Passiontide dawns with the remarkable account of Jesus’s raising of Lazarus from the dead. It takes place in Bethany, which scripture tells us, was two miles from Jerusalem. It still is, as the crow flies, but tragically, the building of the Wall of Separation between Jerusalem and the West Bank means you have to travel over six miles now and the Wall has cut off access to Jerusalem for many of the town’s residents.

But it is worth the visit to see the Church of St Lazarus and the tomb of Lazarus (pictured here) which has been a place of pilgrimage since at least the fourth century. To descend into that tomb seems to take us deep down into the realm of the dead. Lazarus’s friends were convinced that he was dead and gone. Not so, Jesus. He saw it differently; he saw another possibility, as he usually did. To everyone’s astonishment, the apparently dead and stinking corpse was transformed into a renewed life. It prefigures Jesus’s own resurrection and gives us something to cling onto as we enter into the dark days of Jesus’s passion.

Perhaps at this time we might feel too that we have entered into a tomb-like experience. There may be moments when we feel cut off and the light of hope has been extinguished. The raising of Lazarus is a sign of hope for us. What appears one way to us, is a moment of possibility for God. We must not give up as Lazarus’s friends had done. “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they will die, will live.’” This is the ground of all our hope.