Justice and Dead Guys

Lectionary Reading: John 11:1-45
This American Life Episode 519: Dead Man Tell No Tales

After Jesus screams out for Lazarus to come out of his grave, many believed in him. I image that many people would literally follow Jesus right then and ask him questions. After all, even in the time of Jesus, I don’t think many people would walk out of a tomb after being dead for four days at anyone’s command. This even prompts some priests and Pharisees to plot against Jesus. However, what intrigues me the most is what happened to Lazarus. We know he fell ill – the first four verses in John 11 directly speak of Lazarus’ ill or lack thereof. But, how did he fall ill? Was it a sudden illness? Was he sick for a while and these where his last days? We know some begin to plot against Jesus but, what of Lazarus now? We don’t necessarily know, at least not immediately through the text itself. Of course, we can do a bit more investigative research; look up more sources, do some Biblical criticism and find out a bit more about what exactly happened to Lazarus. I do not intend to engage in any type of criticism to learn more about Lazarus but simply bring up that curiosity itself of knowing more.

Lazarus’ resurrection speaks in two different ways. First, alive Lazarus can say a lot more than dead Lazarus. Second, his resurrection says quite a bit about Jesus. The former falls into that category I mentioned above about wanting to know that which we do not know. I imagine some of those questions I asked earlier about Lazarus’ death were asked by some of the people around who found out he had died. Of course, someone close to Lazarus could answer those but it’s quite a different perspective hearing some answers from Lazarus himself. I can easily see myself going straight to Lazarus after he walks out of the tomb and ask him, “what the hell did just happen?”

Also, Jesus speaks greatly through Lazarus’ resurrection. Not just by performing an impressive miracle but in a more simpler, subtler way that, to me, is more powerful. Jesus tells Martha that whoever believes in him will not die but live. As someone who believes Jesus to bring abundant life here on Earth, the resurrection of Lazarus affirms that the work of Jesus, that work which I am to carry on, as the work of ensuring the ills experienced in our world do not lead to death. I believe that is why the priests and Pharisees are afraid – not because those who believe in Jesus will turn into immortals but because those who believe the work of Jesus realize that not allowing ills to turn into death is part of his work; and that usually challenges systems of oppression and injustice found in power and authority.

Now, turning to This American Life, Episode 519: Dead Man Tells No Tale, from earlier this month, is an investigative report into an FBI case linked to the Boston Marathon bombings of last year and another murder case in Boston a few years back. No, no one comes back to life in this episode but as contributor Susan Zalkind says, “If Ibragim were still alive, we may have had a better chance to get to the bottom of this.” In this episode, Zalkind seeks out answers to resolve several death/murder incidents. It reminds me of the Lazarus story because Ibragim, the main subject of the story, is dead. Much like a dead Lazarus, Ibragim cannot say much thus making it difficult to resolve some open investigations. Yet, in her attempt at finding justice, Zalkind uncovers what could have been said by Ibragim through her own investigation. At the end, Zalkind’s investigation does not replace what Ibragim could have said had he not been killed but her work definitely helps shed light on what is happening in this case.

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