After Four Days in the Tomb: Did He Stink? – John 11:38-39

Warning: My twisted humor may have gotten a bit out of control in this post.

Included in the gospel of John is an account of the restoration of life to Lazarus. This is an account I have read and heard frequently. But during a recent reading of this passage, I was struck by what I am sure is a deeply significant theological question. And I don’t recall ever hearing anyone discuss it before. It’s almost like everyone has been avoiding it. But now, I think that I may have made a very significant contribution toward a deeper understanding of the Scripture.

Did the Tomb Stink?

In John 11:38-39 Jesus is recorded as standing at Lazarus’ tomb. And then he called on them to roll back the stone. Martha responded that Lazarus has been in his tomb for four days now and he should be stinky. Jesus tells them to roll it away anyway. So, my question is, “Did he stink?” Please correct me if I am wrong, but I find it hard to believe that no one before me has asked this question. So after careful consideration I feel like I am able to respond to this for all those with inquiring minds.

And the answer is: “Yes”!

No longer do you need to read past this passage in confusion and with unanswered questions. When the stone rolled away they are all treated to the smell of a decaying body mixed with a heavy layer of aromatic spices.

What About the Revived Lazarus?

Now of course, being the deeply spiritual and inquisitive person that I am, I was of course unable to leave this passage just yet. I had to know, when Lazarus walked out of the tomb, was he still stinky? I asked this question of several other folks (my wife and son) and just got incredulous looks in return, almost as if I had gone off the deep end. But this was, to my mind, a question that demanded an answer. So I began to explore this in the fertile depths of my imagination.

Lazarus was dead, and has been so for four days. His brain function had quit. His blood had either been drained from his body or it had congealed. The bacteria in the gut that allowed for proper digestion were all dead. Worms were tunneling through his body. And the muscle tissue was decaying, hence the stink. I’m sure there are other things but I think you get the picture.

Reversing the Decay

So for Lazarus to return to life, it is not enough to just zap him with the cardio-paddles. The blood has to either be reintroduced or thinned out significantly. New bacteria needed to be reintroduced into his gut. The worms needed to be extracted. Side bar: can you imagine what a conversation squelcher it would be to have a worm pop out of someone’s forehead as you were talking to them? And all of the decay has to be reversed.

And this is the key to the second stinky question. If the decay, which causes the stink, is reversed, then he becomes ‘as if he had not decayed’, and thus the stink should also be ‘as if it had not been there’. In other words, when Lazarus walks to the tomb entrance he should smell just like he did the moment before he died. Of course that could still be stinky, just in a different way.

And of course, whatever it was that killed him also ended up getting cured, otherwise he would walk out of the tomb and fall down dead again. Kind of a downer.

Glad to have been able to clear that up for all of you. And now, if you have any more questions that no one else has ever been willing to tackle, please feel free to keep them to yourselves.

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