So it was that the beggar died…
What a sad story, at least a sad earthly story. Of course we know the happy ending – Lazarus went to Abraham’s Bosom. But leading up to that point, it was a sad story indeed.
What was Lazarus’ back story? What got him into those circumstances? What gets anyone into his circumstances? It sounds like Lazarus had some sort of physical ailment, the reason why he was “laid” at the gates and didn’t go there himself. It sounds like the community had some regard for him, as it was they who were gracious enough to lay him there. It seems there was some sort of assumption about social obligations, that the rich man’s duty was to help poor Lazarus, else the community would not have laid him there. The community, in other words, understood what we meditated on yesterday, that the Lord blesses some with wealth, to be used for others.
But what got Lazarus into those circumstances in the first place? Was it a mishap – he fell off a ladder while building a house? Did his family pass away? Was he ever married? Did he do things to put himself in those circumstances?
These questions are sort of like the one the disciples asked Jesus about the blind man, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
To which, Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The blind man, Lazarus, and all of us in our fallen condition, are the “stuff” of creation, the material from which God is creating the creation. Remember, the passage above, coupled with Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished,” suggest God’s creation wasn’t fully complete until Jesus died on the cross. That means Jesus’ death was a “from the foundation of the world” event to which God’s initial completion of creation on the sixth day referred.
The theory underlying this mystery is that, when God created the world, Jesus and His cross were not “Plan B,” but the plan all along. God worked Christ and the cross into the DNA of creation, part of the reason why He added “and evil” to a creation that had originally known only good, when He put the tree of the knowledge of good “and evil” in the midst of the garden. He knew what Adam would do. He knew the evils which would be unleashed by Adam’s sin. Yet, in His unfathomable wisdom, this was all part of the process of bringing about the creation properly.
I’ve used this reference before, but on any given day of creation, the Lord was separating one thing from another. There was a point at which his final creation of each day wasn’t fully formed, sort of “half done.” Half light/half darkness. Half land/half water. What if the same is true with man? And not in the sense that Adam at one point was mud in the shape of a man, and then the spirit of life brought him into being, but that even after that, he wasn’t fully formed until Christ came, introduced faith, died on the cross, and rose from the dead? Is not the Church something called out of the world, like the Holy Spirit separating something out of the muck and mire to give it life?
“But what about God’s statement that everything was very good at the end of creation? Or that He had finished everything on the sixth day?” True, but remember God’s time. He’s eternal, above time, which is how the event of Christ’s death can be “from the foundation of the world.” It’s also why the writer to the Hebrews could speak of the seventh day rest as something yet to attain.
In His wisdom, man wasn’t fully complete until Jesus’ death. The likes of the blind man or Lazarus are “half formed” beings, as we all are, “that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
This is interesting in theory, but in practice it becomes harsh. Who wants to be that last remaining bit of sludge the Lord is forming into His creation for the day, half sludge, half life? But then again, the Lord’s gift is “The last shall be first.”
And the Lord fills that “sludginess” with meaning as well. Sludge turning to life is not nothing. Read Psalm 88. It’s the single Psalm with no hope. Because sometimes life has no hope. There’s no happy endings. It’s just, laid at the gates, and “so it was that the beggar died.” And that’s that. How many situations are like that in the world? How many sad, lonely, pathetic situations involving children, widows, the maimed, and the lame populate our world? Crack babies, children with bombs strapped to them, orphans caught up into the sex trade, and on and on.
But in our Lord’s wisdom, this is indisputably the way things are, and there are indisputably situations like that. Does He create Lazaruses and blind men to be gifts for others? Is it a reflection of His own nature, that Father-Son, Giver-Beggar binary we contemplated yesterday? Every rich man needs his Lazarus to manifest a soul perfected in Christ?
Whatever the case, our Lord redeems it, because He Himself was Lazarus on the cross. Abandoned, naked, pathetic. And they that receive Him as He comes on the cross inherit life. What is it to “receive Him” but to receive “the least of these my brethren” whom He sends out, bearing their crosses?
Christ fills the pathetic situations with His presence, because He fills all things with His presence, and “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” That includes the pathetic situations.
Of course, that He fills all things means after descent comes ascent. The Lord will lift up the pathetic, the humble, and the sad situations. That is His promise. There is no situation on earth, however pathetic, that will not be redeemed by our Lord. He rules in righteousness. He’s a Redeemer. Neither the evil will get away with evil, nor will the pathetic situations be left unanswered.