“Take off the grave clothes and let him go”
Published by We Are Worship September 2017
When I read the bible I try to put myself into the story. I ask myself questions like, what was the weather like? What did the people look or smell like? How would I react as the main character of the story? This is my perspective on a story we have read and heard many time, Lazarus being raised from the dead.
It’s a dusty hot dessert day. The sun was beaming down on Jesus as he rolled into town. The news of his close friend’s death was fresh on the hearts of all the family. Mary and Martha were torn between grief and understanding. Mary is in the kitchen probably cooking something awesome to eat while Mary is waiting to see when Jesus will arrive. They loved Jesus, but didn’t understand why he had allowed their brother to die. Jesus comes in to meet them and asks them to go the grave.
In John 11:39 Jesus proclaims, “Take away the stone”. Martha’s immediate response is, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been dead for four days”. Martha is very aware that she’d love to see her brother again, but the smell might kill a few people outside of the grave. ***** Jesus’ response is to call her brother back to life. We know what happens next Lazarus is called from the grave, “Lazarus come out!” Let’s pause there for a moment. We are told the story from the perspective of Jesus and Lazarus’ sisters, but what could’ve possibly been going on in the tomb?
Picture Lazarus lying there, wrapped tightly in burial clothes in a hot, dark cave. Laying there lifeless, he hears the voice of Jesus calling to him, “Come Out!”. I can picture him taking that first gasp of breath….. as he tries to figure out where he is. His first breath of resurrection air was quickly masked in the stench of death, that was him. I picture him doing the “raise your hands if sure” armpit sniff test….. to discover that foul smell, strongest BO of all time, was in fact coming from him. The next thing to do is to come out of the grave. Can you picture Lazarus hopping out of the tomb with both feet and hand bound? Mumbling, “I’m coming, I’m coming”
“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face”. You guys Lazarus was the original walking dead mummy. All the folklore originated right here in John 11.
It was what Jesus said next that shook my world. He said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go”
As many times as I have read or heard this story talked about I had never seen this! Lazarus had just experienced resurrection power. He was dead and now he is alive. Yet he still had the stench of death on him. He was still bound by the grave clothes. It was in that moment I realized that we as Christians have experienced resurrection power, we were dead and now we are alive, and we can still be bound by grave clothes. So many times we walk around smelling of death and decay. Jesus is saying, it’s time to take off the grave clothes. Take off shame, take off hurt, take off fear, take off pain, and all things that are death to us. It’s time to be free. Lazarus would of looked incredibly foolish after he was raised from the dead if had kept wearing the grave clothes. And so do we!
I began to allow my mind to wander a little deeper into Lazaurs’ experience. I started to ask myself, what was he wearing under his grave clothes? That answer would be nothing. In order for Lazarus to be fully free, he needed to be willing to be fully known. YIKES! We love the idea of freedom, but transparency scares us back into the grave. I know I’m very comfortable sharing my victories and testimonies, but I need God sized strength to share my journey of growth and weakness in the middle of the battle.
We read early in this chapter that the whole town came out to the grave. It truly takes a village when we are on our freedom journey. It takes people to help us recognize our blind spots and help lead us to transparency in safety. So I’m asking you today, are you a walking mummy? Have you experience Jesus’ resurrection power in your life, and you are still bound by the grave clothes? If so, there is hope, there is freedom, there is healing. Today, you can “take off the grave clothes” and be free.