The raising of Lazarus is a most suitable subject for our contemplation during Passiontide. We would be missing the most important meaning of that gospel miracle if we thought of it as simply an exercise of human affection. Christ Himself says that the meaning is greater than that: “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God…” The raising of Lazarus was not just so that our Lord might continue to enjoy his friend’s company, nor merely for the sake of consoling Martha and Mary. Christ called Lazarus back to  life principally in order to teach us. It is part of revelation.

Lazarus was reprieved. He was not at that time raised to the unending life of the resurrection. He was not at that time given a new and glorified body. He was brought back to earthly life as a sign, a revelation, that Christ is the one who calls all mankind out of our tombs. The raising of Lazarus was a miracle which conveyed the shape of things to come. It was a sign of the truth of what Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed Himself to be: the Resurrection and the Life.

Lord, he whom you love is ill.  My name is Lazarus, and so is yours. Our name is Lazarus. Lazarus is humankind, every single instance of sick and dying humanity. Lazarus is a race intent on the pursuit of death, a race who throughout its long and sordid history has repeatedly shown that it more often inclines to the pursuit of death and corruption than the quest for life in all its fulness.

Down long centuries God saw that we were sick. Again and again He sent us the means of our healing. On Mount Sinai He gave us the preventative medicine of His holy Law, to teach us how to live. He sent us messages, one prophet after another, to urge us to mend our ways. All His efforts were largely ignored. In the end He knew that He had to come Himself. Messages and gifts had been of no avail. His own personal presence was required. The Creator came, and He came as Saviour.

The Godhead crossed what for us is an unimaginable gulf between Himself and us. God’s own mind came. His thought and utterance, His very self, arrived. No longer just a spoken word, or even a written word, but a living, breathing word, flesh and blood, with the face and voice of a man, with the sighs and the tears of a man. He came in person to reprieve us in person, from the tomb. He came to restore His most precious gift of all, the gift of eternal life. He did that by means of His Passion and cross, and it cost Him everything.

May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be for ever in our hearts and minds.