Madison County, south of Des Moines, is my ancestral home. It’s far enough off I-35 that a visit requires either intentionality or spontaneity. For me it was the latter. Whim and memory coaxed me toward the exit less taken. As I approached the town of Truro, I saw the cemetery on a hill to my left, marked by one large evergreen. The plot was mercifully small. It took little time to locate the graves of my great grandparents and grandparents.
The solitary moments brought tears, not so much in grief over the long-departed but rather for the human condition generally, mine and yours. Life is brief. Our days, as the Psalmist says, are as grass. They flourish then wither. Lives once vibrant and productive are so soon marked by weathered stones in unkempt graveyards.
In the several days before his own death, Jesus visited a tomb. The stone was not a monument but a doorway, an entry that was about to become an exit. Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus would soon resuscitate his friend, thereby putting death on notice as to its own terminal condition. In Christ, death is not the last word. Tombstones are stepping stones.
In raising Lazarus, Jesus was fomenting a confrontation with the religious and political establishments that would soon lead to His own death. He was also foreshadowing His resurrection and those of all who believe in Him. Before speaking life back into Lazarus, He comforted the grieving sisters by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
In a loud voice Jesus called Lazarus forth. Lazarus could not raise himself. No, it took the Divine Presence and Word to raise him. But, after his decaying, stinking, grave-cloth-bound body was quickened in that cave, he did somehow squirm to his feet, stumbling to daylight. Jesus instructed the astonished crowd to “Unbind him and let him go.”
Each year, billions around the world will gather to observe the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. That’s a good thing. I hope you joined them to walk the way of the cross and empty tomb again. Be reminded that the resurrection means that all of this is more than ancient history and more than annual ritual. It is not just an invitation to an old graveyard, but also to a new life. We celebrate the resurrection because Jesus has spoken “come forth” over us too.
Jesus invites us from death to life now and forever. The death pall of our sin gives way to the dance of life He offers. The unsealed grave seals the deal. The tears are for joy. There’s likely not a Christian or a Christian church in your town that won’t introduce you to this new life. They’ll take you, grave clothes and all. Is Jesus shouting into your tomb? There is no better time to “come forth.”