Did Lazarus Sleep or Die?

FROM JESUS’ PERSPECTIVE, LAZARUS WAS SLEEPING. It was really true that he was sleeping. To his sisters he was dead; to our Lord, he was sleeping.

To those who could not raise him again, he was dead. Our Lord awoke him with as much ease from his grave as you might awake a sleeper from his bed. He calls him then “asleep,” with reference to his own power, as the apostle says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, concerning those who are asleep.” Asleep, he says, because he is foretelling their resurrection. And so, all the dead are sleeping, both good and bad. But just as it matters to those who sleep and wake again daily, what they see in their sleep—some having pleasant dreams, others nightmares so scary that they are afraid to fall asleep again in case they reoccur—so it is [in death]. Everyone sleeps and wakes up again in circumstances peculiar to his own situation.