Grave Clothes

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

John 11:43-44 "When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out! The man who had been dead came out with his hands and feet bound in strips of linen, and his face wrapped in a cloth. “Unwrap him and let him go,” Jesus told them."


I've been thinking a lot about this verse lately. Before Lazarus died he was one of Jesus's close friends who loved and was loved by Jesus. In fact, the shortest sentence in the entire bible and one of the most impactful ones was because of Lazarus' death. "Jesus wept" John 11:35, so Jesus did in fact love Lazarus and he loved him.

But the reason these verses have captivated my attention is that as I study them I wonder if Lazarus had to die to actually start living. Maybe Lazarus loved Jesus and believed in Jesus but he didn't believe Jesus was for him or couldn't start a new life until life ended, and he came back from the grave.


I can imagine Jesus crying the kind of cry you cry when your best friend, a loved one whether that be a person or animal dies. It steals all your breath away and you can't see or hear clearly anymore. Jesus knew he was about to bring him back to life yet at that moment he had still lost him and he allowed himself to feel the pain associated with grievance and loss of a dear one. Yet when he called him out of that grave and brought him back to life I can just see him truly happy wanting to run and hug him. I believe at that moment not only did Jesus allow himself to relate to us by experiencing human loss but he attended the funeral of a man who was but had passed before rejoicing in the new.


I have been learning that the past must die and be put to rest before the new can begin. It's so hard to let the past die and truly be put to rest though. Lazarus was dead, but when Jesus called to him he was given a second chance at life. Yet the man came out wrapped like a mummy. As Lazarus came out of that grave we see he never removed his grave clothes, maybe he couldn't. But maybe he could, after all, they had to be loose enough for him to move. But he wanted to run from that grave which he knew meant death so badly that he couldn't be bothered to take them off. The only goal and fight were to leave that place of death, but as he exited that grave he carried the past of the dead man with him. The grave clothes of a man who died, a man who had lived the majority of his life not really knowing GOD, but was worn down by the world. Those clothes clung tightly to him, restricting his sight, movements, and ability to be free in the new life. The presence of death clung to him.


As I try to live in this new life, live this second chance GOD has given me, He keeps telling me to change out of my grave clothes. I haven't been able to understand this until I started to think about this verse. Joy, peace, love, freedom, rejoice, praise, are the new clothes I should be wearing after I have been brought back to life right? It should be easy, right? Just remove them and be free, but it's not that easy. After all under those grave clothes there was nothing, but him. Nothing to hide behind to stop people to see the pure vulnerability and shame he could have felt.


As Lazarus exited the grave it goes on to say that Jesus told others to help him remove the grave clothes as He knew he couldn't do it alone. I just know Lazarus knew he had to get out of those grave clothes, he knew they didn't belong on him, he would have known what he was supposed to do and be. Wanting to get far from them as possible but to remove them felt like it cost him more then simply leaving them on, and to have to rely on others to help him remove them must have been so painfully hard. As tightly wrapped bandages were removed the blood flowing back into his body would have hurt. The relief of when he could finally move freely again would have brought tears to his eyes, tears of joy, shame, grief, and thanksgiving. The air hitting his exposed body would have made him felt more seen then he could imagine and I can imagine him not wanting to let the clothes go because they felt safer. Lazarus was probably so focused on himself he thought everyone was judging him, but when I take a minute and stop looking at Lazarus I see Jesus.


All Lazarus could see was the pain, shame, vulnerability, the past at that moment just wanting to escape it and those around him in shame, but Jesus. I could have seen Jesus removing His own coat to cover him. I can see him shielding him with his body. I can see all those who loved Lazarus doing the same not caring about anything that was flooding his mind with darkness for in that moment they only caring about loving him. Making sure he was ok. They would have been so overwhelmed with relief and joy to have the one they love back that they just wanted to cling to him.


I can't help but wonder if after Lazarus was free from the grave and the outfit of death I wonder if Lazarus felt like an imposter, unworthy letting the darkness of the past and grave continue to cling to him. In new clothes, clean but unable to fully accept the beautiful second chance at life because he allowed the past to determine that new life. I wonder if thoughts of why me, haunted him. Thoughts of guilt of not being who he thought he should be now in that new life. I wonder if he experience PTSD but tried to hide it from others and himself because he had been given a second chance so it shouldn't even be there; that was something that was supposed to be of the past.


But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he was just so relieved to be out of those grave clothes he didn't care who saw him. Running and jumping buck naked, shaking what his mama gave him because he was so happy that he was alive and given a second chance. Maybe once those clothes were off that was that. I hope it was like that and not the other way.


I think the reason GOD has highlighted this story so much in my life is because I have experience the same thing in a way. I was dead but Jesus called my name and I answered, I ran out of that grave but instead of being how I hope Lazarus was I was still dressed in the past. I came out feeling all kinds of angry, sad, guilty, shameful, feeling like an ungrateful, unworthy, imposter. I was afraid for people to see me, to see my vulnerability because it hurt and it didn't feel safe. I allowed myself to cling to the past like a safety blanket because this good second chance is like nothing I have ever experienced or known. But what I didn't realize is the grave clothes are more than just physical, they are mental as well. Jesus helped me remove my physical grave clothes and as they came off I felt the pain, the exposure but I also felt the love, joy, and freedom. He was gentle and kind and He clothed me with new clothes. But as I lived this second chance I never said goodbye to the dead man.


I allowed that person I was, the things that happened to me to continue to shape, define, and see this new world. I know what is healthy now, I know what thinking patterns are wrong, what the lies are, that I am new, but because I never lay to rest the dead man, she continues to haunt me. The voice of broken perspective still echoes and fights against the new healthy voice. The self-protective behavior still controls who I get close to and how much of life I am allowed to experience, good or bad. It all is analyzed and taken as a threat until proven wrong. Every day is a constant battle between what was and what is, what's past and what lives, what true and what is a lie, what's healthy and what's not. With every day that passes I get more and more tired of this constant battle. The voice of the past is still strong and triggers PTSD moments where everything is wrong but that healthy voice is now stronger than that voice. In those moments of triggers I find clarity faster, I see clearer, I accept better. I've started to see the world through this new healthy person, more and more she wins, and the filter changes. I'm ready now to just rejoice but I can't remove these mental grave clothes alone. Luckily when my past died, I may not have attended the funeral, I may have not cried, I may not have loved that person but Jesus did. He mourned for me in love all the ways I never could, for I may have not loved me but He does. He cried for me when I was numb, and when I felt like the exposure was too much He was there to cloth me.


It's time to lay the past to rest, not in anger or bitterness but in love; so that I can finally stop looking at my Lazarus and start rejoicing with my eyes on Jesus and all those who love me. May peace, joy, and freedom of the new surround us all.

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