After Martha brought her sister Mary to meet Jesus outside Bethany, Mary threw herself at his feet weeping, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She was bitter in her heart but secretly hopeful as well. As her sister Martha had told her, “Even now, I know that whatever Jesus asks of God, God will give to him. We can still have our brother Lazarus back.”
The mourners had followed the sisters from their home to where Jesus was waiting outside the village, and there was a great cry of anguish in the air.
Jesus placed his hand upon Mary’s head. “Where have you laid him.”
Seeing the tremendous grief Mary and Martha suffered, he too began to weep. The crowd thought it was because Jesus had loved Lazarus so much that he too mourned the loss. They didn’t understand that Jesus had known the man Lazarus was to die and that it was for the glory of the Almighty.
“Lord, come and see.” Mary rose and took the Master’s hand, pulling him in the direction of the tomb.
He went with them, still deeply moved by their grief. The mourners followed so there was a sizable group of people present when they came to the cave. The opening was covered with a stone sealing the corpse inside.
“Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Shocked, Martha replied, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench for he has been dead four days!”
Jesus shook his head. He thought more of Martha. Why didn’t she believe that he could do even this? Professions of belief were all well and good, but where was true faith?
“Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Martha mutely nodded her head and Mary gathered some of the men from among the mourners to remove the stone.
Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear me, but because of the crowd of people standing around I said it so that they may believe that You sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”
There was a pause, then a muffled moaning issued from the cave. Slowly, haltingly, a human figure bound head to foot in wrappings, his legs tied together by the cloth, tried to hop out. Instead, he lost his balance and fell forward. He would have struck the ground face first if one of the men who had helped remove the stone hadn’t caught him.
“Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus demanded.
Martha and Mary, even hoping that Jesus could resurrect their beloved brother, were still shocked by the living evidence before them. The mourners were astonished. All the things they’d heard about this man Jesus were true. He had the power even to bring a man back from the dead.
Three men all helped in unwrapping the man, unveiling his face. It really was Lazarus returned from death itself.
All of his wrappings except those covering his loins were removed. Immediately, Lazarus charged at Jesus, storming up to within inches of the man his sisters called “Lord” and then loudly proclaimed, “I was in hell for four ghastly days suffering unimaginable torment. You should have either saved me before the illness took my life or let me stay dead until the final resurrection!”
Overcome by his ordeal of life to death to life, Lazarus collapsed at the Master’s feet clinging to his ankles. “How could you? I thought you were not only my teacher but my friend! How could you have let me suffer so? Do you know the amount of unspeakable torment a man undergoes even residing in hell for a single moment? I was there for four horrible days!”
“It was for the glory of God. You again live. Return home with your sisters.” Jesus gently laid his hand upon the man’s trembling shoulder.
Lazarus stood in an instant. “The glory of God? God wants me to suffer so? What did I do to deserve this honor? If this is what God wants, I want no part of Him or you. No wonder our Father Isaac referred to the Almighty as the “Dread of Isaac.”
Jesus raised his hand to object, but Lazarus had already turned and walked away from his former Rabbi. He returned to his home in Bethany and an hour later, was dressed and had his few belongings in a sack.
Mary and Martha implored their brother to stay, to reconsider his words to the Lord, but he wouldn’t listen. His rage seemed to have been replaced by a great bitterness and there was a look on his face that can only be acquired by a man who has seen hell with his own eyes.
Lazarus the resurrected bought passage on the next ship to Cyprus and was said to have spent the rest of his sixty years of life tending a vineyard there. Every night until the night Lazarus died, he had nightmares of the horrors of hell. Only the Almighty knows where traveled the soul of Lazarus after his second death.
I based this piece of flash fiction on passages taken from John 11 in the New American Standard Bible, specifically John 11:17-44. Beyond a brief mention in John 12, there is no indication in the Bible of what became of Lazarus.
There is a minority opinion that his resurrection was permanent and that he roams the Earth today, but the Mystagogy Resource Center cites St. Epiphanios of Cyprus (367-403) as stating that Lazarus was resurrected when he was about thirty and lived another thirty years, eventually taking refuge at Kition in Cyprus.
I used some of the information at that site to craft the last paragraph of my story. You can click the link I provided to read other rumors and legends regarding Lazarus.
My account above is quite fictional and I wrote it to explore the effects of resurrection on an ordinary human being who has literally been through hell.