On his way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for one last time before his death, Jesus stopped at the small town of Bethany two miles east of Jerusalem to visit his good friend Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.
Jesus found his friend Lazarus dead. He wept, but immediately went to the tomb of the dead man and raised him from the dead. The pharisees and scribes who witnessed this great deed traveled quickly into Jerusalem to tell the high priests and other pharisees. Saint John records in his Gospel that from that day on the religious authorities plotted to kill Jesus. The cost of raising Lazarus from the dead was the death of Jesus. Jesus gave up his life so that Lazarus could have new life. A beautiful Church marks the spot today in modern day al-Eizariya where this took place, and one may visit the alleged tomb of Lazarus. Reaching this pilgrimage site however is difficult since the separation wall prevents direct access to it from Jerusalem.
Like Lazarus in a very real and concrete manner, we too receive new life from the death of Christ. Jesus is the seed that falls in the ground and dies to bring forth life. This is the mystery remembered by Christians during Holy Week. This is the mystery of the sacrament of baptism where in the waters we die with Christ and rise with him so we may live with him forever. This is the mystery of our life experience – that after death follows new life. The death of many plants in winter is followed by the sprouting of new life in the spring. The pruning of a bush allows it to grow with new strength.I find that we have become too comfortable with the fact that Jesus died and rose from the dead and continues to live today. We seem to have collectively forgotten that people do not usually come back from the dead. Many have somehow lost the wonder of the resurrection.
In a modern world where science can do amazing things, even revive people, we must remember that Jesus not only rose from the dead on his own, but that his body was transformed. His new, glorified body could travel great distances and could go through locked doors, yet he was not a ghost because he ate and had the crucifixion wounds on his body. Jesus lives and dies no more, and through baptism, he shares with us this privilege of eternal life.
Jesus promises to open up our graves and have us rise from them just as he did. As we enter Holy Week followed by the Easter season, this is a time to recall that one day each one of us will rise from the grave and that our bodies and souls will be reunited for eternity. Cemeteries will be busy places at the end of time when Christ returns in glory to fulfill his promise of eternal life with him to those who have been faithful. May we be counted among the faithful.
All pictures are mine, all rights reserved. Palestine, 2015.