Fifth Sunday of Lent
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days… Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." John 11:17, 39-44
There’s a popular dating term in our culture called the ‘rebound’. When someone is having a hard time moving on after the loss of a romantic relationship (via death or breakup), many advise the mourner to go find a ‘rebound’, to quickly jump to a new person so they can be distracted by the fun of someone new. While moving on quickly often brings relief, it tends to be temporary. The truth is, until we’ve properly mourned the past, we can’t move on to the future. We have to dig down into the mess, uncover the emotions we’re attempting to bury deep, and bring them to the surface. Only after properly confronting our pain can we find true healing.
Lent is our season to return to God. As I’ve said often, to return to God, we need healthy self-reflection. It takes time to filter through the tangled mesh of dirt inside our lives and our souls. Thank God we have 40 days to do it.
We’re now over halfway through our Lenten journey. It is time for us to begin taking large strides toward a healthy relationship with God, a life of real discipleship. And yet many of us, like Lazarus, remain tied up. We’re still inside the tomb. We’re not ready because something has a hold on us and is not letting go. Maybe it’s a sinful demeanor we’ve lived with for so long, we don’t even notice anymore or are unable to consciously articulate. Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves it is part of our personality and should not be fought. For others it may be a relationship, a habit we’ve gotten into at work, the way we speak to our family members, an addiction that we’re not ready to admit.
Jesus begins by saying, “Take away the stone”. Open up your heart. Discern within yourself what is holding you back from falling in Jesus’ arms. What is holding you back from running free? What is keeping you tied up so that you are unable to follow Jesus freely? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to free you from that burden?
One of my favorite lines repeated throughout Scripture is ‘arise’. Jesus repeats it over and over again: “Arise, let’s go.” “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.” “Arise, go show yourself to the leaders.” Here Jesus says practically the same thing to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” And he repeats his command to you. Come out. Arise. Come out from the tomb that has become your home for too long. Come out from the darkness and enter into the light. Come out and see a community of people waiting for you. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “There’s no time to sit and wallow anymore. Arise. We’ve got work to do.”
Jesus’ final command is, “Untie him and let him go.” Today ask God to untie you from the sin, the relationship, the worry, the negativity, the habit, the demeanor, the addiction that holds you hostage. Whatever it is, it’s time to untie it. It’s past time. He has come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) And didn’t you know? He has the power to make all things new. (Rev. 21:5) Surrender your ropes and let Him untie you.
I don’t know what is keeping you tied up this Lent, this year, this season of your life, but my prayer for you this week is that you will let it go. Hand it over to Jesus who is ready to come in and begin untying those knots. And if you’re unsure if anything is keeping you tied up in that tomb, contemplate if it may be arrogance. We all can find more to untie in our life: our egos, our lofty expectations of others, our negativity, our impatience, our addictions, our arrogance, our lack of gratitude, our indifference, our judgments on others. It is easy to compartmentalize our shortcomings and our daily life, but our interactions with God and others revolve around and depend so heavily on these hidden weaknesses. It’s time we uncover these shortcomings so we can allow ourselves not to depend on them, but on God.
Take away the stone, ask God to untie you, arise and come out.