The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ (John 11:44)
Lazarus had just died. Mourners were grieving. While some were sharing stories about the dead man, others were confused and grumbling about Jesus: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying” (11:37).
When Jesus finally did arrive on the scene, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, lamented: “Lord, if you had been here, [our] brother would not have died.” In these words, we can hear what they were actually saying: Jesus, why weren’t you here when our brother most needed you?
Jesus listened to their grief. He heard the people crying. He saw the tomb where Lazarus lay. He wept.
And then Jesus acted by calling Lazarus out of the tomb. The lifeless body responded, and Lazarus came shuffling forward. But more work needed to be done. After Jesus had called forth Lazarus, He called for others to help: “Unbind him and let him go.”
Just as Jesus wanted those mourners to unbind Lazarus, so He also wants us to unbind each other from the impeding issues or hindering challenges that can be wrapped around our minds, hearts, souls, and lives.
How can we unbind each other? Words of encouragement. Words of forgiveness. Words of love. So can a hand on the shoulder, or simply sitting with someone. So can praying with someone, visiting someone in the hospital, or reading scripture together. So can calling out the best in someone who’s tempted to give up. Every time we share Jesus with someone, we can be unbinding the clothes of despair, loneliness, or fear.
Just as Jesus encouraged the crowds to unbind Lazarus, so He also encourages us to do the same. When Jesus sees us unbinding each other, He delights. He’s calling us out of our tombs. Once we shuffle out, Jesus calls us to unbind each other so that we can live more fully here and now.
- When has someone “unbound” you with love, support, or encouragement? What did they do that freed you?
- How do you respond when you see, feel, or know that someone else is stuck, shut down, or needs help?
- Sometimes we’re so good at acting like we’re fine that people don’t see just how bound up we can sometimes be. If you’re in some ways stuck or fettered, do you have the courage and honesty to ask for help?