By the time Jesus gets on the scene, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Buried in a tomb. The tomb sealed with a stone.
By the time Jesus gets on the scene, Lazarus has begun to stink. No wonder Martha and Mary chide Jesus about his tardiness. “Too little, too late,” they must think to themselves.
Jesus, seeing their grief and missing his friend begins to weep. No wonder—he loves them all.
We hear Jesus say, “Lazarus, come out.” And out he comes—out from that dead place deep inside the tomb. Out he comes–out from that dead place deep inside himself.
When Lazarus emerges from the tomb, Jesus says to those within earshot—Mary and Martha and their friends, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
This is the story of you and me and the person we mourn today, Jay.
This is the story of our families, our friends, and people we see on the street, for at one time or another in our lives, we are all Lazarus.* And at one time or another in our lives, we are the people standing by the tomb when Lazarus stumbles out.
I can imagine that at one time or another in the lives of most of us here, and in Jay’s life as well, there have been moments when we’ve felt sealed off, moments when nothing seems to reach us, moments when we’ve felt dead inside. Moments when we’ve longed for someone to say, “Come out,” with such a commanding voice that we must obey.
I can imagine that at one time or another in the lives of most of us here that we have felt all bound up by one thing or another—be it anger, fear, grief, loss, painful memories, old hurts, deep shame—the list goes on and on.
Listen to what Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go.” He’s talking to those around Lazarus—his friends, his neighbors and even those just passing on the road that day.
“Unbind him and let him go”—that’s the work of folks like you and me and our brother and friend Jay.. That’s the work we are called to do this day and every day. Some folks do it with a pat on a shoulder or a simple, “Hey—how are you doing?” Some folks do it through teasing. Some folks do it through words of forgiveness; others through words of truth. From the stories I’ve heard this week, our friend and brother, Jay Whitehorse, did his unbinding of others through humor, words of encouragement, curiosity, and, the doing of his art.
Perhaps you noticed the pieces of cloth draped on the cross. Perhaps you saw the words written on that cloth—frustration—loss—anger—grief—resentment—shame—fear—old hurts—addictions. Those words, those pieces of cloth are draped on the cross to remind us that in Jesus, those things that hold us in their grip, those things that kill our spirit, those things that put us in a tomb, lose their power over us. For in Jesus—death does not have the last word. Not for Lazarus, not for Jesus, not for Jay or for you or me or anyone here. That’s the promise of the Cross. A promise we can count on!
*Rev. Archie Smith Jr., PhD. Personal Communication. April 9, 2011.