I’d like to start this post out with a wee bit of a story – which might sound a little silly, and it’s also a little awkward to tell.
So I wore a pair of sweats one day not too long ago. I was going to be somewhat hygienic and wear another pair of pants the next day, but the Lord clearly told me to wear those sweats – again. So I did. The next day, the same thing happened, as well as the day after that. I was getting somewhat frustrated, and – I admit – I might’ve even mentally mini-lectured the Lord on hygiene.
He didn’t seem to care.
Even after I took showers, God and I would go through this seemingly ridiculous routine. I would reach for one pair of pants; he would scold me and tell me to reach for the sweats.
(Note: He did let me off the hook whenever I got the privilege of doing worship.)
After a day or two more of this routine, I finally thought to ask the Lord why He’d been making me do this. (Why did I not think of this before?)
And He brought a Biblical story back to mind, on which I had had a thought a couple years ago that pertained to my little story quite a lot.
(By the way, as soon as I came to the realization of what the Lord was getting at here, He finally let me wear something other than that pair of sweats, thankfully)
Let’s read in John 11 (so you can believe me that I wore the same sweats for nearly a week for a reason).
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
By the way, I would recommend you read the entire story when you get the chance – it’s worth the read.
Back to what I was saying: in this story, we tend to emphasize the fact that Lazarus was raised from the dead the most. For good reason, too – that’s really the main topic. But there’s something we skip out on waaaaay too much.
To discover what that little something is, we need to backtrack a wee bit. If we return to my little true-story parable, we’ll discover one thing: I kept wearing the same sweats even after I took a shower.
This seems lame, but bear with me.
If I take a shower so that I am clean, but put on dirty sweats, my “cleanliness” isn’t really all that clean. It’s downright absurd for one to think they can shower, then put on the same clothes over and over again, and still expect to be clean.
I’m getting somewhere with this.
To return to the story of Lazarus: what part, exactly, do we skip out on?
The taking off of the grave clothes.
But you already knew that – you read the title of this post, and you’re not dumb. My suspense was lost. Ah, well.
Anyways, I’m sure you can see, at least to a basic level, the parallels between my real-life spiritual allegory and this real-life miracle.
Lazarus was raised from the dead and brought into new life – but he was bound up in dirty grave clothes.
Let’s read the following out of Romans 6 in the ASV:
5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection
(Right about now, my friend Ezekiel shoots me a comment insisting I put the Scripture in context, which is probably what I should do)
Here goes with the context (this time in the NKJV):
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Oh, this is so good!)
This paints a picture of a resurrection from the dead: a miracle Jesus performed during His time on earth, and one which He is still performing all the time. (And one which we were called to do with His power… but that’s another post)
This resurrection from the dead is a reflection of us.
There are many reflections of Jesus in the Bible. Most people call these reflections types, and though this doesn’t mean that these people were actually types of Jesus, they show that these people symbolize Jesus for us and give us a deeper understanding of Him and His nature. They’re sort of like an allegory in a way.
Not only are there “types” of Jesus; there are reflections of us in the Word. One of those types is Lazarus.
His raising from the dead is directly symbolic to our salvation through Jesus – our death and resurrection in the likeness of His.
If this truly is an allegory of us, then I think verse 44 in the original quote isn’t to be ignored.
What do these grave clothes represent?
If we randomly assign a meaning, we’d likely (vaguely) say bondage. I’d say that’s accurate.
Accurate doesn’t always equal specific or precise (so this is what physical science is good for), and that’s our issue here. Bondage is an accurate assumption, but it’s far from specific or precise.
I think we need to examine another miracle Jesus performed (and that we are still called to do) to bring more clarity to the subject: the casting out of demons.
Jesus truly was into the freedom business, and He called us into it as well.
See Isaiah 61:1 below:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Also see Mark 16:15-17:
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
We can truly be bound up and oppressed by demonic forces even after salvation.
And while this is not a post to prove that to you (there’s plenty of those out there), I think it’s an important fact to point out so I can get where I’m going.
Here’s where we get to the really good stuff: we can be bound up even after we have been called out of death. We can be cleaned, and then put our old, dirty works back on us – as in my little allegory – at which point the fact that we were cleaned is no less valid; rather, we’re just not all that clean anymore.
At that point, one is living in bondage to sin, fear, pride, anxiety, addiction, and whatever else is going on – which is obviously not the Lord’s highest and best for our lives, nor is it His will.
While Lazarus was no less alive with his grave clothes on, they limited him. They set him back from being able to do what the Lord had for Him later in life, to the point that his life would’ve been very, very hard to live.
Not only that, they blinded him. He couldn’t even see or fellowship with the One who saved Him with his grave clothes on. (Seeing any parallels to spiritual life here?)
Yes, he was still living. A mere collection of dirt on a nice mummy-wrap can’t change that. But it sure can change the way one lives.
God has big, big plans for you, and a mummy-wrap makes those plans very hard to achieve. And those grave clothes were not a part of God’s plan for you, which He wrote before the foundation of the world.
He cares that much, and He doesn’t want you to live in bondage. Demonic oppression is to be had freedom of, and you can have that freedom!
Read James 4:7 in the HCSB below:
Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
If you have not had deliverance (translation: taking the grave clothes off/putting on clean sweats after your shower), the truth is: you need it.
I love y’all, but, more importantly, Jesus loves each and every one of you individually in a way neither you nor I can remotely imagine, and we never will this side of heaven.
God bless you 🙂
Also, check out my friend Rachel’s new blog here. She’ll be adding more content in the near future, so stay tuned 🙂 (By the way, you’ll be asked for a password upon clicking the link, and this is that password: RADcorner03)