Lazarus’ Second Funeral
I guess I’m only one who attended both of Boaz Lazurus’ funerals.
The second one was yesterday.
The first one was thirty-one years ago.
I remember the first funeral well. I was a young rabbi, only recently assigned to the Bethany synagogue. I’ll never forget the raw grief of his two sisters, Mary and Martha.
I had grown to love the Lazarus family and spent lots of time with them in the days leading up to his death. It was like being on a storm in the sea. Up one minute, down the next. The sisters had such hope that The Teacher would come and heal him.
Martha, the older of the sisters, stood at the edge of town for two days waiting for Jesus to arrive.
He didn’t come.
And Lazarus died.
Like the sisters, I questioned why the Teacher didn’t come when summoned. He’d supposedly healed the blind and lame. He could’ve healed his dear friend.
But Lazarus died.
I helped with the preparation, funeral, and burial.
I was gone for a week after his burial. First Jerusalem then Jericho. On my way home to Bethany, I began hearing strange stories as I encountered travelers.
Jesus had raised a man from the dead.
A man from Bethany.
The rumors used many names. Boaz was such a common name.
It couldn’t be him.
I had felt his cold body.
I had helped bury him.
Lazarus had died.
I hurried my pace as I neared Bethany, arriving late at night. The streets were empty. The Lazarus house was dark but I beat on the door.
Eventually, a lamp was lit.
Martha came to the door. “Rabbi, what is it?”
I hesitated. “Is it true what I’ve heard?”
“Come see for yourself.” She led me to the very room where Lazarus had died. A man was sleeping, snoring softly without a care in the world.
“Lazarus, you’ve got company.”
He rolled over, squinting at the lamplight, then sat up. “Hello, Rabbi.”
I trembled and couldn’t speak. It was like seeing a dead man. No, it was like seeing a live man who’d been dead.
For the next thirty years, I served as his rabbi. In spite of my prodding, he’d never reveal much about what he remembered between his death and resurrection. He’d only wink. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
The rumors persisted about him. The most popular was that Lazarus had only swooned and came out of the grave when he awoke.
Lazarus was dead. I know a dead man when I see one.
Over the years, I officiated at many funerals attended by Lazarus, including his sisters—first Mary, then Martha. He grieved along with everyone else but there was always a faraway look in his eyes as if he knew something that made it all different.
Rumors swirled that Lazarus would never die. He shook them off. “Rabbi, I’m going to die soon but have no complaints. I had three decades of extra life.”
Finally, last week he took sick and knew the end was coming. I spent time with him on his last day. “Friend, do you think Jesus is coming to rescue you again?”
“Yes, but in a different way.”
I carefully broached a touchy subject. “Do you really believe Jesus is alive?”
“I know it.”
“But you never saw him alive as some of the others claimed?”
“I didn’t have to. He raised me. He had power over death.” Lazarus weakly tried to sit up. “Rabbi, what do you believe?”
“I believe he raised you from the dead.”
“But do you believe He’s the Son of God?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What more proof could you need? Just believe.”
That was the last words he spoke to me. He laid back, closed his eyes, and died early the next morning.
His nephews told me just before he died, he opened his eyes, reaching skyward. “I can see Jesus coming to get me.”
Some may doubt it, but I don’t. A wise rabbi once told me, “Which is most crazy: a person who hears thunder and says it was God speaking to them, or one who hears God speak and says it is only thunder?”
I’ve learned not to doubt belief.
Lazarus died the day before the Sabbath, so we hurriedly prepared his body for burial. It was a strange funeral to say the least. There wasn’t much grief. It’s hard to grieve for a man who was given thirty extra years of life and seemed eager to step into whatever lay on the other side.
It was more than ironic that Lazarus died on what the local Christians are calling the birthday of Jesus. I’m skeptical if they’re very accurate about when he was actually born.
It’s what they’re beginning to call one of their two holy days.
The other one is the supposed day of his resurrection.
I doubt if their two holy days will ever be widely celebrated like our Jewish holidays or Roman ones, but the Christians sure observe them.
I can’t get Lazarus’ last two words out of my mind. Just believe.
I’m not sure I totally believe, but I do believe I’m closer.
It’s difficult not to believe in the word and faith of a man who had two funerals.
Mary loved quoting Jesus’ words on the morning of Lazarus’ resurrection.
I am the resurrection and the life.
He that believes in me.
I guess I’ll never get those words . . . or the story of Lazarus . . . out of my mind.