Sunday Gospel reflections: ‘Lazarus laughed’

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go.’ (John 11:43-44)

My spirits soar when I read this story with its wonderful human touches. I like that both the sisters take Jesus to task about not coming when they called him: “Our brother would not have died.” I like that Martha, the detail person, is worried about the smell if they open the tomb after four days. I love that Jesus weeps, and when Lazarus staggers out that Jesus keeps helping him: “Untie him.”

Best of all is imagining what happened after they untied him. Eugene O’Neill, in an obscure play, describes a witness standing by the tomb, half dead with fright, telling how Jesus and Lazarus looked at each other for a long time. Then Jesus smiles, and Lazarus begins to laugh. “There is no death! There’s only life!” Lazarus cried. The title of O’Neill’s play is my favorite window on death: Lazarus Laughed. 

 — Pat Livingston


Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

“The Resurrection of Lazarus,” by Léon Bonnat, 1857. Photo: Public Domain
JesusLazarusLentLiving with ChristPat LivingstonSunday Gospel ReflectionsThe Raising of Lazarus
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