The man stood outside the tomb and wept - his friend had died four days before and the grieving sisters had reproached him for not coming sooner.
Lots of people including professional mourners were hanging about and wailing.
He seemed troubled and indignant by the death, and some people were touched by the evidence of his affection for his friend. But others sniped away and suggested that after all his healing miracles he should have prevented his friend from dying in the first place.
In any case he startled the bystanders by telling them to remove the stone from the mouth of the tomb. Over one sister’s protest that there would be a terrible smell they did what he said.
The man promised them that they would see God’s glory there and then, and thanked God aloud for hearing him. Then he shouted: “Lazarus, come out!” and astonishingly the dead man, no longer dead, appeared from the tomb, still beautifully wrapped from head to foot in grave clothes.
A puzzling story, perhaps, of a seemingly deliberate delay, but nevertheless one which shows clearly Jesus’ human heart experiencing distress and love for his friends. Clearly he cared about this affectionate family who had already welcomed him often into their home.
As he spoke with Martha about her brother’s death, and reassured her that Lazarus would live again, he challenged her personally to understand more.
With Easter not far away we can benefit from contemplating Lazarus’ individual story of physical death postponed and Jesus’ startling offer to us of everlasting life: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this?”