Celebration replaced grieving as the women embraced their brother – praising God and crying tears of joy. The melancholy household, filled to capacity with mourners, ran to the tomb when they heard the news. These spectators did not, they could not believe without seeing for themselves.
The brother had not returned from a vacation, he had not returned from deployment or relocation. No, this man had returned from death. At Jesus’ command, he walked out of a sealed tomb after four days in the grave, his body miraculously restored by the one calling Himself Messiah. And now, for those who had been indecisive in their faith, it was time to make a decision…to believe or not. No more teetering back and forth, for who could raise a man from the dead but God Himself?
As the rejoicing crowd surrounded him, Lazarus sat on a rock stunned, reflecting on the past few days – or moments, depending on your perspective. He silently wondered if it had all been a dream, a heavenly mirage that had captured his mind, body and soul. Through the crowd, his eyes met those of the man who was responsible for bringing him back: Jesus. He reached towards his friend, but Jesus disappeared among the swelling throng.
Mary and Martha knelt at the feet of their brother. “Tell us what it was like. Tell us where you have been, what it felt like to be…dead.” The crowd grew quiet, anticipating the first spoken words of a man who had conquered death.
Lazarus’ eyes searched Mary’s, then Martha’s. Slowly he made eye contact with almost the entire assembly. When he finally spoke, his voice came out in a hushed whisper.
“He was there…Jesus welcomed me at the gate. His laugher, His joy and His arms received me into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
No one moved. Not one person ignored the amazing testimony of a man who had witnessed the unknown.
His voice gained momentum as he stood…speaking more boldly. “Mere words cannot describe the splendor of the place I just encountered. There were colors everywhere, a rainbow of sunbeams. I saw beautiful flowers and exotic plants growing as far as I could see. There were lions and lambs…resting together in peace. Jesus led me down a golden path through a maze of streams and waterfalls glistening like the jewels of royalty. A wonderful fragrance filled the air, an aroma much like our ripe grapes at Harvest, only so incredibly overpowering.”
Forgetting about the crowd, Lazarus kept speaking. His mind wandered back to the reality of his supernatural experience and he spoke as if to no one.
“Along the path, there were people who appeared to greet me. First, I was embraced by my mother.” He glanced down towards Mary and Martha, “Our mother was there, so beautiful, so young.”
Thoughtfully, after a brief pause, he returned to his heavenly encounter. “Behind my mother came a stalwart man whose eyes I recognized immediately. It was my earthly father who reached out and held me tight, a hug that I had never before experienced from him.”
Tears glistened on Lazarus’ cheeks as he recalled the touching moments of a homecoming that he could not explain…not in a way that would make sense to the astounded onlookers.
“Then, all of a sudden, as quickly as I had arrived, I was gone! Stolen from the beauty, the love, the joy…the precious moments instantly disappeared and I found myself in a stinking, rotten, cold dark hole…bound in smelly grave clothes.”
He sat back down and gradually scrutinized his audience. “I heard the stone roll back and a gust of stifling air rushed into the hole. Then I heard Jesus’ voice. It was not the joyful voice that I had just experienced, but it was a sad voice, a troubled voice that spoke: “Lazarus, come out!
“As my eyes were exposed and my surroundings revealed, I saw only one thing –the dull, dreary, colorless hues of a brown countryside filled with dusty roads, dirty buildings, shaggy animals, dreary clothing and yes…even the pale, lifeless faces of my friends and family.”
The new hero looked down, searching carefully for his next words. “Don’t get me wrong my friends. I love each and every one of you, but heed my words; our existence here on this earth cannot compare with the heavenly life that awaits each of us who believe.”
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