By Beth Piepenburg
When Jesus had walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch during Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), He revealed to the questioning crowd that “I and my Father are one.” Angered, the Jews took up stones and sought to take Jesus by force, but He escaped across the Jordan. After the Temple incident which had occurred on December 22-23 of 32 A.D., Jesus continued ministering across the Jordan River for two months. Soon Purim would be celebrated during the month of Adar, which happened during March 3rd – 5th in the year 33 A.D. Before Purim had arrived, his sisters sent a message informing Jesus that his dear friend is sick. Meanwhile, Lazarus had died! When Jesus arrived in time for Purim, He raised Lazarus from the dead! Both the story of Purim in the Megillah (Book of Esther) and the raising of Lazarus demonstrate that God is at work in the background, show his timing is impeccable, and foreshadow a final victorious celebration.
GOD IN THE BACKGROUND
In the Book of Esther, God is never mentioned, but was working behind the scenes. Esther has been chosen in a national beauty selection to be queen for the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). At the advice of her Uncle Mordecai, she has not revealed her Jewish identity. A few years later, Haman, the king’s top advisor, convinces the king that the Jews ought to be destroyed because of disloyalty to their king. Mordecai approaches Esther to petition the king, even at the possible cost of her life. She fasts for three days and asks for the king and Haman to attend her banquet. In a series of banquets that she has prepared for both of them, God’s hand exposes Haman’s plot. Not only was Haman sentenced to death on his own gallows that he had prepared for the Jews, but the royal decree was reversed for the Jews to destroy their enemies for three days. Because God had saved the Jewish nation from their enemies, they celebrate this event as Purim in the month Adar.
In the story of Lazarus (Jn. 11), his sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick. Jesus replies, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God might be glorified thereby.” Jesus remains at the Jordan for another two days before making the journey to Bethany. After hearing that Jesus is approaching, Martha meets Jesus and expresses that if He had been there her brother would not have died. When Mary sees Jesus, she expresses the same regret as her sister. The mourners also wonder why Jesus couldn’t have prevented Lazarus’ death. In other words, where was God in this situation? However, Jesus asks for the stone to be taken away. Despite Martha’s objections, Jesus reminds Martha that if she would believe, she should see the glory of God. Giving thanks to the Father, Jesus then calls out to Lazarus to come forth. Lazarus is raised from the dead in order for those in attendance to know that God had sent Jesus. While the Lord had seemed unconcerned about the situation when He was at the Jordan River, He was preparing for a victorious outcome!
In the Jewish calendar year, Purim is the last of the ten Moedim or appointed times before the religious New Year commences in the spring. After God had saved the Jews from a three day annihilation devised by the evil schemes of Haman to a three day annihilation of their enemies, the Jews thereafter have observed Purim. Held between the thirteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, the Jews celebrate heartily.
So you may be asking, where does it talk about Purim in John 11? While the Apostle John did focus on the feasts in his gospel, here he is subtly quiet. The text does not reveal that it is the time of Purim because the story is about the Lord operating in the background until the appropriate time. In order to recognize the Resurrection power of God, the reader must not be distracted by other religious elements.
Knowing that this miraculous event took place between the time of Hanukkah and the Passion Week, Scripture does indicate that Jesus spent some time at the Jordan beforehand and at Ephraim (Ai) afterward. Another clue is that Jesus states that there are twelve hours in a day. At Hanukkah there are only ten hours in a day. Nearing the first day of spring when there are twelve hours in a day, the days of Purim in the year 33 A.D. would have been almost twelve hours.
The Heavens revealing the glory of God, show several astronomical clues. Nogah (Morning Star – Esther) was in the constellation of Taleh (Lamb) at Purim in 33 A.D. Tzedek (righteousness) is located in the constellation of Teomim (Twins), which represents the divine and human nature of Christ. The full moon is located beside the constellation of Betumah (Virgin). Perhaps, his mother Mary witnesses this event, because she will need the confirmation of God’s power in days to come. I find it spectacular how the starry sky validates this event of Lazarus and Purim. (see below)
The Book of Esther served as a foreshadow of Christ and the Crucifixion. Unless God saved his people, the Jewish nation would have been decimated. Yet, humankind was condemned without a Savior. Just as Esther fasted for three days and nights, Jesus suffered for three days and nights. As God redeemed her people, God would redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Not only had Lazarus’ death given Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate that death is conquered by Him, but that Lazarus being brought back from the dead would serve as a foreshadow of Christ’s future death and resurrection. The events at this particular Purim would be a month from the death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus the image of the resurrection of Lazarus needed to be emblazed in their hearts and minds.
Although the stories of Esther and Lazarus are quite different, the underlying themes are parallel. God quietly moved through a queen to save Israel, and Jesus does not fail to save Lazarus from the grave. We may wonder where God is in our situations, but we can be assured He is working for our behalf. While Purim had been established centuries before, the timing was certainly perfect for Jesus to move not only on Lazarus’ behalf, but for those who would witness this event. We may wonder about God’s timing, but if we trust in Him his timing is perfect. Both redemption of a nation and the resurrection of Lazarus point to a Messiah who would die for our redemption and be resurrected by the power of God for our eternal life.
 According to my astronomical calculations.
 Ephraim = Ai according to Dr. Scott Stripling with Associates for Biblical Research.
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2018. All rights reserved.