The Fifth Sunday of Lent:
Meditations and Prayers for the Fifth Week of Lent by Victor Hoagland,
Raising Lazarus From The Dead
The blind man sees, Lazarus lives. John’s Gospel links these two figures
closely because of the gifts they receive from the Word of God, Jesus
Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.”
Light touched the blind man, as the Word of God enlightened his spirit
along with the gift of physical sight, and he believed in Jesus.
And Life came to the tomb of Lazarus, as Jesus, “the resurrection and
the life,” raised him from the dead.
is known about Lazarus than the nameless blind man. Most likely from
an influential family, he and his sisters, Martha and Mary, were friends
of Jesus, whom they welcomed to their home in the village of Bethany,
a little under two miles from Jerusalem. There Jesus often stayed when
visiting the Holy City.
Jesus was not there, however, when Lazarus died some days before the
Passover. Threatened by Jerusalem’s authorities, he had left the area,
traveling down the ancient road to Jericho, then to the safety of Transjordan
where John had baptised.
Once he heard the news of Lazarus’ death he returned up the same road
to be with his friends.
John’s account describes a typical Jewish burial. Wrapped in linen
strips, Lazarus’ body was buried the same day he died; his tomb a cave,
sealed with a stone, outside the village. His sisters, Martha and Mary
then began the customary 30 days of mourning at home, receiving the
condolences of their friends and neighbors.
By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead four days, the point the
rabbis claimed no trace of the soul remained in the body. Decomposition
had set in.
Hearing that Jesus was coming up the road, the two sisters left their
home to express their grief. “And Jesus wept.”
Then, deeply moved, he went to the tomb and ordered the stone removed.
Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed to his Father and in a loud voice
cried, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet
bound with linen bandages, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said,
“Loose him; let him go.”
The raising of Lazarus, which John’s gospel places immediately before
Jesus’ passion and death, made the Jerusalem authorities finally decide
to put Christ to death. It is an irony like others the evangelist makes.
Jesus, bringing life, is put to death and placed in a tomb.
His death and resurrection are life-giving, the church’s faith proclaims.
Dying and rising from the dead, he brings hope of eternal life to all
who, like Lazarus, must die. That hope is realized in the sacrament
“Are you not aware that we who have been baptised into Christ Jesus
were baptised into his death? Through baptism into his death we were
buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. If we have been
united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through
a like resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)
Lazarus was only a sign of what the Savior of the world, the Resurrection
and the Life, would do for all humanity.
Illustration: The Raising of Lazarus, from a painting by Karl Isakson
like the traveler
lifting the fallen one
on the Jericho road,
healing all his wounds,
you went to Lazarus’ tomb,
and would not let him die
but loosed the bonds of death,
so great was your love for him.
you weep at every death,
and pray at every tomb,
for all the dead
whose faith is known to you alone.
call us your friends,
stay in our company,
share what we have,
come to our aid when we call.
and grant us eternal life.