Rock, Paper, Scissors, Spock, Lazarus (or truth when facing death)

graffiti-1015952_640Dead things hold little promise. Death is a line that, once crossed, carries a weight worthy of holy pause.

I remember sitting through one Sunday morning service behind a man who was dead by three o’clock that day. Following church, he and a fellow pilot friend took off for an afternoon flight and crashed. For days, when I closed my eyes, I saw the back of his head and felt the weight of death. Breathing one moment, breathless the next.

Permanent. Undo-able. Unstoppable. Unpredictable.

And life, this being alive thing, is large even when the creature is small. I was in the room when the vet injected our seventeen-year-old family cat with the final solution. It was time. It had been a long time coming. I was prepared – I thought – until that last breath – the final gasp when her exhale wasn’t answered with a mirroring inhalation of air.

Death. It sucks the air out of life. Like a sucker punch. A belly flop. A face plant. A dead drop.

TV shows and movies make death palatable through artful lighting, well-crafted sets, and slick camera angles. But when death is in the room with ritier-1083931_640us, when we stand close enough to sense a tug on our own mortality, it’s as unpalatable as a scream, a retch, a convulsion, a fist to the throat. Death has an unmistakable odor. When you’ve inhaled it once, you know it ever after. “That’s the smell of death,” you’ll say after the first whiff. “Are you sure?” someone who’ve never encountered it before will ask. But, they’ll never ask that again.

Doctors work miracles every day. They know they are kings until the moment their efforts fail. As they switch off the screeching monitors and note the time of death, in that moment, they are not kings but peasants living under a death sentence themselves, looking themselves in the mirror, checking to see if they can still make it fog.

So, it’s understandable when men and women of biblical times were confused whenever God challenged death to a duel. God brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones and asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel knew death but he had enough faith in God to answer, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Ezekiel 37 goes on to record what happened next: “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Death is only death until Life touches it. The same way darkness yields when we switch on the light.Like rock, paper, scissors, Spock – life always conquers death – not the other way around. Ask Martha.

window-1138198_640Martha knew death. She was the woman of the house and the women of the houses in biblical times looked death in the face. Their loved ones died at home. Women washed the bodies, prepared the herbs, wrapped the breathless corpses of dear hearts who’d shared their table hours earlier, and carried them to their tombs. No sanitized, distanced funeral director to stand in the gap. Just the woman of the house and a breathless shell.

So when Jesus instructed Martha to open her brother’s tomb, she paused. Ever practical she reminded him, “Lord, there will be a bad smell.” But Jesus persisted and she had enough faith to order the tomb opened. We don’t have to have enough faith to raise dead bones or call out a corpse from the grave – only enough faith to obey the One giving the instructions to see Life free a soul from death.

One of the most powerful exchanges in the Bible is recorded here in John 11: 21-27  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Son of Man, can these bones live? Yes. Yes, they can. And they can inhale and exhale and rise and dance and praise the living God who was and is and is to come. It seems death is all around us these days. It winds its ways through the back alleys, over the transoms, and into our souls like a toxic gas released into the airways. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe at all, nevermind inhale the sweet oxygen of promised glory but nothing is impossible with God. We can even believe in life when we are surrounded by death.

Are you dealing with death today? Death of a loved one? Spiritual death of those who have yet to awaken to the truth of Jesus? Are you wondering if those bones can rise? Jesus is the resurrection and the life – the sweet, sweet fragrance of eternity where death is no more and we seedling-1284676_640are the participants in life eternal.

As surely as we knew on the playground that rock beat scissors, so we know that life conquers death. Lazarus walked out of the tomb. Jesus rose from the grave. We are the dead bones that rise. Rock, paper, scissors, Spock, Lazarus – life wins over death because Jesus is.

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1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. Sandra Lovelace says:

    Ever the poet with a provoking point.
    Thank you.