Monday, March 25, 2013

The Martyrdom of Lazarus

By the witness of Lazarus, the Good News was spread, and the Church grew, even before the Passion of Christ.  He was a great witness, and thus a martyr, as the word originally means.  How great was his witness?  Great enough that the Jews wished him dead again, for many, many were converted by his witness to the wondrous works of God.

That is truly what Lazarus' testimony was, for we do not see him preaching in the Gospels.  Instead, just by the fact that he received this astounding blessing from our Lord—that God did not let the righteous remain in Sheol—he converted many, leading them to believe in Jesus Christ.  He was not the only to be a witness, a martyr, to the wondrous works of God.  Is not the Bible, in some sense, such a witness?  It begins with the wondrous, marvelous creation of all things by the Lord, and it ends with the expectation of that wondrous event to come, the Coming in Glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The historical books, the Books of Reigns and Kings, the Book of Judges, and all the others, tell the story of the Lord's love for His people Israel and for all mankind.  They tell of His marvelous works, works that are marvels even if they do not seem so at the time.  The First Ode tells of these works: Horse and chariot He has cast into the sea!  The Psalms tell it too: He has defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan.  All creation, too, joins in the praise of God's wonderful works, for all the earth tells the glory of God, and from His works we come to knowledge of Him, the Creator.  For this reason the Three Holy Youth call on all of creation to bless the Lord, declaring His mighty deeds.

Lazarus, too, joins in the theme of declaring and proclaiming the wondrous and marvelous works of God, those works of Jesus which all the books in the world could not contain.  By that miracle we heard of on Saturday, the raising from the dead on the fourth day, Lazarus came to proclaim the Good News, and yet an even greater miracle is coming: the raising on the third day.  Lazarus' witness was so great that the Jews sought to kill him, as they had killed the prophets and were to kill the Author of Life Himself.  Those who cannot bear to hear the Good News which to have the messengers dead: yet even their death is just another proclamation of the Lord, for we remember all the Holy Martyrs who have gone before us and go with us now.

Some say Lazarus was martyred in the typical sense, that is, killed for the Lord: some say he continued to be a martyr of the Lord's actions as Bishop of Cyprus.  Whatever his future, we know he was a martyr, a witness to the Lord's wondrous deeds.  And we, too, are called to witness to God's mighty deeds, his wonderful works, both those He has done for all His people, and those that He does specifically for us.  We must be martyrs as Lazarus was, and if the worldly powers want us dead for our preaching, then our deaths will preach all the more.  I do not know if I will have the strength to die for the faith if I am called to, but I pray that I will.  I pray that I and all of us may be martyrs, whether living or dead, to the wondrous works of God, just as Lazarus was, even to the point of hatred by authorities.  Let us always proclaim the wonderful works of God, for He always does wondrous deeds.  This is the work of the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

St. Lazarus, pray for us!

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