“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21
For the fifth and final Sunday of Lent, the Gospel was about the raising of Lazarus. Verse 21 in Chapter 11 of John reminds me of the losses I’ve faced, especially my friend Brett. His death was the beginning of a series of difficult moments in my life but also a sea change which made me truly commit to healing. God was never absent in those moments.
When Brett’s health worsened, he was full of serenity and warmth. It was as if his best qualities were magnified in those final moments. I was moved by his love and gratitude. The closer he got to death, the better and more holy he became.
It is difficult to accept you will lose someone to terminal illness. It is hard to understand God’s glory is present in those moments. On a personal level, I didn’t want to lose my friend. I didn’t want to lose someone who had been my comforter. A lot of people didn’t realize how unwell I was back then; Brett was ministering to me in my hours of need. I sat with him during his illness but it wasn’t enough to help him get past it.
His life and death have served as an example to me. Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, whether it is half-marathon training or my own health woes, I meditate on how Brett prepared to die. It’s hard not to say, “Lord, if you had been here, you could have spared him.” After all these years, the wound is deep. I am hurt I lost my friend the way I did. I am sad I lost a good person.
Lazarus’ death was one of the few times Jesus broke down in tears. He was a minister to the sick and the dying. Yet he grieved for his friend. Raising Lazarus was both a gift he gave to Lazarus’ grieving sisters and the beginning of the end for Jesus himself. The Pharisees gained more evidence in their case against Jesus; in challenging the status quo, Jesus was condemned to death. His death, like Lazarus, became a new beginning.
The raising of Lazarus is a foreshadowing of what is to come. As Lent winds down, we reflect on the journey to death, which we walk with loved ones but also our own journey to resurrection.