Burial Cloths

You are probably familiar with the story of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the grave.  I remember as a child hearing the story in Sunday School about two sisters whose brother died.  Jesus waited four days to show up and missed the burial, the wake and everything. Martha and Mary were still upset about their loss and told Jesus so (when he finally showed up).  Jesus walked them out to the cemetery where he yelled, “Lazarus, come out!”  And wow!  Lazarus hobbled out of the graveyard just like the mummies I had seen on Saturday morning cartoons.  Don’t you remember the mummies on TV wrapped in white bandages holding their arms out in front and waddling around?
Fast forward 50 years and my understanding has changed considerably; not based on Saturday morning cartoons any more. 

When Jesus made it to Laz’s house he had been dead 4 days!  Four. Days. Wow!  I think it goes without saying that his sisters knew it was simply too late.  But Jesus started talking about resurrection.
Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  John 11:25-26
I can only imagine what must have been going through these sisters minds with this kind of talk.  I can see Martha cutting her eyes over towards her sister with that, “Are you hearing this?” look in her eyes. Thinking “Is he saying what I think he’s saying?” 
Not wanting to get her hopes up Martha deflects:
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” v.26
Mary ran up and fell at Jesus’ feet and proclaim,  “If you had only been here.” Implying, our brother would still be alive.
Wow, have I ever been where Mary was! How many times have I thought  “God, why did you let this happen?” “THIS isn’t how I had it planned.” 
The scripture says Jesus was moved to tears by his friends sorrow.   I wonder, do you think he is moved by our sorrow today?  Has he ever stepped in and changed circumstances on your behalf?   He certainly did for these two sisters.
He goes to the tomb and tells their friends to roll the stone away from the entrance.  And just like expected, they warned of the odor that was inevitable after four days of death.   
But Jesus doesn’t relent.  He asked them to do something that seemed counter to what the world said was right or even what they thought normal.  Has He ever asked you to do something that you knew you would be judged for?
Verses 41 & 43. So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 
Ok stop! So put yourself in these gals place. They had to be thinking, what is happening here? And… out came their brother.
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” v. 44
So here’s my point… what I’ve been pondering about this story, what do the grave clothes represent?
I remember back to high school English Lit and reading The Scarlet Letter.  Our teacher pointed out the symbolism in the story. Everything in that story stood for something that applied to today. Wait. What?! I just thought it was a story about a gal who got caught in adultery. But no! Even the color of the letter she was forced to wear on her chest had a meaning. Way to go Hathorne! I was so impressed. But the truth is he didn’t invent that he was copying the Bible.
Look at the symbolism just in the story of Lazarus. We were dead to sin and because of Jesus we are made new. He called us out of our old life and into a new one. It is all symbolized in baptism. That’s all easy to see and understand. We are Lazarus in this story.
But what about these grave clothes? What do they represent?
Grave clothes are put on by others. What have you allowed others to put on you? You’re not worthy. You can’t do that. You never could…
But Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes.”

What grave clothes do we need to take off because it’s not what God says about us?


Lord, thank you for your resurrection power in my life. Show me what grave clothes I need to shed. Show me what stinking thinking I need to take off so I can walk in all that you have for me.

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Cindy Willingham is a landscape designer, small group leader, avid encourager, and sinner saved by grace who is ten years new to Birmingham, Alabama.  Her sweet husband of 38 years, two married children and four grand-kiddos fill her life with unbelievable fun and sweet snuggles. She thinks God is awesome and that the best adventure starts with saying yes to that still, small voice. ~ To read Cindy’s BoP Bio click here.

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