According to the Bible, there was a man named Lazarus. His story is a very inspiring one. He even has a modern term named after him. Ever heard of the Lazarus Phenomenon? If you work in an ER, you probably have. It happens when someone’s heart starts beating again well after resuscitation has been given up. In that kind of situation, we are talking seconds, maybe minutes, which separate the heart stopping and starting again. You see, the dead body of Lazarus spent four days wrapped like a mummy in a tomb before Jesus started his heart again.
From the book of John chapter 11:
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
The fact that a four day old cadaver was filled with life again is incredible and awe inspiring alone. However, it is what Jesus says next that moves me every time I read it. He says, “Take off his grave clothes and let him go!”
The imagery created by this account is just insane. Can you imagine what Lazarus looked like as he struggled to walk out of the tomb because his head, torso, and legs were wrapped with linens? Can you imagine him trying to bust out of those grave clothes, realizing Jesus loved him enough to literally give him a second chance at life? What a picture of liberation. What a picture of true freedom.
Have you ever wondered what Lazarus did with the linens that once bound his dead body? I’ve wondered about this before. It’s not like he threw them in the closet with the rest of his attire. Hopefully he wouldn’t need them anytime soon, right? They were probably cheap strips of linen that were dirty and smelled horrible by then anyway. If he kept them around, don’t you think it would remind him of his death? I think he burned them. I think it would have been a symbolic moment for him as well. Think about that; the memories of his death going up in smoke and the grave clothes becoming ashes.
There was a time in my life when I wore figurative grave clothes. The stench of death was all over me. I had no sign of abundant life that only Christ can provide. Little did I know my grave clothes were so binding. The linens covered my eyes, blinding me to the freedom that God had in store for me once I awakened from death, removed my grave clothes, and followed Him.
Have you ever worn grave clothes? Are you in them right now? If you’ve worn them in the past, do you still keep them around? Do you slip into them every once in a while because they’re comfortable? Do people around you think they look good on you? Hey, maybe your grave clothes are in style.
When the tendency to throw on those old grave clothes comes, think about how ridiculous Lazarus must have looked bound up in his. Do what he did. Take off your grave clothes.
Oh, and before you go, burn them.