I’ve been thinking lately about Lazarus in John 11. You likely remember the story- Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, gets sick and ultimately dies. Jesus was called to come to Lazarus before his death but decided to stay put- leaving Mary and Martha filled with grief and maybe frustration at Jesus for not coming sooner because they believed that Jesus could intervene in Lazarus’ sickness. In verse 43, Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb, and to everyone’s amazement- Lazarus came back to life and emerged from the grave. While we get a few glimpses of Lazarus in John 12- after that we don’t hear from him again. What happened to Lazarus?
This friend that Jesus loved and brought back from the dead ultimately died a second time- this time for good (physically). The question I’ve been pondering is this: Does the fact that Lazarus died lessen the impact of Jesus raising him from the dead? My answer is no. God still worked in miraculous ways to bring healing into Lazarus’ life through Jesus- but the bottom line is that Lazarus was not going to have a physically immortal life.
This brings us to the present day. What does it mean to pray for healing in someones life? How do we respond when we believe that healing has taken place- yet our loved one gets sick again? I have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and began treatments for the cancer. While he pursued medical treatment, his church family surrounded him with prayer. At one of his check-ups- the scan showed that the cancer was completely gone. The doctors even expressing surprise about the results. The churches and Christians who had been praying for him gave thanks to God for the healing that took place. A year later he was dead as the cancer returned- more aggressive than before. We mourned the loss of a friend and some questioned God about whether healing really took place. Did healing take place- my faith says that it did. My faith says that God is in the healing business still today. Like Lazarus, my friend, at some point, would again die.
I’ve always wondered about what Lazarus’ life was like after his resurrection. I can imagine that Lazarus was ready to tell the story of his resurrection to everyone he met. I imagine that he had a new perspective on living life and on following Jesus. The challenge for us is to live as those who are prepared to die…and to die as those who are prepared to live. You can throw out any cliche you want: Live life to the fullest, live like you were dying, life’s short-play hard…the reality is that we likely won’t get a second chance like Lazarus did- so we need to make the most of each day- to be satisfied in the presence of our God- and to share the story of how we were once dead (spiritually) but through Christ have new life now and a new life to come.
For those of us who know someone battling cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, or some other disease where we’ve prayed for healing- let’s take each day as a gift from God. Each moment as an opportunity to experience the joy of the relationships we’ve come to love. Let us realize that even a complete healing on earth will ultimately result in death- that through Christ we might experience true healing where sickness and death will be no more, where we will experience healing from our sinful nature, and where we will be made new. (Revelation 21:4-5)