Have you ever considered what happened when Lazarus died...again?
A brother among sisters, a treasured friend, Lazarus had died once, been buried, and opened his eyes to see the world again. His family had mourned; his community had grieved; Jesus had cried - and Lazarus lived. After, of course, he had died.
Somewhere after that, we lose the story, but life tells us there came a day when Lazarus died again. Can you even imagine?
Can you imagine Mary standing there, wailing, inconsolable, shouting, "Didn't we just do this?" Can you imagine Martha, quieter in her grief, weeping into a kerchief and shaking her head? Can you imagine the Sadducees arguing over life, death, and resurrection? The Pharisees debating the real nature of Jesus, the limited ability of His power? Can you imagine the scene when a man you've grieved once dies again and now...well, now...you just don't know what to do?
I don't worry so much about Lazarus. It was same ol', same ol' for a man like him. He died once, entered the grave, opened his eyes, and saw his Friend. Then he did again, entered the grave, opened his eyes, and saw his Friend. Only the second time, he didn't have to worry about dying again.
This morning on the radio, the DJs shared a blurb about a man in California who had given his life to Christ. They said, and I quote, "Kevin gave his life to Christ this morning. For the first time." They paused all dramatic in between, which is why I wrote it with a period even though they probably meant it without one.
But I laughed anyway and thought: how many times can you give your life to Christ?
Well, Lazarus did it at least twice. And I...have completely lost count.
I feel like I've been there so often, stuck in the tomb, waiting on my Friend to arrive. I feel like I've opened my eyes and seen something new so many times and then everything gets all messed up and life tells me it's over again. Then I succumb to this world and die. Again.
It's easy to think about how it looks to the world when a Christian dies again. When a man or a woman that Jesus has raised from the dead falls back into the grips of darkness and is buried. When a man or a woman who has been there, done that goes back to be there, do that again. Yet we're all guilty. We all keep falling back. We all keep dying again and again and then begging there to be a Jesus to bring us back to life.
The world, I think, doesn't know what to think. At the first death, it's easy to write a person off. They aren't coming back. This world is ready to erase your possibility as soon as you fail. They are ready to say you've lost, you're gone, and it's tough because you had so much potential, but you lost it. Then you come back again, whole and new, restored and reliving, and maybe they start to think there's a chance. Maybe they start to think there's hope for you yet.
Until you die again, and a big fat marker strikes through your name. It's why, I think, people who have been down tend to stay down; there's nothing in this world to resurrect them, no one who cares enough to walk into the grave. This world is always content to write you off. It's depressing.
But look at it from Lazarus's eyes. Think about the first thing Lazarus saw every time he died - his Friend. Jesus. Savior. Messiah.
I'm so thankful that's the case. I'm so humbled that every time I die again, there is a Friend watching over me and His is the first face I see. I'm so dumbstruck that He's so willing to walk into my darkness and bring new light, to walk into my grave and walk me out of it so that I have another chance at living. Because the loss would be too much. I'm heartbroken that every time, He has that tear in His eye, knowing how I've troubled Him. Knowing that He knows He almost lost me...even when I'd hate to admit that I'd fallen so far.
I don't know how many times you can give your life to Jesus. Honestly, I don't. I think I passed seventy times seven a long time ago, and we're still going. You see, I find that I have to give it to Him more than once. More than twice. Every time I die again, I have to give my life to Jesus because only He knows how to resurrect it. Only He can put life back into my living. It starts with surrendering to my grave.
And I know it's weird for a world that's watching. Me, but Christians in general. They are grieving good men and women who just can't stay out of the grave, no longer knowing what to think when we die again and again. They are questioning life, death, and resurrection and wondering if such things are even possible. They are questioning Jesus, whether He can do, with any real and lasting effect, what He is able to do. Whether He can defeat the grave. Whether He can defeat death. Whether He can love and redeem the world.
All of those questions because once again, I died. What a burden!
But here's what I know:
Life, death, and resurrection are not only possible; they are promised. Jesus can, and does, with a real and lasting effect everything He is able to do. He can, and has, defeated the grave. He can, and has, defeated death. He can, and has, loved and redeemed the world. He can, and does, love even me.
How do I know?
Because every time I open my eyes, His is the first face I see. My Friend. My Jesus. My Savior. My Lord. Tear-stained cheek and all, knowing He almost lost me. Knowing I'll never lose Him.