part of all I own."
The Pub-li-can knelt where he thought no one could see him, and bowed his head and smote on his breast as he said," God be good to me and help me to get rid of all my sins."
Je-sus said God was more pleased with this man than he was with the Phar-i-see; for he loves the meek and will raise them up, but will put down those who are proud and vain.
At this time some of the folks brought their boys and girls and babes to Je-sus that he might lay his hands on them and bless them. The disci-ples thought that Je-sus came to teach and preach to grown folks, and that it was not right to ask him to spend his time on those who were too young to be helped by him; so they re-bu-ke the folks who brought their babes, and tried to make them leave the Lord in peace. But this did not please Je-sus and he told them that small folks had as much right to come to him as grown folks had. Then he took the child-ren in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them and said, "Let them come to me and do not try to hold them back, for of such hearts as these is God's kingdom made up."
Once when the Jews came to Je-sus and asked him to tell them, in plain words, if he were the Son of God, Je-sus said, "I and my Father are one," by which he meant that he was God, and that men ought to love and serve God the Son as much as they loved and served God the Fa-ther. Then the Jews took up stones to throw at him, but as his work was not yet done, he left Je-ru-sa-lem, and went to a place called Beth-a-ba-ra.
While he was there his friend Laz-a-rus, of Beth-any, fell sick, and Ma-ry and Mar-tha sent word to Je-sus : Lord, he whom thou dost love is sick.
Je-sus said, "Yes, but this will not end in death;" and he made no haste to go to them at Beth-any, but stayed two days more in the place where he was. On the third day he said to his dis-ci-ples, "Let us go to Ju-dea once more," but they said, "The Jews of late sought to stone thee, and wilt thou go back?" They knew it would be a great risk for Je-sus to be seen near Je-ru-sa-lem, for his foes there had laid a snare for him and were on the watch to take him when and where they could.
But he said, "Our friend Laz-a-rus sleeps, and I go that I may wake him out of his sleep." He meant that he was dead, and that he must- go and bring him back to life. They said, "Lord, if he sleep he shall do well; for they thought Je-sus meant that Laz-a-rus lay and took his rest in a sound sleep that would do him good and help to make him well." But Je-sus now tells them in plain words, "Laz-a-rus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that your faith may be made strong. But let us go to him." They did not wish him to take this great risk, but when they found he would not be held back, Thom-as said, "Let us go, too, that we may die with him.
When Je-sus and his friends reach Beth-any, they find that Laz-a-rus is in truth dead, as he had told them, and has lain four days in the grave. A throng of friends are with Ma-ry and Mar-tha in their house to weep and mourn with them. But when Mar-tha hears that Je-sus is near at hand, she leaves the hosts of friends and goes to meet the one friend whose love is worth more than all the rest.
But Ma-ry sits still in the house. As soon as Mar-tha caught sight of Je-sus she cried out, "Lord, if thou hadst been here he would not have died." She had so much faith as that, and seems to have had still more, for she adds, "And I know that though he is now dead, yet God will give thee all things which thou wilt ask of him." Je-sus said, "Laz-a-rus shall rise from the dead." "Yes, Lord, I know that he shall rise at the last day when all the dead shall rise." She has not yet the full faith in Je-sus, so he tells her in plain words that it is through him that Laz-a-rus (and all the dead) must rise from death and live once more. "He that hath faith in me though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he who lives and has faith in me shall not die. Have you this faith?" Then Mar-tha said, "Yes, Lord; I know that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, and that thou canst do all things." Then she went back to the house and told Ma-ry, The Lord has come and calls for you.
All this time Ma-ry had been at home with the friends who had come to cheer her and Mar-tha in their grief: but when she heard that Je-sus had asked for her, she rose with haste and went to meet him. He had not yet come through the gate of the town, but was in the place where Mar-tha had met him.
The Jews who sat with her, and who had not heard what Mar-tha said, thought she meant to go to the grave to weep there, and so they went with her. But she went straight to Je-sus with her grief, fell at his feet, and said, just as Mar-tha had done-Lord, if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died. Tears choked her voice and she could say no more: those who were with her wept, too. Je-sus was much moved at the sight of all these tears, and said, where have ye laid him? They said, Lord, come and see.
Jesus wept, and some of the Jews said: "See how much he loved him!" But some of the Jews said, "If this man can make blind folks see, can he not make sick folks well? And if he loved Laz-a-rus so much, why did he let him die?"
When they reach the place, Je-sus bids them raise the stone from the mouth of the cave. The tombs in that land were hewn in the rocks, and a stone was made to serve as a door.
Mar-tha thought Je-sus' wish must be to see the face of his dear friend once more in the flesh, and she bids him call to mind how long he has been dead, and that it will be best to think of his face as it was in health, and not look at it now that death and the grave had done their sad work.
But Je-sus said to Mar-tha, "Did I not tell you that if you would have faith you should see how God could work?"
Then those who stood by did as Je-sus bade them, and took off the stone from the place where the dead man was laid. Je-sus gave thanks to God, and said, "Fa-ther, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. I know Thou dost hear me each time I cry to Thee; but for the sake of those who stand here I speak --- that they may know Thou hast sent me." Then he cried with a loud voice, "Laz-a-rus come forth!" and he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with white cloths, and with a white cloth bound on his face. Je-sus said, "Loose him and let him go!"
Thus did the Lord keep his word to Mar-tha and Ma-ry; he had said, though Laz-a-rus was so sick, the end should not be death, and now their brother stood there full of life and health. Some of the Jews who saw this proof of the might of Je-sus had faith in him; but some of them went their ways to the Phar-i-sees and told them what things Je-sus had done. Then the chief priests and Phar-i-sees said, "What shall we do? Of a truth this manwill love and trust him so much that they will make him their king; that will not be safe for us, for it will bring Rome with all her hosts to crush us and take our town and the whole land. No it will not do for this man to live," said the High Priest, "It is best that one should die for us, so that we may not all die."
But Je-sus knew that his time had not yet come, so he left Beth-any (which was so near Je-ru-salem that he was not safe there) and went to E-phraim, a small town where he was not so well known, and stayed there till the time for the spring feast of the Jews drew near. Here Je-sus had more time to talk to his dis-ci-ples, and he told them for the third time that he could not stay with them long, as the chief priests and Pharisees would soon take him and give him up to the Romans, who would mock him and spit on him and beat him, and at last would put him to death on a cross and lay him in the grave; but he told them, too, that when he had been dead three days he would rise from the grave.
The twelve did not like to hear of his sad fate; they thought it strange that he would let such things come to pass, and yet they did not know how to take his words. They still thought that when he rose from the dead he would reign like a king on earth; and the mother of James and John asked him to grant that her two sons might sit, one on his right hand and one on his left in his king-dom. Je-sus said that those who wished to reign with him must first die for him, and James and John and all of the twelve said they would do this.