Let me rewind a bit in the Lazarus story. To the point where Jesus goes with Mary and Martha to the tomb where Lazarus is buried. There’s a whole group of friends gathered around, grieving with the sisters.
And Jesus grieves, too. Most translations say that “Jesus wept.” One translation says, “He burst into tears.”
That’s what you’d expect a friend to do at a graveside service. But then Jesus does something unexpected.
“Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” John 11:39 (NIV)
Okay, so there’s a stone blocking the entrance of the tomb. Jesus tells the people to remove it. Martha objects, understandably so. Lazarus’ body has been in the tomb four days, in the middle eastern heat. You don’t want to open the tomb. It will stink. And really, there’s no point. He’s dead. Four days past the point of no return. You can’t do anything about that.
Oh, but he can.
Jesus convinces them to open up the tomb. And then he calls into the tomb—“Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus comes out. Still wrapped up in the grave clothes, but very much alive. And all that’s left is to unwrap the guy and take him home to dinner.
Here’s the thing: God is in constant pursuit of life, of transformation, of resurrection. And because of that, he is constantly challenging us to open up any part of our hearts that might stink of death and give him access. Give him room to resurrect what’s dead.
You know what? It would have been improper for Martha to expose a decaying corpse. It would have been embarrassing to take that risk in front of the crowd that was gathered. It would have been amazingly difficult to trust this Jesus who had just let her down. And forget opening the tomb for a minute—it would have been wrenching to open her heart to allow even a hint of hope back in.
I’m most of the time reluctant to let Jesus into the dead parts of my heart. To really let him have access to all the things I’m feeling. To all the stink I’ve kept closed up for so long. But you know what? Usually (after a fight), I get to the point where as scary as that is—it’s scarier to stay dead if there’s the possibility of resurrection, the possibility of transformation.
There’s this nagging question that flits around the corners of my mind: What if resurrection isn’t just something that Jesus did centuries ago, but something he does now? What if resurrection isn’t just a piece of Jesus’ history, but part of his character?
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” –John 11:25 (NIV)
Jesus says that he is the resurrection and the life. He IS. That means that he embodies resurrection—that in him is the power to bring life where there is death. And if we let Jesus anywhere near our lives, we dare not rule out the possibility that at any moment, Jesus may want to bring life and resurrection to something that is currently dead.
I’m not talking about the people who die in your life. Though I suppose God could do that. I’m not talking about God changing the outside circumstance that wounded your heart. He doesn’t always do that. I’m talking about him transforming your heart itself, whether or not the outside circumstances change.