She couldn’t get the smell of death out of her nostrils. It seemed to cling to her—her clothes, her hair, her skin. It didn’t matter where she went, or how many times she had bathed, the smell went with her. It didn’t matter that Lazarus was now alive and eating with their friends; he had still been dead for 4 days. 4 days, and in this heat! When the stone was removed from the tomb, the stench of death was overpowering. It takes a lot of life and living to erase that smell. They had warned Jesus not to remove the stone; Martha said, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” (11:39) But Jesus went ahead and had the stone removed, saying, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” And then he called, “Lazarus, come out!” And out walked Lazarus, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth—dead man walking. And even though Lazarus was alive, every time she looked at him, she could still see those grave clothes clinging to him, and smell that awful smell of death.
It wasn’t just the physical death that left a stench, though, but also the feeling of foreboding that filled her these days. Yes, Lazarus was alive again—what a miracle! But she had this awful feeling that something was going to happen to Jesus—there was so much animosity against Jesus. When he raised Lazarus, many people believed in him. They were astonished at what had happened, and eager to be near Jesus. But there were also those who were angry at Jesus, at what he had done. They went to the Pharisees, to tell them about all the signs that Jesus was performing. These signs were a threat—“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation,” they said. Jesus was in so much danger. He had stayed away from their house for a while after raising Lazarus; he knew it was dangerous.
- John 12:1 - 8