Christ, Tomb Raider

Picture of Woman coming out of stoneFor 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.

Abysmal darkness.

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.

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of “Genesis Part I: God and His Creation” and “Genesis Part II: God and His Family,” published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

Follow on Twitter Like on Facebook

  • Carla Archuleta

    Sarah, I have read and reread this particular scripture since the day you sent it out and as I read it today I felt the sense of release knowing that Jesus died for us and that as we carry our cross they are incomparable to what Jesus did for us, dying for our sins. I am so fortunate knowing that my journey overall is to be in eternal glory with God, Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph and all the other saints in heaven some day.

    Just knowing what he did for Lazurus is amazing, so miraculously his work. His deepest work is so surprising to read and reread. God gives us every day to redeem our sins and prepare for the day of departure from Earth, I pray for myself and the rest of this nation to redeem our sins to God through Jesus.

    This Lenten season has been the most eye-opening to me yet. I live the support I’ve received from your online bible study sessions and the Lenten reflections directed by fr. Barron. The two of you have given me strength that allows me to continue my spiritual journey for God as well as working on improving ny evangelistic journey as a Christian. God bless you!

  • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

    It has been about thirty years ago now…but I had a near death experience, in which I felt all these words that you have mentioned here…I was in the “dark”, saw my body and my husband and paramedics over me…and could not raise my hand to tell them I was okay…it was then I realized that things were “different” for me…I felt that I had my body…though I am sure now that it was a perfected body…I looked to the left and I “saw” all history in book form pass before me…when I turned around I saw this bright white light =so bright that I can not express it, coming towards me…I believed it to be Jesus…when He reached me, He bent down and filled me from my feet to my head with the most exquisite love that I can explain how much that was…He said, “Do my Will.” At that time I returned to my body, and I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital…they found nothing wrong with me…

    I can tell you, I feel Lazarus probably lived the rest of his life in a better way than it had been…and living each day as a precious blessing in itself…grateful for more days than he thought he would have, or could have had…I am just beginning to appreciate in a fuller way that experience…deepening my faith and relationship with Jesus even more than it has been before.

    God Comes

    God is wholly true and wise.
    He comes to us in Holy disguise.

    It may be that He is a nudge to our heart;
    Or causing it to leap with a flying start.

    Feelings are his Holy mode of presence.
    Love, hope, joy, and peace bring His essence.

    Come, O Lord, fill me with Your glory shone.
    That I might live for you, for you and you alone.

    • Arlene

      Beverly, that was truly awe inspiring. Thank you for sharing and your lovely poem

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        Three and a half years ago I opted to have very risky surgery. My doctors were advising against it. They were saying that in my condition I would surely die, With more treatment they felt that they could give nine months maybe a year. I believed the Drs. but I felt that I should at least try it as the Drs. could learn something if I did die. I made funeral arrangements before leaving. My daughter made arrangements with the airline company to convert my round trip ticket to flying the body home should I die. I recieved the last rites just before going in to surgery. When I was coming to I remember mumbling something about plea bargaining with St Peter. Then I heard my brother calling to me. What was my first thought “Oh C**p, I am going to have to go through this all again. I have since often wondered is that what Lazarus thought? How long did Lazarus live after Jesus called him from the dead? Was he perhaps a martyr?

    • That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us!