Come Out and Unbind: Lazarus, New Life, and the Easter Story

Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 6:13am
Photo by Sean Gallup

Come Out and Unbind: Lazarus, New Life, and the Easter Story

"Signs of Life"

The tulips are rising from the ground
as if, having heard their name,
they suddenly walked toward the sound
of winter’s stone rolling away.

One by one, their buds loosen and blush
crimson, fuchsia, boysenberry.
For the first time their unwrapped
faces see and are seen.

I cut one of each color
and bring their green-stemmed mouths
to the cup of water. Arranged
on the windowsill they bow respectfully

to passersby who are also coming
out of their tombs. After resurrection

comes the unbinding, the learning
what it means to be free.

The lectionary approaches Easter by way of another encounter with death. In the raising of Lazarus, we hear Christ’s famous imperative, “Take away the stone” followed by, “Lazarus, come out.” We Christians tend to linger on this imagery year after year, but then we come to chapter 11 of John’s gospel, what I call the miracle after the miracle:

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.”

The community, gathered around the miraculous, receives its second imperative:

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

The imagery of resurrection is woven into the Christian faith, which can often cause expectations of transformation. We who were once dead are made alive again. What it means to be a person faith is not dissimilar from what it means to be a human being. It is a process of becoming, not an event.

Through my experience in the world and life with others, I am becoming a human being. Through my dialogue with the mystery and with others, I am becoming a person of faith. We both are and are becoming. If we look again at the story of Lazarus as a microcosm for the life of faith, we find a new imagery in the stones and cloth.

In the foreground, a tulip survives while a Maidan protester stands at a barricade on Independence Square in central Kiev.


Within the text, we receive two imperatives from Jesus, “come out” and “unbind.” As people of faith, it is good to remember that the work of becoming is not work we do alone. We are but partners in both of these processes. We are able to relax into the idea that there are aspects of our becoming that belong to a higher power. We have no control over them and we leave them to God. This is not a stance of passivity, but of peace. We belong to God in life and in death.

We are called from our tombs and do not emerge on our own. This is not the entire story. On the journey of faith, we also encounter stones that seal us off from life and cloth that binds our transformation. Herein lies the heart of God: that human hands are used to accomplish God’s work.

What God makes alive, it is our responsibility to help unbind. This is no small miracle, but the one that comes to us in tangible ways. It is God’s work; it is our work; it is the work of social justice, of repairing the world.

When we make sure our neighbors have the ability to make a home, we unbind ourselves. When we work to make the stories of minorities rise to the top, we unbind ourselves. When we advocate for work that is purposeful and sustaining, we unbind ourselves. When we remind women of their own power and give them access to education, we unbind ourselves. When we welcome the stranger and affirm their humanity, we unbind ourselves. Through this process we remember the many people who came and unbound us and we learn continually what it means to be free.

Kashmiri girls take a stroll in Srinagar's Tulip garden, claimed to be Asia's largest.

(Tauseef Mustafa / AFP/Getty Images.)

In the raising of Lazarus, I am reminded that we must be gracious with one another as we recognize the fact that we’re all in various stages of coming out of our tombs. The process of coming alive is mysterious and holy work. In the unbinding of Lazarus, I am reminded that we need one another alongside us as we undergo the vulnerable process of being unwrapped, of seeing in a new way, of learning to use our hands and feet again.

Transformation is life-long work. As we move toward Easter, may we respect the journey of the other. May we reach for our neighbor and do the work of unbinding. May we look for signs of life within us and move from our tombs. May we partner with one another in the process of becoming more fully alive.


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Brittany Deininger

is a poet living in Tacoma, Washington. She enjoys the act of paying attention found in poetry and faith and strives to breathe new life into religious language, oftening drawing on the beauty of her home in the Northwest.

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i'm gonna share this great poem; thanks Brittany Deininger!

This is Beautiful and so inspiring! One of the best Easter message! Thank you!

As I have Come Out and have “unbinded” in my community and religion, these efforts have helped me understand my world family, it has brought a new awakening. It has taught me to understand why we suffer and why we must help ease the suffering. We cannot be our own entity in this; we should join efforts with others to rise up high to “do unto others”, these acts allow us to find joy and fulfillment. Thank you for these inspiring words.

A good beginning to your story; however the two points you make are off the mark. Coming forth is accepting Jesus as the ONLY way to get to Heaven. The numerous examples you give of unbinding equaling social injustice misses the point completely. If it is symbolic, it symbolizes the defeat of Satan: We are no longer bound to sin and Hell when we accept Jesus as our saviour.

this is how I see it too.....Jesus is the way......have often wondered how Lazarus fit in and guess this makes sense, but still it come to me that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.......He went to the cross, willingly to pay the price for our sins so that He created the way if we seek Him and his forgiveness of our sins and we have life everlasting.....

Thank you for sharing such an inspirational Easter message!

I found this quite beautiful and full of truth, I love the part where you describe the things that unbind us :)

"What God makes alive, it is our responsibility to help unbind."
This is so beautiful. Thank you!