Lazarus is ill. He’s been ill for some time so his sisters send a message to Jesus. They’ve seen Jesus heal others so why not Lazarus. Jesus decides to prove a point and doesn’t come right away. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead and has been in the tomb for 4 days. Jesus stands with Mary and Martha and weeps with them. The NRSV says he was “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” Jesus experiences deep grief at the death of his friend. He immerses himself in Mary and Martha’s grief. He’s right there sharing every moment with them. Many of us will have seen the raw grief of families whose children died this week in Florida. We’ve seen the grief and anger of Colton Boushie’s family. That’s the raw emotion that’s taking place outside of Lazarus’ tomb. The scene goes on for a while before a calm starts to descend. No amount of grief and anger can change the deaths that have occurred.
Jesus wants the tomb opened. No wants to open the tomb. What would opening the tomb prove except that he’s dead? Jesus insists. They open the tomb and Jesus calls to Lazarus. I imagine the murmurs of the gathered crowd. They all know Lazarus is dead. Why doesn’t Jesus know? Just like the story of the cross, this should be the end.
But what happens next? I wonder what Lazarus thinks about having his name called by Jesus to come back to this world. When someone dies, we sometimes hear people say, “Jesus called them home” but in this case, Jesus called Lazarus to life. Lazarus has a moment where he has to decide between life and death.
Thinking about life and death in the broadest sense we are given a choice between life and death each day. In order to live fully, we need to choose life. We live in a time where violence is becoming normalized, where we spend more time with technology than in real relationships, where the earth is being destroyed but our lives are comfortable. This comfort is a form of death. It takes us away from seeing, feeling, touching what’s going on in the world. We see the anguish of families torn apart by senseless violence and then go back to being comfortable in our bubble. To really live is to place ourselves, like Jesus, in the midst of the grief, anguish, chaos, the joy and celebration of life and really experience it fully.
As I watched the news this week, I saw students and families asking for gun control. In the face of death and violence, they are seeking life. In their distress over the outcome of Gerald Standing’s trial, Colton Boushie’s family is harnessing the energy to create change. Whether you agree with the outcome of the trial is not the point. The family is choosing life. Their energy could be put into more violence, hatred, revenge instead they are seeking to create something good out of Colton’s death.
Choosing life is a choice and our comfort, our routines sometimes get in the way. Lent calls us to choose life. Lent invites us to pray for ourselves, for each other, for the earth. Lent invites us to fast—to give up the things that get in the way of abundant life. Lent invites us to giving—giving our time, our energy, our money to support God’s work in the world. God calls us to life.
To choose life is a choice. Will we stay in the tomb or choose to walk out embracing all that life has to offer?