The lyrics of the song, "Please release me, let me go.." (thank you Tom Jones) have been bouncing around my mind all week. I've been pondering on the practical and spiritual meaning of the story of Lazarus and what it means to be "untied" from things that bind or hold people back.
Later this weekend, I will be sharing a children's message based on the reading in John 11, concerning the death of Lazarus. I know the story and I'm pretty sure that we shared it with the kids at VBS a few years ago, but I'd like to be careful in how it's presented. This Sunday is All Saints Sunday, it was just Halloween - and as much as I like the fun of Halloween, I don't want the account of Lazarus and Jesus to sound like another spooky story.
The more I read this account, the more I'm struck on how Jesus walks into a situation of grief, experiences that grief, and takes action to release his friends and himself from it. The words that I keep getting stuck on are as follows, " Take of the grave clothes and let him go."
Lazarus had died, true. Jesus raises him, true. But when it comes to being freed to take his first Resurrected steps, Jesus asks Lazarus' friends and family to help.
"Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Shortly after this account, the timeline on Jesus own arrest, crucifixion and Resurrection speed up. In fact, it seems that some of the expediency of his own death comes as a result of his actions to assist Lazarus and his family. Stunning, isn't it? While Lazarus' resurrection was not eternal, like Jesus. The act of resurrection was something that caused so much upset, that Jesus was targeted for execution.
All this talk of death, does not make for an easy children's message, but here in lies a theme that will be suitable to their, and their parents ears...
Jesus wants to set us free from the things that tie us up, in this life and beyond. Just as Jesus set Lazarus free from death and his family free from grief; he invited them to help in at action of "letting go" and moving into a new or resurrected way of living - now!
"Take off the grave clothes and let _____ go."
I suppose it could be said, that we all wear "grave clothes" of one sort or another. Instead of looking at life a opportunity, we can always think of the limitations. The negative can often overshadow the positive. However, in this lesson, Jesus overcomes all that, and then asks people to help remove the grave clothes and "let him go".
In the simple act of asking for people's help; maybe Jesus assigns some resurrection responsibility to us? Could it be, that people have the ability, with God's help, to remove some grave clothes (limitations, negativity, apathy) and help to free others to live a new life that is full of opportunity, positivism and care?
Putting it simply, what things make you and those you care about feel "tied up"? How might Jesus be asking us to help try on some new clothes and be freed up to live?
Jesus took a great deal of risk in reaching out to resurrect Lazarus and invite others into living new lives. I think that risk, along with the repercussions that came afterward for him are a reminder of God's great love for people, and a reminder to work together for freedom and life.
So, in response to this message, I say to myself just as I share it with others:
Put on some new duds. Let go. Live. - and help others to do the same.
"Take off the grave clothes and let ________ go."
JOHN 11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up(AS) and said, “Father,(AT) I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,(AU) that they may believe that you sent me.”(AV)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”(AW) 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen,(AX) and a cloth around his face.(AY)
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”