[This was originally posted Dec. 24, 2009; revised in 2014]
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."A few years ago (2008), I heard a presentation by one of the doctors responsible for making tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) available to stroke patients.
In my own 1998 experience, I could not speak, I could not move my right arm or leg - but after the clot-busting tPA, I regained those abilities. It was a dramatic experience. The doctor called it "the Lazarus effect."
It made me think of the story of Lazarus - see above - in John's gospel. The term "Lazarus effect" isn't exactly accurate. After all, I was not dead in the physical sense, let alone in the tomb for four days. Instead, I was dead to hope. There was nothing I could do. The "Lazarus effect" gave me hope.
Now, was Lazarus himself without hope? I'd say no. Lazarus was already beyond this life and knew what was beyond. But his family and friends were dead to hope. Jesus entered. Hope returned. So while this world's medical "Lazarus effect" can be quite effective, God's Lazarus effect is even more powerful.
Consider, too, how Lazarus was bound in the "grave clothes," the strips of linen wrapped around his hands, feet and face. He was bound and could do nothing. But Jesus saw to it that his bonds were removed. Lazarus was alive in hope and freedom.
How about this world? You? Have you ever felt dead to hope?
On a cold night so long ago, a world needed this Lazarus effect. Today, this world needs it as well. On that first Christmas, God gave the world the Lazarus effect: a new beginning, a new covenant, a new life, new hope. Today, you can receive your own Lazarus effect.