today is a good day to die | John 11.11-16
After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:11-16 | ESV
After he said this, he brushes right past their unspoken “huh?” and says to them, “Lazarus, our friend, is now resting in peace, but I’m going to wake him up.” His followers quickly responded, “Don’t do that. He needs the rest! Now he can recover!” Jesus, of course, wasn’t talking about restful sleep at all as they wistfully supposed – he was talking about death. So Jesus said it plainly. “Lazarus died. And you know what, I’m glad I wasn’t there. I am. For your sakes. What a faith-building opportunity this will be for you all! But now it’s time for us to go to him.”
Thomas, stark realist that he was, always looking at both sides of everything, quietly said to his fellow-followers, “Suicide mission. We need to go too – we might as well die with him!” MAV
For some reason this week’s story took me to one of the closing scenes in the 1970 film Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman and Chief Dan George. The aged warrior “Old Lodge Skins” senses his time is at hand, and prepares himself to die while his son Jack watches.
Old Lodge Skins: Come out and fight! It is a good day to die! Thank You for making me a Human Being! Thank You for helpin’ me to become a warrior! Thank You for my victories, and for my defeats! Thank You for my vision, and the blindness in which I saw further! You make all things and direct them in their ways, O Grandfather. And now You have decided the Human Beings will soon walk a road that leads nowhere. I am gonna die now, unless death wants to fight. And I ask You for the last time to grant me my old power to make things happen.
[Lies down to die. After a moment, props himself up on his elbows to add:]
Old Lodge Skins: Take care of my son here. See that he doesn’t go crazy.
[Grandfather, who has laid himself down to die, wakes up]
Old Lodge Skins: Am I still in this world?
Jack Crabb: Yes, Grandfather.
Old Lodge Skins: [groans] I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works.
Sometimes, it doesn’t.
Yes, sometimes the magic works.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
The whole of this week’s story takes place on the far side of the Jordan river. Next time we cross the river to the other side, confronting death and tears and then witnessing life and resurrection.
I like that other side of the Jordan.
Give me more of that life and resurrection;
give me that refreshing “I am” promise.
Let me witness the unraveling of grave clothes,
the freeing of the dead,
the end of tears,
the reunion of souls.
I like that other side.
But we’re still on the far side, and we wait.
These haven’t been happy reflections this week.
They are more Good Friday reflections than Easter Sunday – but that’s the story this week – which is important to hear and to honor in this all too often Good Friday world.
Yes, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
But whichever way things turn, the other side of the river comes.
And we wait.
Do you sense in yourself more of the optimism of Jesus: “Let’s go and wake him” or the pessimistic realism of Thomas: “Let’s go and die with him”? What makes the difference between the two?
Lord, give me the grace and trust I will need to sustain me on the far side of the Jordan while I wait for the other side to come. Widen my horizon so I can see divine possibilities where others can only see current grim realities. Through Christ.