I heard a sermon today about Jesus and Lazarus, and something struck me about that story.
It’s a very unique story in the Gospels, one where Jesus purposely waited for death to overcome His friend. It’s a story that teaches us we can come to Jesus with our confusion and doubt and He will lovingly answer. It’s a story about Jesus showing emotion, and it’s about Jesus overcoming what no one else can overcome – death itself.
But what struck me this day is something we tend to overlook in the story.
Jesus Raises Lazarus
Lazarus was called out of the grave, but he brought the grave clothes with him. It’s almost a throwaway line, when Jesus has to instruct Lazarus’ family and friends to free the man from the strips of cloth binding his arms and legs, but I wonder. Did God mean to show us something greater in that?Jesus and Lazarus: What You Might Have Missed… Click To Tweet
Lazarus was made into a living creature, what once was dead had been made alive. On the inside. But his living breathing body was still wrapped up in the trappings of the tomb. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say this next part, but perhaps the cloth even still bore the stink of death that would have surrounded Lazarus during those four days in the grave.
Jesus and Lazarus
Yet, in all that Jesus did do for Lazarus that day, there are a few things He did not do.
- Jesus didn’t step back in shock and horror. He didn’t recoil from Lazarus.
- Jesus did not unwrap Lazarus Himself.
- Jesus did not tell Lazarus to free himself.
- Jesus did not tell those standing nearby to avoid Lazarus out of fear they’d be corrupted or contaminated.
- Jesus did not suggest they berate Lazarus for still being bound by the grave clothes.
These seem like an analogy of a new Christian to me.
Called to a New Life
We are called to a new life. We are brought out of death and into life. But sometimes we still have the trappings of our old life hanging on us.
What are we to do about this? Isn’t it our instinct to try to release ourselves, to try to struggle on our own? But Jesus didn’t tell Lazarus to free himself. Jesus didn’t tell him to pretend like everything was good until he could make everything good for real. Jesus told other people to help Lazarus, implying that Lazarus should let them. This was a joint effort, but with the knowledge that the one person who could do the least in the situation was Lazarus himself.
New and/or struggling fellow believers don’t need us to critique them, or lecture, or judge. They need us to help them get unwrapped.
The Holy Spirit does the convicting, but as Christians, we are the ones who step in and help someone when the Holy Spirit directs us to help them. And we do it in the same way those friends of Lazarus would have unbound him.
Can You Imagine It?
Just imagine. You’re standing there weeping at the grave of a dear friend, a loved family member, and suddenly Jesus Christ comes and your loved one is alive again!
He walks out, not stinking, not decaying, not far away in heaven somewhere, but right there. The only thing between you and your dear friend are those grave clothes. How would you feel helping him get free of those things?
You’d unwind them, wanting to see your loved one walking freely, only caring that he wasn’t covered in those things anymore and you could have the sort of fellowship and freedom that you’d had once before.
What Jesus and Lazarus Can Teach Us
Isn’t that the attitude we ought to have when we’re helping a new Christian?
You know we can shepherd each other? The pastor isn’t the only one who can do that. He holds the leadership in the church, don’t get me wrong, but we can “shepherd” carefully those who we touch in our daily lives, those who need to grow in Christ little by little. We can be the one who joyfully helps to remove the grave clothes from someone’s life.
On the other hand, imagine being the one wrapped in grave clothes still. For me, I know my first instinct is to refuse help from anyone else. I can see myself convinced that I could get those things off on my own and I don’t need to bother anyone else.
But God tells me to cooperate with others, be open, let them help me. Because then, when I’m free, I can help someone else.
And isn’t that our ultimate goal?God tells me to cooperate with others, be open, let them help me. Because then, when I’m free, I can help someone else. Click To Tweet