READ: 2 Kings 7-9, Psalm 109, Matthew 20, 2 Timothy 2
IT’S ONLY DEATH
Four leprous men of Israel make three profound statements. The first is: “Why are sitting here until we die” (2 Kings 7:3)? The Syrians surround the city, the people are starving, and the lepers come to the conclusion they have another option rather than sitting around waiting for death. The basic logic is this: We are going to die anyway; we might as well die actively rather than passively. Coming to this happy conclusion off they trot to plunder the deserted camp. There is something repulsive about an inward focused retirement plan that basically is waiting around to die. How Jesus delights over the senior citizens who spend their golden years plundering the nations through prayer, visitation, and outreach. Don’t just sit there until you die; go on one last grand adventure for others.
The second penetrating statement is: “If they kill us, we shall only die” (2 Kings 7:4). The question is, of course, “What’s so bad about death?” Lazarus can speak to this issue, for he is a member of a very exclusive club. Plenty of people since Nicodemus have been “born again”; Lazarus is one of a handful who “died again.” If truly “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” then when Lazarus died the first time, he was in the unmitigated presence of God – what wonder! And what a shock to be called back to a stinky grave and a sin-filled earth. I am confident Lazarus longed for death from that point on. I am confident death didn’t scare him. Lazarus knew that this life is actually the dream and Heaven is our home. In a pioneer context fraught with risk to life and security, this reality is comforting: “If they kill us, we shall only wake up in the presence of Jesus!” What’s so bad about that? The one who is unafraid of death (even longs for what is on the other side of waking up) is very hard to intimidate or silence. There is nothing wrong with wanting to go to heaven. Some of the most beautiful of our fathers and mothers in the faith are those who longed to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and be forever with Jesus. We probably need to pray more of our sick and loved ones into heaven rather than selfishly praying them out.
Third, the lepers realize: “We are not doing right. This is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us” (2 Kings 7:9). The lepers have found relief (food and supplies) and began to bury them, storing up for their future need. They realize this is sin. The lepers realize there is an urgency to share saving supplies. To survive until that great morning light of the re-creation, amply supplied, but neglectful of sharing the message to starving cities will earn one thing: punishment. It is criminal for followers of Jesus to be amply supplied in their little holy huddles when vast collections of peoples have no access to (or news about) living bread. Let us do right. Let us (lepers that we are, lepers with a renewed lease on life) rush to our cities and call out to the gatekeepers that there is life, rescue, deliverance, hope. This is the day for good news.