Sunday, August 3, 2014

Take off the Grave Clothes and Go Out!

Sitting on the balcony of the staff condo this summer, with the Smoky Mountains filling my view to the right, and King Kong taking down the Wax museum to my left, I read the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-43) in a new light. A unique picture of the Gospel that I'd never thought of before.

Mary and Martha, two sisters, plead for Jesus to come. They want him to intervene in a circumstance of hopelessness and save their brother from death. But Jesus doesn't come right away. And Lazarus dies, seemingly too far gone for anyone to revive him. At any hospital, the time of death would have been called out, and an eerie calm would come before the weeping would begin. 

When Jesus arrives, Martha looks at Jesus and says "If only you had been here, my brother would not have died."  And Jesus consoles her and says in his Jesus like crypticness "Your brother will rise again. I am the Resurrection and the Life." He then sets out to see where they have laid Lazarus body.

When Jesus sees Lazarus death tomb, He is overcome and begins to weep. A dear treasured friend, laying lifeless before him.  A crying that only happens over one so deeply loved. A mourning that goes to the gut and pierces the heart of the one who's body shakes in sadness.

But then Jesus does a peculiar thing, He asks that the stone to the grave be removed. Just imagine the horror of having someone ask to exhume a buried body! Everyone around would have been either disgusted or embarrassed or horrified. I can just hear Martha say, "Jesus, please! Don't do this! It will already smell bad, he has been there for 4 days!" But, he insists. and he prays, that the people standing there would benefit from what they will see.

And then, the beautiful, crazy and amazing part. He calls Lazarus out! He calls him to live! He calls him to come out of the grave! To rise and come to life! Lazarus comes out of the grave, but still bound with his grave clothes. He probably couldn't see that well and probably had pain hit him as his eyes were exposed to the light, and his dead body started to receive life again. Maybe He felt the pins and needles as his body tingled with blood flowing into all his limbs again. 

And Jesus says, "Take off the Grave clothes and Let Him go!"

The beauty of the Gospel is so parallel in this story:

  • The Hope for Believers: Mary and Martha, the power of God came to save their brother after they thought it wasn't possible and hopeless and too late. This is a reminder to those of us that feel like Mary and Martha, that it is too late to see salvation come to loved ones that we have long prayed over! Oh, that we would believe, that with Jesus, no matter if his timing feels late, He is never too late to being hope to the hopeless. What a reminder of why I share my own story in hopes of others salvation.
  • The Deep Love of Jesus for People: Jesus is the Ressurection and the Life. He knew what was going to happen. Yet he weeps over the dead and mourns at the tomb that encrypts his loved ones. Jesus mourns over the sinner that is encased in sin, bound by the grave, and lies dead. He weeps over our dead state and longs for our lifeless bodies and souls to receive flowing blood again--His saving Blood. 
  • The Freedom from the Grave: When one hears the voice of God to Live, he can trust it and come out of the tomb. No matter how surreal it feels, even if the light is painful, there is freedom in the response to live and rise and come out! It wasn't pretty to see the grave clothes exposed, but it didn't matter. Life had come to the dead man and he no longer was bound by the grave. This is true for us when we hear his voice and respond.
  • Beyond the Grave: Jesus is helping the saved, the alive, to leave to grave clothes. To take off the strips of death that bind us, and go out in freedom, in our new selves, not bound any longer to death and decay and the tomb! That is redemption! Not just salvation,  but salvation and a new self, free from the old, dead self.

This picture of the Gospel touched me deeply this summer, as I realized that the Gospel speaks hope to the hopeless, speaks life to the dead, demonstrates the Saviors deep love over those that are not living but are encased by the tomb, and frees us from all that entangles, that we may go out, and that our story would be a witness to others.  That we would tell of the tomb we left, and the grave clothes that sit in a pile and no longer entangle us. That we would live out of our new selves and call others to listen to Jesus call to come out of the grave and be free.

This Blog brought to you by The Tomb Ride, an attraction that costs too much and is not worth it in Pigeon Forge that, upon exiting, makes you think, "Glad that's over."