Stephen to Lazarus

As you know, Lewis wrote poetry throughout his life. Many of these works are collected in the volume simply called “Poems.” In addition, it’s helpful to note that his first book, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (1919), was a work of poetry, though it would be years before he would become a Christian. And, academically, he nearly became a professor of poetry only to narrowly lose it to C. Day Lewis in 1951. All this to say, Lewis was no slouch when it came to poetry. Often, it’s his point of view that I’m fascinated by. It helps me think afresh the stories of Scripture and the revelation of God through nature and by other means.

I recently came across “Stephen to Lazarus”. As you recall, Stephen is the first martyr. His murder by stoning is recorded in Acts 7. It’s a brutal scene of denial, as we hear Stephen preach the whole message of God from the beginning to the fulfillment of Jesus’ death and bodily resurrection just before the stones come flying at him. Lazarus is at an earlier point in the Scripture. He is Jesus’ good friend who dies and is buried four days before Jesus arrives in Bethany. The account is in John 11.

What Lewis does is pin a poem from Stephen to Lazarus. It’s a delightful shift in perspective. See what you think:

But was I the first martyr, who
Gave up no more than life, while you,
Already free among the dead,
Your rags stripped off, your fetters shed,
Surrendered what all other men
Irrevocably keep, and when
Your battered ship at anchor lay
Seemingly safe in the dark bay
No ripple stirs, obediently
Put out a second time to sea
Well knowing that your death (in vain
Died once) must all be died again?

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