Why We Named our Deceased Baby Lazarus

The fluorescent lights flickered on. And there’s always that crunchy paper that you sit on. So I helped Heather get into her gown, and then we waited. The doctor came in. And she had a pretty small hand-held ultra-sound machine. And she moved it to and for across Heather’s belly, and then we waited. She said, “Come with me.” And we followed down the hallway to another room. This time the ultra-sound machine was much larger. And then we waited…And waited…And waited. For a heartbeat that never came.

January 18th, 2013. That day will be forever burned into my memory. The day we lost our baby. I can still remember the numbing grief and Heather wailing, “Where’s my baby?!? Where’s my baby?!?”

We couldn’t find out the sex of our baby. It was too early. But Heather and I both had a hunch that it was a boy, so we decided to name him Lazarus. That alludes to the story of Jesus and Lazarus in the Gospel of John.

The story of Jesus and Lazarus begins with Jesus doing ministry in another town. As Jesus is working, the sisters of His best friend (Lazarus) come up to Him and tell Him that Lazarus is sick and dying. Now, if I heard that Dan had been diagnosed with cancer I would leave the next day from Louisville to be there. But Jesus doesn’t leave right away. Jesus lets His friend die! And then, only after Lazarus has passed on does Jesus show up to Lazarus’ house.

And of course, it’s the typical chaos that surrounds a family when someone dearly loved passes on. There’s crying and wailing and all sorts of commotion. And here comes Jesus just moseying up the driveway. I can only imagine the anger that Lazarus’ family felt. “Here comes the guy that Laz would go on and on about. How he can heal the sick and raise the dead. And he doesn’t even show up when his best friend is sick!” There is much sorrow, sadness, and grief. And rightly so.

But Jesus just cuts through the crowd and comes to Lazarus’ tomb.

“What is Jesus doing? Don’t get too close, Jesus, he’s already been there for four days and it probably stinks.”

But Jesus just plows ahead, “C’mon, roll it away.” And they do that. And Jesus shouts, “Lazarus come out!”  There was footstep after footstep and Lazarus appeared! Out of the grave!

All the sorrow that Lazarus’ family had felt was turned to joy in an instant by Jesus. But let’s reflect on the story a little more. Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, but Lazarus didn’t have a completely new and incorruptible body. Christianity teaches that when Jesus comes again, we will receive restored physical bodies. Our bodies will be incorruptible, just like Jesus. But this wasn’t that time yet, so Lazarus would have died again.

But how would that second funeral have been different? His family had seen the power of Jesus. They had their sorrow turned into joy. But now, in this funeral, they could have joy in the midst of sorrow, looking forward to what Jesus would do.

Because Jesus is a greater joy than a living brother…or even a baby.

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