As we inch closer to the celebration of Easter, we reflect on the death of Lazarus, the brother of two prominent biblical figures, Martha and Mary. The gospel tells us that Lazarus, from Bethany, was ill and eventually died. It was painful for the two sisters to lose an only brother. Death is part of being human but painful. Jesus arrived in Bethany four days after the death of Lazarus, to sympathize with the family for their loss. The agony, the pain of loss and the tears had not eased when Jesus arrived with his disciples. Everybody thought that Jesus would do the usual -- empathize with them. But he went out of his way to do the unusual, open the grave of the dead man.
The unusual approach is what the Prophet Ezekiel talks about in the first reading. "O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!" The captivity in Babylon is at its peak and nobody ever thought that a return to I srael would be possible. But here, God promises a new life by opening their graves and giving the dead a second chance to live.
The distinction between faith and doubt is important here: faith raises us above our fears while our doubts keep us unproductive. St. Paul's writing to the Romans says, "Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness." The preaching of St. Paul is a result of his encounter with the risen Christ who gave his life a positive dimension. His singular experience on the way to Damascus transformed his life from an enemy of the Cross to a friend of the resurrection. It is this transformative power that legitimizes the encounter of Jesus with the two bereaved sisters, Mary and Martha. Both said to Jesus at different times, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." The response of Jesus is, "Your brother will rise." Does this bring consolation to a bereaved family mourning a brother? A little bit, you might say. It is empathetic but not enough. Jesus then says the unusual, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Martha believed that Lazarus, her brother, would rise on resurrection day.
The next dramatic scene came when Jesus was shown the tomb of Lazarus, he was expected to cry and wail like the two sisters. But he did not. Rather, he prayed and ordered the stone to the entrance be taken away. Jesus voiced out a command, "Lazarus, come out!" Indeed, Lazarus came out, alive. Jesus ordered that he be unbound, "Untie him and let him go." The mission of Jesus at Bethany is accomplished. Mary and Martha can now have their brother back from the dead. It is an unusual phenomenon, a miracle to see a dead man walking alive after four days in the tomb.
The raising of Lazarus by Jesus was a prelude to what would happen to Jesus. Preparing for Easter gives us an important preamble to what Jesus is going to experience at the hands of vindictive men. Jesus will die but death will not hold him perpetually in the grave. He will rise to everlasting life, a transformation to eternity with God the Father. God said in the first reading, "I have promised, and I will do it." Jesus never failed Lazarus. He will not fail you either. We too shall rise to everlasting life and live with God forever. Do you believe this? Keep prayingBACK TO LIST