Several days ago, The Bethany Bugle Dispatch posted an obituary for a man known as Lazarus of Bethany. When word reached us the man had been raised from the dead by itinerant teacher and holy man, Jesus of Nazareth, we investigated. Our reporter found Lazarus resting in his home with no apparent ill effects of being absent from this life for more than four days
Dispatch: What a fortunate fellow you are.
Lazarus: Well, yes. Perhaps.
Dispatch: You have certainly been the center of attention. We feel fortunate to have access to you for this interview. Tell us, what has it all been like?
Lazarus: It’s rather hard to say. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. As for being the center of attention, I don’t think so. This guy Jesus drew the crowds. Not I. He’s moved on now, or you would not have been able to walk through the streets to get to me. Ever notice him?. I don’t know where he gets his robes, but they are perfection. The guy’s on the road all of the time, you know, walking in the heat. Yet see a picture of him, and his robes are perfection. Flowing, clean brown hair. I work in the yard for a couple of hours and come in looking like a sweaty tramp. Then he comes along. Been walking for hours on the dusty roads and looks like he emerged from a dip in the Sea of Galilee.
Dispatch: Jesus is really a phenomenon. But I am here to interview you. The world now knows your name. You are going to go down in history. What do you make of what happened to you?
Lazarus: Well, don’t want to look a gift camel in the mouth. I didn’t asked for it. I was pretty sick. I worried about leaving my sisters. Worried how they would get along without me. I knew Martha and Mary loved me. I knew everyone was in for a good dose of grief, and I really wanted to lighten that load if I could. It’s kind of passive aggressive thing, dying, you know. You’re checking out on everybody. You don’t mean to. But I was ready. I had made my peace with it.
Dispatch: So you final days were really trying for you?
Lazarus: Up to a point. It was enough just to be sick. But I had lived a good life.
Dispatch: Can you tell us more about that? More about dying?
Lazarus: There’s really damned little to tell. It’s blowing out the last oil lamp in the room. Poof! It’s dark.
Dispatch: That’s it?
Lazarus: Pretty much. I’m Jewish, you know. We are supposed to be denied the gates of heaven until our redeemer shows up and settles the score for all of us with God. Course, now people are saying Jesus is the Messiah. Well, if that’s the case, I’m out of luck, right? Jesus was just here. You hear anything about him redeeming anyone? Maybe that’s why I was shunted off to a nowhere place. I wasn’t objecting or anything. I was glad to get the dying part behind me. Sort of like standing in line for a circus. You’re okay with being there but you really want to get inside and take a seat.
Dispatch: You had a sense you were waiting? There was no bright light leading into the next stage of existence? You didn’t see Moses or some figure standing beckoning to you at the end of a long tunnel?
Lazarus: No. The waiting is in the final moments I think. Then it’s lights out! Didn’t know I wasn’t alive any more. Didn’t know I was dead. Just nothing.
Dead or Asleep . . .
Dispatch: Jesus said you were asleep all along. But you say you were dead.
Lazarus: I heard that. But everyone else says I was dead. I thought I was dead. You know how when you’re asleep, you do sort of know it. You toss around. You dream. The depth of your sleep varies. It wasn’t like that. I didn’t know I existed any more, that I was a living being. I had no awareness at all.
Dispatch: If you were asleep, it wasn’t much of a trick to wake you up was it?
Lazarus: That’s pretty much the way I see it. I was dead. I don’t care what Jesus said. I know what it is to awake from sleep. This was different.
Lazarus: Seems to me he’d do a lot better if you just spoke plainly. Most folks here can’t read or write. Why challenge them with metaphors? You want to teach them, then be straightforward about it.
Dispatch: The crowds seem to understand him.
Lazarus: We just established that Jesus said I was asleep and the crowd says I was dead. How can you say they understand in my case?
Dispatch: Can you tell us more about what it was like being dead?
Lazarus: How do you describe nothing? I didn’t know anything. Whether I was alive. Where I was. Then suddenly, I hear this guy calling. I get up and walk out of the tomb. That was it. I saw all Mary and Martha, Seeing them I knew what was happening was real. They’d been crying. Jesus did this for them. Now they were happy. I was back with them again.
Dispatch: Surely they were pleased!
Lazarus: We haven’t had time to talk about it. They’ve been put through a hell of an ordeal. Both look like they know something about me they didn’t know before. You know, sort of holding back. Makes sense they’d want to protect themselves from going through everything one more time. They realize, as I do, that the goat skin got kicked farther down the road. They’ll need to deal with everything again someday. Grief isn’t easy to endure. It takes courage. Besides, it was time for me. I was already a burden to them. It bothered me. Now the situation is likely get worse. Bearing up is hard as you get old. Often it’s a good thing to die when we do.
Dispatch: So it has had an impact on your relationships?
Lazarus: Of course. How’d you like living with someone who died once? It’s weird. Maybe part of love is thinking it will never end. Maybe we think that way about life itself. But here I am walking around after dying. What’s Jesus going to do? Come back next time spare everyone their grief? Not likely. I’m not going to live forever. This was a temporary fix.
Dispatch: You sound upset. Most people would think you’d be grateful.
Most would be grateful . . .
Lazarus: That’s because most people don’t think. They enjoy running around all gaga in their astonishment. You’re the first person to ask me what it has been like. These fools rush up to me, hug me, stare at me, and then go running off to boast they had touched me. What did I do? Nothing! How does that make them special? I don’t see it.
Dispatch: Did you notice any differences in yourself when you came back?
Lazarus: No. Funny. I thought there’d be some necrotized tissue somewhere. Maybe the fungus in my feet would have died off, all that gunky stuff under my toenails. But no. Same old me. Smelled nice from all the herbs and funeral oils.
Dispatch: Well, surely this creates opportunities for you. Have you thought about writing a book?
Lazarus: That’s the very reason I resisted taking this interview. I don’t like publicity. I have nothing more to say other than what I have told you here? It will be hard enough getting the people to treat me as another in the midst. I was told my nephew started selling bottled Lazarus Lotion, saying it is “guaranteed to bring your skin to life.” Another man changed the name on his funeral home and advertises “Lazarus Interment – because we never know for sure.”
Dispatch: People just need a little time. They will come around.
Lazarus: Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, it’s hard to see things will ever be the same. I don’t like to say it, but sometimes I think Jesus did this for his own reasons. Publicity, you know. Not for my family. It wasn’t a kindness after all. That’s why Jesus says I was asleep. He doesn’t want to accept what he has really done. Seems to me the caring thing would have been to console my sisters, give people some comfort, accept what has happened, and forget the grandstanding.
Dispatch: You sound resentful.
Lazarus: I am a little. I had lived my life. I wasn’t asking for more. Jesus talks about joining his father in heaven. Maybe I was on my way. If I was, Jesus stopped me when he stepped in. I don’t know what is at the other end of the line. That may disappoint some people, but it’s the truth.
Dispatch: Well everyone is impressed, just the same. They think Jesus is the Son of God. Word has gone out and he is acclaimed for it across the land.
Lazarus: I don’t feel like saying anything about that. They also said he walked on water. Seems to me that ought to be enough. I mean, what does it take? You’d think what happened to me ought to be enough for people. Next thing you know he’ll be raising himself from the dead and ascending into heaven on his own power. But you dare not say anything. His followers are a touchy bunch. They bristle at any questioning. Any common sense observations. They’ll create Hades itself on earth if they ever gain control. I’d really rather he didn’t come this way again. Leave me and my family be.
Dispatch: Not many will agree with you, I am afraid. Thanks so much for your time and your thoughts. I hope as years pass, you will find your bitterness melts away and you enjoy your renewed life to the fullest.
Lazarus: Thank you. Certainly something to look for at that.