Turns out I’m a liar. Not an intentional one, mind you, but a liar all the same. At the close of the last blog post (part one about the resurrection of Lazarus), I told you that I’d have part two ready for you soon. Ha! Clearly four weeks later isn’t soon. In my defense, my only child did start kindergarten last week, so surely that buys me some good graces and extra time, right?? At the end of last week I mentioned something about really needing to get my blog completed, and my sweet child said, “Oh wow, you still haven’t written that yet? Part one was a long time ago!” Such an encourager.
So, in keeping with my long-ago issued promise, let me provide for you a part two. But first, let’s have a quick review since it’s been so long and so much life has happened you probably totally forgot I even write a blog. (Back to school shopping anyone? Start of new morning routines, yes? Heart palpitations and tears? No one else? Just me? Okay, great.)
As we left off in the post entitled “Don’t Get Fooled By The Stink,” we saw that Jesus fulfilled His promise to Mary and Martha by resurrecting their brother Lazarus four days after he was declared dead and subsequently buried. We discussed how important it is for us, as Christians, to maintain our faith in what God’s doing for us and in our lives, no matter how dead something seems. To us we might see our marriage as dead or our will-power as dead or our ambition or our job or our creativity as dead, but Jesus is the Resurrection. In John 11 we are reminded that NOTHING it too dead that Jesus can’t heal it and restore it, better than it ever was before.
But our story of Jesus breathing life back into Lazarus doesn’t end there. It doesn’t stop with his reminder to Martha that nothing is impossible for Him (John 11:40). For this second half, this final portion of the story, I want us to start with John 11:41-43. As is His usual, Jesus sets the example for us in how to approach any situation into which we need God’s divine intervention: He starts with prayer. He lifts His eyes, lifts His hands, and thanks His Father for listening even before a single action has been taken, before any stirring in the grave had begun. While this isn’t the main focus in this post, I’d hate for us to pass up the lesson here. How often do we begin praying with just a list of demands we’re bringing before God? How about instead of that, we start with thanking Him? I say we should get all manner of wild and crazy and even thank Him for answering our prayer before we ever even see any change! What?! I know, pretty wild. Consider what kind of faith that displays before God. And even better than that, it focuses us on worshiping Him, on recognizing His mightiness and His glory without our need to see Him “perform” first. More God, less selfish ambition. Such a simple yet excellent example.
Let’s get Brother Laz outta that grave, though, shall we? In John 11:43 it happens. The verse tells us that after Jesus prays, “He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!” Bet you can’t guess what happens next…“And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and his feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Okay, so we have officially made it to part two, our next step. Yes, we must thankfully and prayerfully submit our seemingly dead areas to Jesus, allowing Him to do what no other can. Yes, we must trust while we wait. But then. Then, when we see that He’s answered our prayer, that our formerly dead relationship/self-worth/career/hope has been resurrected, we must go one more step toward the land of the living and take off our grave clothes.
You’re right; our grave clothes don’t look like Lazarus’s. In place of the burial linens that, for Lazarus, symbolized his once-dead existence, we have negative qualities and emotions. We often wrap ourselves in those negative emotions during those days/months/years we spend nursing our dead/dying circumstances, and sometimes, even once we walk out of those metaphorical graves, we keep those grave clothes with us. Jesus tells us, just like He’s instructing Lazarus, to take off those grave clothes.
What do our “grave clothes” look like, you ask? It’s pretty simple. We are wrapped for dead in those qualities and emotions that we incorrectly believe shield us, that we incorrectly believe protect us from more hurt, more disappointment. See if any of these sound familiar to you:
*Anger *Bitterness *Rejection *Shame
*Hurt *Guilt *Unforgiveness *Distrust
*Worry *Disbelief/Doubt *Addiction *Distractions
*Negativity/Pessimism *Isolation *Hate
So what’s the truth? Do you see any of these “grave clothes” in your own life? While it doesn’t say this directly in the Bible, I feel pretty confident that Jesus didn’t resurrect Lazarus so he could walk this earth in misery, spreading his rejection (he literally died after all!), his bitterness, and his anger over how things turned out. There’s just no way that God has that plan in place for us, either.
So now what? If you aren’t dead anymore but you can’t wear those same negative emotions anymore, then what? Well, we get purposeful. We start thinking about what our lives should look like, what our attitudes should be like now that we’ve been saved (yet again!) by the grace of God. PUT ON YOUR JESUS CLOTHES, PEOPLE! Romans 13:14 states that, instead of living in the dark (or the dead), we should, “clothe [ourselves] with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Get rid of those stinky, moldy grave clothes and put on some Jesus clothes. That sounds great, but what exactly do these Jesus clothes look like, and where do we get them?
Throughout the Bible you’ll find example after example of Jesus’s own interactions with others, showing us how we should treat people, the ones we like and the ones we would rather not even look at. But for me, Colossians 3:12-13 provides a simple list of the characteristics of Jesus we should be wearing daily. It reads, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.” Maybe we could collectively decide that this list, along with the addition of a few more such as joy, gratitude, compassion, trust, and love is a pretty full wardrobe of Jesus clothes.
And, of course, that other question, where do we get these Jesus clothes, pretty much answers itself: Jesus. Y’all, we aren’t miracle workers. We get hurt and angry and bitter, and despite a desire to change those feelings, we just can’t get past them. So instead of deciding that you’ve been hurt and this is just how you are now, or you’ve been rejected and now you’ll never be loved again, how about we spend some time talking to the single most qualified person to help us clothe ourselves in a way that blesses our lives, the lives of those near us, and that glorifies the Savior who brought new life into our mess in the first place. This world and its issues cannot be handled without prayer. No relationship can be sustained, no body controlled without the help of Jesus. (Did you catch that? You literally CANNOT DO LIFE without prayer!) Yes, Jesus showed up for you (or will show up, if you’re still praying), but it’s our jobs to sustain that new life He’s given our dead areas. It’s up to us, now. It’s time to take off those grave clothes, pray to our Resurrector and Savior for His help throwing off all our old garb, and put on our Jesus clothes (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Yeah, okay, so maybe they’re a little scratchy, a little tight, a little uncomfortable at first. Hang in there. It may not be fast and it may not be easy, but those Jesus clothes will feel like years-old sweats in no time, and I can PROMISE you, no matter how long you wear them, you’ll NEVER be able to say that about those grave clothes. Friends, it’s time for an outfit change, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure that other one is starting to smell.
Dear Lord, as Jesus taught me to pray, thank You in advance for hearing my prayer, for always hearing my prayers. I ask, Lord, that You help me to throw off my grave clothes and clothe myself in You. I continue to pray that You breathe life into any dead areas in my life, just like You did for Lazarus, and I ask for help throwing off those negative emotions that might cling to me because of those areas. Help me to successfully trade those for the qualities of You, Jesus, so that I can glorify You with how I live my life. I want others to see what You mercifully did for me, to see that change in my life and my attitude as well, and to recognize that it can only have come from You. Thank You, Father, that in my weakness I can come to You, be made new, and have my “clothes” completely transformed. I love You, God, and I worship Your greatness and love. It’s in Jesus’s name that I ask these things. Amen.
(1 Samuel 2: 16) So stand still and see this great thing the Lord will do before your eyes now.