For Lazarus, coming back from the dead was just the beginning.
Imagine the scene from his point of view:
The man is completely, utterly, dead.
Whatever he might have been thinking four days post-burial — if in fact he thought at all — I don’t think he felt trapped in a tomb. He was free!
So what was it like to be called back?
“Lazarus, come out!”
He snaps into earthly existence. Once again joined to a body, he’s aware of tight bandages.
Of flesh beginning to rot.
The dawning realization that he was entombed alive.
“Lazarus, come out!”
What torture, to be in a dark tomb and conscious. Yet with that very realization comes hope. There is no human way for Lazarus to get up and get out of that tomb, but Jesus has called him.
Is there any better picture of grace?
Starting with that “prevenient” grace that comes before we even know we need it, before we even ask, giving us the power to respond. And at the same time, the necessary cooperation that God asks for, to complete the job of our salvation. Like the Prodigal Son, we must come to our senses — recognize where we are — and turn to the Father.
“The dead man came out,” John continues in 11:44, “his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”
Let’s back up a minute…
It’s dark, and even if it wasn’t, the linen binds his eyes. Did he really hear that voice? “Lazarus, come out!” — it echoes in his ears.
Slowly the man bends his knees, shifts his legs to the side of the slab. It’s hard to move, wrapped up like that. Yet with every decision, God supplies what he needs.
Seated now, Lazarus wants to walk, but he is blind. Which way? He follows the voice. When he turns his head toward the Word, light penetrates the linen. No detail yet, but it’s enough!
Stiff and tentative, he moves toward the light until he comes to Jesus’ feet. He feels the grave cloths pulled away, and is set free to go.
The Sound of Grace in the Dark
I don’t know about you, but I am overcome by this story of grace and resurrection. Without Jesus, that’s me in those grave cloths: buried alive, without hope, shut off from beauty and life. But never shut off from grace! God reaches into the deepest and vilest of tombs. His voice calls into the pits I’m thrown into and the ones I dig for myself. “Sarah, come out!” His voice penetrates my blinders, heals my rotting flesh and animates my limbs, removes the things that bind and paralyze me.
This Sunday, we will enter Jerusalem with our Lord. Thursday, we will walk beside him as he goes to his death. We will stand beside the cross, enter into the grave. We will feel the darkness and mourn the loss of God’s presence. But then we will hear those words: “Come out!” and with Jesus, we will rise.
May you experience the grace of your salvation in a new and fresh way this Easter.