Written by Steven Liechty
"Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out…" - John 11:43-44
A distraught Jesus stands at the grave of Lazarus and bellows for him to come out. And out he comes, still trussed in his shroud. Mary and Martha are thrilled, of course; but I wonder what Lazarus thinks. Jesus has raised him, but the life he gets back is his old life. Lazarus has to die again.
We all undergo many deaths before we're finally raised to the life that lasts. And that's hard, isn't it?—to die and die and die again. A line from Lief Enger's Peace Like A River sums it up: "Drat, thought dying Lazarus—this part again."
A man opens another overdue bill. A soldier dives for cover as an bomb blows up his friends. A doctor spots new tumors on a child's MRI. A dieter steps back on the scale. A teenager stares at his report card. A spouse shouts things she can't take back. "Drat," they're all thinking, "this part again." We know what they mean. We're no different from a newly living Lazarus.
If the people who flocked to Jesus because of Lazarus were hoping to get what he got, they were bound to be disappointed. It sounds great, but it isn't the gift it appears to be. It comes with a 'drat' attached. Lazarus isn't Easter. Easter has no "this part again." For us who die and die and die again, it can't come soon enough.
Holy One, it's not that we don't love our Lazarus lives. Even with their many deaths and drats, we do. But we long for Easter to flower in us, no drats attached. We long for lasting alleluias. Meanwhile, this is our hope—in life and death, we belong to you.
Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Christian History and Worship at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts.