Aloha Friday Message – March 27, 2020 – Turn him loose!

2013AFC032720 – Turn him loose!  

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    John 11:43-44 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.”

May Peace always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd!  We are already at the fifth Friday of Lent, and this coming Sunday the Gospel is about Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. The account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is powerfully emotionally and spiritually. This family was one of Jesus’ favorites. You can tell by the intimacy he enjoyed there that Jesus loved this trio of believers. It was Mary who anointed Jesus feet with fragrant spikenard ointment and dried his feet with her hair just six days before his Passion and Crucifixion, and this act prefigured his donning a towel and washing the feet of the apostles on that holy might. Jesus was at their house often, and perhaps they had known each other since before he began his ministry. We can imagine how these three people lived in their home in Bethany. There is no mention of other family or parents. Bethany was close to the Mount of Olives. Jesus passed through there on his way to Jerusalem more than once. It was near Bethany that the Disciples witnessed his Ascension. These three, then, were people Jesus really, really cared about. He loved them in a very special way.

Around the time of this event in Jesus’ life, there was a strong movement among some of the people to capture him and kill him. His Apostles, Disciples, and other friends were very concerned about these constant threats on his life. Jesus knew about the threats, and he also knew how it would all turn out, he knew what would ultimately happen to him near Bethany, in the Garden of Olivet. He knew what had happened to Lazarus, too; despite knowing all the pain associated with that knowledge – Lazarus was dead and Jesus would soon be crucified – Jesus stayed with his mission of teaching and healing. When someone tracked him down to tell him about Lazarus, Jesus told them, “He is only sleeping.” They took that to mean Lazarus was resting and getting better. He told them point-blank that Lazarus had died, but his death would not be the end of the story or his life. Finally he says he will go to his friends’ house so that he can demonstrate God’s power and will. That’s when one of my favorite Bible characters pops into view again. Here’s the passage.

John 11:1-45 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  Thomas fascinates me! He always seems to be a beat behind, or maybe he was just a strong pessimist, “Oh, well, if we’re going to Bethany, we’re all gonna die!” Then again, he might have been the bravest one in the bunch, ready to die with his Master and friend. Later on (John 14:5), Jesus is telling them – in the Last Discourse, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. You know where I’m going. I’ll come back and get you.” Thomas pops up again and says, “How can we know where you are going? We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” And of course Thomas is most famous for saying, “I won’t believe he’s back until I see him for myself.” Thomas wasn’t in the Cenacle – the Upper Room – when Jesus first appeared to the 11 after his resurrection, and so he got stuck with the moniker “Doubting Thomas.” Odd that he should doubt Jesus was resurrected because he had been a witness to the resurrection of Lazarus. He stood there with Jesus, Mary and Martha, and all the other mourners as Jesus, his heart stirred emotion and tears in his eyes, and he shocked them all with what he said. You will remember the shortest verse in the Bible – John 11:35 35 Jesus wept.

John 11:38  38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

    John 11:43-44 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.”  Lazarus! Be alive! (↔ Music Link)

Everybody there went, “What?!?! It is not a good idea to move that stone. It’s going to smell really bad, and … you don’t really want to do that now. You should have come a week ago when he got sick and you could have healed him, but now, it’s too late. He’s rotting away in his grave.” Jesus must have given them quite a look before he turned toward the tomb where Lazarus had been placed. He told Martha straight out, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Somebody, maybe several people, maybe even Thomas (although there’s no way to know for sure who moved the stone) had the courage to lift that stone out of the way. Then The Moment:

Lazarus was resuscitated and came out of the tomb all wrapped up in the trappings of death. He came out to new life. He came out to fresh air, sunshine, solid ground, and within a short time – a few weeks, perhaps more – he and Jesus may have been reclining at the table enjoying a feast prepared by Martha and the household would be rejoicing in the presence of the Risen Lord.

Jesus’ tender sympathy for these friends shows us the very human side of his person. His heart is deeply moved, and he groans inwardly because of their pain. He joins them in shedding tears, but he is also hearing the cries of the mourners and sees the impact the loss of Lazarus has on this tiny community of Bethany. Together they had shared in the joys of life, in the happiness of Jesus’ visits, and now they shared in the mourning, weeping, and immense sorrow of these two sisters who had lost their beloved brother, a brother who had entertained Jesus in his home. In fact, these sisters hoped and prayed that they would be reunited with their brother. They just did not expect it to happen that day!

Some of the bystanders had insinuated that if Jesus could make the blind see, he could sure have gotten here in time to save Lazarus’ life. Jesus actions deliberately counter that idea. He gave the something much more powerful that a healing to talk about. He gave them a resurrection in broad daylight in front of many witnesses.

So let’s get to the two main points here. For whatever reason we doubt God’s love or Jesus saving power, he is always ready and able to exceed all our expectations. Whether we go to our death with him is from bravery or loyalty or from a sincere fatalism that recognizes our frailty, if we die with him we shall rise with him. And when we rise with him he will take us where has prepared a place for us. But we need to respond when he calls.

First, take away the stone! The stone in front of your tomb. Move it! Yes, you probably need help getting that thing out of your way. That’s the purpose of an Examination of Conscience – you understand that rock that’s imprisoning you in darkness. Let God and his helpers take away whatever it is you are hiding behind, whatever it is that keeps you in your tomb of death, and step out to meet your Lord in the Light of his Word. He calls you to come away from the death of flesh to be alive in Spirit, alive in your Creator, your King, your Saviour, or as Thomas put it so well, “My Lord and my God!” Come away from the death of sin and come alive, renewed, revived, and resurrected from your former self. Shed the wrappings of death, and the stench of decay.  Listen with your ears and listen with your heart. Strip away the things that bind you to your death. Take away the stone! He is calling you.

Second, loosen that funeral garb, throw it away, and be free. Loosen and discard the things that stop you from walking into his Light, his Everlasting Life. Be freed of the trappings of death. Here again, you can get help from others, especially through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Penance. We can all help each other get loosed from our sins. Turn on that little movie theater screen in your mind and watch Lazarus and his friends and relatives pulling away those bonds of death. Can you envision how totally joyous and totally blown away they all were in that moment? In which would you rather be wrapped: The shroud of death or the arms of Life? In which would you rather reside: In the darkness of death or the brilliant Light of Life? Jesus is commanding you, commanding me, commanding us to turn loose of sin and death and embrace Life and Light. Why would we want anything less than that?

“Beloved, come forth!”

Get past the stone. Shed the trappings of death (your sins). Rise up. Go to him. Live. YOLOF!!

PUUUHLEEZ! Remember that your local church still has to pay the bills too.

Donate regularly online if you can.

Write your checks and put them in donation envelope(s)

to take with you when churches reopen.

Be kind to your Pastor and their family members.

Share-A-Prayer

Pray for each other, Beloved. Your sweet prayers have changed many a life.

  • Pray for all the oppressed, and those suffering from all the disasters that have swept the world. Do everything you can to help them in every way you can.
  • Pray for an end to this COVID-19 VIRUS epidemic, and especially pray for everyone who is infected that they will recover, and pray for those that have died that they will taste God’s Mercy.
  • Pray for the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the addicted – then go help them!
  • Pray for peace, and let it begin with you.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —

at your service, Belovéd!

Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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