(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
by John Shirk
Our guest writer for the next 3 Catches will be our Director of Discipleship, John Shirk. John lives with his wife Amy and their 4 daughters in Chicago, Illinois. They minister to the postmodern artistic subculture and to victims of trauma and abuse. The tools of their ministry include chocolate chip cookies, vegan chili, and poetry. John is the author of A Sacrificial Poet.
It’s been said that a life of faith doesn’t pay very well but the retirement plan is to die for! Lazarus lived a life of faith and was enjoying his retirement. His sisters weren’t. They were left behind, grieving his death. But Lazarus had left this broken, sinful world to enjoy his eternal reward. Or so he thought.
Then Jesus spoke, “Lazarus come forth!” calling him out of retirement. Most believers look forward to leaving this fallen world to see Jesus face to face. But not Lazarus. He was called back to a fallen world to see Jesus face to face.
The result was a party. Mary and Martha and the rest of the mourners began to rejoice. It was a miracle. Their dead brother had come alive.
Do you ever wonder how Lazarus felt?
You mean I have to go back there? Back to a body with aches and pains? Back to an alarm clock rousing me for another day at the office? What do you mean I still have work to do? I was ready to rest in peace and enjoy the rewards of a life of faith.
Somehow I doubt it. If heaven is living in the presence of Jesus, then Lazarus left the afterlife for heaven on earth. I suspect he celebrated the opportunity to join Jesus in His work. That is exactly where we find him in John 12. Hanging out with Jesus, a living testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, drawing people to believe. It got so bad that Jesus’ enemies plotted to kill him along with Jesus.
Somehow I doubt Lazarus was worried. He had already died once. He knew that with Jesus, death was not a terminal condition.
I’m wondering how many of us are Lazarus. After a long life of faith we find ourselves comfortably retired. We may not be dead, but we may as well be. We are ready to live out our golden years in comfort and then die and see Jesus face to face.
But what if Jesus is calling us out of retirement like Lazarus. “Come forth!” What if he wants us to come alive and join Him as He works in a broken, sinful world? What if He wants us to hang out with Him as He draws others to believe in Him?
It has been said that some Christians are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. They need to get their head out of the clouds and join Jesus in His mission on earth. Lazarus did that. Jesus called him forth and he came alive.
May we too come alive!
I enjoyed reading your CATCH today. It gives me confirmation of the definition of
being retired. That word needs a new perspective for disciples. I have never given it much thought how Lazarus must have experienced this event as well. Thank you!
How thought-provoking. As someone who is contemplating when to retire, this Catch is so timely for me. I’ve not bought into the phrase “Look at retirement as a new beginning”, because my identity is so intricately wrapped up into my occupation. However, that phrase has a whole different meaning when I see retirement through the Lazarus lens. Thanks so much for this insight! I needed to hear this today.
I must admit now I see retirement in a new and great way. Thanks again for bringing this message. It is so much a new beginning and hopefully millions will be enriched by this.
I will try again.
Thank you for making me think. First this story is usually about something else, like Jesus wept, or the Martha and Mary tiff. Lazarus as you point out is the forgotten man as to how he felt and how he thought. Being brought back from the dead is not always desirable for some people. It looks like no one asked Lazarus.
Retirement today is seen as what is owed to us because we worked so hard. God looks at our heart condition not at how great we think we are but how much more we need to surrender to His will. In fact no where in scripture do I read about retirement. Moses began leading Israel at 80, so did Caleb, Grandma Moses at 70?
I believe my work is not yet done. God still wants me to teach the gospel to kids and I am 77. Six years ago I quit the landscape maintenance business, arthritis was the main contributor. Grieved for about two years, because the profession was so ingrained in my identity. Man was I crabby. Am also teaching kids about how to be God fearing leaders in a mentoring program developed by our church. I am having fun despite all my physical ailments.
Read Jeremiah 13:1-12. A fitting title would be God’s Dirty Underwear. Then let the creativity of your imagination go to work, just like that of Mr. John Shirk God was very creative in getting people to repent. Let that motivate your study of scripture in that vein.