The story of Lazarus rising from the dead is in many ways strange and interesting. Why would Jesus want to single someone out and bring them back from the dead? Certainly there is strong love for another man, but it does smack of favouritism. Even from a gay perspective bringing back your partner from the dead would be very questionable spiritually. This is not cardiac resuscitation but someone well and truly passed over. The act of bringing people back from the dead surely is not an act of love, unconditional love when there is heaven, but love in terms of need of those around you for you to be alive, that very selfish love, the love of stalkers at its extreme. So Jesus must be doing it for a much bigger reason.
Healing seems to be about putting people out of their suffering but bringing people back from dead when they could be in heaven seems a little odd and not consistent with Jesus’s other actions. He could have spent his whole lifetime bringing people back from the dead after all. And he chooses to be delayed to heal this man even odder, so he dies, not quite the fearless unconditional love you might expect. Jesus is not exactly in the flow of God’s will if he didn’t manage to be in the right place at the right time and but passage does indicate that he is doing this to make a spiritual point. Letting someone die so that they can be made alive again by Jesus.
I find the idea that Jesus used Lazarus as a way of demonstrating that by physically bringing someone back from the dead that you are demonstrating that coming to Jesus you will always live does not really speak to me. After all Jesus clearly is referring to either the quality of physical life on earth or the quality of afterlife. He does not now stop people dying if you go to him in your faith physically so why would he say that then knowing about his own physical mortality?
So this story is a puzzle. It could undermine a lot of the spiritual coherence of Christ’s ministry, favouritism, being overcome by fear and losing faith, denying that someone should be in heaven. If Jesus has any value at all it must surely be that his love is equal, as God’s love is equal. Or perhaps demonstrating deep unconditional love to do this, recognising that right actions are not always what you expect when seen from that place of unconditional love, knowing that different things are right in different situations, even things that might seem wrong or illogical.
Oddly this story plays into modern humanity’s secular preoccupation for living whatever the cost, whether that is fear of death or belief that there is nothing after death. That preoccupation, even with my choice of a career in health care, not one I feel comfortable with. Especially in my later years, death seems to be something you face and then embrace if you want to be always living in joy and bliss. Death cannot be something that takes away from that unless there is no deeper individual meaning in life. If only individual’s values and society’s current moral philosophy prevails, does any of this preoccupation people have with human suffering and human rights matter at all with a population which is far too large for the planet. Without spiritual beliefs does life really matter when it is out of balance?
So I am left to ponder why does John, the spiritual/mystical gospel writer write the story in this way. He certainly gets me thinking. The truth here is less than obvious to me, but truth there is likely to be. Perhaps it is something more about Jesus’s relationship as God on Earth with God in human form. So if this is telling us God is working both in Heaven and on Earth in mysterious but very powerful ways, so powerful that we can move between Heaven and Earth overcoming death. At this point the Celestine Prophecy comes to mind as a rather lovely spiritual view about things that Christianity is less clear about.
Image by Lance