Sunday, April 06, 2014

Why Jesus Lets Us Die

In an incredible gospel story for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, Jesus allows his friend to die, then begin to decompose in a tomb for nearly a week, before he takes any action. Why?

The story builds with a momentous slowness, layered with a variety of characters, details, and all of the pathos, anxieties, and questions that human suffering punches into the heart when death occurs. But Jesus stays right where he is, for two more days. He does nothing. Removed from the situation. Why? It's certainly not apathy. It's not laziness. I think it's Divine Mercy.

"Lord, if you had only been here."
"He healed others, why not his friend?"
"See how he loved him."
"Lord, surely there will be a stench."

Imagine how Jesus must have felt taking all of that in; all the doubt, fear, misplaced pity, and the ignorance of his true identity and power. But he takes it all in, and on himself, allowing the crushing weight of death to sink into his own heart, his listeners, his followers. "And Jesus wept." He invites them to feel. Makes them enter into the cold hollows of a rock hewn tomb, to sit and to wait in that place. 

Jesus allows Lazarus to die. God's permissive will allows so many of us to die, to be in periods of darkness, and to even dwell in those foul tombs where there seems to be absolutely no light, and no hope. But again, it's his Mercy. We are taken down to the depths so that we might realize our utter dependence on Him, our infinite thirst for Him. To see His glory. 

We have to die. We have to be laid in that tomb of our weakness and inadequacy. And then from the other side, from the light of a clear day whose timing He alone knows, from the beaming face of the Son, who is the light and the resurrection, He speaks. "Lazarus, come out!" 

And we rise. 

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