I was recently reading in John 11 and the account of Lazarus being raised from the dead. I was struck, maybe for the first time by the reaction of the crowd when Jesus asked them to open up the tomb.
Martha responded with “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the Glory of God?” (John 11:38-40)
As I read this passage this week I wrote in my margin, “What stinky sins do I want to remain covered up and hidden because of how badly they would smell if I uncovered them?”
Not the most comfortable question that I’ve ever asked myself, but it started me thinking. I’ve never actually smelled a person who’s been dead for four days. HOWEVER, back in the day, my roommate and I started to smell something truly awful in our kitchen. At the time, my roommate was working double shifts as a nurse, and I on the other hand, was basically a kept woman (this was during Brett’s deployment to Afghanistan and try as I might I couldn’t seem to get a real job)….so I sat around and OBSESSED over that smell.
I stuck my nose everywhere. In every nook and cranny of the kitchen, I sniffed until I finally gagged when my nose got close to the bottom of the refrigerator door. But even once I found the smell, the insanity did not end. I started cleaning and cleaning: Inside the fridge, outside the fridge. It all seemed for naught. I’m sure my roommate thought I was even more insane than she’d previously thought. (Hey, Lindsay!)
No matter what I tried the smell remained. Finally, after much crazy on my part, I literally started dismantling the bottom of the refrigerator. The smell got OH SO MUCH more intense. I honestly want to gag thinking about it. And it’s been like 13 years. That’s how this moment stuck. But at least now that the smell was beyond comprehension that meant we’d found the culprit.
Some raw chicken juices had leaked out of the fridge down into an outside crevice. Now, I’ve blacked out the memory of how we finally cleaned it up. I just remember an entire roll of paper towels and bleach were involved….
But the reason I dredged up this ancient memory is that it is by far the worst smell I’ve ever smelled. And honestly, it really WAS dead animal rotting under my fridge for several days.
So back to the story of Lazarus. We don’t know if Martha’s predictions were accurate. But I tend to think they were. When they opened up that tomb the smell was AWFUL.
I also believe it’s not recorded, because what Jesus did next was so above and beyond the intensity of that smell that no one remembered it and/or cared. Jesus brought Lazarus back from a decaying and horrible stench to a living, breathing human being. The smell was forgotten. It was taken away.
With trembling fingers I ask the Lord to open up the tomb of my heart. To show all the gross decay that’s going on in there. How else will there be true victory, true miraculous healing?
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.-Ephesians 5:8-16