Lazarus was among those reclining at table with him.John 12:2
Here. Now. With Jesus. This was the first time Lazarus had felt fully alive since dying.
Had it really been just weeks? He couldn’t remember the pain or sickness that had led up to it. Only the peace that followed–a peace that surpassed all understanding. And joy–unending joy. Quite honestly, he’d never felt so alive as when his physical body died.
He hadn’t wanted to come back. Truth be told, he was deeply grieving paradise lost, even though he had confidence he would return one day.*
Still, Lazarus was grateful for the opportunity to be reunited with his sisters. They relied on him to take care of them; it was a responsibility he accepted and embraced.
He smiled now as he watched dear Martha busily serving, savoring the moment. The meal was simple, yet it tasted extravagant; Martha’s extraordinary gift. Lazarus knew that nothing filled his sister’s heart like watching the people she loved receive her love as a meal.
Mary would be back any moment, Lazarus mused, smiling at the realization that he occupied her usual place, closest to Jesus. It occurred to him that Mary had known instinctively the joy was to be found in his presence.
For Lazarus it had taken being born again.
The fragrance of the nard entered the room several moments ahead of her, its heady aromas ushering out the remnants of the meal. Lazarus’ senses prickled with each whiff of the potent, essential oil. Nard was extracted from spikenard plants that the Jews had brought with them from Egypt.
Mere moments after being revived Mary began imploring him to help her procure nard as a thank you for Jesus. Lazarus hadn’t understood why, he rarely did where Mary was involved, but he loved her passion.
Her child’s heart was a treasure to him, something to be both cherished and protected; and he knew Jesus understood this as deeply as he did. So Lazarus indulged her, as usual, and pulled together as much money as he could.
It wasn’t enough, but to Mary even the most outlandish dreams often came within reach. Perhaps the local grower also had succumbed to her irresistible charm.
Lazarus watched in rapt attention as Mary opened the alabaster jar and lavishly poured the contents over Jesus’ road-worn feet; sparing nothing, gently massaging them with the oil. His sister loved with reckless abandon, especially when it came to Jesus.
She was aware of no one else he was sure, as he watched her unwind her luxurious crown of hair to wipe Jesus’ feet. Lazarus knew the scent would stay with her for days, and he looked forward to reliving this poignant moment whenever she passed by.
Lazarus looked up at Jesus’ face, watching him watching Mary. It was the picture of love. He wished he could freeze time right there.
As quickly as the thought arose it was burst by a loud voice that snapped Lazarus back to reality; Judas Iscariot. Lazarus was annoyed from the moment he’d arrived, and surprised Jesus continued not only to tolerate, but to invite him to the table, especially with all the rumors of his skimming from the common purse. For the life of him Lazarus couldn’t understand why Jesus put up with this shyster. He found him thoroughly unlikable, never more so than now.
Lazarus began to rise up as he realized Judas was attacking his sister. Of all people, who was he to suggest the money for the nard should have been given to the poor? He relinquished as he felt Jesus’ hand on him and heard Jesus speak the words forming on his own lips, “Leave her alone.”
As the rumbling inside subsided, a new sound broke their peace. People were gathering outside again, as they had done each day since Lazarus came back to life. They wanted to see him, more so because he was with Jesus; they were the talk of the town.
Lazarus’ resurrection was one of those longed for “signs and wonders” that fed the community’s worst instincts when it came to Jesus. Rather than listening to his teachings or enjoying his presence, most people seemed drawn by the spectacle, hoping to catch a miracle they could tell their friends and family about. They were missing the main course for nothing more than finger foods.
Now that he had been swept up into their frenzy, Lazarus could sense the menace in it. There was something about Jesus; either you loved him deeply, as he and his sisters did–or you despised him with a vengeance, like the chief priests, so threatened by this seemingly simple, humble man that they wanted him dead…and Lazarus too, because he was now a living testament to Jesus’ power.
As the fearful sounds pressed in on Lazarus, he noticed Jesus, still fully focused on the people around the table.
Lazarus’ heart skipped a beat when he heard Jesus’ next words,
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.John 12: 8
*Based on John Burke’s Imagine Heaven