Monday, April 06, 2009

April 6, 2009 - Looking for Life in All the Wrong Places

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is what I preached on yesterday. No surprise there – it was Palm Sunday.

Actually, it’s not a foregone conclusion that a sermon on the Sunday before Easter will be one of the Palm Sunday passages from the Gospels. This past Sunday is also called “Passion Sunday,” so lectionary-minded preachers have the option of expanding their field of vision to include any incident from Jesus’ last week before the crucifixion.

This week I took the traditional approach, looking at John’s version of the triumphal entry (John 12:12-19). Generally, I resist the easy path of harmonizing the various Gospel accounts (by “harmonizing” I mean combining all the details of these different witnesses’ testimony into a single version). Whenever I focus on just one story, treating it as though it were the only account we have, I find it so much richer in meaning.

Examining John’s account, I found myself fixating on verse 17: “So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.” Unlike the other Gospel-writers, John sees Jesus’ triumphal entry as the direct outgrowth of Jesus’ greatest miracle, the raising of his friend Lazarus from death. The people waving palms by the roadside were ecstatic because of what Jesus had done for Lazarus. Since waving palms was like waving a national flag, that also says the crowds understood this unprecedented miracle as a sign that Jesus is the hoped-for Messiah.

From the sermon:

“Having heard the good news of the Lazarus miracle, these people are looking for life – but, they’re looking in all the wrong places. The life they’re looking for is very much like the new life of Lazarus: a mere extension of human life. Jesus may have raised Lazarus from the tomb, but he didn’t resurrect him – not in the sense that Jesus himself would soon be resurrected. When Jesus is raised on Easter, he’s raised to life eternal. Lazarus is merely resuscitated: he’s given maybe a decade or two of extended life, after which, he too will die – this time, for good.

By the same token, you know, there are lots of people today putting enormous energy into discovering ways to extend human life. Whether it’s preventing cancer, developing a new open-heart surgery technique or finding a cure for HIV/AIDS, these are all commendable efforts – but, even these pale before the good news of Easter. Easter’s not about resuscitation, such as Lazarus experienced. Easter’s about resurrection: resurrection to a life that’s not merely extended, but eternal!”

As I continue to trek to Dr. Lerner’s office for my monthly port flushes, and less frequently to hospitals for CT or PET scans, I’m very interested in extending my own life. All this, of course, is played out against the backdrop of the Christian promise of eternal life, which is something altogether different.

And that’s what Easter is all about.

1 comment:

Julie Orvis Marcinkiewicz said...

Your comments here remind me of a question I asked an inquirers' class I'm taking at church with my husband (supporting his journey to be formally received in the Episcopal Church and taking it as a "refresher"). The question was: "What is salvation?" The pat answer all seems to be "life eternal" after our natural deaths. But is that whole story? Is looking for life after death really the answer to looking for life in all the wrong places? I don't want to seem trite like the song "Is that all there is?" but this is a spirtual issue I struggle with constantly. Why care about the world and the problems and joys of today, if salvation is life after death? Why wait for death? Don't get me wrong, I do not want to die. Quite the opposite. I am always struggling with the meaning of today as well as the future.
Peace to you and Claire, Julie