Lazarus was dead, bound in the tomb, until Jesus called him forth to a new life of freedom.
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The story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead has many spiritual lessons, in addition to being a powerful foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and resurrection.
In particular, many spiritual commentators have compared Lazarus’ state to the state of us all, sinners living in this world.
The St. Andrew Daily Missal summarizes this comparison:
Lazarus lying in his tomb, with hands and feet bound, is also a symbol of sinners deprived of supernatural life and bound by the chains of sins; Jesus raises them to life — to the life of grace — and sets them free.
Dom Prosper Gueranger writes a similar reflection in his Liturgical Year:
Lazarus has been in the sepulchre four days; it is the image of the sinner buried in his sins… [When Lazarus comes out] So is it with the sinner that receives pardon. There is no voice but that of Jesus, which can call him to conversion and touch his heart and bring him to confess his sins; but Jesus has put into the hands of priests the power to loose enlighten and give movement.
When we hear the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we should hear Jesus speaking to us, calling us to “Come out” of our sin and to be set free by his saving grace.