Like Lazarus, we must grow weaker and weaker until we die. Only then can we truly live and grow stronger and stronger. As N.D. Wilson expresses it so poetically in his book Death by Living:
Yes, I am a Protestant. Yes, I have Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox friends. Yes, we can argue about which limbs of Christendom have life and which are dead and brittle or dead and soggy and sprouting fungus, but long ago there was only one root — here in this city [Jerusalem] where wide-eyed disciples gathered around the Man with the whole in His side. If this place is real, it is the birthplace of the new humanity, the place where Behemoth had his nose pierce, where Leviathan was leashed, where the Seed of Woman shook the stars with His Triumph.
Which is why we Christians want it to be real so badly that we’re willing to fake it. Which is why enemies of the cross have worked so hard to keep it smashed — as if grinding down a hilltop and a tomb could undo the narrative, could unravel Victory itself.
Every rock is spoke by the Word. Every time I touch a stone, I am touching the Voice of God. Every cell of me is crafted by that artistry. My life is His breath. But we mortals grow numb. We want to feel more. And so we add MSG to our earthly brands of holiness.
The evangelical worship leader bounces on stage with his eyes shut, thumping his T-shirted breast–pushing, pushing, pushing people to feel as the chords progress. In Jerusalem, a freshly quarried rock is offered to pilgrims beneath trickling mystical smoke.
Lord, we flail. Forgive the lies we tell from purple thrones on TBN. Forgive the lies we tell in shrines. Forgive our every attempt at self-redemption, the holy efforts we call our own, all the clawing we call resurrection. Bury us. Take us to helpless dust. Then roll away that stone and call us by our names. Make us all Lazarus.
We must descend into the grave before we can ascend into glory. This what it means to die and rise in union with Christ.