By Sarah Kelly
Jesus and HIs disciples were resting under a tree when the messenger came. He looked out of breath.
“I’m looking for a Jesus,” he gasped. “Jesus of Nazareth. I was told He would be somewhere near the Jordan River.”
Jesus pushed Himself to His feet. “I am Jesus of Nazareth.”
The messenger handed him a scroll and Jesus unrolled it, reading it quickly.
Lord, our brother, Lazarus, has fallen ill. Please, come to see him before he passes on.
Jesus rolled it back up. “Tell them that this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God and so that God’s Son may be glorified. Tell them that.”
The messenger nodded and went to leave.
“Stay for a bit though, will you? It’s at least two days of travel from here to Bethany. We must give you something to eat before you set off again.”
“Thank you, Lord,” the messenger said. He sat down in the shadow of the tree next to the disciples and John went through one of the bags, looking for any food that they had left.
Eventually, he found a loaf of bread and some cheese.
“Here, eat this.” John handed it to the messenger.
The messenger took it gratefully and ate it, staring at Jesus.
Jesus seemed oblivious to this and just stood up. “I must go to pray. You may stay here.”
John just nodded, knowing it wouldn’t help to argue. He had tried before. But Jesus was persistent that he went alone.
The messenger watched as Jesus walked away, disappearing to a secluded hill that was hidden by trees. “Your teacher is an extraordinary man,” he said after a moment.
“That he is,” John agreed, sitting down next to the messenger.
“I’ve heard much about him from the mouths of my master’s daughters, Mary and Martha. They say praises about him nearly all day long.”
John’s eyes traveled out to the trees where Jesus had gone. “He deserves it. He deserves more than we can give him.”
Soon, after the messenger had rested and finished eating, he insisted that he go back to his master’s house. I’m sure the mistresses would like to hear the reply as soon as possible.”
John nodded. “Well, we best not keep you. It was nice to meet you…?”
“Arioch,” the messenger said, smiling at the twelve disciples and dipping his head. (Arioch means “Like a Lion.) “It was nice to meet all of you. Especially your teacher.”
John nodded, then Arioch was off. He left without another word, trotting down the road that led back towards Bethany.
Jesus came back later that day. The disciples expected them to head off then and there. Jesus was good friends with Lazarus. But then when He informed them to gather firewood for two more nights, they were confused. Why should they sit, idle, while someone was dying? They all knew that He could heal him with a few words. They’d seen it happen before.
When those two days were up, Jesus told them to pack up. They did so, rather quickly, knowing that some sicknesses worked quickly and that Lazarus could already be dead.
“Let’s go back to Judea on our way to Bethany,” Jesus said to them.
John exchanged a look with the others, then stepped forwards. “Um, Rabbi, they tried to stone You last time we were there,” he said warily. “And yet, You want to go back?”
Jesus sat back. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks during the day, under the light of the sun, will not trip, for the sun shines onto it all. It is the person who walks at night that stumbles, because they cannot see the rocks that they walk over.”
When no one answered, Jesus sighed, looking out into the distance. “Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now we shall go and I’ll wake him up.”
Peter stepped forwards this time. “The ill need their rest. If Lazarus is sleeping, it is best to let him sleep.”
Jesus shook his head. “You don’t understand Me. Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I am glad that I wasn’t there.”
“Why?” several disciples asked at once. “Are You saying You’re glad that Lazarus died?”
Jesus shook his head. “No. I am glad that I was not there because if not, you wouldn’t believe.” Jesus got up and put on His pack, starting to walk down the road.
All the other disciples got their things and followed him.
They arrived at Mary and Martha’s house two days later. There were a lot of Jews from Jerusalem, as it was hardly two miles away, to give their wishes to the family.
Arioch apparently saw them coming and met them as they reached the village outskirts. He came out to meet them all, looking crestfallen. “Lazarus died four days ago,” he said in a soft voice. “I’m sorry you came all this way.” He glanced at Jesus, not daring to say anything. He was thinking of all the things he’d heard from Mary and Martha about Jesus and how He healed the sick, but now he wasn’t sure if he believed them. After all, if He could, then He could’ve healed Lazarus. But Lazarus was now dead, lying deep in the family tomb.
“Let me go tell them of your arrival,” Arioch said in a soft voice. “I’m sure they’ll want to know.” Then he turned and trotted back towards the house, his movements slow and sad.
As they were getting closer to the house, Martha came to meet them. She had obviously tried to compose herself, though her face was tear-streaked and her eyes were red from crying.
Jesus noticed that Mary was not with her.
“Lord,” Martha said in a trembling voice, “if you had been here –” Her voice nearly broke and she cleared her throat. “If you had been here, my brother and your friend, Lazarus, would still be alive.” She took a shaking breath. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus looked on Martha, sympathy flickering in his eyes. He walked over and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Your brother will rise again,” he said softly.
Martha nodded. “I know. It says in the scriptures that all the dead will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
“I am the resurrection, and the life.”
Martha looked up with startled brown eyes.
“Anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe me?”
Martha dried the tears at the corners of her eyes and smiled. “Yes, I believe you,” she said in a small voice. “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world to save us all.”
Jesus smiled. “Now where is Mary? I expected she’d be out here with you.”
Martha bowed her head respectfully. “I shall go get her, Lord. I’ll be back presently.”
Martha went back to her house and found Mary. She pulled her away from the crowds of people wishing them well, and giving them their condolences for their brother’s death. “The Teacher is here and he’s asked for you,” she said in a lowered voice.
Mary looked up with a start, then quickly got up and left the room without a word to their guests. She didn’t even notice as their guests began to follow, most likely thinking she was going to Lazarus’ tomb to mourn. But she wasn’t.
She reached the outskirts of the village, where Jesus and His disciples still were waiting, and fell onto her knees before him. Tears began falling down her face. “Lord,” she said in a choked-up voice, “if you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.” She burst out crying and Jesus laid a hand on her shoulder. He gave a slight frown. “Where have you laid him?” He asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” Martha said, walking over.
Mary was still knelt on the ground next to Jesus, sobbing. Jesus crouched down next to her and wept.
A few people in the crowd that had followed Mary and Martha murmured to each other. “See how he loved him!” they whispered. “It’s a shame he couldn’t see him before he dies.”
A few other people frowned. “I’m sure he could’ve kept him alive if he wanted to. He’s opened the eyes of a blind man. Surely he could hold off a sickness.”
Then the group of people, including Jesus, His disciples, and the two sisters, headed towards the tomb.
It wasn’t really a tomb. It was a deep cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. Lazarus was laid in the innermost chamber of the cave.
Jesus stared at the stone. “Take it away,” he said.
Martha darted forwards and grabbed Jesus’ hand. “But, Lord, he’s been dead for nearly four days. You won’t want to go in there.”
“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus asked. “Now, take the stone away from the entrance.”
Martha nodded to a few of their friends. They were wondering why in the world Martha had agreed to open the tomb, and also wondering why they had to be the ones to open it. But they still went over and began pushing it out of the way.
As they were opening it, Jesus looked up. “Farther, Thank you for always hearing me and I know that you have heard me now. I know that you always will hear by, and I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me here.”
Then Jesus looked back towards the tomb that was now fully open. “Lazarus, come out!” He called.
Everyone held their breath. Surely. . . He couldn’t do it, right? There was no way. . .
But then they heard shuffling steps and a man stabbed with strips of linen came out of the tomb. No one could tell if it was Lazarus, as his face was covered, but everyone could guess that it was.
“Take off the grave clothes and let him go,” Jesus ordered.
Mary dashed over and helped Lazarus out of his clothes.
“Where am I?” he asked in a hoarse voice. “How did I get here? Why am I dressed in. . . Wait, what? No, that’s not possible.”
Mary smiled, tears running down her face. “You died, Lazarus, and Jesus, he – he brought you back to life!” She laughed. “I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life.” She hugged Lazarus. “I’m so glad you’re back.” Then she ran over to Jesus and fell at his feet. “Thank you, Lord,” she said. “Thank you for bringing him back.”
Jesus held out his hand and Mary took it. He helped her to her feet and smiled. “You shouldn’t be thanking me, but my Father. Now come on. We have to help Lazarus. It’s not a very nice thing, being dead.”
Mary smiled, but it looked a bit incredulous. “You say that as though from experience,” she said.
Jesus looked down at the ground as they walked. “Not experience. Not yet. I have not died quite yet.” Then he walked off towards Lazarus to go talk to him, though Lazarus was surrounded by throngs of people.
Yet? Mary thought. He says that as though he might die. . . But he can’t, right? He’s the Son of God. As much as Mary tried to convince herself of this, she couldn’t shake off the lingering dread. What was Jesus planning on doing? And why did he seem to think it’d end in his death.