Are We Ready for Easter

Are we ready for Easter?

This will be an Easter we will not soon forget. I am disappointed that much of the memory will be social distancing and the coronavirus epidemic. I worry about your health and safety, so we will live-stream worship for Easter. That still leaves each of us with the question … Are we ready for Easter?

The season of Lent is a 40 day journey of preparation. As a final Lenten exercise, let me invite you to read John 11:1-44. This is a memory of the raising of Lazarus. Then I ask you to reflect upon two paintings. I referenced these works of art in my sermon last Sunday. Held side by side, these pieces capture two distinct moments and two different reactions to the miracle. A foreshadowing of our Easter response?

In John 11:43, Jesus yells “Lazarus, Come Out!” In my reflection, Rembrandt captures this moment. In the painting, Lazarus is just beginning to sit up. He looks ashen as if recently dead. Note the reaction of his sisters on the left of the painting. Mary and Martha are surprised … shocked … disbelief? They had protested the opening of the tomb because Lazarus had been dead for four days and would smell.

In John 11:44, Jesus tells the crowd to unbind Lazarus and set him free. Caravaggio portrays this moment. The sisters lean in, cradle, caress Lazarus. Men from the crowd, maybe disciples, unbind and support Lazarus. Lazarus looks resurrected rather than entombed.

How often have I read this story and imagined Lazarus stumbling as a zombie from the tomb? Imagined him alive, but anticipating it would take time for his body to recover from death and decomposition? How often have I pictured Lazarus as painted by Rembrandt?

Caravaggio has envisioned something more dramatic. The resurrection of Lazarus includes a transformation. Jesus has not poured new wine in old wine skins. Jesus has renewed the wineskin to hold the life returned.

As we prepare for Easter, are we called to receive Jesus thus resurrected? Are we ready for Jesus to transform our life? I hope we all receive Jesus with the embrace portrayed by Caravaggio.

“The Raising of Lazarus” Rembrandt, 1630-1632
“The Raising of Lazarus” Caravaggio, 1609