9-11 Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.
Lazarus became a living testimony of the power and deliverance of God when his life was raised. He became a "threat" to religion the day he was raised! The Jewish high priests are actually resisting his testimony because it was causing people to leave the "comfort" of religion to experience the dynamic of relationship. The fact of the matter is that God uses people to do the work of bearing testimony to his deliverance!
We are never a threat to "religion" when we are just living in the status quo. As soon as we "cross the line" into a real and vital relationship with Jesus, guess what....we become a "threat". For the sake of clarity, let me just say that when I refer to "religion", I am referring to the rote, mundane, going to church kind of ritual that never really allows a man's heart to change or his life to be a testimony of God's power. When I speak of relationship, I am speaking of that life that exudes the power of God for others to behold.
The Jewish high priests are threatened because their "followers" are "converting"! They want reality in their lives - they want to experience some of the "vitality" that Lazarus was a testimony of that day. All the Jewish leaders could offer the crowds was a set of religious rules - a set of standards they live by - but the connection of the "rule" with the "ruler" was never really made! By definition, relationship is a "connection". What Lazarus showed the people was the intimacy of "connection" with Jesus.
Connection implies involvement. When we move away from the ritual keeping of rules, we move into a place where God becomes involved in our lives and we become involved in his work. There is an inter-relatedness between connection and power. Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus - spoke the words to come forth - embraced him as he did - and Lazarus maintained that connection by being with Jesus as a living testimony of his power and grace. That is how it is with Jesus - he wants us to be connected to him.
Why is relationship a threat to religion? It is simple really...relationship makes the "connection" that rules never will. As a matter of fact, when all we are focused on is the "rules" we have to keep or never break, we often lack any incentive to pursue the relationship! Think about it. When you are so intent on not breaking the rules - like when you see those signs posted that remind you that there are workers on the roadway and that the fines for speeding are doubled in that area - don't you slow down just a little bit as you see the patrol car on the side of the road?
You become "intentional" about the rules and all the other stuff that you were focusing on takes backseat! That is why the Jewish leaders had such a hard time with Jesus - they saw people moving away from the ritual, mundane way of "worship" and this was a threat to their existence! I don't know about you, but I want to be a threat to religion! I want to be a living testimony of relationship, not a dead-weight of religion.
Belief is never a matter of having "seen" something - all the miraculous signs were evident to both the religious leaders and the ones who were following Jesus. The "signs" don't convince the mind - they affect the heart! Belief often requires a testimony - like when you buy a package of seeds at the home store. That package of seeds has a photo (a sign) of a fully grown plant, bearing much fruit. Until that package is opened, the seeds planted, and care taken to tend that seed, the evidence of what is in the package is never fully understood.
A seed only does what it was intended to do when it is planted! In the package, it is just a nice thing (kind of like all the religious rules). Once in the ground, tended appropriately, the seed yields something beyond its original form. That is true of each of us as we become related to Christ. We take a new form - exponentially yielding fruit in season. That is what it is to be in relationship with Jesus - we become the evidence of what is "in" the package! That was what Lazarus was that day so long ago - an evidence of what had filled his heart!