The stories passed down from generation to generation had taught them that the soul leaves the body three days after death occurs. I don't know why. But Lazarus had been dead now for four days--long enough that his soul must have departed. And here came Jesus, four days late to save His dearest friend, having assured His disciples that the illness that plagued Lazarus would not end in death. Even the sisters of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, had given up hope; Lazarus was dead and his body was rotting in the tomb, behind the rock that had been rolled in front.
Did you ever wonder what the purpose was for the rock? The tomb is for the dead; there is no reason to lock a dead man in the tomb. If it is to keep grave robbers out, well, we know that rocks can be moved by the living and that anything can happen in the dark.
At His calling, the rock was rolled away from the tomb of Lazarus and, then, Jesus did the unbelievable. Calling His friend, whose soul must have already left the body, whose body had begun to give off a foul smell, Jesus claimed authority no man had ever claimed. Speaking through His own tears, Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." Notice, Jesus did not go into the tomb; there could be no sorcery. His voice was enough to change the course of history. "Lazarus, come out." And the dead man rose from the stone where his body lay and, still bound in the wrappings of the dead, emerged from the tomb before a crowd of disbelieving witnesses.
There are still many who doubt His authority, this man, Jesus. Some are atheists, some agnostics, some committed to other faiths. But many--truly, many--call themselves Christians and, yet, doubt the authority of Jesus. They seem to fall into two categories, these "Christian" doubters: one group just cannot believe that Jesus (or, perhaps, anyone) could love them so much that He would bring such wisdom, such power and such love to a relationship with a sin-filled human being; the others want to limit Jesus--to limit the authority of Jesus in order to claim greater authority for themselves. Thus, this second group affords Jesus the chance to be a Savior of those who "accept" his invitation, but not so much a leader of those who might follow His teachings. Make no mistake; to rely on Jesus as Savior is essential to the life of a Christian, but to follow Jesus wherever He leads us is no less the necessity for a life lived in His grace.
Life is to be lived in Jesus' grace; it is not merely for us to wait until our own deaths to come to know Him. Instead, we may listen for His voice wherever and whenever we find ourselves trapped behind a heavy rock--the rock of despair or the rock of depression or the rock of addiction or any of the other rocks that have the ability to trap us in this life and to hide us from love. We may listen; we are taught to listen. I urge you to listen. For His voice is already calling you, "Child, come out."
Come out, and live!
We Can Hope (even in the darkest of circumstances).