Lazar Target: What Ever Happened to Lazarus?

Archaeologists discovered a first century tomb at Bethany containing Jewish burial ossuaries. One of the bone boxes bore the name Martha. Another bore the name Lazarus. Is this the final resting place of the man Yeshua resurrected?

Image of Bethany (1870), extracted from Scenes in the East. Consisting of twelve coloured photographic views of places mentioned in the Bible, by Tristram, Henry Baker. Credits and details about this image on Wikimedia Commons

Our holy Master Yeshua of Nazareth raised Lazarus from the dead. The name Lazarus (Λάζαρος) was a common name, a Greek form of the Hebrew Lazar (לעזר), which is itself a short form of the name Eleazar (אלעזר), meaning “God of help.” Lazar lived in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, with his two sisters, Mary and Martha.

The high profile resurrection of Lazarus set events in motion that ultimately culminated with the death of the Messiah. The miracle could not be dismissed. When news about the miracle began to circulate in Jerusalem, the wicked high priest Caiaphas plotted the Master’s death.

Yeshua had friends on the Sanhedrin. One of them must have sent Him a warning about the conspiracy against His life. Yeshua left Bethany and withdrew again from public sight until the time for the Passover pilgrimage drew near.

Lazarus appears again in John 12, reclining at a Sabbath meal with the Master. The same chapter also explains that many people came to Bethany to meet the man raised from the dead, and, as a result, more and more people believed in Yeshua. Fame and acclaim from the resurrection of Lazarus triggered the spontaneous, royal welcome the Master received when He entered Jerusalem for Passover. At the same time, however, the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the people of Judea were believing in Yeshua’s messianic claims.

So far as we know, the plot to kill Lazarus never materialized, but what happened to the man Yeshua brought back from the dead?

A late church tradition has him relocate to Cyprus where his path later crossed with Paul and Barnabas. An alternative Western Christian tradition has Lazarus and his sisters travelling to France. More likely, Lazarus probably remained in Bethany until his death. In the late nineteenth century, archaeologist and explorer Charles Clermont-Ganneau explored a Second Temple Era burial chamber by the roadside not far from the village of Bethany in which he discovered first-century ossuaries, including burial boxes bearing the names of Lazarus and Martha. Perhaps those boxes once contained the bones of the man the Master brought back from the dead. In the future, Lazarus will hear the voice of Yeshua waking him from the dead a second time: “Lazar, arise! Come out!”

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