On this festive day, we hear the words proclaimed in the Matins and Vespers Service:
“Even though Lazarus had been dead for four days, You raised him from Hades, O Christ, before Your own death, You destroyed the power of Death. You freed one of Your friends from the tomb to announce the resurrection of all. Therefore we bow before Your sovereign power and cry out: Blessed are You O Savior, have mercy on us.”
“Taking pity on the tears of Martha and Mary, O Christ our God, You ordered the stone to be rolled away from the tomb. By Your call You raised the dead man and broke the bolts of Hades to establish our faith in the life-giving resurrection of all. Glory to Your power, O Savior; glory to Your sovereign majesty; glory to You, for by Your Word, You uphold the whole world.”
“Desiring to confirm the faith of Your disciples, O Lord, in Your resurrection from the dead, You came to the tomb of Lazarus. And when You called him, Hades was despoiled and it gave up the one who had been dead for four days. He cried out to You: Blessed are You, O Lord, glory to You.”
In the Gospel of John, we hear mention of the beloved disciple, who we know was John himself. But Jesus also had other beloved friends. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus as were his sisters, Martha and Mary. For those who read the Gospel of John and believe in Jesus as Lord, you too are a beloved disciple.
Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus that His friend Lazarus was ill. (John 11:1-44) He delayed his travel to Bethany. He arrived four days after Lazarus died. Why did He wait? Lazarus had been dead for four days, there was no way that anyone could argue that point. We even hear the protest when Jesus tells them to remove the cave covering “there will be a stench”! Jesus wanted to show them that there is a universal resurrection from the dead. He wanted to show His followers the power of God. This will be confirmed by His own Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection.
It is interesting to note, that when Lazarus was raised from the dead, Jesus tells those around him to loose the burial cloths which bound him. In the Icon of the day, either he (Lazarus) or one of those around him are carrying his burial clothes. There is a reason for this. Lazarus will need these burial cloths again – though he had returned to life, his body was still mortal and therefore subject to death.
In contrast, when Jesus rises from the dead, His burial cloths remained in the tomb. As Son of God, Jesus will not die again – for His Resurrection transfigures nature. This is the first time on a weekday that we hear the beautiful words:
“Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the Only Sinless One. We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection. You are our God: we know no other than You, and we call upon Your Holy Name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate the Holy Resurrection of Christ. For, behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. For, enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed Death by death.”
As we celebrate this great feast let us look at our own lives. How do we accept the responsibility of being a beloved disciple of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ?