The call came in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day. Sandy picked up the phone. The caller was clearly upset and wanted to make herself understood. “Are you Mrs. Henderson?” Sandy tried to understand what was being said as she was told that her husband of 32 years had been rushed to the hospital, and she needed to get there quickly. No details were given, but Sandy knew, from the tone of the caller’s voice, that it couldn’t be good. She tried to reach her two adult children, but had no luck. As she rounded the corner to the emergency room, she was met by a team of medical staff accompanied by the hospital chaplain. Mike had died of a massive heart attack. Sandy was too late for any goodbyes.
The funeral was exactly what Mike would have wanted. The choir sang beautifully, and the music was moving. Family and friends gathered around to pay their respects and offer their support to Sandy and the kids. Her son Jeffrey, now 28 years old, was having a hard time holding it together. Jeffrey was not only grieving the loss of his dad, but was also painfully aware that his latest drug charges would soon cost him his freedom. This day was a mix of grief over his father’s untimely death and regret over the direction of his life.
The next few months were filled with trying to help Jeffrey. Sandy got back to her job, which filled her days. Evenings and weekends were spent trying to help Jeffrey mount a legal defense to his latest drug-related crime. A dear friend had talked her out of taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay for a private attorney for Jeffrey. Ultimately, Jeffrey went to prison for 36 months, followed by treatment for his addiction. She had done what she could, and now God had to take care of the rest.
Sandy had buried her grief over Mike’s death. It seemed impossible to mourn the loss of her husband and focus on her son at the same time. So Sandy chose to handle her son’s crisis. Grief doesn’t remain still while life goes on, but instead gets buried deep in the heart. She had buried her grief where she thought it would never be found. Sandy was wrong. Her grief came back in waves almost a year after Mike had died.
In our gospel story this weekend, Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus dies. Mary and Martha are heartbroken. How could Jesus allow their brother to die? Jesus prays to the Father to raise his friend from the dead. He shouts, “Lazarus, come out.” As Lazarus emerges from the tomb, casting off his burial cloths, Jesus says, “Untie him and let him go.”
Like Sandy, many of us bury our “Lazarus” in the tomb of our heart. For Sandy, it was the pain of her husband’s untimely death and the guilt she felt about not being with him when he died. You and I may bury painful memories or shameful experiences that we choose not to bring into the light of day. Like Lazarus, these difficult things hold us bound in a tomb of sadness, grief and despair.
Martha and Mary knew that Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew that in raising Lazarus, he was building the faith of those who would witness this miracle. Jesus also has the power to help us raise our “Lazarus” and set free that which is bound up in our hearts, so that we can receive fully all that Jesus longs to give us.
Jesus knew what he was going to do when he arrived in Bethany that day. Martha and Mary were caught up in the grief and sadness they felt that Jesus was not there when they needed him. Martha and Mary allowed Jesus to take their pain, and placing all their trust in Him, their brother was miraculously raised from the dead.
What “Lazarus” do you and I need Jesus to raise for us? What painful life event have we buried in the depths of our hearts, hoping that it would just go away? As we approach our celebration of the Resurrection, let’s ask Jesus to bring to light those things that are held in the darkest places of our hearts. Just as he did for Lazarus, Jesus can raise these painful memories from the darkness and bring them into His light where they can be healed. Jesus says “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Those of us who believe in Him must never fear the darkness. Jesus, the Light of the World, conquers even death!
“Lazarus, come out!”
In Christ who heals,