How would we respond to seeing Lazarus emerge from the tomb? I had never considered what my response would have been until a friend stated that if she’d been there the passage in John 11 would have said “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face…and Teresa ran.”
I laughed. Then I thought about it. My tendency is to be a doubter. It’s possible I might have been standing there in awkward and uncomfortable silence, feeling sorry for Jesus because He was about to look really silly when nothing happened. I mean, Lazarus had been dead for four days.
I love and believe in miracles. I am grateful for the ones I've seen happen in my own life. But even so, if I saw a dead person come up out of the grave, the story would read “…and Lori ran.” Screaming.
But how about the other side of that? When I have to let go of someone, let them slide into the cold, abysmal darkness of the tomb, so that Jesus can do what He needs to do with them? The tomb of sinful living, the tomb of disobedience to God, the tomb of pride or greed?
As Christians, we never want to turn our backs on someone who needs our help.
But when those people become anchors—dead weights—that keep us hovering at the edge of the shadows as we try to reach into the darkness and save them, we need to know that is not God’s will for us. We must cut those ties by releasing them to God.
Thankfully, cutting ties is not the same as abandoning them.
Martha placed Lazarus in the tomb but continued to cry out to Jesus in faith. And she did it from outside the tomb. Martha remained in the light praying, not sitting in the dark keeping the dead company while waiting.
She couldn’t hold onto her dead brother, hold him back from the tomb. The smell of death and decay would have started to wreak havoc on her life while she waited on Jesus to do what only He can do—resurrect a life.
Like Martha, sometimes we must turn loose of people who are dear to us so that Jesus can do what He needs to do. And so the smell of death doesn’t rub off on us.
Once we have given someone to God, we will be free to step into the light and pray for them in righteousness. The bible then tells us the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (see James 5:16).
If we hold on to things in our life that keep us from walking in a manner worthy of the gospel—even if by doing so we hope to pull another from the darkness—we cannot be righteous in our prayers. And sooner or later, the smell of death and decay will start clinging to us as well.
It’s not easy. And it is certainly not painless. There are people in my life that I have or am still going through this with. Don’t think I’ve never had the thoughts that if I had just prayed harder or sooner or better, Jesus would have come, and my Lazarus would not have had to go to the grave.
But Jesus tells me to have faith, to trust, to believe.
"Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?'" (John11:40).
It is noteworthy to also remember that Lazarus had to be allowed to go to the grave before Jesus could do what He needed to do with him.
And it was all so those who beheld—that includes you and me—might see the glory of God.