During Sundays on Lent many of us are making our way through John’s narrative on our path to Palm Sunday and the week that follows; the sense of danger has increased each week. The polite conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3 ends without incident or any clear resolution.
The conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4 is bit unorthodox and generates some controversy. The woman in conclusion asks: Can this be the Christ? There is some drama and a somewhat clearer resolution.
In chapter 9, the healed man who was blind declares “I was blind but now I see.” The religious leaders grow angry and declare Jesus a sinner, and the healed man is thrown out of the synagogue for good. The man finishes by declaring “Lord, I believe.” Both the drama and the sense of danger increase with this account. The sky is growing darker.
In chapter 11, the narrative becomes a story of life and death. Lazarus is raised from the dead to new life, and consequently the leaders decide to kill Jesus. Life for Lazarus will mean death for Jesus; this is a costly gift. The thunder of the coming conflict rumbles overhead.
What Does One Do with New Life?
How do you suppose Lazarus lived out the rest of his life after being given this second chance? What would it mean to see every day as a gift, living with the realization that each hour comes from a limited inventory of days? Perhaps he thought of his days as a precious commodity to be well invested in lasting things.
All of us who believe are, in a way, Lazarus. We believe that we have been given new life in Christ. We declare we are “buried with him in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life.” What are we doing with this new life that came to us at such a cost?
A woman looking for more than a relationship put an ad in the personals section of a newspaper. She wrote: “I'm a 58-year-old woman with, doctors tell me, one year to live. I would like to spend that year doing something meaningful, interesting, and fun. I have limited stamina and resources. Have you any ideas how I can spend this year making a difference?” What would you say to this woman? What is worthy of her last year of life?
Life is precious because it is fleeting; that is what makes it beautiful. Kenko, in the early 14th century, in his Essays on Idleness wrote: "If man were never to fade away like the dew... never to vanish like the smoke…but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us. The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.” Our mortality makes our lives precious and therefore beautiful.
Lazarus will die again someday, but in the meantime I suspect he found life amazingly precious.
Lent guides us to reflect upon our lives; and this, if done properly, can lead us to a sense of amazement. Dullness is our enemy; astonishment at what God has done with us is our deliverance.
What are you doing with the amazing gift of your life? I bet Lazarus had a plan.