GOSPEL | JOHN 11:7-16

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.  10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”  11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”  13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.  14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

“Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (v.16)

I’m not sure I understand all of Lent’s language about dying. I thought I did, but in the midst of the story of Lazarus, and in this week’s discussions on baptism, and in Lent’s journey to the cross, I am more and more confused. What does it mean that I have died with Christ in baptism? I’m still alive! and what is more, sin is still alive in me!

Thomas understood dying quite literally. He resigned himself with all the disciples to go with Jesus to Judea, where Jesus will be executed. The threat of real death looms large at this moment; the foreboding of Holy Week is thick.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. Growing up, this meant a chance to let the adorable children have their 20 minutes of being precious with palm branches, and hear the story about how Jesus knew a donkey was waiting for him. But Jesus’ “triumphal” procession into Jerusalem is anything but precious, anything but adorable. The disciples are terrified of the certain death awaiting here, both for Jesus and for themselves. Jesus is also painfully aware of his violent, cursed death.

The pain and fear and anguish of Lent is far greater than missing chocolate, or coffee, or Pinterest. Giving up small conveniences (or even major ones) is a small sign of this death, and a personal avenue into what the Catholic tradition calls purgation and what the Reformed tradition calls mortification — essentially, dying to self. But I know from years of giving stuff up for Lent that come April 1, I will race back to Pinterest like a dolphin to a dangled sardine.

There is an important flip-side to mortification: vivification (or regeneration), living the new life. This is the first Lent where I have both given up something, and added something. Practicing Lectio Divina (sacred reading) every day during Lent and blogging my reflections has been an expression of freedom for life, more than just a freedom from death. It is this small addition to my schedule that has been for me a river of new life flowing from within.

Lord Jesus Christ,

the Giver of the Life Abundant,

send your Spirit to remind me always of my baptism

— as both my watery tomb and my spiritual womb,

where I was both buried with Christ and raised with Christ —

so that conquered sin may not rule over me

— whether the Shadow that entangles from within

or the shadows that pursue me without —

but that I may freely live to, for, and under You,

my Savior, Lord, and Teacher.

I pray this in Your name;