In Lazarus, Come Forth!, author and peacemaker John Dear has written an inspiring and accessible study of the lessons in the gospel of John. The subtitle captures the book’s main idea: “how Jesus confronts the culture of death and invites us into the new life of peace.” John Dear extends this invitation inspired by Jesus and helps readers to see the transformative possibilities of accepting this invitation.
Dear writes that the life of Jesus “was a risen life even before the resurrection,” for, without fear of death, in his ministry he continually confronted a culture of death. He demonstrates this quality in all of his interactions, not only the dramatic raising of Lazarus. With the story of the adulteress we see “the days of stoning, killing, executing—and bombing—are over. God’s fullness of life requires humility, humaneness, nonviolence, and compassion.” Clearly we are not fulfilling these mandates today. Many of us are still choosing a culture of death. In Dear’s powerful words,
“We’ve all missed the point. Jesus does not weep because Lazarus has died. Jesus weeps because everyone in the story—and all of us—believe not in the God of life but in the culture of death.”
We cannot claim to love a God of love and mercy while simultaneously remaining comfortable with a culture that normalizes violence. Any reader would be prodded toward self-reflection after reading this volume.
Walking in the struggle against violence has to be a continuous effort, but it can be done. How can we choose love and nonviolence? One way is to “touch the wounds of the world—the wounds of the poor, the wounds of the suffering.” Throughout this book, Dear offers examples from Scripture that reinforce and strengthen the message that eating the bread of life requires the choice of nonviolence, and that this path will grant life in its fullness.
I highly recommend Lazarus, Come Forth!, a powerful and inspiring addition to Dear’s body of work. His writing is compelling and reflects his commitment to living the gospel imperative to love God and to love one another. John Dear is a Jesuit priest known internationally for his work for peace and justice. I encourage you to visit his website, where you can see the schedule for his current book tour as well as other speaking engagements. Articles, speeches, and sermons also are available on the website.
May we all go forth inspired to love and to serve, with our hearts full of hope for transformation.