I absolutely love the story we just read- it sometimes brings tears to my eyes, because there’s so very much wisdom in it and it lets us see, just a little bit, into the amazing mind of God. The first half of the episode points out what we believe- that our God is in charge and that he is an on-time God. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus, so when Lazarus got deathly ill, they simply assumed they could send for their good friend Jesus to heal their brother. After all, Jesus was known for his healing powers, and if he could heal complete strangers, he could certainly extend himself to heal a good friend. Problem- they sent for Jesus, but he didn’t come for four days. It probably took one day for the messenger from Mary and Martha to arrive. Then Jesus waited two days. He had to decide if he would risk his ministry on this dangerous trip, because the last time he was in Jerusalem he was almost stoned to death. Then it probably took a day’s travel to get there- long walk! What’s so special about four days? There was a Jewish tradition that that the soul hovered around the body for three days after death and then left. So, by the fourth day- this was a hopeless cause. Other cultures had the same understanding- for good reason. We have wakes. You know how the custom of a wake started? In England, lead cups were often used when people drank alcoholic beverages. The lead combined with lots of alcohol could really knock the drinker out. To keep from burying a live person, the “body” was laid out on the kitchen table and the family and friends would sit around eating, drinking, and waiting for a couple of days to see if the person would “wake” up. But after four days- no way! Dead is dead, and in fact- in that heat- dead is very smelly. You noticed, when the sisters saw Jesus- the first thing they said was an accusation: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!” But Jesus wasn’t late- he was right on time, because God’s amazing power was about to be proclaimed; and when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”- all anyone had to do was open their eyes and see it.
The last half of the story is where the rubber hits the road- it’s about living what we believe. It’s about this- do we really believe God is in charge? Well then, prove it by our lives. Take risks for God. Don’t panic when things aren’t going the way you want. Stay faithful and trust God. All of these elements are in the rest of the story- watch. What had to happen if God was going to work a miracle and restore Lazarus to life? Mary and Martha had to take the risk of their lives. They had to obey Jesus when he told them to roll the stone away. Under ordinary circumstances, what would have met them as soon as that stone produced even a small gap into the tomb? Smell! The ghastly smell of rotting human flesh! Have you ever smelled a pack of ground beef when it’s been in the refrigerator too long? Now look- ground beef is bad enough; but if the smell is coming from your beloved brother’s decomposing body- that’s too much to bear! What’s that song- “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey”- easier said than done.
There’s one more significant part of this episode. After Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out,” what is the next thing Jesus said to do? “Untie him and let him go.” Some translations say, “Unbind him and let him go free.” Just as Lazarus had to be released from those restrictive burial wrappings, so must we. One of our most important jobs for this COVID-19 crisis is to become unbound from coronavirus difficulties. I’ve been in contact with our members and frequent attenders, and I’ve found that we suffer from 3 negatives: anxiety, boredom, and fear.
ANXIETY: one of our members was so very anxious that she was staying in bed and crying. Other symptoms are too much tv, short temper, slipping back to negative habits that were in remission. I have a “take-it-or-leave-it” suggestion- music. When my husband was so very sick and then died, I played “My Life Is in Your Hands” over and over. Another good song is “Be Still My Soul, for God Is in Charge.” To help anxiety: sing, move, dance, wash the dishes, vacuum the floor, play with the kids, and get some counseling- over the phone if necessary. Please don’t waste your life. Meet God halfway in allowing Jesus to unbind you from anxiety.
BOREDOM: actually this is a form of selfishness. We Christians sacrifice so others (as well as ourselves) can remain virus free. One of the huge problems with this virus is that it is “crazy-contagious!” We infect people, and they infect us, before we know we have the virus, i.e. WHEN WE STILL HAVE NOL SYMPTOMS.” We (or they) can continue spreading this deadly disease for 2- 14 days innocently before the first symptom. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AND STAY HOME. The song for boredom/selfishness: “Break Every Chain.” Break the “you-link” of the virus and prevent it from spreading from/to you.
FEAR: mostly the fear of death of ourselves or a loved one. This might be a good time to prepare to die. Remember, dying is not an “if,” it’s a when. We could practice each day of this crisis to live our lives to the fullest. We can also daily give our loved ones to God. They are his anyway. We might find “Amazing Grace” helpful.
May God bless us as we lean on Jesus through this crisis. May we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger, wiser, and walking closer to Jesus.