Lazarus – the first zombie

The topic of God and Monsters (Vampires and Zombies) for this past week was entertaining – I thoroughly enjoyed watching an episode of The Walking Dead; and thought provoking – what makes us human and the drive for monsters (vampires or Frankenstein) to be human.  But on to what the title suggests.

John 11:38-44:

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Duccio, Resurrection of Lazarus, 1308-11

Take that in for a second.  You have just witnessed a guy get up from out of a tomb (that reeks) all wrapped up in linen (though that may imply mummy sooner than zombie – regardless; he’s undead).

Or, you are Lazarus.  You’ve just been dead for the past 4 days (you would beat Jesus in consecutive days dead before resurrection) and now you are up and about, and ready to keep living the rest of your life.  Weird.

Apparently though, if this were to happen to you, you’d be joining the ranks of 25 other people, since 1982, who have experienced Lazarus Syndrome: the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation.  (I find this case is particularly interesting.)

It’s rather bizarre.  These people, like Lazarus, were dead.  Unlike “real” zombies who become mindless, flesh-feasting, and soulless creatures, they come alive and can go back to being their normal selves.

I wonder what psychological toll this would have on Lazarus, or anyone else who’s experienced this.  Waking up in a morgue, found breathing by a funeral worker who’s about to pump you full of formaldehyde, or waking up and having been told you were dead is something that would mess with me.  The possibility of dying a second time…  Am I different (monstrous) in any way… Do I live my life any differently… Or is everything just the same.  I suppose there’s a lot to think about.  It is, perhaps, an interesting narrative.

In the same way that a zombie apocalypse story can force people to choose to become better people or become more human, I wonder if Lazarus-esque stories offer the same possibilities and questions.

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Lazarus – the first zombie

  1. Jesus also seemed to get pretty vivid about flesh-eating:
    “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” (John 6:56-57)
    Feeding on flesh to have life? Sounds like zombies to me.

  2. for my money, the only scene in the movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” worth watching is with Lazarus – it’s photographed with an extremely long shot – most movies about Jesus portray Lazarus as a sort of zombie and he doesn’t have much of a part. My favorite cinematic Lazarus stars in the movie “Barabbas” – a conversation with Lazarus starts a ambivalence within the mind of Anthony Quinn about who Jesus was, although he was never able to reach any true faith.

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