I’m deep in a study of John right now, and revisiting the lovely story of Lazarus. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters as dear friends, and His reaction to Lazarus’s death is one of the most touching stories in the Bible. At first, His disciples are confused because He doesn’t head right over to heal Lazarus when He hears his friend is sick. But Jesus’s delay is an example of His perfect timing. He knew Lazarus would die of this sickness, and He knew He’d raise Lazarus from the grave. He also knew this miracle would inspire belief for many witnesses, and thanked God for it.
There’s so much to say about this story, but I want to focus today on what Jesus says to the assembled people at this moment. Jesus has already commanded the people to roll away the stone at the entrance to the tomb. They are reluctant, knowing the body would have begun decomposing, but ultimately they do roll the stone away. Then Jesus tells Lazarus to come out, and he does. Even though Lazarus has been entombed for four days, his body is not decomposed. Instead, the man is miraculously intact and alive, still wrapped in the strips of cloth that were wound around dead bodies in those days.
Imagine the shock, maybe even the fear, of the people assembled there!
What does Jesus do next? He simply says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:44. Before Lazarus can step into his new life, he must be released from the confines of these cloths marking him as a dead person, these grave clothes.
Let me ask you: are you still wearing yours?
If you believe God sent Jesus to save us, then you are gifted with new life in Him. But as we believers stumble into the light of this new life from the darkness of our own tombs, we often find ourselves constrained by the grave clothes we wore before we believed. We find ourselves bound to old habits and behaviors, old temptations and patterns. I have experienced this bondage in my own life, sometimes finding myself speaking or behaving as if I never met Jesus!
Maybe it’s human nature to continue as we have always done, ignoring the amazing miracle we have experienced through new life in Christ. If we haven’t shed those grave clothes, we will continue to be confined by them, even as believers. What grave clothes are restricting you from experiencing freedom in Christ today? What old sin belies your new life? Ask God right now to show you those grave clothes and give you freedom from them. Welcome the chance to confront what may be holding you back, even if doing so is painful. I promise, the freedom of being born anew is so worth it. Today, experience the freedom of stepping forward into the light of new life, unrestricted by death, unencumbered by sin, truly free in Jesus Christ.