We lean over his bed, trembling. The tired face is a mockery of itself, a deflated balloon, sunken and empty, eyes staring into nothing, mouth slack and open. His chest falls, shuddering, and does not rise again.
Mary wails her sorrow, and I wish I could join her, but my mind spins, trying to make sense of it. He was my brother. My protector. My friend. I stare into the grey twilight, at what is left of the world without him. But no, it is a different world now, a different me. He colored everything with his love and laughter, and now the color is gone.
A few minutes later, they come with lamps, gently shoo us from the room, and wrap the body for its final humiliation. These strong arms that so often held us, this face that so easily smiled; they will soon go into the cold ground and begin their decay.
Darkness has fallen on us, and death has won.
A few days later, Jesus comes. I have practiced my speech. I will ask if he traveled far, if our messages found him, if there was anything he might have done. I forget all of this as I run toward him and can only sob, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
The look on his face told me all, the strength of his embrace. He is the Messiah, yet he grieves. I do not understand.
I turn back to the house and tell Mary he is here, watch her scrabble clumsily from the floor, and dash out, robe flying. I follow near enough to hear, and she says just what I have said, but without resentment.
“If only you had been here…” she cries, tugging at his sleeves like a child, searching his face, confused. Taking her in his arms, he begins to tremble, and tears run down his face.
“Where…?” he begins, his voice hoarse. “Where have you laid him?”
I point and start toward the tomb, stop to wait as he hides his face in his hand, his shoulders shaking.
“See how he loved him,” my neighbor says quietly. “But then, why didn’t he come?”
As we reach the tomb, Jesus sighs heavily, looks into the sky, and brushes his sleeve over his face. “Open it,” he says.
My jaw drops, and I shout, “No, Lord, please! It’s been days; the… the body has spoiled!”
He looks at me with a sad smile and says, “I am here now, Martha. Don’t you believe?”
Jesus eyes the tomb with a severe expression as the young men wrestle the stone away. “Begone, death and darkness,” he says quietly, then shouts, “Lazarus, my friend, come out!”
There is a scuffling in the tomb, a dim shape moves to the door, and a muffled voice echoes from within. “Why am I…? Martha? Mary? Whatever have you done to me?”
Jesus meets my wide eyes, laughing now. “Well?” he says, “Hadn’t you better let him go?”
At LIFE International, we honor Jesus, “the resurrection and the life.” The life of our physical body is fragile and soon comes to an end, but we are more than our bodies. Our spirit – our true self – will live on, either in eternal friendship with God or eternally separated from Him.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
-C. S. Lewis. The Weight of Glory
This story is a dramatization of an event recorded in John 11. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%2011…)