By This Time He Stinketh
October 28, 2015
In my daily (or at least almost daily) reading, I read the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John back to back. It was interesting to see how they shaped their version of the teachings and ministry of Jesus differently. So many of the stories are so familiar, I would find myself reading over the stories and teachings because “I had heard them since I was a child.”
Occasionally, I would get stopped by a thought or passage. A familiar story, would stop me. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time. For instance, I never noticed that the Luke juxtaposes the Last Supper with the disciples’ argument about who was the greatest (Luke 22). How can you argue about whether love Jesus more than the other person when you were just asking “am I the one who will betray Jesus?” Or, how can you argue who is the most important as your feet are drying from Jesus’ washing them?
Another passage that stopped me was the story of Lazarus. This narrative is exclusive to the Gospel of John, but that is not what caught my attention. I remembered that Jesus delayed his trip to see Lazarus when he heard that Lazarus was ill. I knew that Jesus wept. I knew that the sisters were not too happy with him and had a bit of an attitude with Jesus. I even remembered the KJV poetic words of Martha, “Lord, by this time he stinketh.” (John 11:39)
What stopped me in my reading was after Jesus wept and then called him out. John 11:44 NRSV says, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” I don’t know whether my mind goes more to old Scooby Doo cartoons or Halloween mummies who will be visiting my door later this week. Both bring a smile to my face. Then my twisted brain goes to the look on the face of his disciples as Jesus just commanded them to unwrap someone who had been dead and in a tomb for four days. (I can see them all putting their thumb up in the air like Middle School campers who are saying “not it” when asked to pray.)
But then, in a more serious moment, I asked, “Lord, who do you command me to unbind?” What are the bindings of death that have people wrapped up today? Do I pay attention that they stink? Do I notice the bindings or do I just hurry past them?
You see, I also remember Luke 4:18,19, in which Jesus claims the Messianic mission of “proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Prayer: Lord, help me to see those who are bound up in death and oppression. Let me hear your command to set people free and let me have the courage to act.
Rev. Mike Oldham
Northern Front Range, Southeast Colorado & New Mexico
Cluster Ministry & Mission Coach