March 29, 2020
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,
John 11:1-45 tells a story that most of us remember. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus dies. In the presence of Jesus, he was raised from the dead. This gospel story becomes meaningful not only for the friends of Jesus, but it leads to the very core of our faith; death brings new life. This story leads us to Jesus himself; he will die on a cross and then he will live again. Death does not win. Life in Christ is eternal.
Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus loved him. Mary and Martha were his sisters. Jesus did not respond to his illness for a couple of days. I can’t imagine what Mary and Martha must have felt; knowing if Jesus had been at his side, their brother would not have died. They stood at Lazarus’ tomb weeping. The stench of death covered their senses. Jesus enters the chaos, the smell, and the uncertainty of death. Love comes to the tomb. Jesus opens the tomb. Silence. Then, Lazarus walks from the grave. Imagine the joy, the love in their tears washing fear from their eyes and souls. I want to see what the women saw, that death does not win.
Lent invites us to die to ourselves. This death is about our selfishness and ego. We learn to live in Christ alone. This life comes from our baptism. We renew our baptismal lives in the moment of Easter. Lent forms us into the pattern of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. This is the essence of faith. In Christ Jesus, we let go of our old selves and live in him, even here on earth.
We are clothed in Christ at Easter. We take on this pattern of dying to self and rising in Christ. There is nothing more important in our lives of faith than this renewal. We strive to become who Jesus was on earth. We strive to become his message in our lives and relationships. We strive to become what Jesus still is. We bring the Kingdom of Heaven alive on earth. We carry the mantle of becoming peacemakers, disciples of justice, people who live for others. We learn to work for the needs of people. We learn to heal and not divide. We learn to walk with others and not create divisions, wars, and constant violence. The Christian life is not about what we want, it is an integral striving to live as Jesus did on earth, to model our lives for the benefit of other people.
Lazarus teaches us that it is all right to die. Death is a door to the Kingdom. Even the small deaths become examples for us to live more closely in him. We die to selfishness. We die to anger and rage. We die to always being correct; we die to right answers and surety. We die to our sense of certainty. We die to I-got-mine-attitudes. We die to privilege. We die to power and corruption. We die to revenge and hatred. We die to trying to live our children’s lives. We die to what we believe is the way to run the world. We die to our opinions. We die to bitterness toward our spouse. We die to the hardness that has covered our hearts. We grieve the dead and rejoice in the end that death gives way to life.
The story of Lazarus looms large in our faith, for it teaches us that death is not the enemy. Lazarus also shows us how to rise from the dead. Easter becomes our sure hope to live in love and freedom today. Easter shows us that God’s life in us can’t be lost, for we belong to him in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. I desire to die to self and live in him and I know the Spirit speaks in every human heart calling us all to Jesus’ empty tomb.
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.