Praying for a sweet, godly young woman recently made me think again of this account in John 11.
Lazarus had been dead for four days. Then Jesus shows up. No one and nothing stays dead for very long when Jesus shows up. He’s standing in front of the tomb, which was a cave, and a stone is in front of it. He asks that the stone be taken away. Martha, being her practical, observant, tidy self informs Jesus that there will be an odor if the stone is moved away from the tomb. And Jesus replies,
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
If you believe you will see the glory of God! The glory of God!
As we try to protect ourselves from the “odors” of life, do we miss the glory of God?
The stone is taken away but Jesus does not go into the cave. He does not go in to have a private moment with Lazarus, gently encouraging him to come on out, discussing the pros and cons about staying dead or being resurrected. Instead, the Resurrection and the Life stands in front of the cave and cries out with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out.”
Did Lazarus have a choice? Could he have stayed dead? After all, Jesus didn’t go in and take him by the hand and lead him out.
I like to think that in that moment when Jesus called out to him, Lazarus did have to choose: life or death; staying put or walking out into the light, into freedom.
We too have a choice to make regarding the places where we are imprisoned. The places where death has ahold of us and we are living in darkness. Whether through our own sin or sin done to us, many of us are in prisons and have been there longer than four days.
Jesus won’t come in after us. He won’t beg us to leave or drag us out. He will though, call out in a loud voice, “Come out.” Come out from the cave and the darkness, from the hopelessness and despair, from the odor and the oppression. But the choice is ours.
“The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’”
Lazarus has made the choice to leave his prison of death; however, he is still bound tightly with the linen strips. Jesus says to them, the community pressing in, standing in awe of the glory of God, “You unbind him and you let him go.”
That is the job of community. That is why Jesus calls us to be in community with other believers. We are the only one who can choose life, we alone walk out of our tombs, but it is the community of those who love us who complete the job of setting us free.
Unlike Lazarus’ mummified mess, our bindings are hidden. What binds us are usually matters of the heart and mind. Although we are in the light, we are hobbling around with strips of pain around our souls, cloths of shame and fear over our hearts and lies tangled in our minds. We desperately need those who love us to carefully, humbly, prayerfully unbind us and set us free, fully free.
The tears flowed as we prayed for freedom. And it occurred to me again that our insides are usually not as free as our outsides look. We, as the community of faith, are to come alongside those we love and ask about those insides, gently and lovingly peeling back the layers of binding cloth so the loved one’s heart and mind and soul can finally be set free.