LENT V (A)
Jesus wept. – John 11:35
A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out to the back porch & bring her the broom. He turned to his mother & said, “Mama, I don’t want to go out there. It’s dark.” His mother smiled reassuringly. “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark, dear. Jesus is out there. He’ll look after you & protect you.” The little boy looked at his mother real hard & asked, “Are you sure He’s out there” “Yes, I’m sure. He is everywhere, & He is always ready to help you when you need Him,” she said. The little boy thought about that for a minute & then went to the back door & cracked it a little. “Jesus? If you’re out there, would you please hand me the broom?”
In two weeks we recall the death of Jesus, but today we’re confronted with the death of Lazarus. It seems we’re being asked to think about what we would prefer not to think about: death. And to ponder the little boy’s question, “Jesus, are you out there in the dark? Really?”
I’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. I noticed some folks just touched a name on the wall & moved on without any reaction. Others, however, would pause & cry before a particular name. Some would gently run their fingers over the letters. Some wept & even knelt. What was the relationship between that living person & the name? Was it a husband, father, brother or friend? It had to be something special or it would not have provoked such a reaction.
The answer, of course, it that to those who knew the person behind the name, it represents all the memories, the history, the personality & intimacy created between these two people. It is the depth of the relationship that makes the connection, the investment of life one person made in the other. And so too Jesus. He said, “I know mine & mine know me.” “I no longer call you servants but friends.” So we are not anonymous to Him. He runs His fingers over our names & claims us as His own before & after our deaths. That is the hope He gives us.
Again, Malcolm Muggeridge was a noted British journalist & author & a life-long atheist. After an encounter with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the course of his reporting duties late in life, he became a Catholic. After his conversion, he wrote many lovely things, including these words of imagery:
“As I approach my end, I find Jesus’s outrageous claim evermore captivating & meaningful. Quite often, waking up in the night as the old do, I feel myself to be half out of my body, hovering between life & death, with eternity rising in the distance. I see my ancient carcass, prone between the sheets, stained & worn like a scrap of paper dropped in the gutter &, hovering over it, myself, like a butterfly released from its chrysalis stage & ready to fly away. Are caterpillars told of their impending resurrection? How in dying they will be transformed from poor earth crawlers into creatures of the air with exquisitely painted wings? If told, do they believe it?
“I imagine the wise old caterpillars shaking their heads – no, it can’t be; it’s a fantasy. Yet in the limbo between living & dying, as the night clocks tick remorselessly on, & the black sky implacably shows not one single scratch of grey, I hear these words: ‘I am the resurrection” & then I feel myself to be carried along on a great tide of joy & peace.”
The little boy’s question, “Jesus are you out there?” must have been Lazarus’ question. The Good News is that he was: for Lazarus, for you, & for me. AMEN!