Wouldn’t you like to talk with someone who died, and then was brought back to life after 4 days? I know I would. Of course, these days we hear of such things fairly often, and who knows what to believe? But to me, it is striking that John does not interview Lazarus after his 4 days in the grave and his astonishing resurrection. So many of our questions could have been answered, and fairly quickly, if John would have recorded for us the conversation Lazarus surely had with Mary and Martha. John is strangely quiet here. How could a man such as John miss such an opportunity? But his silence, I suspect, is intentional, very intentional. Think about it. Jesus calls a dead man back to life. John’s silence, with respect to the dead man’s experience, speaks volumes. Personally I don’t think it ever crossed John’s mind to interview Lazarus. Why? Because the One who is himself the resurrection and the life is standing right in front of him!
What happens when we die? What do we encounter? Where do we wake up, and in what condition? I think John’s answer is that we meet Jesus—who is our life. And meeting Jesus as our life is both the gospel and exposing judgment at the same time.
I suspect at least 3 things happen when we meet Jesus in death and resurrection. (1) We come to know (not simply to believe, but to know) that we do not have the power of existence. We discover in death—in an irrefutable way—that Jesus Christ is the living one, and that we are not. This is not the conclusion of our intellect after a convincing philosophical debate. It is the fruit of losing every semblance of power, of coming to an absolute end of ourselves, and then meeting the One who holds our very being in the palm of his hands, so to speak.
(2) Meeting Jesus—as the source of our life—reveals to us that our entire existence, from conception to our death has been a participation in his life. Our loves, our sacrifices, our ideas and burdens, our joys and sorrows, our beauty and courage, our laughter and creativity have all had their origin, not in us, but in Jesus and his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. For there is only one circle of love in this universe, the circle of life shared by the Father, Son and Spirit. In meeting Jesus we come to know as we are known. We see ourselves as we truly are, people who are not, and never have been, separated from God, people who are eternally loved by the Father, Son and Spirit, and have been made joint-heirs with Jesus himself, adopted, included in the Trinitarian life in Christ. We see our lives as the long process whereby the Trinitarian life, shared with us in Jesus, has been emerging, through the Spirit, in us, and in our relationships with one another and the whole creation.
(3) Such a revelation is the most thrilling news in the world, but it is also withering. For to meet Jesus as our life, to see the Father’s love for us, to know that we are included in Jesus’ own anointing in the Holy Spirit shows us our real life, and it inevitably reveals that we have been a long way from living it. Only in the light of Jesus Christ—and of who we truly are in him—do we understand how far we have fallen short of living in the glory of the Triune God. The mess we have made of ourselves and our lives reveals, not that we do not belong to the Father, Son and Spirit, but that we have been participating in a terrible and terrifying darkness. We have followed, not the Spirit of truth and of adoption, but the spirit of error and separation. We have lived in and out of profound confusion. We have been terribly wrong. The great darkness, and our believing its lies, created pain, and while the Holy Spirit was a work within us leading us to believe in Jesus and to participate in the Trinitarian life, we were at work believing in ourselves and in our home-made pain remedies. Seeing ourselves included in Jesus and in his life, reveals that we have been proud, self-centered pricks, whose lives have been more a form of hiding and self-justification, sadness and pain management, than open-souled fellowship and simple joy. In meeting Jesus, as the real truth of our life, we come face to face with how we have hurt ourselves, and others, and creation in the great darkness, with how we have ignored the Holy Spirit himself and preferred our own judgment, and with the brutal, yet liberating, fact that we do not have a clue about life and living it.
Jesus said, and says: “I am the light of the cosmos, the one who follows me, shall never, ever walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).