In the season of Lent we are in preparation mode for Easter.
No wonder we get this set of readings. From life to death, to life.
The story of the raising of Lazarus is often referred to as the resurrection of Lazarus. It wasn’t a resurrection, Jesus is the resurrection, not Lazarus. But the so-called resurrection of Lazarus is a figure of what was to come. Lazarus’ raising is more like a kind of resuscitation because Lazarus will die again. Jesus’s resurrection is an utter transformation that takes who he is and all that he is into God. Including the human failure that crucified him, evidenced in his wounds. Even sin finds its end in resurrection. We call it forgiveness.
But the resurrection of Lazarus is also a figure of our conversion and life of discipleship. Lazarus moves from life to death to a life given back. So too our movement as we move deeper into God’s love: a movement from life to death and then back to a life renewed, life given back to us. In our daily dying and rising with Christ we die to the false self in Christ to receive back a renewed self, and renewed sense of self.
Imagine Lazarus. Who better to appreciate the gift of life than the dead, or the dead given back their lives. Lazarus must have really been smelling the roses (so to speak) after he was raised. Consciously living the gift of life as a gift despite the dark times of life. (This reminds me of that cartoon from Michael Leunig that has Jesus carrying the cross and because he is bent over he notices a flower on the path.) We too are called to smell the roses for we have gained our lives, not lost them. Whatever cross you bear there is a flower on your path just waiting to be noticed.
And part of our discipleship is to help others leave behind the barriers to living life more fully.
The raising of Lazarus also speaks to us now as our personal and communal lives change, perhaps for ever, because of COVID-19. Many of us are feeling once again the fragility of the human project, the project to continually make ourselves individually and communally. This self-made person and society is so fragile. Most of the time we wander around as though our projects are here to stay. But the potter’s wheel of life has a tendency to pull the illusion down. It is tempting to live the illusion and rebuild the project. I most likely will. But I won’t do it with quite the same blithe arrogance that ignores the reality of our fragility and our dependence on God. When we are allowed to resume our former lives, I, like Lazarus, might live the gift of life given back, but more consciously live it as the gift it is.