Of the people of the Bible that we don’t hear from, Lazarus is the one I think I’d like to talk to the most. We can surmise that Lazarus was Jesus’ best friend outside of the Twelve; he was likely the friend Jesus could just hang out with, have a glass of wine, listen to some tunes. He’s also one of the few people in history to be dead, really dead-dead, only to be miraculously resuscitated. I remember my seminary professor Dr. Kathy Grieb introducing us to the possibility that Lazarus was less than happy with that, perhaps even more than a bit annoyed at his best friend waking him up. Having experienced the pains of death, having finally found peace on the other side of that valley, Lazarus was taken from his rest, likely realizing quickly that he’d have to go through the whole dying thing again some day. But this story is still a miracle story, a story of the power and love and even friendship of Jesus, a story that can only give us hope in times of despair. I’d just like to know what Lazarus thought about it at the time.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” There’s a social isolation joke in there, but I’ll skip it. Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Martha did believe, along with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus. They were not unaware of who their friend was, what He could do. But just as surely, they must have wondered where Jesus was when Lazarus was sick and dying. They had sent for Him; why didn’t He come? Where was Jesus when they needed Him?
Can you feel the theme here? It can feel as if Jesus is distant from us when the people of Jesus must be distant from each other. We are, probably since the Spanish flu (and if you remember the Spanish flu, congratulations!), more alone, more distant from each other than any other time in modern history. Even the churches are closed; you can see me right now, but I can’t see you, and so our sense being gathered together in the name of Jesus is strained, at best.
But it’s in these days that we must remember, intentionally remember, that Jesus is indeed with us. By His Resurrection and Ascension, there no constraint on His presence. He is with us in His Holy Spirit; He is with us every time we check in on each other, every time someone cares for the sick and the vulnerable, and every time, strangely enough, that we care enough to stay away from each other. Our Gospel today reminds us that even the dead hear His voice, and so all we must do is listen and believe, and we will know that He is here, and we too will see the glory of God.