Coming to Life

John 11:1-45

Frederick Buechner has a wonderful description of the raising of Lazarus in his book, Peculiar Treasures:

Lazarus and his two sisters lived in a town called Bethany a couple of miles outside Jerusalem and according to the Gospel of John were among the best friends Jesus had. He used to drop in on them whenever he was in the neighborhood, and when he made his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was from Bethany that he took off and it was also to Bethany that he went back to take it easy for a few days before his final arrest.

When Lazarus died, Jesus didnt arrive on the scene until several days afterwards, but he found the sisters still so broken up they hardly knew what they were saying. With one breath they reproached him for not having come in time to save their brother and with the next they told him they knew he could save him still. Then, for the first and only time such a thing is recorded of him in the New Testament, Jesus broke down himself. Then he went out to where his friends body lay and brought him back to life again.

Recent interviews with people who have been resuscitated after being pronounced clinically dead reveal that after the glimpse they evidently all of them get of a figure of light waiting for them on the other side, they are very reluctant to be brought back again to this one. On the other hand, when Lazarus opened his eyes to see the figure of Jesus standing there in the daylight beside him, he couldnt for the life of him tell which side he was on. (Peculiar Treasures, Harper and Row, NY, 1979 p. 89,90)

Lazarus received new life at the hands of Jesus. According to the story he was pronounced dead and came to life again. Life probably took on new meaning for him. He most likely became more appreciative of everything and everyone around him. The time he lived after that was definitely more precious to him.


Certain Bible studies are based on finding yourself in the Bible. I think that most of us could find ourselves in this story because it feeds the desire deep within us to be renewed the same as all life is renewed in the Spring. It is a wish to have new life and to begin again.

Certainly there are other ways that we come to life again. Elie Wiesel, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago wrote, “When He created man, God gave him a secret–and that secret was not how to begin, but how to begin again It is not given to man to begin; that privilege is Gods alone. But it is given to man to begin again and he does so every time he chooses to defy death and side with the living.” Biblical rebirth is always a time and place of beginning again, a time of letting go yesterdays fears and embracing today’s hopes.

Coming to life again can take many forms. It could be like the story of Chris, a thirty eight year old woman at a mid life journey workshop who wrote about her life this way:

“Alice doesn’t live here anymore. She left, and someone else has moved in. The new woman is something different from Alice! What a pleasant change! Alice kept the shades drawn the door locked, and was always crabby to her..neighbors. She must have been a lonely and unhappy person! But the new tenant–Wow! Warm and alive, windows and doors always open, the garden in bloom, and the teakettle on the stove. Shes really human–joys and hurts, too, but she seems ready to meet them and deal with them. Im sure glad to know her. Poor Alice–wonder where she’s gone? I don’t really care–Im just glad!” (Robert Raines Going Home, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1979, p. 101)

Chris was given the gift of a new name by the group listening to her story: Chris-Alice. (Chrysalis) , to identify and affirm her new birth. Chris-Alice doesn’t live here anymore. She is going from darkness to light. She isn’t afraid any longer. She is being reborn.


Coming to Life again may be discovering that we are not afraid of life anymore like were when we were younger. Coming to life again may be when we face death in ourselves and others and we realize that our spirit is not defeated, that in learning to die we begin to live.

Rebirth may be lying on our sick bed, after a close call with death, and discovering that all life is new and we have a difference sense of what is important in life. . Recently , a man describing how he felt after he had been brought back to life after resuscitation said that he experienced the morning sun brighter and colors more brilliant. He said that people whom he had thought were dull became to him more interesting.

Discovering new life may be when we see our whole life story – the good, the bad, the indifferent- acceptable to God and within God’s purpose. We are in the hands of one who loves us without condition.

New life may come to us when we have lived long enough to have some of our dreams come true, some partially fulfilled, and others turn into nightmares, and still others die. We know that it is a time to revise our dreams or dream new ones.

Coming to life again may be when we are sick and tired of being sick and tired and we face our inner restlessness, discontent, and fears that have been plaguing us for years and we just let God and let God.

It may take place on our death bed, when we discover that we are no alone but we know the presence of Christ, and we die in peace rather than in struggle, or we are given such a sense of assurance that we know that we will meet God. I love the story of the elderly woman who thought she was going to die after some complicated surgery but miraculously survived. When she was recovering consciousness, her sight was blurry and when she saw her doctor all in white at her bedside, she said, ‘Hello God, my name is Mary…” What a sense of assurance? She probably was disappointed to find that she was still on this side of heaven.


As surely as Lazarus heard his name called and slowly moved out of the grave, we can hear our name called at any time of our lives, and when we find ourselves standing with Jesus, like Lazarus, we wont know what side of heaven we are on.


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