Lazarus (Gk. Lazaros, a contraction of Eleazaros—see II
Mach., vi, 18—meaning in Hebrew "God hath helped"), the name of two
persons in the New Testatment; a character in one of Christ's parables, and the
brother of Martha and Mary of Bethania.
I. LAZARUS OF THE PARABLE
(1) The Story
The dramatic story of the rich man and the beggar (only in Luke, xvi, 19-31) is set forth by Christ in two striking scenes:
- Their Condition Here: The rich man was clothed in purple and byssus (D.V. fine linen), and spent each day in gay carousing. The beggar had been cast helpless at the rich man's gate, and lay there all covered with sores; he yearned for the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, but received none, and was left to the dogs.
- Their Condition Hereafter: The early banquet is over; the heavenly banquet is begun. Lazarus partakes of the banquet in a place of honour (cf. John, xiii, 23). He reclines his head on Abraham's bosom. The rich man is now the outcast. He yearns for a drop of water. Lazarus is not allowed to leave the heavenly banquet and tend to the outcast.
(2) The Meaning
Catholic exegetes now commonly accept the story as a parable. It is also legendary that the sores of Lazarus were leprous. The purpose of the parable is to teach us the evil result of the unwise neglect of one's opportunities. Lazarus was rewarded, not because he was poor, but for his virtuous acceptance of poverty; the rich man was punished, not because he was rich, but for vicious neglect of the opportunities given him by his wealth.
II. LAZARUS OF THE MIRACLE
This personage was the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethania; all three were beloved friends of Jesus (John, xi, 5). At the request of the two sisters Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John, xi, 41-44). Soon thereafter, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, Lazarus took part in the banquet which Simon the Leper gave to Jesus in Bethania (Matt., xxvi, 6-16; Mark, xiv, 3-11; John, xii, 1-11). Many of the Jews believed in Jesus because of Lazarus, whom the chief priests now sought to put to death. The Gospels tell us no more of Lazarus