“Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 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.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 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.’” (Jn 11: 38-44)
The resurrection of Lazarus is similar, in some ways, to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was “a cave, and a stone,” and a “dead man came out…” But in the case of Lazarus’s resurrection, the Lord enlists our help, the help of Lazarus’s community, telling them to “Take away the stone” and to “Unbind him.” Because all of us, like Lazarus, need the help of our community, the Church, to embrace new life in Him, whereas He, as the Source of Life, did not need our help to overcome death. We also need His empowering word to “take away the stone” and the “strips of cloth” for one another, which is the kind of doubt expressed by Martha in the passage above, “Lord, already there is a stench…”
As we enter this Holy and Great Week of His passion and resurrection, together, let me be carried into it both by His life-giving word, and by my church-community. He empowers us, by His word and presence at the beautiful services of the upcoming Great Week, to “take away the stone” and “strips of cloth” from our hearts, for one another, as we gather for these services, regardless of the long-standing “stench” or other obstacles we may have accumulated in a less-than-perfect Lent.