I can’t breath! Can’t breath! Rolling onto my side, I claw at my face to clear an airway, but my hands and fingers are enmeshed, tightly bound by linen wraps. An index finger breaks free and I hook the heavy folds of fabric that bind my mouth, dragging them below my chin. My mouth flies open to suck air into stagnant lungs. I choke and gag on the rank air, suffused by both the corruption and putrefaction of death and the heavy, overpowering spices and aromatics employed to mask them. This air is nearly unbreathable.
Panic grips me, clutching at my already constricted chest. “I know where I am,” my mind screams. “I know where I am. This is my family’s tomb. I played here in this small cave as a child, in the years before it’s entrance was walled off leaving a low doorway. Before it was employed to entomb the dead. Was I buried alive, then? Surely not! But I am alive. I... am... alive!”
Struggling to my knees, my shrouded eyes sense light off to my right. Turning toward the light, my bound hands press me up from the packed earth that had been used to level the floor of the cave. Getting my feet under me I rise up only to strike my head against the low stone ceiling. Staggering blindly forward in the near dark, one hand on my head and the other before me, I lurch toward the low entryway. There is no stone over the entry. No stone blocks my way. Ducking as best I can I escape death’s womb, plunging, new born, into the light and the fresh air of a new day... in my old reality.
I am alive... but I am not sure I want to be.
“Unbind him.” Even through the swaddling wraps about my head, I recognize that voice and instinctively try to face it’s owner.
“And let him go.” Were my own arms and legs not so tightly bound, I would have leapt to do His bidding. Had my face and eyes been uncovered, surely I would have scanned the surrounding crowd for some poor soul to unfetter. For His smallest suggestion is as a request, and His request is to me a command. And to disregard His command... unthinkable.
There were shouts of wonder mixed with tears of joy as I straightened and took a halting step away from the stone face of the tomb. Tentative hands plucked at the gore encrusted shrouds that encased me, but my sisters were less reserved. As Martha tore the fabric to free my face, Mary wrapped me in a crushing embrace, fouling her own clothing with the essence and stench of my death while rejoicing in my restored life. I crumple into their arms, faint with relief... or is it hunger. My stomach has come back to life, too, and for the first time in weeks I have an appetite.
Body and soul I have been restored. By my friend. Restored to my home. Restored to my sisters. Restored as head of their household, their primary source of income and security. And He who was once my friend, is surely now my Lord. Many of our neighbors and relatives, who had come either to grieve my passing or to comfort the living, also believe... for who but the Lord Himself could have done this thing. When He called me I came. Where He leads me I will follow.
Indeed, had He not called me specifically by name before instructing me to “come forth,” surely all those waiting with me would have come at His bidding. Leaving behind the robe of peace and the raiment of joy that cloaked them in that place of waiting, to don again the trappings of their long forsaken graves, shrug off the dusty slumber, take on their former flesh and stagger into the light.
But He did... call me. Only me... this time. But I know, now for a certainty, that a day will come when all the world will hear that voice and the earth shudder and surrender the dead. And it will be a judgment day.
I no longer fear death. Dying, yes. I fear dying... again. I weep to think that, having passed that painful gauntlet once, and having found myself safely ensconced in the realm prepared for those who wait on Him, I must taste the bitterness of death yet again. Be a burden to my family again. Be washed, anointed, wrapped, spiced, entombed in that little cave... and mourned... again.
But death I no longer fear. It has lost it’s sting. It has lost it’s mystery for me, and I do not fear it. Because I’ve been dead before. And will be again. We all will... someday. That is how we get from here... to there. And for some the passage will be just that quick. For others, dying will come more slowly, and more painfully.
We are dining together this evening, my Lord and I, as well as as many others as our house will contain. I had to bathe first, of course, before any one could endure my presence. Twice, in fact. The burial fabrics peeled off of me were taken downwind and burned. So, freshly washed and wearing clean clothing, I recline at the table. And we dine together.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world