Shortly before His own humiliating, excruciating death, Christ assigned His followers a task that illustrated what loving another person looks like: unwrap the man I just raised from the dead. (John 11:43-44-6) Those first disciples saw Lazarus stumbling out of grave, unable to freely walk – and Christ told them to get close to him, close enough to be useful to him. Doing so would also have helped the onlookers believe their eyes. Removing those clothes helped Lazarus walk free, and as they freed Lazarus’ head and limbs from the linen strips and winding sheet, as they have inhaled the lingering scent of anointing spices, they knew this was Lazarus, really and truly raised from the dead!
When God saved me I did not know how tightly wrapped I was in my grave clothes – my habits, hurts and hang-ups; they felt natural. Not until some friends came alongside me did I begin to sense I wasn’t walking as well as I might. Thank God for the spirit with which they addressed me. (Galatians 6:1-2)
God forgive me for the many times I failed to lovingly help unwrap others – and rejected their help!
Not wishing to over-spiritualize this familiar passage, I understand that as God still woos and wins souls to life, each born-again believer needs help walking out of his or her grave clothes – their habits, hurts and hang-ups – even little children who come to Christ early. So, He asks His witnesses to help those stumbling out of their tombs shed their grave clothes.
If I imagine how those reacted who saw Lazarus come out, I can compare how I have helped others walk free. How did they unbind Lazarus – tentatively, fearfully – brusquely? Would Lazarus have protested, “No-no, I can do it myself?”
Did any hang back, waiting for the more spiritually mature to make the first move? I have. Did any think, “I’ll just wait for Lazarus to outgrow those clothes?” I have. Did any rip and tear at Lazarus’ grave clothes, stripping him of his dignity?
With my words, I have.
Or, did they simply loosen the grave clothes enough so Lazarus could walk back into his home?
Sometimes I thought the people God put in my path would simply outgrow what was binding them. Or, worse, I tugged and hauled too hard at their strips and sheets. And if they protested they could take care of their own grave clothes, I left them alone.
Helping remove grave clothes is intimate, time-consuming, personal work; we don’t work alone, we have a Helper, One who wants us to enjoy the sureness of His work. (Matthew 28:18-20) While I can’t help another take off what they won’t surrender – I have been equipped to be useful. (2 Peter 1:3-10). And, this is the core of what we all are sent to do; helping each other out of our grave clothes and into comfortable, clean robes! Even our children and grandchildren.
Clip art from:Florida's Educational Clearinghouse