What happens after death? It’s a question everyone has pondered. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic and all the rest. Everyone wants to know.
But have you ever heard, or read about a near death experience. You know the stories, where someone has been pronounced dead, but they come back to life. The person usually writes a book about it and describes how they floated out of or above their own body, or the more clichéd version of seeing a light at the end of a long tunnel.
Of course the whole of Christianity is based on one of these stories, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter – Jesus, who died to defeat death, only to rise again.
But there was another person who knew. One person, who wasn’t resurrected, but resuscitated. One person who was dead for four days before he came back to life – and that person is Lazarus.
It’s a simple story of a guy who was sick and died, but had a good friend who just happened to be the Son of God. And despite being dead for 4 days, that friend raised him to life again. His sisters, Mary and Martha, initially thought Jesus had made a grave mistake in taking so long to get there, but were obviously pretty happy with the end result.
And here’s what the Bible records Lazarus saying:
“When he [Jesus] had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice ‘Lazarus, come out’. The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’.” John 11:44
That’s right. Nothing. Not a word from Lazarus, nor a question to Lazarus. John, who wrote the book, and essentially reported on all these things, didn’t record a single thing that was said by Lazarus. Not his first word after being raised, or even his last word, assuming that he died again at some later point. We don’t know how long he lived, whether his wife was ‘drop-dead’ gorgeous, or whether he had ever heard the word YOLO (you only live once).
But can you imagine if something like this happened today. Lazarus would have had a microphone shoved in his face and asked almost immediately, “So how do you feel?”, followed by “What was it like?”, and “Where did you go?”. He would be booked up on 60 minutes within the hour, and probably appear on every current affairs show for the remainder of his resuscitated life.
But John does record that “six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany again, the same place where he had raised Lazarus from the dead. And they held a banquet there, and Lazarus was one of those present”.
So now you’re thinking this is the part where Lazarus gets to tell his story, and give an after dinner speech to end all after dinner speeches. And do you know what he said? Well here’s what the Bible records about Lazarus at that dinner party:
“Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him [Jesus] at the table”. John 12:2
That’s right. Nothing. Again not a word from Lazarus. It is clear from the Bible that Lazarus did go on to talk and speak and give an account of what happened to him (and perhaps even why it happened to him). This is because later in Chapter 12 verse 9 it shows that the chief priests made plans to kill not only Jesus but also Lazarus because “on account of him [Lazarus] many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus”.
So the big question is why does John record nothing from the man who Jesus raised from the dead? Why was nothing recorded from the guy who was the individual recipient of one of Jesus’ biggest and best miracles?
I can think of two reasons, but maybe there’s more.
Firstly, John couldn’t record everything. He wasn’t making a documentary, he didn’t have a video camera, or the ability instantaneously report to the world in 140 characters or less. And even if he did, John finishes his account in this way:
“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were everyone one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”.
Secondly, and perhaps following on from the first, he had to be selective about what he did record. And my guess is that no matter what Lazarus had to say, and no matter how amazing his story was, (including how he felt or where he went in his four days dead), it was nothing compared to the ‘good news’ that he did record about who Jesus was, what Jesus did, and why Jesus came.
John stuck to the more amazing story of a man who claimed to be the Son of God, who was wise yet humble, who was a leader by being a servant, who was completely innocent but took on the punishment of us all. The story of Lazarus is the story of how Jesus raised one man out of a tomb, before he entered his own tomb and raised us all.
Do you believe it?