The sun glowered unrelentingly behind the clouds above Bethany, rays of light trapped but still perpetuating heat, an uncanny reflection of the mood in the village. I was cooling off under the large sycamore tree on the edge of the village market, waiting for the few odd jobs here and there, but today like the past couple of days has been unproductive for me. Since Martha’s brother passed away three days ago, a general feeling of gloom has swept over community. She was the livewire of her family and since their family was the most prominent one in the village, the community seem to go as she does. And right now, everyone was in mourning with her.
I had come to know Martha for a while now and she was the most generous being, not only in getting me some paid tasks but also with her time and advice. She tried to get me to do something more productive with my life, which was essentially to pick up a trade or learn a profitable skill. I thank her and always let her know I was bidding time to be old enough to enroll in the school of the Pharisees because all I wanted to do was write stories and document history. Martha would frown, shake her head and scold me for not being practical in thinking. She was the opposite of her sister Mary, who would have encouraged me to hold on to such artistic dreams – based on what I heard about her. I have only seen her a couple of times with nothing more than a polite exchange of pleasantries. She was more reserved, but just as kind as Martha and equally beloved in the community.
I never met their brother. I heard he was a keen follower of the Rabbi from Nazareth and he was always prominent in the congregation whenever the Holy Man traveled and taught in these parts. One has to wonder why he was not taken to any of the Rabbi’s meetings to be healed when he was ill, that is if those reports of miraculous healings were truly genuine. Shame he was taken from his loved ones so young. Sigh.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a small gathering that grew louder in an otherwise quiet environment. I grabbed a low-hanging branch from the tree I was lying under and pulled myself up to see where the noise was from. It was a small group of about eight folks walking hurriedly toward the path leading out of town, I recognized Martha in the middle, even though she was still garbed in her black mourning apparel. I half sprinted to catch up with them and asked one of the young men I recognized in the party.
“Hey Japh, e don tey wetin dey. Where all una dey go?”
“O’boy, word reach Martha say the Prophet, that one from Nazareth, dey head this way. She wan come block am say make him no kuku show since Laz don kpai” Japhet whispered back, without breaking his stride.
“Heh. Martha vex like that? She no dey vex” I lowered my voice also, we were lagging some steps behind Martha and the others at this point, she did not even turn to acknowledge me as I joined them.
“How she no go vex? Dem send message to Prophet make He come pray for dem brother when he dey sick, He no gree show. Na now wey he don die, He gree show. I no understand”
“God dey” I couldn’t think of any other response. “Mary nko?”
“She no even bother comot house.”
We had walked less than a quarter of a mile when we met the Rabbi and some other men who I reckon to be the famous members of his inner circle. Martha fell into an embrace with him and He held on to comfort her. I ambled closer to listen. I heard Martha say to the Rabbi amidst sobs that if He had been here, her brother would not have died.
“Your brother will rise again.” He said to her.
“I sabi say him go rise again for resurrection for last day.” Martha replied.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
His voice was so calm and sincere, how could you not believe in this Man. I get it now.
“Yes Lord, I believe say you be Christ, the Pickin of God, wey dey come for this world.” Martha said, basically echoing the sentiment of everyone present. Okay, maybe except me. Why could He not have come earlier to stop her brother from dying?
Martha left us right after that and got Mary to come back with her. By the time they arrived with the mourners from their house, a larger crowd had gathered with the Rabbi. Mary fell at His feet and cried out:
“Lord, if only to say you don show, my brother for no die”
Mary never stopped weeping along with the mourners that followed her from the house. I noticed the Rabbi’s lips quiver as He appeared to search for words to console her.
“Where have you laid him” He asked.
The burial caves were not far from where we were, Mary and Martha led and we all followed them with the Rabbi. Mary was bawling her eyes out by the time we got to the tomb
“Na there e dey, come see am.”
Men usually try to keep it together in public in these parts, and open display of emotions was essentially feminine. The Rabbi had been a calm figure all through the time we met Him through the trip to the tomb, but the most incredible thing happened when He saw where Lazarus was laid.
Wow! I thought, He must have really loved this man. Why did He not come earlier to keep the one He apparently loved from dying. I guess no one defeats death, not even the famed miracle worker.
He gathered Himself and told the men to take away the stone lying against the tomb.
“Haba! Lord, he don die for over four days, he for don dey stink now” Martha tried to dissuade Him.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Martha stepped back and motioned the men to roll away the stone from the cave’s entrance.
The Rabbi lifted His eyes to the clouds and said:
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
He was speaking to the heavens as if He was having a direct conversation with Jehovah, I have heard tales about how He prays. It was more amazing to witness. I was still marveling at His posture and manner of prayer without paying much attention to the words when I heard Him raise His voice and cry out loud:
“Lazarus, come out!”
If I was not there, I would never have believed any account of what happened. If I was there just by himself, I would have doubted what I saw.
The man who had been dead for four days walked out of the tomb! His hands and feet were still bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. There was a collective gasp followed by a second of dead silence when he appeared at the entrance of the cave. Then Martha screamed as she and Mary rushed towards their brother, who was dead and then alive.
“Unbind Him, and let him go.” The Rabbi commanded. I thought I saw Him look up to the heavens again and mouth thank you Father. At that point, I could not tell what was real anymore, my mind was reeling.
Oh my God! I gave in to the weakness in my knees and crumbled to the ground in shock and awe, as many others around me did.
What in the world just happened.