Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Chapter 24 - A man reborn

Lazarus? You mean guy from the bible? The man Jesus resurrected from the dead? He’s still alive and you want me to kill him? I find it hard to accept that I even have to ask these questions. Returning to my cell suddenly seems like a tempting option.

Friar Francis doesn’t smile this time, his face wears a frown as he plays with the wooden cross that hangs around his neck. He nods in answer to my questions.

How can he still be alive? How is that possible? That would make him over two thousand years old. A thought strikes me, now there is a real power.

Again the Friar nods.

And you’re trying to tell me that this person, raised from the dead by Jesus himself is a threat to the church? That doesn’t make any sense, the bible doesn’t even hint that Lazarus was an enemy of Christ. Why would he raise him from the dead if that were the case?

Friar Francis nods again and sighs. Not all truths are revealed in the bible. There are some truths that must remain secret, for the good of all.

I see. What I don’t see is how this could have been kept secret for all this time.

Revealing the truth wasn’t in the church’s interest, or in Lazarus’. His purpose wasn’t, isn’t to seek fame, but the destruction of the church.

He lights another cigarette, I do the same. My throat is a little raw, but the cigarette seems the only sensible thing in this room right now. Hammond appears out of nowhere and places two cups of tea on the table before fading into the background once again.

To understand I must hear the story from the beginning.

Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus who lived in Bethany, a small town near Jerusalem.  He was also an active follower and one of the first disciples when Jesus first began his ministry. He usually travelled with Jesus, but he had been called home for some emergency. It isn’t clear what happened, some stories say that Lazarus was taken ill with a fever, others that he was involved in some altercation in which he had been gravely wounded.

His sisters Mary and Martha feared that he would die soon, so they called for Jesus to come as quickly as he could.  Despite their urgent messages, it was two days before he started towards Bethany.

When he finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus encountered Martha as he arrived in the town. She lamented with him that he is too late and tells him that his close friend is dead. Arriving at the home of Lazarus, they meet Mary who is beside herself with grief. Beset with sorrow himself, he wept with the two sisters.

They took him to the tomb where Lazarus was laid to rest, here they found a large crowd, also mourning his  death. There was much agitation and the sisters protested as Jesus rolls the great stone away from the tomb. He raised his arms to Heaven and with tears still in his eyes prayed to God Almighty. Then in a firm voice he looks into the gloom of the tomb and called for Lazarus to come forth.

To the amazement of the gathered mourners there was movement inside the tomb. There was also an echoing moan that some said was leaden with despair. When Lazarus came into view there was much rejoicing and some fell to their knees, praising God and Jesus as his messenger. Jesus instructed the sisters to remove the grave linens and to let him be clothed as a living man, not as the dead.

After this Lazarus resumed his travels with Jesus, working with him to bring the Gospel wherever they went. Unknown to Jesus was that Lazarus carried a terrible desire in his heart. He had seen Heaven, more than that he had dwelt there. In the four days that passed for his grief stricken friends and family, he had been taken into the bosom of God.

Surrounded by a splendour only dreamt of here on Earth, he lived with the saints and the angels. He talked with the prophets of his people, heard their wisdom with his own ears. He sang with the choirs, praising the most holy, his voice at one with the blessed masses. Those four days were an eternity in paradise.

And he was torn from this joy. Like a baby expelled from the womb he screamed his rage at the world he was forced back into.

Lazarus knew that this was wrong and he felt shame for this desire within him. Jesus had performed a miracle and this miracle brought believers to Christ’s cause. And in this he felt some satisfaction, after all he had devoted his life to Jesus and his teachings.

He travelled with Jesus for some months before they returned to Bethany and his family, together they celebrated with a meal, six days before Passover. After the meal he sat alone with Jesus and finally confessed the feeling, the loss he had felt every day since his resurrection. Jesus took his hand and said that God had a plan for everyone. That God’s love had no limit, no boundary, even on earth it was still there if he would just accept it. He tried to comfort Lazarus by saying that in time he would be back in Heaven and they would all be there together. He just had to follow the word.

Lazarus tried to take comfort from these words, knowing that he was part of God’s plan. But the words were hollow, just like he had empty since his return.

A few days later was the Last Supper, here was the last time before the crucifixion that Jesus and his disciples were all together. Lazarus sat next to Jesus, but he could not engage with his closest of friends. He felt apart from them. He watched as Judas slipped out to earn his silver. He heard, but did not listen as Jesus bade them all farewell and predicted the denial of Peter. Much like Judas he slipped away before the meal had ended.

On the day of the crucifixion he followed the procession, watched as the crowd, encouraged by the Roman guards heckled and abused his Messiah. But it was only his own loss that he felt. Halfway to the hill where he would be executed, Jesus stopped by a shoe-makers shop. The cross was heavy, almost too heavy to bear. He knew he was soon to die. In this moment of weakness he turned to his friend looking for support.

Lazarus begged Jesus to allow him to join him, to ascend to Heaven together. Jesus, showing his human side felt anger at Lazarus’ presumption and said to him “As I witnessed your resurrection, so you must witness mine. Only then can we be joined in Heaven together.” And with that, he shouldered the cross, the cross that was weighed not only with his impending doom, but with the sins of the world. And he climbed the hill.

Feeling only despair and denying the faith that remained within him turned away from Jesus, refusing to witness the death that would bring salvation to all. As many men do in their times of weakness he turned to wine to ease his torment. He spent many days in a stupor, complaining bitterly to those that would listen of his woes.

He finally sought out the other disciples and to his shock saw that Jesus was alive, that he too had been resurrected. The crowd of apostles parted as he stumbled towards Jesus, stinking of wine and shame. Jesus looked at him sternly. “I required one thing from you. I commanded you to witness my resurrection as I witnessed yours and together we would open the gates of Heaven. You denied me, ignored me and now you are condemned to walk the Earth until I return for the second time for the final judgement.”

Lazarus fell on to his knees before Jesus and wept.

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