The little town of Bethany was situated in a narrow valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There was a large house there belonging to a man who had been ill for many years; formerly he had been filled with despair, but since he had become an adherent of the Nazarene, he was resigned and cheerful. His incurable disease became almost a blessing, for it destroyed all disquieting worldly desires and hopes, and also all fears. In peaceful seclusion he gave up his heart to the Kingdom of God. When he sat in his garden and looked out over the quiet working of Nature, he hardly remembered that he was ill. He was so entirely imbued with the happiness of life in the Kingdom of Heaven, and his prayers were full of gratitude that death could not destroy such a life, since it was immortal, and would be carried into eternity with the immortal soul.
Two of the inmates of his house were at one with him in this. Magdalen, his wife’s sister, the fallen woman of Magdala, lived with them since she had been obliged to part from the Master. Now she heard with a fearful joy that Jesus was in Jerusalem. Her brother, Lazarus, was in still greater excitement about it. The youth declared that the Master had accomplished the greatest thing of all in regard to him. He could not talk about it enough, and was irritated if they did not receive his tale as the very newest thing, although it had happened months before, when Jesus had been in the wilderness of Judaea. They had marvelled at the event beyond all measure, but when the great miracle came to be related every day, it got commonplace. “Just let one of you experience what dying is like,” Lazarus would often exclaim, interrupting a lively conversation. “When you lie there and turn cold, they put on a shroud, tie a kerchief round your head, stretch you out on a board, and lament that you are dead. You are dead, but it isn’t quite what you thought. You know about it; you are there when they put you into the sack, carry you to the grave, and rend their garments for grief. You are there when your body is buried in the damp, everlasting darkness, and begins to mingle with the earth. Your poor soul gathers itself together to utter a cry for help, but your breast is dead, your throat is dead. And in this agony of death, which never ceases, a man comes by, lays his hand on your head, and says, ‘Lazarus, get up!’ and your pulse begins to beat, and your limbs grow warm again, and you get up and live! And live! Do you know what it means—live?”
Then Magdalen would go to her brother and calm him, telling him that it was a great thing to awake a dead body to life, but a still greater thing to bring a dead soul to life!