Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. [John 12:10-11 (NLT)]
While Scripture tells us about Martha and Mary, the first mention of their brother is when his sisters sent a message to Jesus that Lazarus had taken sick. By the time Jesus returned to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days and placed in a tomb. After Jesus called for him to come out, the once dead man, still wrapped in his graveclothes, emerged. The next we know of Lazarus is that he was present when Martha served a dinner in Jesus’ honor. Because the testimony of those who’d witnessed his miraculous resurrection had spread like wildfire, people gathered there to see the living Lazarus and Jesus, the man who brought a dead man back to life with just a few words.
After that dinner, Lazarus vanishes from the gospels as quickly as he appeared. If we were filming Jesus’ life, the role of Lazarus would be a bit-part without any lines. Nevertheless, this nondescript man played a pivotal role in the gospel story. With the exception of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Lazarus’ return to life is the most amazing miracle of the gospels. So, what happened to the man?
The raising of Lazarus sealed Jesus’ fate and, since Lazarus’ existence threatened the Jewish establishment, it may have sealed his, too. Along with their plot to kill Jesus, the priests plotted to kill HIM, as well. They wanted Lazarus dead because he was a living witness to Jesus’ power. While it is believed that Lazarus fled to avoid capture, we know that Jesus did not.
Did Lazarus’ miraculous escape from death change him? How could it not? Yet, I think of Justin, a young man for whom our church was praying. The picture of health, he collapsed due to a ruptured aorta and was “dead” for more than 15 minutes. The doctors warned his family that Justin’s survival was improbable and, if he were to survive, he would suffer severe brain damage. To everyone’s astonishment, however, Justin was walking, lucid, and speaking clearly less than ten days later; his only complaint was the soreness in his chest. His amazing recovery is nothing short of a miracle. Justin, however, does not believe in God or miracles. With no logical medical explanation for his survival, I wonder if that will change. Will his miraculous recovery and second chance at life cause Justin to reconsider his atheistic stand? Only God knows.
As for Lazarus, the rest of his story is mere speculation. While he may have remained in Bethany, church tradition holds that he moved to Cyprus, eventually became the bishop of Kition, and died a natural death in 63 AD. Yet other church historians believe Lazarus and his sisters moved to Gaul where he became the bishop of Marseilles and was beheaded by the Emperor Domitian. The only thing we know for sure about Lazarus is that he died a second time and that, some day in the future, Jesus will raise him from the dead once again. As for Justin, we know that he, too, will die a second time. Whether or not he will defeat death a second time is entirely up to him!