I was cleaning out some half-written essays and ran across this from last Great Lent. It seems somehow appropriate in the light of my last few blog entries, so please forgive me for giving you a repeat. I hope you find it as much a blessing as I have reading it again, and again, and again….
The sixth week of Great Lent is the countdown week to the resurrection of Lazarus. The resurrection of Lazarus is a pivotal point in Jesus’s ministry in at least two ways. First, in raising Lazarus who had been dead four days, Jesus manifests to all his absolute power over death. The hymns of the Church tell us that this final manifestation of His power was particularly for the purpose of making clear to His disciples that his own death was voluntary. Having complete power over death, Jesus gives His life, no one takes it from Him. In St. John’s Gospel, this is further reinforced by the soldiers falling down when Jesus speaks to them when they come to arrest Him–falling down twice.
At the same time, the raising of Lazarus is also the pivotal act that forces the religious leaders to do something to stop Jesus. The high priest realizes that now all of the people will believe in Him, as we see manifest on Palm Sunday. The Gospel tells us that the crowd had gathered because they had heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus. The religious leaders fear that the crowd’s enthusiasm for this prophet would upset the tenuous peace they currently enjoyed with the occupying Romans and, perhaps most importantly, their own position of power vouchsafed by the current state of affairs.
And so in this divine act of raising Lazarus, Jesus both triggers the final chain of events leading to His arrest and crucifixion and manifests His authority over the whole process, even over death itself.
But isn’t this the nature of existence as we know it? The fruit manifests the tree, and within the fruit are the seeds of new growth, of the next level, of the new life. When Jesus the Life of all speaks, the fruit is life, even for a man four-days dead. And the seed of this fruit is His own death, which manifests even greater life–all in the tombs shall arise!
In our own lives this too is what we experience. The actual fruit of our lives, as disappointing as it often is, manifests what kind of tree we are–fallen, sick, in need of transformation. Yet this disappointing fruit, our failures, our mistakes, our sins, bears the seeds of new life; for how we respond to our failures to a large extent determines our growth.
Jesus the Life of all enters the world of our experience and by the laws of creation–fruit bearing seed–He plants the tree of resurrection in the middle of the earth. This is the Tree of Life which grew in Eden of old, the Tree whose fruit we now eat as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.