READING FOR TODAY: Psalm 27-29 John 11: 1-29
My thoughts today surround the story of the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus as recorded in John 11.
“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The subject of dying is a forbidden topic for many people. Perhaps you have experienced a death in your family with the past year and you understand the pain that Martha was experiencing. Unless the death was unexpected, there would have been an opportunity to talk to the person who was dying and give last expressions of what that person has meant to you. Or perhaps you had time to make amends. Often when this important step in not taken, regrets follow.
In most of the world, death is an accepted part of life. And aging is honored.
Not so much here in America where youth, vigor, and good looks are continually sought after. Often we try to avoid any attempt to think about dying and aging. Shelves are filled with anti-aging creams, spot banishing creams, wrinkle removers, etc. There is a common sentiment in our society where many of us strive to look and feel decades younger—to prove to ourselves and the world that we are healthier and more vital than our parents were at our age. We’ve all heard it: 60 is the new 50 and so on.
Jesus risked his life to go to the house of Mary and Martha when he heard that his friend Lazarus was ill. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you’re going back there?” But Jesus had a lesson to teach to his friends, and especially to his disciples.
Hearing that his friend was critically ill, Jesus intentionally took his time in getting to Bethany. Martha’s trauma was much like yours or mine would be when our time expectations are not met. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she scolded. It was a tearful crowd that Jesus addressed at the tomb of Lazarus. The crowd knew that four days in the grave would mean that the corpse had already deteriorated.
At the words of Jesus, “Lazarus come forth!”, the stone was rolled away and Lazarus walked out! The raising of Lazarus was a precursor to another resurrection that would take place just nine chapters later. Jesus himself would rise from the dead, showing that death will not hold us captive.
As Christians we need not fear the specter of death. Obviously, we wish to avoid it as long as possible. For all of us, immortality will take up where mortality ends. We who believe will enter indescribable joy for eternity.
When comparing eternal life with mortal life, Paul put it this way. “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
As I look at myself in the mirror these days, I definitely see some changes. If a cosmetic surgeon would stand beside me, I am sure that he might recommend some wrinkle filler, and perhaps even some botox. He might have a conversation with me about the “new seventy.” When all of those procedures were finished, he might even say, “There, that’s the new seventy.” You don’t look a day over fifty!”
I think I will continue moving forward with the face that life has given me.
Any unkindness that aging might give me doesn’t hold a candle to the eternity that awaits me. And I will live again—forever!