People say that Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, Jesus, the only man with the power over death woke up Lazarus with a word and he walked alive from his tomb, his soiled grave clothes dragging behind him and hanging loose. To Jesus physical death was a curse. A curse to be wept over, fought against, wrestled with and overcome. In some mighty misunderstood battle of the heart and mind against the greatest odds in heaven and hell Jesus fought an ongoing battle against death, the one curse of fallen man. Lazarus walked away from his own untimely death and the grave that bore his name. He was reunited with his friends and family, they embraced the animated corpse that was Lazarus and they rejoiced together in a confused, shocked and unbelieving dance as they choked on inexplicable and unexpected emotions at the sight of their dead friend back with them. What did he tell them of the experience? Did they make him sit down? Drink some water or eat something? What were his first words? Did he smell funny? They must been have drunk with that crazy feeling of seeing the impossible and unbelievable suddenly happening, probably they quaked and trembled at the enormity of it. Then again did they think perhaps a terrible mistake had been made? We buried him alive and only Jesus was astute enough to check on him. He made sure and now we are so glad that he bothered to, but how now can we explain our conduct to Lazarus? Will he be mad when he realizes what we did? How will he be once he gets over the shock and hears the full lurid story?
Lazarus walks from the pages of history powered by his dead breath and silent heart. A wraith and spectre or a rotting corpse fighting against rigour mortis and paralysis? A man who’d been asleep for days, comatosed and stiff and cold then reanimated by some lightning flash or whisper from Jesus. A finger touch or a Frankenstein moment but always devoid of science or medicine. Roman administrators puzzled over a death certificate returned or a scroll rewritten to show a scratched and revived name. Poor Lazarus, famous and irrelevant, haunting the gospels with his zombie walk and trailing after his saviour his new mind alive and pulsating with a thousand guilty and murky thoughts. "Why put me through this? Why turn my life into a Bible story for children to yawn through in their disbelief and apathy, for preachers to push a thousand shaky illustrations on, for evangelists to exaggerate and misunderstand? My name is Lazarus, not likely to turn up in the top ten of children’s names like Jack or Paul or Robbie, infamous for the deathly pale complexion you all imagine me with, or better no face or flesh at all just a walking shroud. "
His woman has no name. How will she hold him now? How will it be to come together and make love on some rough and strawy bed? Eye to eye, body bathed and clean now but still a strange repugnance grips her, at his touch her flesh creeps and prays for some distance. White elbows and scaly knees, see all those parts now and cower from their look and touch, fingernails and wrinkles. "How old was I when I died?" His mouth moves and a death rattle echoes as he steals a fragile kiss and she turns away from that counterfeit breath. She had been making other plans and now cold flesh is all she has and the prospect of non-widowed adultery or fornication. Stoned for loving the dead, the cruel paradox of living by the concrete rule fuses the chemical that charges the brain and her soul is stifled. She could cook a meal, bake some break or light a lamp, just be busy, remaining busy to avoid so stagnant a conversation that leads only to the blinding light of more unanswered questions. "I don’t want my dead man back, some things are just not meant to be and all this double standard only serves to deepen and spread around the common sense of misery."
Lazarus sinned. When he died he gave up his ghost, he lay down and allowed the hands of local women to truss him up and drain him down. Lovers and mothers wept and kept a safe distance from the Jewish death scene with it’s unclean boundaries and Mosaic rituals. Designed and schemed since Exodus to keep the bacteria in its place and clear of the rest of the tribe. At his funeral they chanted, prayed, wept and sacrificed doves, goat-kids and lambs. Burning and smoking animal flesh spit roasted to pay for the sins of the man who had now passed onto the next world. White and red meat dripping hot fat for the priests to feast upon once the mourners backs were turned and the procession was in the hills. They were rolling and chipping stones to seal and cover the grave. A funeral day away from work, fishing or planting or building, a day burying a brother under a desert hill and waiting for the shade to come around as the sun fell from the blue sky.
Jesus was on other business that day and things had not gone to the disciples’ plan, the schedule of visits and meetings, speaking and teaching was too tight and transport and communications were too basic. Five miles could be like five thousand if you ended the day on the wrong side of the mountain or at a different city gate from your friends and other unplanned delays were always happening. Just suppose you snapped a sandal strap. Occupying soldiers would stop and search or just be awkward and lord it over the peasants. Send them on some stupid errand and prove who’s boss, exercise a little muscle with these dim Palestinians who don’t even know a dead body when they see it and when they do they think it could be alive and talking.
Lazarus sinned again. He blacked out and fell into the abyss, drinking in the alcoholic and intoxicating narcotic that is the opportunity to die, just to get away from it all. Say goodbye to that family, those friends, that Jesus freak who is hanging around. He had to make the break and lie down flat and still, arms crossed, feet together then only to roll from the stone table and into necromantic ecstasy. Then as a bandage was wrapped tight around his eyes he secretly delighted as the sunlight was cut and the eternal black bathed him once more. He made his peace and a deal with God. Then along came that upstart son and unpicked the master plan and pushed back into a world of pain and fear and responsibility. So many things to answer for and piles of flaky, stupid expectations to live up to. He has life but he has a life no more. A walking exhibit and curiosity to inflame the priests and their stubborn unbelief. A bogey man to scare the ignorant peasants and the poor, to be watched over by the family as a fragile relic and to become the butt of a hundred Roman barrack room jokes as the news spread. It’s life Jesus, but I don’t know if I want it on these terms.
Lazarus goes back to his tomb, his second home, he revisits the scene of a crime where he was victim and victor and now is immortal as any saint or hero but still uncomfortable with it. We do not love you Lazarus, you are a distant man with an odd name, you didn’t die but died for us shortly thereafter, or did you? What act were you spared for? Perhaps a forefather of some genius, prophet or great man? Did you simply brush the wing of a butterfly and stop it’s random progress for a moment, that second time around. For what great purpose did you live or die for, the simple act of standing up and walking against all odds? Blinking and awake again from a cancerous sleep and tied down rest, you were never meant to be remembered this way; you were never meant to be remembered.