Friday, March 31
Rev. Phyllis Kersten
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
In today’s passage, Jesus finds himself exactly where we way too often find ourselves, face-to-face with the reality of death. But that is not the end of the story.
“In a loud voice,” John tells us, Jesus summons Lazarus, four days dead, forth from the tomb. And, wonder of wonder, wrapped in grave clothes, Lazarus emerges out of the tomb. What a graphic sign of Jesus’ words about himself and us sheep earlier in John’s Gospel: “The gatekeeper, [the shepherd of the sheep], opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) Yes, Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, leads us his sheep “out,” out of captivity to death, into eternal life.
Jesus commands those at the tomb who saw the risen Lazarus still encumbered by his grave clothes to “unbind him, and let him go.” From that command, we get our marching orders, too. Those just released from prison, still “bound” by their inability to get a fresh start? “Unbind” them, by helping them get employment. Those “bound” by poverty? The Credit Union Grace helped establish in Austin will help “unbind” them. Those “bound” by racism and discrimination? Speaking out can help “let” them “go.”
The last verse of today’s text indicates that “many of the Jews” who witnessed the raising of Lazarus “believed” in Jesus. But that’s only half of the story. The rest of chapter 11 tells how the religious leaders decided that this one who brought Lazarus back to life must die. But the joke is on them! For, as Audrey West, former Lutheran seminary professor, put it, “There at the tomb of Jesus, death is overcome for good.”
That’s why families can gather around dying loved ones to sing them to eternal life. That’s why Grace funerals are filled with music and song, with death-defying words like these:
“Thine the glory in the night, no more dying only light!”
Carry us daily, Lord Jesus, from death into life with you. And make us life-bearers for others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.