Loose Him and Let Him Go | Eric B. Shumway | 2002

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Professor Eric B. Shumway discusses the story of Lazarus and how we can become unbound from the world to find peace and healing.

This speech was given on March 26, 2002.

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"Aloha. It is a blessing and privilege to greet you today from your sister campus, BYU—Hawaii, which is guided by the same prophetic destiny as this campus. As you may know, we are a small, intimate campus made up of students of many nations. My greeting could easily come to you in scores of different languages, but aloha, meaning love and affection in the Hawaiian language, has become our universal expression of love, for hello and good-bye.

One of the most significant episodes in our Savior’s mortal ministry was the literal raising of Lazarus from the dead after he had lain in the tomb for four days. The setting for this dramatic manifestation of Christ’s power and love is carefully laid out in John 11. The Apostle’s skillful use of detail, his sense for drama, dialogue, suspense, crescendo, and climax match the doctrinal importance of this event. It is an astounding public miracle that illuminates the core truths about Christ and His Atonement.

You know the story. Christ receives desperate word from Martha and Mary to come to Bethany, for their brother is deathly ill. Jesus deliberately delays His journey for two days, then announces that Lazarus is dead and that He and His disciples must go to him. The disciples remind Him of the hostility of the Jewish leaders toward Him, even unto His death. Thomas simply says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).

When Christ arrives in Bethany, Martha greets Him with weeping and a gentle rebuke: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 21). Martha’s complaint is followed by her fervent testimony: “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (v. 22). Jesus affirms His own role and identity: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (v. 25).

The setting includes Lazarus, his sisters, the disciples, and other Jews. Some are believing. Some are critical. The intense grieving of the sisters, the wailing of the mourners, Christ’s own tears, the anticipation of His death, the disciples’ fear of the Jewish leaders, the hostility of certain ones in the crowd, and the melancholy of the grave site—all of these constitute for us a crescendo of profound human emotion. Jesus commands that the stone covering the tomb’s entrance be removed. Martha objects, saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (v. 39). Christ says, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (v. 40).

The stone is removed. Jesus offers a prayer of gratitude that reveals He had asked permission from His Father to stage this miraculous representation of the Atonement for the purpose of comforting wounded and grieving hearts, of testifying of His love and power, and of convincing the people present to believe the Father had sent Him (see v. 42).

The climactic moment comes when Christ cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43). Can you imagine that combination of hope, terror, and surprise the people feel when Lazarus obeys the command and rises, “bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin” (v. 44)? The sight and smell of this dead man must have been more than some could bear. But then came Christ’s second command to certain others standing by: “Loose him, and let him go” (v. 44).

Think of it. Christ was commanding the people to free Lazarus, to remove the graveclothes and unbind the wrappings from around his eyes, mouth, hands, and feet—the wrappings of the grave. For he lived again! Think of the joy! But can we imagine also the hesitancy of some to reach out and remove the graveclothes? No doubt some shrank away completely..."