By REV. DR. BRIAN GIGEE
“The Lazarus Connection”
John 11:43-44: “Then Jesus bellowed, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.
The he told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”
It was four days that Lazarus was dead in the tomb. We’ve been locked down for over 40 days. Folks feel beat up and close to dead. Houston PD reports domestic violence has increased over 150%. Oil prices have gone so low one man was wondering if the gas stations would pay him to fill up the tank. Some have died of coronavirus or other maladies related to it. We are all reeling from its effects. Crowds now gather to protest this lifestyle; others are gathering strength to get back into the fray. None of us signed up for this. What does Lazarus’ story, then, have to do with any of us?
Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. The scriptures do not refer to him as a disciple… but call him Jesus’ friend. Some say Lazarus might have been Jesus’ BEST friend as Lazarus’ home was a place where Jesus went to rest and get away from the crowds. We all have a friend like that… where we can go and kick back, relax and just be ourselves… accepted for who we are rather than what others think us to be or what we should be. Lazarus’ grave is the place where others noticed Jesus crying and said, “how he loved him.” And later in John’s Gospel Jesus said this to his disciples… “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
So, if Jesus calls us friends, then we must be. If I am Jesus’ friend and you are Jesus’ friend, then we really have no choice but to be friends with one another. It’s one of many ways to see how we are all wonderfully and mysteriously connected to each other. Faith matters. It does.
The story of Lazarus gives us some clues about how life goes and how life goes on. Why did Jesus come to Bethany? Because Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, sent a message to Jesus that their brother was very ill. Don’t we come to the aid of our friends? Of course. And we come with all the power of Jesus in us… each and every time the chance arrives. We cannot always fix it the way we want… but our ‘presence’ is the fully human response. The loving act. Jesus didn’t run away from Lazarus’ death nor his own. His calling Lazarus out of the grave and his calling out, “it is finished,” in his own dying is the affirmation that death is real and we all get our day.
What I find helpful in the story of Lazarus is that after Jesus leaves Bethany, we never hear about Lazarus again. The assumptions are certain. He remained in Bethany at least for a while. Yet there are stories from the early Church Fathers of how he left Bethany and went to Cyprus, met St. Paul and eventually became bishop of Kition. Why is that important? Well, none of us really know how life after COVID-19 is going to go. There’s a story to be told for each of us. And while we’re still at home we have time to think about how that is going to go. Will you become a bishop? I don’t know. Maybe someone reading this one day will. Will you be famous or infamous? I don’t know. But I do know this. We are all connected to Lazarus and we all get to live, and we all get to die and for now we have opportunities to hear Jesus’ voice, come out of our homes to live better than ever.
Rev. Dr. Brian K. Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland, the pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Towne Pearland. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi Your comments and/or questions can be sent to [email protected].