Once upon a funeral

lazarus-by-anna-cuypersJesus attended funerals. He mourned the death of friends and family just like we do. In John’s Gospel we find Jesus attending the funeral of his close friend Lazarus. Upon hearing Lazarus was sick, Jesus postponed returning to Bethany, and when he finally arrived Lazarus had been dead for several days, survived by his sisters Mary and Martha. I’d like to recall part of the story for you from John 11.19-26:

Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

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. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

What’s astounding here is the claim Jesus makes about himself:

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

Think about that for just a moment. Think about what it even means for Jesus to say he is the resurrection and the life. And what an insensitive thing to say at a funeral — unless of course it’s true. Point is, Lazarus isn’t dead. His body lies in the tomb, yes, but ‘he’ is not dead. Why? Because “whoever believes in me lives.”

Martha thinks she understands. “Yes of course,” out spilled her correct doctrine. “He’ll live again at the last day. I learned my catechism. Satisfied?” But Jesus isn’t saying that. He’s saying something far more radical. He’s saying that Lazarus lives now, as he and Martha speak, even though the grave holds his body. And Lazarus lives now because of who and what Jesus now is — resurrection and life in himself.

The resurrection isn’t out there somewhere, an event in the future, as Martha thought. It’s right here, Jesus says. “It’s where I am. It’s who and what I am. Life, real life, indestructible life, is right here, Martha, speaking with you. I am where Lazarus is.”

The life we dream of, the joys we chase, the hopes we sacrifice so much for, the fears and pain we medicate with drink or success or religion, all the pleasures and fulfillment and assurance we try to squeeze out of the few moments we have in this fleeting thing we call a lifetime — that life isn’t out there in our future, Jesus says (I must use the present tense to honor his meaning). Nor are those dreams fulfilled in what we think fulfill them. Those moments, those achievements, the good times, the parties, the friendships and pleasures we pursue — “All of it,” Jesus says, “is standing right here in front of you. I am what you’re dreaming of. I am that pleasure you’re chasing. I am the success you seek. I am the fulfillment you long for. I am the refuge you’re searching for. I am the resurrection and the life.”

The implication of Christ’s words will kick your kenotic rear-end, because the person of Christ, the Son, is presently responsible for Lazarus’s living, his existing, while his body lay in the tomb. What actively sustains all those who believe in Christ though their bodies lie in the grave isn’t a Star Wars ‘Force’ or metaphysical principle or eschatological event. It is the Son. Christ — not the grave — is where Lazarus is.

Just let it simmer.

(Lazarus by Anna Cuypers here.)

One comment on “Once upon a funeral

  1. Tom Torbeyns says:

    Hmmmm… It sounds like strong kenosis doesn’t work then?


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