Here is the second of my contributions to this year’s series of the college’s Lenten devotionals. As usual, there is a passage from Scripture, a reflection, and a prayer. I hope they prove useful.
John 11:38-44 King James Version (KJV)
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Why do so many of us fear death, even Christians who believe that death takes us from the pains of life to a far more joyous eternity? I think a lot of it is our fear of being cut off, being separated from the world we know, from the familiarity of life, and from the people we love. It’s a separation that we may delay, but which we cannot undo.
And likewise, ever since the Garden of Eden, our sins have separated us from God and from the abundant life He promised us. When the Bible tells us that the wage of sin is death, it is meant literally, but it also refers, I think, to our self-separation from the ultimate real life in the presence of God. And that frightens us.
But with the story of Lazarus, we are offered hope that even this greatest barrier is surmountable by Christ. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha tells us that his body is surely corrupt by now, and we know he is bound – by graveclothes, by the stone at the mouth of the tomb, by death itself. But Jesus knows that when he speaks the word, Lazarus will come forth, and that having been loosed from that dark binding, it will be easy enough to “Loose him, and let him go.”
Later, Christ Himself will break the ties of death, and will make it possible for us to do the same one day. The graveclothes of sin will be loosed. Our faces will be uncovered. We will be rejoined with God and with Life, and there will be no more separation.
Heavenly Father, let us not forget that through Your Son, even the bondage of death is frail. Thank you for showing us the way, and for being the Way to the life eternal. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.