One of the greatest miracles, aside from the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, was Jesus returning His friend Lazarus to life. Lazarus was already dead for four long days and buried within the tomb sealed by a huge rock.
Jesus had a special love and affection for Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, who lived in Bethany on the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem. Occasionally, Jesus would pay a visit and enjoy their company and their friendship. Mary was more of a contemplative; Martha tended towards a more active lifestyle. However, both sisters and Lazarus had a special love for Jesus and Jesus loved them.
The death of Lazarus proved devastating to both Martha and Mary; how much they really loved their brother! Jesus loved Lazarus so much that as He approached the tomb where Lazarus was dead and buried He wept, one of the rare times that the Gospel depicts the tears of Jesus. On another occasion Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because they failed to recognize His visitation.
Jesus arrives and asks where Lazarus is and they respond in the tomb. Jesus tells them to remove the stone but they reply that Lazarus has been buried several days and there will already be a stench. Jesus reassures them that He is the Resurrection and the Life; those who believe in Him will never die.
The huge stone is rolled back; Jesus cries out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!” After four days dead, Lazarus comes forth from the tomb alive! He is given back to his sisters, Martha and Mary, and they rejoice exceedingly. Jesus has turned a terrible tragedy into a glorious victory. Jesus has conquered death! Indeed Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life!
Let us present three clear messages for us to reflect upon trusting in God’s presence in our lives when at times He may seem to be distant, far off or even totally absent.
The Friendship of Jesus
We all need human friendships. Aristotle states: “Man is a social animal.” The poet John Donne asserts: “No man is an island unto himself.” None of us are called to live the life of a cave-man. Nonetheless, even the best of friends will occasionally fail us, and even when we try to be the best of friends, we also fail in our loyalty to friendship. However, this is not the case with Jesus and His Friendship towards us; He is the ever faithful Friend. In the dark moments of our lives, we should reaffirm our belief in the Friendship of Jesus. Even in the midst of the dark tunnel, Jesus is the Light at the end of the tunnel. Jesus was there to help Martha and Mary in their loss; Jesus will always be there for us in our apparent losses.
Death is Not the Last Word
As believers in Jesus and His Resurrection, death is not the last word! On the contrary, the last word is that Jesus is truly risen from the dead, Alleluia! For we who have lost our loved ones, we must lift our eyes to Jesus in His risen state. As we pray in Holy Mass: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” We firmly believe in the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This gives true meaning to life.
Nature itself alludes to the Resurrection. The night gives way to dawn; the torrential storms subside and a rainbow paints the beautiful sky; the caterpillar dies and the monarch butterfly flutters through the air; the sharp thorn gives birth to the beautiful spring rose. All of these natural beauties are a mere pale image of Jesus dying on Good Friday and Jesus rising Easter Sunday! Our firm belief is that if we have lived for Christ, walked with Christ, loved Christ, and died with Christ, then we will be united with Him forever in heaven. Therefore, death should never lead us to the brink of despair, but rather to hope in life to the fullest in Heaven. Saint Paul reminds us: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
We all need a Lazarus Experience. That is to say, to leave the darkness of sin, to leave the ugly and dirty cloths that bind us and be set free. In a word, we all need to make good confessions, leave our sinful past and trust in the mercy of the Risen Lord! There are actually two deaths: the death of the body, as well as the death of the soul. Sad to say, most people mourn more grievously over physical death, the death of the body, than they do over the death of the soul. Jesus admonishes us to be more cautious over the death of the soul than that of the body. The death of the soul results in eternal separation from God and condemnation to eternal hell-fire! This should be our most serious fear. If we have the disgrace of falling into serious sin—mortal sin—then we should all pursue a Lazarus Experience, in which we return to God with all of our heart, make a good sacramental confession, and be born anew to God’s life of grace. Indeed, every good sacramental confession is a spiritual Lazarus Experience—the passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. In a certain sense, in every sacramental confession we experience the Paschal Mystery—the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus in our souls.
In conclusion, the death and resurrection of Lazarus from the dead can teach us many important lessons in our spiritual journey towards our eternal home which is heaven. Jesus is our best friend. Death is not the last word, but eternal life with the Lord Jesus in heaven is our eternal destiny. Finally, if we have a spiritual death through mortal sin, we can have a Lazarus Experience by coming to life through a good sacramental confession.