Take Off The Grave Clothes

Posted by Bridgette Hammers on 26 September 2017

When I read the Bible I always try to put myself in the story. I ask myself questions like, what was the weather like? What did the people look or smell like? How would I react if I were the main character in the story? That’s the perspective I bring to a very familiar story, the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.

Picture this. It’s a dusty, hot desert day. The sun is bearing down on Jesus as he rolls into the little town of Bethany. The news of his close friend’s death is fresh on the hearts of Lazarus’ family. Mary and Martha are torn between grief and understanding.  Martha is in the kitchen probably cooking something awesome to eat, while Mary is waiting to see when Jesus will arrive. They love Jesus, but don’t understand why he has allowed their brother to die. Jesus comes in the house and asks them to go with him to 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 would love to see her brother again, but she is also worries that the smell emanating from inside the grave might kill a few people outside the grave.  Such concerns don’t derail Jesus; he calls to the dead man, “Lazarus come out!”  

Let’s pause there for a moment. The story is told from the perspective of Jesus and Lazarus’ sisters, but have you ever wondered what might have been going on in the tomb?   

Picture Lazarus lying there in a hot, dark cave, wrapped tightly in burial clothes. Lying 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. I picture him doing the “raise your hand if you’re sure” armpit sniff test…..to discover that the 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, both feet and arms 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 is what Jesus says next that shakes my world. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  

As many times as I have read or heard this story, 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, but 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 have looked incredibly foolish if, after being raised from the dead, he’d kept wearing the grave clothes. And so do we! 

I began to allow my mind to wander a little deeper into Lazarus’ 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 the part of my journey that involves my 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, but 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.

Bridgette Hammers is a worship leader and songwriter who loves to see people set free in the presence of God.  

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright  1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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