Introductory Note: According to the Bible, Jesus raised Lazarus from death. What follows is mere fiction inspired by a friend’s questioning me on love.
“You’ve taken away my death, you’ve appropriated it,” Lazarus tried hard to suppress his anger.
“I gave you life,” said Jesus calmly, “new life.”
“You had no right to do it,” Lazarus was almost contemptuous. “Look at me, Jesus, look into my eyes. You had no right to bring me back from death. Do you realise the gravity of what you’ve done? You’ve destroyed the peace that I had found in death. I can forgive you for that. But you’ve upset the whole world of my sisters. They were getting used to my death. They were learning to accept it as an inevitable fact of life. Do you know how absurd it is for anyone to live with someone who has come back from death? What am I now to them? A ghost? They want to ask me what it is like there – beyond death. They don’t ask because they are sensitive enough. When they do, as they surely will in due course of time, what am I to tell them?”
“Tell them the truth,” said Jesus rather enigmatically.
“Truth! What’s truth?”
Jesus did not answer.
“Ha! You can’t answer that,” said Lazarus.
“They love you, Lazarus. I love you,” Jesus sounded consoling.
Lazarus became restless. “Love had become unbearable,” he said. “How could I ever reciprocate the love my sisters and you bore me? My ailments were taking away all my love to themselves. When did I ever have time to love anyone after taking care of my decrepit body?”
Lazarus had become calm. “And now you say you’re going to die.”
“I’m going to be killed,” said Jesus.
“You chose death,” Lazarus paraphrased it.
“It’s not my choice, Lazarus. It’s my destiny. This is what I was born for.”
“What? What were you born for? To question the priests and their laws, to arouse their anger so much that they would demand your crucifixion and nothing less? What will you achieve through that?”
“I won’t achieve anything.” Jesus was quiet for a while and then he added, “The world will.”
“What will the world achieve?”
“The meaning of surrender.”
“Surrender! Is that all what you have got to teach? Is that the great destiny you came to fulfil? You are a big fool, Jesus. Love, sacrifice, surrender... You should have been born a woman.”
Jesus remained silent. Was he really effeminate? He asked himself. Hadn’t he driven out of the synagogue the money-lenders and the traders of sheep and oxen? Hadn’t he dared to question the priests and the Pharisees?
Yet he knew that Lazarus was not entirely wrong. At the bottom of all that fury lay the detachment of compassion. What else prompted him to save the adulteress from the blood-thirsty crowd? Why did he forgive everybody’s sins? Why did he imagine himself as a shepherd who left the entire flock in order to seek out the lost sheep? Why the sermon on the mount? Why the miracles?
“You’re capitulating, Jesus,” said Lazarus. “Perform one more miracle,” he pleaded. “Transform yourself. Stop teaching love to people. Your love is a burden. It demands the impossible. At best people will start worshiping you as a god for teaching them that kind of love. Nothing will change except their god. Jesus in place of Yahweh. An effeminate god in place of a vindictive god. What use is that? Change your teaching. Teach them the merit of reason and wisdom. Teach them to think.”
No, Lazarus, no. Jesus said to himself as he got up and walked away. The heart has reasons that reason does not understand. It is love that my god hungers for. It is love that all his creatures hunger for. And that love is very demanding. Endlessly demanding. My death is a sacrifice on the altar of love.
A few days later rose the cry from Calvary, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Lazarus was not alive to hear that cry.