Today’s Lesson is from John 11:43
“When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
Jesus is more than a day’s journey away from his friend Lazarus’ town Bethany in Judea when he gets word from Lazarus’s sisters that Lazarus is ill. Jesus does not seem alarmed. “This sickness is not unto death,” he says. Jesus then stays where he is for two more days.
But after two Jesus says to his disciples that they must now go to Judea because Lazarus has died. This is odd. Didn’t Jesus say the sickness was not unto death? And couldn’t Jesus just say the word and Lazarus would be healed from far off – just as Jesus was able to heal from great distance on other occasions? “This sickness is not unto death,” Jesus says, “but rather for God’s glory.” Did Jesus want Lazarus to do so that he could then later raise him up?
These questions troubled me for many years until a longer course in life began helped me to see what is going on in the story more clearly.
In these years of ministry I have seen many men hiding in deep tombs of guilt and shame. They feel they cannot come out lest the darkness of their lives be exposed. The thought of their deepest secrets coming to light terrifies them. As St. John says elsewhere, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” It is a spiritual death – though some I have known have taken their secrets into physical death also. They would rather die in the darkness of their secrets than live with the truth of them coming to light.
These experiences make me think Lazarus is a man in hiding. Lazarus, like Adam before him and like all men (and women), has fallen in darkness and is now hiding from the light. This explains why Jesus says cryptically, “[T]hose who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” Lazarus has walked in the darkness and stumbled. And it explains why Jesus had to go to Bethany of Judea. Jesus, the light, could not reach and heal Lazarus in his far away darkness. Jesus wanted to; but Lazarus would not allow it. Instead, the light had to come to the darkness because the darkness was afraid to come into the light.
It is significant that Jesus chooses to come to Judea. It signals the beginning of the end for Jesus. He will never again leave Judea, but will be arrested, tried, and executed there. Jesus knows this. He knows what will happen to him. He knows his life will be ransomed for Lazarus. He loved Lazarus that much.
For those living in the darkness and shame of secrets I want to tell you that Jesus loves us you that much also. He loves you enough to come and enter into your darkness and to die there so that you might come out and live in his light. This is the meaning redemption. Jesus comes to die in our world of secrets and darkness that we might live in his truth and light.
And for those who have lost loved ones to this death of secrets and shame, those who like Lazarus’s sisters sit outside weeping at the tombs of their loved ones, I want to tell you that this death is not the final word. It is not the end. God will not allow it to be the end. This is why Jesus comes to tomb – because in love the light enters into the darkness of death and the darkness cannot overcome it. This is the meaning of resurrection. And as Jesus says to one of Lazarus’s sisters outside her brother’s tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, shall live.” You have called on Jesus to come and heal your loved one. And though they would not allow themselves to be fully healed in life, now Jesus has come near to heal even in death.
Believe in Jesus. Believe in his life and the way he lived it. Believe in his mercy and his love. Believe in his light. Believe that there is more life in him than there is death in you or your loved one.
And when the light enters into the darkest and most secreted corners of your own life and calls you by name, come out. Come into the light and find life.