The three commands are these:
Take away the stone
Unbind him and let him go...
It is totally understandable that Martha does not want to remove the stone. She is thinking about the terrible smell of decay and about the public health risks – something to which we are having to pay great attention just now. But at the symbolic level, Jesus is telling us that new life cannot come to the places in our lives that are locked up in tombs unless we roll away the stones. In other words, we have to be willing to uncover our sin and our suffering to God, so that God can touch and heal us. This is true for each of us as an individual, but also true for our church and world. In this time of change and challenge we are being invited to take away the stones – the stones of bureaucracy, injustice, and hardness of heart – so that healing compassion can flow in.
Tombs can feel quite safe. When something is dead it is in some sense still in our control. We know what to do with dead – bury it, lament it, fossilize it. Life is much more scary and much more unpredictable than death. The challenge for all of us in these days is to discover how to let go and leave behind the selves and the things that have become entombed. We are being invited to new things, new ways of relating to each other, new priorities. We are being asked to step out of the tombs of the familiar and enter a new stage that is uncertain and that makes us feel perhaps insecure. In this circumstance we need to ask for the gift of faith to move forward into an unknown future.
Unbind Him and Let Him Go
This final command of Jesus shows that we need to help each other. We cannot easily unbind ourselves, even with the help of God. We need one another. This is why it is so important in these difficult days that we stay as closely connected with each other as possible. So, ring one another up or send a text message. Think about who in your family or immediate environs may be feeling lonely or isolated and find a safe way to reach out to them. I am slowly trying to create partnerships across our congregation for prayer and support. If you have not yet been matched with someone and would like to be, please be in touch by email or phone and I will try to make that happen as soon as I can.
Above all remember that Jesus is all about new life here and now. So, ask Jesus for the gift of life, and ask to be shown how you may have more abundant life each and every day. I would love to hear how Jesus is bringing new life to you at the moment, so please give me a call or send me an email as we travel through these days together. In the name of Christ. Amen.
by Penny Jones, for Passion Sunday/5th Sunday in Lent, Sunday 29 March 2020