The emphasis in today’s gospel story is on how we cooperate with God performing a miracle through practical obedience... In other words, by doing His will.
To perform the miracle, Jesus issues three commands and all of them are obeyed to the letter. That is how the miracle happens.
First, “Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’ … So they rolled away the stone” (verses 39-41). Did the people understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse? You bet they didn’t. But it was their faith in Jesus expressing itself not through intellectual agreement with Jesus but through practical agreement with him, through obedience. Why didn’t Jesus command the stone to roll away all by itself, without bothering the people? We don’t quite know. All we know is that divine power seems always to be activated by human cooperation and stifled by non-cooperation. As C.S. Lewis said, “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures.” God will not do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.
The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “‘Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” (verses 43-44). All we know is that Jesus’ word of command is followed by immediate obedience. Lazarus gropes his way out of the dark tomb even with his hands and feet tied up in bandages, and his face all wrapped up. Even a man rotting away in the tomb can still do something to help himself.
The third command again is addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (verse 44). Even though Lazarus could stumble himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them.
Many Christian individuals and communities today have fallen victim to the death of sin. Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes. Nothing short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ. Jesus is ready for the miracle. He himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Are we ready to cooperate with him for the miracle. Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death? Are we ready to unbind one another and let them go free? These are the various ways we cooperate with God in the miracle of bringing us back to life and reviving us as individuals, as a family, as a church, and as a nation.
Heavenly Father, I know that you give us only what is good and that you are paternally guiding us home to you. I trust in your mercy and love. In return I offer you my love, though it is so weak and stained by my egotism. Here I am, Lord, ready to listen to you and to respond with all my heart to your will.
Lord, let me come to you! In the world there is darkness and obscurity, but you are the light. You are the light of the world. Whoever follows you will never walk in darkness. Lord, light my way!