The resuscitation of Lazarus is not his resurrection, because going back to this material world is to resuscitate, but to go beyond this material world into the world of God is resurrection.
In narrating this event John offers his readers not a cold account of facts, but a Christian message: Jesus, the Risen One, is the Lord of life.
The family of Bethany, consisting only of a brother and his sisters, represents the Christian community where there are no superiors or inferiors, but only brothers and sisters. This community is faced with an insoluble enigma: the death of a brother. Why doesn’t Jesus prevent death?
By allowing Lazarus to die Jesus responds to this dilemma: it is not his intention to prevent biological death. He has not come to make this form of life eternal, but introduce us to that which has no end.
Martha, unlike the Sadducees, believes in the resurrection of the dead. She is convinced that at the end of the world, her brother Lazarus will return to life together with all the righteous and will take part in the kingdom of God.
This is her way of understanding the resurrection, perhaps a similar to many Christians today and it does not console anyone. It is too distant and does not make any sense. Why would God let someone die only to bring him back to life?
In the womb of a mother there are twins. They can see, understand, and speak to each other during the nine months of gestation. They only know their own little world and cannot imagine what life is like outside.
After nine months, the twins are born in turn. And the one born a few seconds later and remained, even for a short time longer in the womb of the mother would certainly think: “My brother is dead. He’s not here anymore. He disappeared and left me….” and he cries. But the brother is not dead. He only left a restricted, short, limited life and went into another form of life.
In the Christian perspective life in this world is a gestation and death is verified by those who remain, not by the one who dies.
The judgment of Lao-Tze is known: “That which for the caterpillar is the end of the world, for the rest of the world is a butterfly.”
The cry, “Lazarus, come out!” is the fulfillment of his prophecy: “Truly, the hour is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and on hearing it, will live. All those lying in the tomb will hear his voice and come out” (John 5:25-29).
“Untie him and let him go,” he finally orders. The invitation is addressed to the brothers of the community who mourn the loss of a loved one. Let the dead live happily in his new condition.
There are many ways to try to retain the deceased: obsessive visits to the cemetery,which is like searching for the living among the dead, the morbid attachment to personal effects and recourse to mediums for establishing contact…
It is painful to be left by a friend, but it is selfish to want to hold on to them. It would be like preventing a child from being born.
“Untie, let him go”—Jesus sweetly repeats today to every disciple who does not resign themselves to the death of a brother or a sister.
Father Fernando Armellini SCJ