Here is a simple question we may never have thought to consider. What happens next?
Jesus’ first statement after Lazarus stepped out of the dungeon of his tomb was, “Untie him and let him go.” What happens next?
Let’s quickly review the Jewish burial rite. The body would be first washed, then rubbed with oils, then wrapped in cloth. The wrapping would begin with two separate strips of cloth. Beginning at the feet, each leg would be wrapped separately. When the two strips reached the torso they would together wrap the rest of the body, arms enclosed along the sides, leaving small openings at the mouth and nose where they believed the spirit left the body. (There was no time to do this for the body of Jesus after His death.) Lazarus would look like a mummy stepping out of his tomb. His body was bound so tightly he could not move except to walk. He could not see or speak. He was naked. What happens next?
The raising of Lazarus is an excellent story for helping us understand our own Baptism, which frees us from the bondage of original sin. Disconnected from God, we are in the dark, not just the darkness of the tomb but also the blindness that comes with sin wrapping our eyes and keeping us from seeing the light. Like Lazarus, we our bound and gagged, unable to move about freely or to speak. We can raise neither our arms nor our voices in praise and thanksgiving to God. As St. Paul says, Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Finally, we are naked.
What happens next? Just as in our Baptism ritual, when the person is covered with a white gown to signify the new life they have been given, Lazarus would have been given a garment to wear after they untied him and his new life would be free from the bondage of the tomb.
We don’t think enough about sin as bondage or death but St. Paul reminds us, the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead… will give life to your mortal bodies also. Freed from sin’s bondage, we have a new life with which to give Praise and Glory to God.