My body was rife with boils and scabs, the pain constant, like blue fire to an open wound. My own hands were clamshells, too stiff and weak to aid myself. My sisters, Martha and Mary, dressed my inflamed skin in cool gauze and oils, yet it did no good. I wished only for death.
“He, Yeshua, the healer,” Martha told me, her young face riddled with lines of worry. “He shall be back. It was his promise to us.”
“You speak of the Rabboni?” I could barely gasp the words. My breath was fast vanishing.
I moved my stiff body, a near corpse, against the straw mattress. It cut like a blade. No miracle worker could help me, that I knew. The pox gripped and I was well beyond healing. Yet I had not the heart nor the strength to say this aloud, knowing it would crush my sisters’ hopes.
“It is told the Rabboni has walked on waves in the sea of Galilee,” Mary continued. “He calms the ocean’s storms. In Canaan they talk of the man who has changed water into wine. In Tiberias they talk of the man who fed a multitude with only seven loaves and two fishes. Such are the miracles of Yeshua bin Joseph, and he has stated his undying love for us.”
Drivel and nonsense! My mind screamed but my voice could not utter it. I was thirsty, very thirsty and my head burned with fever. Martha pressed a wineskin to my lips but its taste was bitter as gall. The liquid burned in my swollen throat. “You must drink brother,” Martha said. “So as to stay quick till the Rabboni arrives. It is then he will cure you and you shall be whole once more.”
I let out a sigh in as much as my breath would permit it. Whole. Did I want to be whole ever again?
Illness is a mad thing. It steals one’s will. I was a young man, younger than the Rabboni, who was three and thirty years. These miracles my sisters spoke of meant little to me. I followed no god, paid Caesar no tithes, was beholden to no man. Death was inevitable. When my time came I had always known I’d accept it.
Not so with my sisters. Their faith was constant as rise of the sun. They’d not give up hope. Mary sat at the edge of my mat, her hands folded in prayer. “When I am gone,” I began, but could not continue as I saw the tears trickle like silent rain from the corners of her eyes.
“You will not be gone brother,” Martha called. She brought bread from the village and begged me to eat but its taste was dust, my ulcered mouth too weak to chew.
Night fell. Finally my sisters ceased their fussing and took to bed. I was relieved.
Through the bare windows of our hut I saw the moon rise. The first full moon since change of the season. Desert winds were now calmer and pink phlox grew like spun silk across the land. The heat of summer would not be far behind, yet I knew I’d not live to see it.
I closed my eyes. Sleep enveloped me like a womb.
When I awoke it was yet night, the moon outside the window full and pink as the phlox that grew beneath it.
Stars twinkled all around. I could feel the breeze, balmy against my bandages. Oh, to breathe that air once again! To stand beneath that full moon. If I had but one last request, that would be it. Yet I had such little strength.
Rising on my blistered feet, I grabbed the wineskin, tried to drink but still the taste was bitter. Martha’s loaf of bread sat upon the table, now covered with locusts. The sight of it turned my stomach.
My breath was heavy. I longed for the night air. I stood on shaky legs. Although I had been bedridden for weeks I now walked outside, compelled by some force, a force as powerful as the moon’s diamond tides.
It was there in the rich darkness that the woman met me.
She was naked, illuminated in the moon’s glow, her skin and lips pink, with streams of red hair hair that fell to her hips.
“Lazarus,” she said. “Your time is not yet come. Though your body is diseased and imperfect, you are still a young man. The years ahead are many. Your sisters need you. If you will show but a tiny seedling of faith you shall be healed.”
Such perfection I had never seen in a woman before. “Who are you?” I asked.
“Come nearer,” she answered.
I approached her and when I was cheek press close she whispered in my ear, “Lillith.”
I backed away. Lillith! It was she who had cursed the earth, she who had left her husband Adam, she who brought death to one hundred babies each day. This Lillith, a demon! A vixen! So said all the holy books. My instincts were to flee. Yet when she spoke again, her voice like rich bells beckoning me, I could not refuse.
She placed her hand upon my forehead. Her touch was cool and soft, like moonbeams themselves. “You’d do well not to believe the legends of men!” she quipped.
She then took me into her bosom, placed her teat to my mouth. “Drink, Lazarus,” she commanded. “This is the milk of life, stronger than any wine.”
Her taste was sweet and as I drank I felt my strength restored. The boils healed on my skin, the ulcers vanished from my mouth. My fever broke and my head cooled. My muscles, which had begun to atrophy, now took on a new suppleness and flexibility. I stood to my full height. My vision was sharp and clear.
I looked around me. All the ground seemed brighter, the plants green as pine, the flowers grown to the size of wheat fields. The colors were dazzling. Silver rivers flowed, sheep grazed, trees were ripe with apples. Far in the distance the landscape sprung with all manner of vegetation, the lavender fields a sea of purple before us. We were no longer in Bethany.
“What is the place, my lady?” I asked. My voice was now deep, restored of its full volume and masculinity.
“This is but a fragment of Eden,” she answered. “And you are here for but a fragment of time. Answer when Yeshua calls. He weeps for you. There is so much more of your life to live.”
The next I knew I was in a tomb, rock walls encompassing like a prison around me. I was clothed in linen, my head wrapped and eyes covered. This seemed quite absurd as I had never felt fitter in my life. They had buried me? Buried me alive, no less! I unraveled the gauze from my eyes.
Just then the tomb’s boulder was moved. A path opened and yellow sunlight poured in. I heard his voice, sturdy and pleading. “Lazarus, come out.”
Slowly I stepped from the tomb, earth warm on my bare feet. Mary and Martha ran to my side and embraced me. “Brother,” Mary said. “Never did we lose our faith. Though we buried you four days ago, it is as he promised. You live!” Her face was wet with tears of joy.
Four days? Surely she was wrong, for I had been with Lillith but a moment! Only long enough to drink the milk from her breasts and glimpse paradise.
“Remove those burial linens and let him go,” Yeshua instructed.
Later, as we dined together at our table he leaned in to me and whispered in my ear, “Tell no one of Lillith.”
“But why, Rabboni?” I asked. The woman Lillith had been a vision, a hope and a miracle. I longed to share my story.
“They will crucify me for this,” Yeshua answered. “If they learn the source from which my power comes it will be even worse. You’ll endanger your sisters. You’ll endanger all of womankind. This world is not yet prepared for the Truth.”
I heeded his words and told none of my visit with Lillith.
My sister Mary then took an alabaster jar filled with our finest perfumed oil. She anointed Yeshua’s feet and dried them with her own hair.
The men criticized her. The one called Judas Iscariot rose and gestured wildly. “This fine perfume could have been sold and its money given to the poor!” he bellowed. “Yet Mary has wasted it on the Rabboni’s feet! She is sinful.”
My sister, unperturbed, continued her anointing.
“Leave the woman alone,” Yeshua commanded. “She is preparing me for my burial. The poor will be with you always, but I am destined to leave you soon.”
All were silent at this. He was correct. When the Sanhedrin heard of my resurrection, they became even more suspicious of him. A bounty was put on his head and the one called Iscariot betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. He was arrested the following Thursday at the garden of Gethsemane.
The very next day Yeshua bin Joseph was crucified, nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns on his head. He died at Golgatha and was buried in a nearby tomb.
Like me, he arose from that tomb. Like me, he never told anyone of his encounter with Lillith.
As time went on many were persecuted. Women were burned at the stake, hung and murdered for their gifts of healing , elemental powers and necromancy. It was not until millennia had passed that the Enlightenment came.
The world was then ready for the Truth.