The crowds were gone. All the hoopla and partying was over. Lazarus, having slept soundly for the first time in three days, woke up to Martha's usual breakfast aromas. He stretched and yawned, and every muscle reminded him that he was alive. Again.
He remembered his agenda for the day and bounced out of bed. Now that the crowds had dispersed -- mostly to prepare for Passover -- he had a little better chance of pulling off his plan. Jesus and his disciples had gone out to the wilderness for a few days to cool off the wave of publicity that was beginning to crest in Judea. Mary and Martha had a major clean-up to accomplish after the wake/re-birth celebrations had ended. And Lazarus needed to get back to Bethany business. But first, he just wanted to sneak away and be alone and - well - he knew what needed to be done. It wasn't going to be easy, but he had been formulating his decision for days.
After breakfast, Laz kissed his sisters goodbye.
"Are you sure you should be going back to work? Maybe you should take a few more days to rest up."
"Mary, really, I'll be OK. I've been fine ever since I crawled out of the hole." He hugged her with assurance, firm and strong.
"Don't forget your lunch," Martha said, handing him a basket of bread and dates and dried fish. Lazarus lifted the cloth covering the food and smiled. There was enough for ten men.
"You know how hungry you've been!" Martha defended the volume of her preparations. Laz gripped the lunch and walked out of the door into real life.
"Why are you skipping? You look like a child!" Martha called out. "You're going to trip and fall you silly man! You don't want to end up going back to the vault so soon!"
He skipped anyway. He headed down the road the direction of his business, but once he was out of view, he took the detour, around the olive grove, down the hill, and to the graveyard.
At the tomb, he sat down on a stone outcropping near the entrance. It wasn't his plan to go in. It was his plan to visit. Once. Only once more, and then never again.
It was all such a blur, and the memories that were more clear he hadn't confided to anyone. But as he stared down into the darkness of the cave, he choked, the tears coming down his cheeks, his eyes pouring out what his heart had held in since . . .
That hole in the ground--that was the enemy. He knew that now, more than ever. His visit here today was to make a declaration--of war, of victory. He wasn't arrogant, and he didn't raise his voice. But he spoke into the grave. He talked to the nemesis.
"That's it, you know. You can't have me again. See here? I'm living. I'm alive and breathing and running and skipping. My heart beats and my sweat stains my shirt and everything else is working fine. You had me once. And yes, I know I will probably die again. But listen carefully to me now: YOU DO NOT OWN ME.
Laz thought of all the times in his life when death, subtly and imperceptibly, had crept in and soured his life. He envisioned the cloud that used to hang over him; maybe he only really saw it for what it was after he'd heard Jesus call him out. But that cloud was gone, and he was here to vow that it would never return.
"I know this now. Jesus is life. He is everything. He knows no enemy that he cannot vanquish. Because he is life, I have been raised from the dead; Jesus has purchased my freedom from you. Jesus has exposed you for what you are, a manipulative, weak, shell of a reality.
"I'm here to tell you this: You lost. Jesus won. You no longer have power over me. This is over."
He stood and faced down the hole. Pointing at the darkness, he shook out the words. "You do not own me. You do not own me. YOU. DO. NOT. OWN. ME."
He grabbed his lunch, turned his back, and skipped away. He never visited that place again, for the rest of his life.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 15
1. Skip where people can see you do it.
2. Have a praise gathering of one in a cemetery. Sing loud, but don't disturb the mournful.
3. Offer to babysit for a young mom and dad to give them an evening alone.
4. Bake three loaves of bread. Give one to your neighbor, give one to a family member, give one to a stranger.
Hope in him,