When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:43-44 ESV
Last week I posted the message, “running out of the cage” which I then gave at one of the nursing homes which I visit. If you missed it, I tell the story of a groundhog I had trapped in our garden and was trying to release him in the woods. It took quite a while, because the animal was so angry at me that he never turned around to see that I had opened his cage door. After giving the message on Friday I asked if anyone needed to run out of the cage of regret, unforgiveness or bitterness, and then we prayed. Then, while visiting with the residents, one man began to share some of the things that kept him in a cage. First, his wife and two daughters had been killed in an automobile accident. Then years later after remarrying, his second wife left him and now with his health deteriorating, he was left with nowhere to live but in a long-term care facility.
Often people who are not involved in nursing home ministry think that everyone there is either a sweet old lady or that they are too far gone to be worth our time. But the truth is that many of our friends in nursing homes are just like us. That unfortunate mindset reminds me of a time I visited a friend who was in jail. While we were just getting ready to end the visit, he said something like, “You know Pete, the only difference between us and the guards, is which side of the bars we are on.” The very same is true in long term care, it is just that their bars look a lot different. They are trapped behind bars of disability, age, neglect and discouragement. They may be invisible, but they can hold a person just as well as any maximum-security prison. The good news is that Jesus still visits graves and prisons. He is well known in hospital corridors and deeply loved nursing homes. But He doesn’t walk in on His own like He did when He was on earth. Are you trapped in a cage today? Jesus gave His life to unlock the door and it is standing wide open. Whenever we just stop biting at the bars and turn around then, just like Lazarus and my groundhog friend we run straight out to Jesus right now!