Our family has long enjoyed marking the Advent season in anticipation of Christmas Day, and it has never been a challenge finding plenty of good material from which to celebrate Advent. Great little Advent books abound, but just try marking the Lenten Season! Other than publications from our Catholic brothers and sisters, which I've used and enjoyed, there's just not much out there. Then last month, my dear friend Susan slipped a gift into my hand. It was "The Christ of Easter" by Calvin Miller, a little book of devotional readings for the Easter season. I was doubly blessed because, not only was this small volume of readings filled with beautiful art, but Susan had affixed a bookplate inside dedicated to Beau's memory. What better way to remember him than with a book dedicated to observing the resurrection.
With that thought in mind, I'd like to share last Friday's reading with you.
Your brother will rise again," Jesus told her. Martha said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I m the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die - ever."
~ John 11:23-26
"Jesus' greatest teaching often came in short syllables. Here he set two words against all dying - resurrection and life. He reminded us that every time we stand beside an open grave and bid good-bye to a loved one, we participate in a grieving illusion. No Christian grave is eternal.
Often when Jesus spoke, he presented a definition in process. This is one of those occasions. Martha would require six more weeks to fully appreciate what Jesus was saying, much as we are spending these six weeks pondering the depths of Easter's phrases and events. Yes, Lazarus was about to break out of his shallow, impermanent grave. But Martha's understanding of what Jesus was saying would only be partially apparent when her brother returned to life. The fullest definition of all Jesus was saying would make no sense until he himself came out of the tomb.
These two resurrections - Jesus' and Lazarus's - are quite a bit different:
1. Lazarus's coming back to life represented only a regaining of his pulse and respiration. When Jesus came back to lie, he somehow had outgrown his dependency on oxygen.
2. Lazarus would come back to life only to face another dying later. Jesus returned forever free of all dying.
3. Lazarus's return to life was only a short reprieve, a biological postponement. Jesus' resurrection was truly an everlasting triumph over death.
In some ways, Lazarus's resurrection was a kind of theological overture to them symphony of Easter. In other ways it was like a report from behind the high gates of death, over which none could see and which all believed could not be opened. Yet Jesus cried, "Lazarus, come forth," and the gates were splintered by the gales on an invisible life force.
The dead cannot sleep when Christ has ordered them awake.
We cannot trivialize this miracle even by setting it alongside Easter. Lazarus's resurrection was a bold reversal, strong enough to declare that in all matters of death and dying, God always gets the last word."