In these dark days of January, I have an intense desire to hibernate, to withdraw from the world, to wrap myself in a cocoon of sleep and oblivion. It is the time of year when I struggle to ward off the demons of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and general dark turns of mind. Contemplating John’s Gospel story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I imagine Lazarus, carefully laid in the dark and quiet cave, wrapped in his burial shroud, sleeping the sleep of the dead.
What if, in the time leading up to his death, Lazarus was in the winter of his soul, where he longed for deliverance from his despair and suffering, freedom from the worries that tormented him? If this were the case, maybe Lazarus was truly resting in peace in his tomb, death a welcome reprieve from a hard life.
What then must Lazarus have felt when suddenly awakened by Jesus, summoned to walk among the living? What raced through his mind in the moments between when he heard Jesus cry, “Lazarus, come out!” and when he emerged from his tomb? Did Lazarus, upon hearing Jesus, feel bewildered, confused, and terrified at the prospect of living again? Did he want to stay safely sleeping in his tomb, undisturbed and left alone?
While we will never know what Lazarus was thinking or feeling, we know that in those moments after Jesus has beckoned him, Lazarus takes an amazing leap of faith and chooses life over death. In response to Jesus’ call, he wakes up, stands up, and walks out of that cave towards the light, his loved ones and his Lord. There he stands in his disheveled bands of linen cloth, still bound by his vulnerability and fear, but alive, present and fully conscious of God’s presence.
I wonder what would happen if Jesus rang my doorbell in the dead of winter early on a Saturday morning when I am dead asleep in my warm bed after a long and exhausting week of work. Would I wake up, throw on some clothes and run downstairs to answer the door, or would I groan, turn over and put a pillow over my head?
I pray that like Lazarus, despite all my resistance, I would also take the leap of faith, open the door, and embrace the loving presence of God in my life and the world around me. During this Lenten season, I pray that we all may become conscious of what separates us from the love of God and that we may awaken to Jesus’ call to resurrection at all times and all places, even in the dead of winter.
— Gwynn Crichton