The Dead Man
[Jesus] told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead” (v.14).
Thomas Lynch is an acclaimed poet and nonfiction
writer who has won the American Book Award. He’s
also an undertaker. In The Undertaking: Life Studies
from the Dismal Trade, Lynch shares stories from his
decades of helping families say goodbye to their loved
ones. The opening line of the book definitely catches
your attention: “Every year I bury a couple hundred of
Death is a grim but fascinating reality. Strange, isn’t it,
that something so common can be so mysterious? We don’t
know exactly what it’s like to be on the other side. There
haven’t been many eyewitness accounts of what post-dead
looks like. Everybody knows that when you’re dead, you
normally stay dead. . . . Unless, of course, Jesus is around.
John narrates the story of Lazarus’ death and his
sisters’ accompanying grief. After receiving news of
Lazarus’ illness, Jesus delayed His return to Bethany; and
when He did arrive, He discovered that Lazarus had
already “been in his grave for four days” (11:17). John
goes to great lengths to emphasize that Lazarus is in
every sense dead and beyond hope.
Some rabbis of the day taught that one’s soul hovered
near the body for up to three days after death. This, John
says, was the fourth day (v.17). Further, Martha protested
that Jesus not go to the burial site because “the smell
[would] be terrible” (11:39). And twice, for emphasis,
John refers to Lazarus simply as the “dead man” (vv.39,44).
Lazarus was dead, completely dead. This makes what follows all the more
incredible. Jesus walked to the grave, told them to roll away the stone, and shouted,
“Lazarus, come out!” (v.43).
Lazarus walked out. And in that moment, all who saw him knew exactly who
holds the power over death.
Read Colossians 2:10 to see what it says about God’s power over death
and our new life in Jesus.
Where do you see death in your heart, family, neighborhood, and
world? What would the infusion of Jesus’ life look like in these places?