Hosea 13:14 (New International Version)
14 "I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
I love stories and the Bible is a book full of stories that are full of drama, mystery, intrigue, tragedy and triumph.The best thing is that every time a familiar story is read, there is another insight to be discovered--another perspective to be seen, like a Russian doll inside which is hidden another doll--and another inside that. Sometimes a dialogue lights up with meaning beyond the surface and sometimes I wonder about what isn't said.
There is a dramatic account written down by an eye witness named John of events that took place in the village of Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem.
Death had touched a family dear to Jesus and he arrived on the scene with his friends, to find the two sisters Mary and Martha, in mourning for their brother Lazarus who had died four days before. The house was filled with loudly wailing mourners who had come to comfort them with their presence.
"Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" said someone. The question held disappointment, accusation and doubt.
"Could not he?" Yes--yes he could! But sometimes God writes a different script to the one we would write.
"Take away the stone."
"But Lord....." said the ever practical Martha--he was already calling though--calling to a dead man, "Lazarus--come out."
And he did. Lazarus did come out, "his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth on his face," the Bible says.
"Take off the grave clothes and let him go," that's what Jesus said next!
"Could not he?" Yes he could! He wants to roll away the stone in our lives--whatever is the barrier to Life. He wants to remove the grave clothes--the things that still cling to us with the odour of death.
I would have loved to see the reaction of the crowd that witnessed this miracle, but John only writes that many of them "put their faith in him." Word also got to the high priests and Pharisees--they called a meeting. John writes, "So from that day on they plotted to take his life."
How ironic that the giving of life should have that result, but of course the power of Death had been challenged and defeated. On one level the Jewish leaders were acting out of political expediency but on a deeper level they were playing out the age old battle between the forces of the Evil One, and God, the Creator and Lord of the universe.
As I look at our world, I want to pray for the day to come quickly when that battle of which this account is symbolic, is won on the earth--when there will be no more death--no more mourning--only songs of celebration and victory.
(See John 11 for the full story)