I was reading in John’s Gospel, chapter 12, the other day. It mentions that there was a large crowd of the Jewish people that were flocking to a town called Bethany. The reason for this influx of visitors was because they heard that Jesus was there…but also…they wanted to see Lazarus…because Jesus had raised him from the dead. I read over that verse a few times and just began to think about something…where is the Book of Lazarus…?
I began to search for extra-biblical documents that may have been attributed to Lazarus…already fully aware that there were no books in the Bible written by him. I’ve gone on this search a number of times in the past and I’ve yet to turn up anything by this man named Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. I’ve always found that very strange…that one of the close friends of Jesus, who had been dead for four days…seemed to have nothing to say for the sake of posterity. What would it have been like to have had a conversation with Lazarus after his resurrection? What would people have been asking him? I imagine that they would have wanted to know what God looked like…or did he meet Moses…or how their family members were doing…or what was Heaven like… Yet, we have no record of any such thing. If Lazarus had any memory of these events, then either he didn’t share those memories, or for whatever reason, the recordings of these experiences were lost to antiquity.
Isn’t that a strange thing? Of all of the writings in the New Testament…in the Bible for that matter…it seems like an experience such as that of Lazarus would be written down somewhere…
…or would it?
The more I thought about it, the more it made absolute sense to me that this record didn’t exist. If it did in fact exist, could you imagine the amount of attention we would put on it. It would overshadow everything else that Christians think and talk about. Let’s face it…we have enough stuff that is distracting us from what we should be focused on. The Bible has so many controversial subjects…predestination or freewill…the end of days…the “giants” that existed around the time of the flood…do people speak in tongues… I mean, there are enough subjects to keep us busy without ever getting into the big picture…
…and maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s why God’s Spirit never saw fit to include any of Lazarus’ experience during his period of death in any of the writings. Maybe God didn’t want us fixating on things that draw us away from what matters most. I was at a church once where there was a lady present that had been dead for a 5 minute span of time. Everyone wanted to talk to her and find out what she saw. When I spoke to her, she didn’t have any memories to tell me about. She didn’t have any experiences to relate to me. During the time surrounding her return to the church, lots of us were consumed with talking to her…with getting some information. We wanted a “Book of Lazarus”…and during that time, we totally lost focus on the most important things we needed to be doing.
I don’t know what happens immediately after someone dies. Do they go to Heaven, hell, or do they go to sleep until the resurrection and judgment? I don’t know. These have been areas of theological debate for thousands of years…and the more we debate them…the more we try to iron these areas of theological ambiguity for the sake of some form of “orthodoxy” and/or doctrine…then the more we busy ourselves with things that, in the grand scheme of Scripture, really are not that critical.
I think we like to have these answers because it’s easier than having faith. It’s easier to know exactly what to expect than it is to go in a direction that we are not logically convinced of…and have no idea what is coming next. We also like to busy ourselves with such subjects because there seems to be something within human nature that just likes to focus on trivialities as opposed to carrying on with the task at hand.
Ultimately, we are fortunate that there is no Book of Lazarus. We are fortunate that all of these areas of mystery are left as simply that…mystery.
There are things that are undeniable in terms of what the Scripture teaches. The Bible may not tell us what Lazarus’ experience was if he went to Heaven for four days, but it does tell us in no uncertain terms how we can get there. It doesn’t tell us how to chart out the end of days, but it does in fact tell us that we need to lovingly engage others in the world with this truth. It doesn’t tell us whether or not man truly has any free will, but it does tell us that we simply need to tell the world about Him and He will do the rest through His Spirit.
We should stop searching for the many different things like a book of Lazarus that would confirm our thinking, and start to tell others about the Christ Whom we have met…and against that…there can be no argument…because as Leonard Ravenhill once said, “A person with an experience is not at the mercy of a person with an opinion.”