Why is our culture is so enamored with zombies? Our TVs and iPads are filled with images of them creeping and slinking their way to our front door. This reality has an influence on the way that I interpret scripture. It became clear to me as I read about Lazarus today in John 11. As you know, in this passage, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. How do you interpret that? For me, Lazarus is undead. Just like a zombie.
In John 11:43, we learn about Lazarus walking out of the tomb, still wrapped in burial cloths. We hear Jesus instructing Martha and her sister, to “unbind him, and let him go.” Do you hear zombie? I do. My full picture of Lazarus is less than human. I imagine him pale and sickly, weakened by death. A shadow of his old life. He probably staggers as he walks and talks with a slur. This, after all, is what zombies do. But, I reason, since Jesus was involved, Lazarus was a good zombie. So, what does a good zombie do? He follows Jesus around like a puppy dog, catering to his every whim and enjoying the scraps from his table. Can’t you just hear Jesus, his owner, as they walk down a crowded street? “Lazarus, come on, what are you sniffing at back there?!”
I hope you hear my sarcasm. None of that is true of Lazarus. How do I know? There are two ways. First, we know that Jesus does not give life half-heartedly. He gives it to the “full” (John 10:10). Second Lazarus’ actions prove that he is not undead, but fully living. Looking forward into John 12, Lazarus was out, among the people, presenting himself in a way that was irresistible. I picture him bounding through the streets, singing, dancing, and rejoicing. Filled with life! How do we know that? Because “many people came to Jesus because of him” (John 12:11). Now, would these people have been attracted to a zombie? Of course not. People are not attracted to the undead, they want to be like the living.
What about us? Unfortunately, too many of us are living the “Christian life.” We are shadows of our former selves, unable to have fun, take risks, and engage the world. Jesus has become our ticket to heaven, our get-out-of-jail-free card. That is not living. It is undead. Yes, Jesus invites us to die, just like Lazarus, but remember that his invitation is not focused on death. It is about re-birth. Done faithfully, Jesus transforms us into His glory, His likeness. Irresistible. Just like Lazarus.