“Bishop,” asks a young woman, “are you okay?”
Lazarus turns to her, his face framed by Cape Kiti and the turquoise sea beneath it. “Yes, my dear.”
She is holding the hand of a young boy with eyes as blue as the sky above. The child’s eyes remind him of his friend, the one who raised him from the dead. “Go on now,” the old man says, “I’m fine.”
As the woman and the boy depart, Lazarus glances at the Salt Lake and remembers the old woman who denied him grapes on a hot day. He cursed the lake behind her and turned its fresh water to salt, and Lazarus always regrets this one angry moment.
He walks down to the village and sees the fishing boats coming in from the sea. He recalls Paul and Barnabas visiting him once long ago, declaring him Bishop of Kition with much fanfare. Lazarus still does not feel worthy of this title, but he has healed people both physically and spiritually, or so they tell him.
He goes into his humble house, shutting the door and hooking it to prevent unwanted visitors from entering. There is always someone seeking his company, but more than anything they want to know his secrets, but there are none – except for those four days when he had died and been in the world of the dead.
Lazarus looks at old trinkets on his desk, ones that remind him of his sisters Martha and Mary. When he saw Paul and Barnabas they told him that his sisters remained in Bethany, with no one bothering them. That was long ago and he wonders if they are still alive. He has often thought about going back to his home town, but there is the memory of the reason why he left – their enemies wanted to kill him as they did Jesus.
He shivers as he thinks of the day Jesus died on the cross. He had already been pursued by Roman soldiers and the Temple Guard since the day Jesus brought him back from dead, and John had taken him to a safe house where he could wait for a time without fear. In this small dark place his sisters came to see him one last time.
“Jesus was arrested last night,” Martha said.
Mary fought back tears. “Today he was condemned to death by Pilate.”
Lazarus shook with anger. “But they can’t; he is the Christ!”
Despite the dangers outside, the three siblings raced to the scene of the crucifixion, but Martha and Mary prevailed upon Lazarus to stay secluded in the distance behind trees. They proceeded forth and stood with John and Jesus’s mother Mary, wailing as Jesus died on the cross.
Lazarus cried silent tears as he fell down against a tree, but suddenly he had an awakening. He thought, “If he could raise me from the dead, he can raise himself too!”
He didn’t stay in Jerusalem to see that happen. The day after Jesus died his sisters arranged passage to the sea, where he boarded a ship that took him on the first and last voyage of his life. He would learn of Jesus’s resurrection from a traveler long after he arrived, falling on the rocky beach and screaming to the heavens in joy.
After making some tea, Lazarus answers a knock at the door. It is a stranger dressed in dark robes. “I need to speak to you, Bishop. I am in great need.” Lazarus invites him in and offers him tea. They sit at a simple table, the cups of tea steaming between them.
“Where are you from, stranger?”
Lazarus nodded. “Yes.”
“They say you were raised from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Yes, everyone here in Kition knows my tale.”
“And it is said that you never smile, never laugh, never enjoy these precious days given to you by your friend? If that is true it saddens me.”
“But it is true in only that I knew something from the other side, something I still cannot fathom or reconcile in my mind.”
The man lifts his head and removes the dark veil from his face. “You have had 30 years to do this, but you could not comprehend the great gift.”
Lazarus sips his tea. “I am grateful for what I could do for others, building his church here and spreading his word. That is as it was meant to be.”
“Yes, but should you not have enjoyed life more fully, as God your father intended?”
“Perhaps, perhaps I should have smiled at the children, should have danced at weddings, enjoyed more fruit of the vine, and embraced life more.”
“In my name, if nothing else, old friend.”
Lazarus tries to focus his old eyes, and then recognizes Jesus sitting there before him. He drops to his old knees, clasping hands together, crying as he screams, “Please forgive me, Lord.”
Jesus lifts him without moving from the chair, and Lazarus is sitting again at the table and shaking. “Your good works here in Kition are many, and you have done well with your ministry for others, old friend. I just wish you had done more for yourself.”
“You went down there among the dead, my Lord. You know what I saw!”
Jesus rises from the chair. “All the more reason to embrace life.”
“Now, it’s too late for me.”
“Rise, Lazarus, and this time come forth with me.”
“But where are we going, my Lord?”
“We will celebrate in Paradise.” Jesus holds his hand and Lazarus rises, leaving his old frail body behind.
When the villagers found their beloved Bishop Lazarus the next day, it was said by all that he had died with a smile on his face.
Photo credits: wikiart.org, stspress.com, suitqaisdiaries.com
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