Yesterday, while at the last remaining book store in the Western Hemisphere to buy the latest Doris Dibble mystery — Death by Banjo, I spied a copy of my favorite magazine — Archaeology Wow! The cover story hyped new scrolls found in a cave by the Dead Sea when it was converted to an Airbnb.
Rather than usual tales of Biblical characters smiting each other, these scrolls contained correspondence between a businessman and an unsatisfied customer. I found it so fascinating that I reproduced the exchange here in full.
Perhaps thou rememberst me — Martha of Bethany. My sister Mary and I came to thy cemetery because our brother Lazarus unexpectedly died of the chilblains, which is especially rare in a desert climate. Thou were very kind and helpful in making the funeral arrangements and selecting a tomb for his eternal rest.
However, his rest turned out to be less than eternal — thanks to our good friend, Jesus. Thou may have heard of him recently feeding the 5000. (It was a miracle just figuring out who got the Kosher meal and who didn’t). Anyway, Jesus loves Lazarus like a brother; me, like a sister; and my sister Mary, like… (well, let’s not go into that). Jesus took pity on us and resurrected Lazarus from the dead.
Naturally thou can imagine our tears of joy upon seeing our brother emerge from the tomb looking like he’d just come from a boys’ weekend in the fleshpots of Egypt.
Now that Lazarus is back amongst the living, we no longer have use for the tomb. Can we get a refund since he lay in it merely 4 days before arising?
Martha, sister of the once-late Lazarus.
Of course I remember thee and thy very attractive sister Mary. And Lazarus! What can I say but what an excellent corpse he made! It surprises me how death actually improves some people’s looks.
And now that he’s alive, well, it truly is a wonder. I haven’t heard of a resurrection like that since the prophet Elisha brought back a boy in Phoenicia. Scripture says he did it by lying on the boy’s body and giving him mouth to mouth. (Although having read all about Sodom and Gomorrah, this smacks less of a miracle and more of what the Hittites call hanky-panky.)
Unfortunately, dear Martha, we cannot refund thy money because the tomb has been used. Health regulations forbid it. (Those Pharisees and their red tape!)
Perhaps thou can keep it in thy family for Lazarus’ next death… or thine… or thy delightful sister’s. (Perish the thought!)
It’s a perfectly good tomb in a delightful setting.
J. Jehosaphat, Manager, Sarcophagus City
Dear Mr. Jehosaphat,
I find thy reply disconcerting. Neither my sister nor I want the tomb. The “delightful setting” as thou call it, overlooks the pit where harlots are stoned. When Jesus was trying to raise my brother, their screams were so deafening that he had to shout “Lazarus come forth” so loudly that he got a sore throat. Fortunately, my sister Mary was able to give him succor with her lozenges.
As far as Lazarus goes, he isn’t quite the same man. He spends his days mumbling Psalms, drinking Mogen David, and playing Crazy VIII’s with Roman slaves. At the mere mention of the word “tomb,” he retreats to the corner and sucks his thumb.
We would like that refund.
Martha My Dear,
I may have a solution. Aren’t thou friends with Simon the Leper? Couldn’t thou sellest him the tomb? He can use it to deposit the body parts that fall off him. Discuss that with thy sister Mary. Perhaps the next time she’s in the neighborhood, she canst bring me her lozenges.
Simon the Leper has not the money to buy anything since his fingers have fallen off and he can no longer play zither in the popular wedding band he was in.
If thou cannot refund our money, can there at least be a moratorium on the monthly payments that I’m paying on the balance? Mary is considering re-entering her old profession to make ends meet.
No can do. Thou signed a contract. It was a special Lay-Thee-Away-Plan that I don’t give to just anyone. And as far as Mary making ends meet, perhaps she should stop buying that expensive ointment she uses to anoint Jesus’ feet. Keepeth up those antics and the Pharisees will be anointing her head in the harlot pit with rocks.
Things have taken a desperate turn. The Pharisees are looking to put Lazarus to death for returning to life without a permit. He needs to escape far away, preferably to a place without an extradition treaty or Mogen David. We need that money!!
Martha, sister of the soon-to-be-deceased-again Lazarus
I’m not a cruel man, but if the Pharisees kill thy brother, problem solved. Thou hast a ready-made tomb. Plus, thy friend Jesus can bring him back as many times as the Pharisees snuff him out.
Another miracle! God has answered my prayers, in a way. The Romans, with the Pharisees’ help, have put our friend Jesus to death. Although we are sad to see him go (especially Mary, who attempted to overdose on myrrh), we have used the tomb for his burial. All’s well that ends well.
A Happy Martha
Dear, Dear Martha,
I’m so happy the situation is resolved. Please remember Sarcophagus City for thy future funerary needs. And look for our ad in the next Better Tombs and Gardens for a 15-shekel discount.
J. Jehosaphat, Manager, Sarcophagus City
I spoke too soon. Jesus raised himself from the dead and left the tomb after only 3 days. About that refund…