Lazarus Says Nothing

Monday 21st March 2005
Monday of Holy Week
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint
John 12:1-11

During this Holy Week John and I are going to help us to think about some of the people who enrich the Passion narratives. Yesterday, John talked about Simon of Cyrene who does not have a speaking part and today we are thinking about Lazarus who also says nothing.

Lazarus is a rather shadowy figure, particularly next to his sisters. We have a highly coloured view of Martha and Mary because they are so different; Martha is supposedly active, Mary supposedly serene; but it might be better to think of Martha as pragmatic and Mary as somewhat fanciful. You see how easy it is to go down the Martha and Mary route.

Lazarus, who is at supper, apparently says nothing. This is not surprising; during the last month he has died, been raised from the dead and is now threatened with summary execution for his good fortune and his friendship with Jesus.

So as the high drama of the anointing of Jesus' feet is being played out as an obvious pre-figurement of His burial, there sits Lazarus in the background as the pre-figurement of the Resurrection. And as if that were not enough, we have an intervention from Judas; so in one short passage we are reminded of the betrayal, the burial and the Resurrection of Jesus.

For us this is the hardest week of the year as we walk with Jesus to Calvary; but we know what will be at the end of all our suffering. Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus; they did not know about the Resurrection - not even Jesus knew about the Resurrection - in the way that we know about it. Jesus kept telling them what would happen but, even in the light of Lazarus' return to life, what Jesus was saying was too difficult to take in.

But how easy is it for us to take it in; we who have been baptised into a new life with Christ, we who are taken up in the Passion, implicated as sinners and saved in the Crucifixion, imprisoned in the tomb and freed in the Resurrection; can we say that we have as much commitment as Mary as she anoints the feet of Jesus; and are we as quietly confident as Lazarus?

Perhaps not. So this week let us try to live as true participants in the unfolding drama of the last days of Jesus. Let us try to abandon a detached and literary approach to the Passion narratives and hear the noise, feel the panic and uncertainty and notice how people react differently. Today is the day to empathise with the calm of Lazarus before we are plunged into the storm; and it is the day to see the Resurrection dimly beckoning.