This was the city where Jesus found friendship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. It’s also the place where Jesus resurrected Lazarus from death and finally, it’s the place where we can find the Tomb of Lazarus. Map.
When Lazarus was dying, as John’s Gospel (11:1-44) recounts, his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus delayed his arrival until four days after Lazarus had been buried, “so that the Son of God may be glorified”.
Arriving at the tomb, Jesus called: “Lazarus, come out!” To the amazement of mourners who had witnessed the burial, the dead man walked out. This miracle confirmed the determination of the religious leaders in Jerusalem to have Jesus put to death.
Pilgrims keep coming here
This is another Holy Place, which is taking over by the Muslims in the Holy Land. The present Arab village, on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, is called Al-Azariyeh, an Arabic version of Lazarus. The original village was higher up the hill to the west of the tomb of Lazarus.
The Franciscan Albert Storme says the reason why pilgrims have been drawn to this place is not based on “some ‘casual’ wonder. In their eyes, Lazarus’ resurrection prefigured that of Christ, and heralded their own return from the grave.”
Christian churches have been built here since the early centuries. By the 14th century the churches were in ruins and the original entrance to the tomb had been turned into a mosque. In the 16th century the Franciscans cut through the soft rock to create the present entrance.
Today’s pilgrims enter from the street down a flight of 24 well-worn and uneven steps to a vestibule. Three more steps lead to the burial chamber, little more than 2 meters long. Tradition says Jesus stood in the vestibule to call Lazarus from the grave.
The present Catholic church, with mosaics depicting the events that occurred here, was built in 1954. Architect Antonio Barluzzi contrasted the sadness of death with the joy of resurrection by designing a crypt-like, windowless church, into which light floods from the large oculus in its dome.
A Greek Orthodox church, dedicated to Simon the Leper, is to the west of the tomb.
Since 2005 Bethany, in the West Bank, has been cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall. The wall actually cuts across the main street, making a visit to Bethany a lengthy detour, so the Tomb of Lazarus has become isolated from the normal pilgrim and tourist route.