32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep.36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
What a week. It has been one filled with conversations, gatherings, and some surprises. On Monday, I was surprised by visitors to the campus of our church. Folks from a predominantly Black church that are looking for a new place to have worship space. While they were here, the organ was being tuned. As I was showing them the sanctuary, one of the persons, their worship leader, started to sing in perfect pitch with the person tuning the organ…it was spontaneous, organic, and powerful. In that moment, some life sprung back within me.
On Monday, I was feeling tired. Woke up with a stopped up head, and maybe even a stopped up heart. I needed some life in these dry bones of mine.
Our gospel lesson this morning talks about how Jesus is moved, deeply and seeing life brought back into dry bones. He is on his way to visit Mary and Martha and their family. He’s close to these folks. On the way, Mary comes to him. Mary is the one who paid close attention to Jesus’ words, her sister was the one who chastised her for not doing work. Yet, she knew there was something about Jesus that moved her towards deep friendship, deep relationship with Jesus.
So, Mary comes out to meet Jesus and tells him that her brother Lazarus has died. At first she tells him that if he had come earlier, he could have healed Lazarus, she knew that Jesus had power. Yet, she had accepted the reality of death, she had closed off possibilities.
Jesus sees her weeping and the other folks weeping. He’s deeply moved. The Greek phrases in this passage don’t quite give an accurate picture of what Jesus was feeling. He was moved, but he was also frustrated, even angry according to many commentators. But, what was he angry about?
I believe he was angry at a world where death reigned, where there was no hope, where folks were not willing to believe in the deeper possibilities, that folks simply didn’t get it but went about their lives without imaginative hope. They didn’t think life could come back to dust…to dry bones.
Yes, Jesus is also aching for his friend Lazarus and for Mary and her family. Jesus even weeps himself. He is affected by this loss personally, they shared life together, he was moved by the love that was present with these friends. The language used in this passage denotes that Jesus was so moved physically, that it affected him deeply. Instead of holding it in, Jesus lets it out. He weeps, he feels, he empathizes, but then he moves into action.
People around him remark on his emotion and how he loved Lazarus, but they don’t see the depth of his love and desire for folks to see that where this is no hope, where folks have accepted an outcome, that God may have different ideas, different possibilities.
So, he tells those standing around to take away the stone. Mary protests, saying that this body will stink! Jesus reminds her that if she believes, then she will experience God’s glory. Jesus is asking her, did you listen to me? Did you not see all of the things I have done? Did you not love me as I have loved you? My love is a love of possibility.
They rolled away the stone, Jesus looks to his father…this prayer reminds those of us reading that Jesus and the Father, the creator of life, are one…and that he’s one with Lazarus They are in deep community, deep relationship, they deeply hear each other…and that Jesus has been sent out of that relationship.
Then Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Come out of the grave, rise up, come out of the darkness into the light of day, MOVE, show yourself! Don’t wallow in the grave, but get up! Bring life back into those dead bones.
Lazarus, the dead guy, comes out of the grave. He’s bound still by the cloths, he can’t see, one cloth covers his eyes. He may have stunk a bit as well, but Jesus says there is a new reality, a new possibility, take off his grave clothes and let him go!
Friends, Jesus not only heals, he resurrects. This man is dead and decaying, yet, with words from Jesus mouth of hope and life, he is brought back to life, and not just any life, but life filled with possibility and imagination.
We may be hearing this story and thinking, well, I’ve been to funerals and I haven’t seen anything like this before. That’s probably true, but the point of this story is that where we see and experience death, God sees possibility and with God, all things are possible. We may be dead on the inside, but Jesus is calling us to life and wants those around us to loosen the grave clothes and to have release!
So often, we feel like we want to bind others and oursleves, we want to limit possibilities or we fail to see that the impossible can happen. We are quick to say this can’t happen in my life, in others lives, or in our lives together. Or, we, like Mary, limit ourselves by not going far enough in what could happen. We do not see the possibility of new life. Yet, God is moving, and God is deeply moved with our pain and wants us to believe that with God, anything is possible.
Friends, this is true in our lives and in our church. We may think we’re almost dead, that we need to something before we die, yet God is saying that there are deeper possibilities at work. God is saying to us death is not the final answer. God is calling us out of the grave, to be loosened of whatever binds us, to believe that we can have a new story written that gives life to us and to those around us.
This is a story of resurrection and as the body of Christ, as the church, we bear witness to this new life, this new story, by remembering what Jesus has done for us, and to believe and be moved, even as we move into the final days of Lent and into Easter, may life spring up in us, even if we feel like we are dried up, let us remember that we are resurrection people!