I can still remember the feeling I had stepping into Greek 101 for the first time. It wasn’t quite as bad as Hebrew 101, since at least the Greeks read left to right like we do, but with a weird alphabet and a quarter of intensive study, there was plenty of anxiety in my heart as I set foot in Addison 201 for that first day of class. Thankfully, The Rev. Dr. Tony Lewis is a saint, and in the course of only a few days, he made it seem as though I wouldn’t just survive Greek, but I might even make it through the next three years of seminary. That is, until we started studying verbs. Do you know what the first verb that one studies in New Testament Greek?
Do you know how many times I had used the verb “to loose” prior to Lesson 3 in Greek 101 at Virginia Theological Seminary? Right, the answer is zero. So there we were, parsing a verb that none of us had ever used in order to learn everything we needed to know for good exegesis in the many years of ministry to come. And now, here I am, every Lent 5, Year A, giving thanks for the time we spent learning luo so that I can take some time to really think about what Jesus means when, after a still bound up Lazarus hops forth from the tomb, he says, “Loose him and permit him to go home.” (John 11:44b, my translation)
The obvious thing here is that Lazarus is bound in burial clothes and needs to be untied, loosed, from those bonds in order to return to normal life, but given the conversation that happens between Jesus and Martha before Lazarus is raised leads me to believe that there is a deeper meaning at play here as well. Jesus doesn’t resuscitate Lazarus, he raises Lazarus from the dead. Even though Lazarus will one day die again, here he is already resurrected to eternal life while still bound to life here on earth. Jesus calls for Lazarus to be loosed from the bonds of sin and death and to be raised up to kingdom living right then and right there. If it was possible for Lazarus, and if Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” then resurrection is possible for all of us right here and right now. We too can be loosed from the things that bind us: depression, illness, addiction, fear, disability, pride, etc. Even as we continue to live with them, as adopted heirs of the Kingdom, we are able to live beyond them and into the fullness of God’s dream for us.
Of course, to get loosed, we must first be willing to step out of the comforts of the grave, but that’s a topic for another day.