By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been in the grave for four days. In ancient Jewish lore, the spirit of the deceased hovered around the tomb—but for no more than three days. It’s long past the time when he might just have been mistaken for dead, or that his spirit would appear. He is really dead.
And in these days of rising death-tolls from the corona virus, this can be difficult to name—but, in the spirit of truth-telling, maybe we need to ask some of the difficult questions around the dead places of our lives, which might include:
- Our feelings of safety and normalcy?
- Our healthcare system?
- Our trust in our government?
- Our relationships?
- Our jobs?
- Our financial security?
We might consider Martha as a model. Her sister Mary is full of grief and regret, but Martha somehow manages to hold out the candle of hope in the valley of the shadow of death when she notes that Jesus can ask anything of God and God will provide.
In the Gospel story Lazarus is unbound.
And if we read ahead, we find that in the next scene he’s serving Jesus.