27th March 1947.
Love and hatred urge many pilgrims who have gathered in Jerusalem, as well as many inhabitants of Jerusalem, to come to Bethany without awaiting that sunset is over. On the contrary, the sun has just begun to set when the first visitors arrive at Lazarus' house. And as Lazarus, when called by the servants, is surprised at such transgression of the Sabbath, because the first to arrive are the best-known among the strictest Judaeans, they give him this truly pharisaic answer: « From the Sheep Gate we could no longer see the sun's disc, so we set off, thinking that we would certainly not exceed the prescribed distance before the sun had set behind the Temple domes. »
An ironical smile appears on Lazarus' thin face, because he is healthy and handsome, but he is certainly not fat. And he replies to them kindly, but lightly sarcastically: « And what do you want to see? The Master respects His Sabbath. And He is resting. And in order to consider that the rest has ended, He is not satisfied with just not seeing the sun's disc, but He waits until the last sunbeam disappears to say: “The Sabbath is over”. »
« We know that He is perfect! We know! But if we have made a mistake, that is another reason for seeing Him. Only for a moment, so that He may absolve us. »
« I am sorry, but I cannot. The Master is tired and is resting. I will not disturb Him. »
But more people come, they are pilgrims from everywhere, who beg and insist on seeing Jesus. Hebrews are mingled with Gentiles, and proselytes with the latter. They watch and scan Lazarus, as if he were something unreal. And Lazarus puts up with the annoyance of such unsought celebrity replying patiently to those who ask him questions. But he does not order the servants to open the gate.
« Are you the man raised from the dead? » asks one who, by his appearance, is certainly of mixed race because he has only the typical rather big hooked nose of the Jews, whereas his accent and the style of his garments indicate that he is a foreigner.
« I am, to give glory to God Who raised me from the dead to make me a servant of His Messiah. »
« But was it true death? » ask other people.
« Ask those Jewish notables. They came to my funeral and many were present at my resurrection. »
« But what did you feel? Where were you? What do you remember? When you became alive again, what happened to you? How did He raise you?... Is it not possible to see the sepulchre where you were? What did you die of? Are you really well now? Have you no longer the marks of the sores? »
Lazarus tries to reply to everybody patiently. But if it is easy for him to say that he is really well and that also the marks of the sores have disappeared by now, in the months that have elapsed since he was raised from the dead, he cannot say what he felt and how he was raised. And he replies: « I do not know. I found myself alive in my garden, among my servants and sisters. When I was freed of the shroud I saw the sun, the light, I was hungry, I had some food, I enjoyed life and the great love the Rabbi had for me. Those who were present know the rest better than I do. There are three over there who are talking. And two there who are just arriving. » (The latter are John and Eleazar, the members of the Sanhedrin, whereas the three talking to one another are two scribes and a Pharisee whom I have in fact seen at Lazarus' resurrection, but whose names I do not remember.)
« They will not speak to us, because we are Gentiles! As you are Judaeans, you can go and ask them... And you... show us the sepulchre where you were. » They could not be more insistent.
Lazarus makes up his mind. He says something to the servants, then he addresses the crowd: « Go along that road that runs between this house and that other one of mine. I will come and meet you to take you to the sepulchre, although there is nothing to be seen except an opening in the layer of rock. »
« It does not matter! Let us go! »
« Lazarus! Stop! Can we come as well? Or are we forbidden what strangers are allowed? » asks a scribe.
« No. Archelaus. You may come, if you do not think that you will be contaminated by approaching a sepulchre. »
« It will not contaminate us because there is no dead body in it. »
« But there was one for four days. One is considered unclean for much less in Israel! You say that one is unclean when one's garment just grazes someone who has touched a corpse. And my sepulchre still puffs whiffs of death, although it has been open for such a long time. »
« It does not matter. We will purify ourselves. »
Lazarus looks at John and Eleazar, the two Pharisees, and says to them: « Are you coming as well? »
« Yes, we are. »
Lazarus goes quickly towards the side delimited by hedges as tall and thick as walls, and he opens a gate enclosed in one of them, and he looks along the road leading to Simon's house, beckoning those who are waiting to come forward. He leads them towards the sepulchre. Rose-bushes in bloom are arched over the entrance, but are not sufficient to suppress the horror emanating from an open tomb. On the slanting rock under the flowery arch one can read the words: « Lazarus, come out! »
The evil-minded visitors see them at once and ask immediately: « Why did you have those words carved there? You should not have done that! »
« Why? In my house I do what I like, and no one can accuse me of sin if I decided to have fixed on the rock, so that they are indelible, the words of the divine cry that gave life back to me. When I shall be in there, and I shall no longer be able to celebrate the merciful power of the Rabbi, I want the sun to read them still there on the rock, and the plants to learn them from the winds, birds and flowers to caress them, continuing thus on my behalf to bless the cry of the Christ Who raised me from the dead. »
« You are a heathen! You are an impious person! You are cursing our God. You are singing the praises of the witchcraft of Beelzebub's son. Be careful, Lazarus! »
« I remind you that I am in my house and that you are in my house, and that you have come, without being invited, and for worthless purposes. You are worse than these people, who are heathens, but they recognise a God in the reviver. »
« Anathema! Like Master, like disciple. How horrible! Let us go away from this impure cloaca. Corrupter of Israel, the Sanhedrin will remember your words. »
« And Rome your conspiracies. Get out! » Lazarus, who is always mild, remembers that he is the son of Theophilus, and he drives them away like a pack of dogs.
The pilgrims who have come from every country remain and they ask, and look, and implore to see the Christ.
« You will see Him in town. Not now. I cannot. »
« Ah! but is He coming to town? Really? Are you not lying? Is He coming even if they hate Him so much? »
« He is coming. Go now and do not worry. See how peaceful is the house? Not a person to be seen, not a voice to be heard. You have seen what you wanted to see: the man risen again and the place of his burial. Go now. But do not allow your curiosity to be unfruitful. May the fact that you have seen me, the living evidence of the power of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and Most Holy Messiah, lead you all on His way. Because of this hope I am glad that I was raised from the dead, because I hope that the miracle may rouse the doubtful and convert the heathen, convincing them all that one only is the true God and one only is the true Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth, the holy Master. »
The crowds disperse reluctantly, and if one goes away, ten more come, because new people arrive continuously. But with the help of some servants Lazarus succeeds in pushing everybody out and closing the gates.
He is about to withdraw saying: « Make sure they do not force the gates or climb over them. It will soon be dark and they will go to their sojourns », when he sees Eleazar and John come out from behind a mirtle-bush. « What? I had not seen you and I thought... »
« Do not send us away. We hid behind thick bushes not to be seen. We must speak to the Master. We came as we are not so suspected as Joseph and Nicodemus are. But we would not like to be seen by anybody, except you and the Master... Are your servants trustworthy? »
« In Lazarus' house the custom is too see and hear only what is pleasing to the landlord, and to know nothing for strangers. But come along this path between two hedges of vegetation darker than a wall. » And he leads them along the path running between the double impenetrable barrier of boxes and laurels. « Wait here. I will bring Jesus. »
« Let no one know!... »
« Be not afraid. »
The wait is a short one. Jesus, all white in His linen tunic, soon appears on the path darkened by the intertwined branches, and Lazarus stops at the end of the path, as if he were on guard, or out of prudence. But Eleazar says to him, or rather beckons to him: « Come here. » Lazarus approaches them while Jesus greets the two who pay their deep respect to Him.
« Master, and you, Lazarus, listen. As soon as the news spread that You had come and were here, the Sanhedrin met in Caiaphas' house. Everything they do is abusive... And they have decided... Do not entertain illusions, Master! Be wary, Lazarus! Do not let the feigned peace or the apparent somnolence of the Sanhedrin deceive you. It is all pretence, Master. A simulation to attract You and capture You without the crowds getting excited and preparing to defend You. Your fate has been decided and the decree will not be changed. Whether tomorrow or in a year's time it will be accomplished. The Sanhedrin never forgets its revenges. They wait, they know how to wait for the favourable opportunity, then!... And you, too, Lazarus. They want to get rid of you, capture you and suppress you, because through your fault too many are leaving them to follow the Master. As you said with the right word, you are the evidence of His power. And they want to destroy it. The crowds soon forget, and they are aware of that. Once you and the Rabbi disappear, many passions will die down. »
« No, Eleazar! They will blaze up! » says Jesus.
« Oh! Master! But what will happen if You are dead? To what avail will faith in You blaze up, even if that were to happen, if You are dead? I was hoping to be able to tell You only one happy thing and invite You: my wife will soon give birth to the son who is thriving through Your justice, as You brought peace again to two stormy hearts. He will be born by Pentecost. I would like to ask You to come and bless him. If You enter under my roof, no misfortune will ever be in it » says John the Pharisee.
« I give you My blessing now... »
« Ah! You do not want to come to me! You do not believe that I am loyal! I am, Master! God sees me! »
« I know. The fact is... that I shall no longer be with you at Pentecost. »
« But the boy will be born in the country-house... »
« I know. But I shall not be there. And yet you, your wife, the unborn child, the children you already have, are blessed by Me. Thank you for coming. Go now. Take them along the path beyond Simon's house. So that they may not be seen... I am going back to the house. Peace to you... »