"And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'" ~ Luke 23:43
Easter is just a week away. Luke's version of the crucifixion of Christ is my favorite, precisely because of this interchange - this conversation Jesus has with a repentent criminal on an adjacent cross.
I love the grace and forgiveness offered. I love the comforting assurance.
I am no Bible scholar. I cannot go back to the original text and tell you about the nuances present in the words chosen - the ones that don't translate well. I only know what is here. And what's here says to me that this criminal and Jesus were going to Heaven, together, that very day.
This fits with my hopes about Heaven. I trust that God will sort out the details of who and how and all that. I can only do what I can do to put my faith in Christ and live a life that attempts to honor him and to honor his sacrifice. But in my simple thinking, when a person in relationship with Christ dies, he or she goes immediately into Heaven.
Okay, with my theology out of the way, let me share a question that has been on my mind for years:
How annoyed was Lazarus?
He's been dead for four days when Jesus arrives and calls him forth. I don't know how time passes in Heaven, but regardless, assuming Lazarus goes straight there when he dies, how annoyed must he have been to be called back?
The fact that his sisters want him back is understandable, though a bit selfish. And most of their conversation with Jesus is about the fact that if he had come sooner, none of this would have been necessary.
Jesus seems to know all along what is going to happen and what he's going to do. I can only hope someone pulled Lazarus aside and told him not to get too comfy in Heaven because he wasn't going to be staying. Otherwise, I think it would have been annoying, if not downright cruel, to be in the presence of God and then get yanked back again....
We don't get to hear much from Lazarus in John's gospel about his experience, but his resurrection from the dead put a target on him almost as large as the one on Jesus (John 12:9-11). Jesus did say in order to follow him we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses. Lazarus lived this - he gave up Heaven in exchange for persecution in order for Christ to reveal himself in a spectacular way to the world around him.