In John 11, Martha is standing with her sister Mary near the tomb where they recently buried their brother Lazarus. They had sent word to Jesus when Lazarus was sick, but nothing happened. Moments passed. Days went by. Grave clothes were gathered. The funeral attended. The case closed. Lazarus is four days dead, in fact, he is decaying, when Jesus arrives on the scene.
Jesus stands among the mourners and is deeply moved. He is troubled in spirit. And he weeps. Then, he surprises everyone. He puts a hinge in the atmosphere. A door handle on things. “Take away the stone,” Jesus says. He is referring to the stone that is sealing the entrance to Lazarus’s grave.
What? The grievers wonder. That’s crazy, they begin to think. Martha speaks up, saying what’s on many minds. “But Lord, by this time there is a strong odor.” Or in other words, “But Lord, this will not be pleasant.” But Lord, what’s the point? But Lord, too much time has passed. But Lord, we were just getting used to life as it has turned out. But Lord… don’t get our hopes up.
Jesus replies, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” There’s a collective silence. A pause. A possible shift in thinking. The glory of God? Did he say we would see the glory of God? In this situation? The hinge might be used. The door handle reached for…
“So they took away the stone,” the Bible says.
And when they did, Jesus called through the opening they made, and did something miraculous. He did what only he can do. He commanded that dead thing, the dead man, to live.
Who stepped forward and moved that gravestone? Who stepped back and said, “I’m not touching that thing, you do it”? Why didn’t Jesus move the stone himself? And would Jesus have done the miracle, had the people not obeyed? I wonder about these things. And I wonder what this story means for me.
I think it means that what I thought was over, might not be over. I think it means I should be looking for hinges and door handles– listening for that strange and awkward (yet clear and unmistakable) command of God. I think it means I should be ready to move a stone. Because a miracle awaits.
What have you prayed about and grieved over? What grave are you standing near? Are you a stone mover?
Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 NIV