Take off the grave clothes and let him go. John 11:44
Those simple words cut through our doubt-filled stupor and suddenly all became clear as the spell that had paralyzed us vanished into thin air. Released from our immobility, we ran toward the cloaked figure of what appeared to be our recently deceased friend, Lazarus, now standing upright and squirming. Maybe grave clothes make an appropriate outfit for a stiff body lying on a cold slab, but on one who lives they present an intensely morbid sight. But laughter replaced grief and sorrow as we began to peel one strip of cloth after another from the man who had been buried just four days earlier. Though the fragrance of death oozed from his wrappings we continued on in excitement until they were off and he could move about freely. After a bath Lazarus was given a new robe -- fit for one who is alive -- and he put it on with sheer delight.
[excerpt from a future Shovelation on John]
No doubt Lazarus' return from the grave demanded much as to who Jesus was and what he could do, but do you suppose John recorded the miracle merely as an apologetic, that is, as an argument for the Christian faith? Obviously, the event paled in comparison to Jesus' own resurrection, but what they witnessed here had etched some striking memories within them. The Spirit of Christ would also remind them what he had spoken:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. John 5:24-27
Though the physically-risen Lazarus would eventually die again their previous understanding of resurrection had been shattered by the totally unexpected and unbelievable phenomenon they witnessed. Consider the doctrinally accurate statements made by Lazarus' sister, Martha, when she spoke with Jesus:
'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' Yes, Lord,' she told him, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.' John 11:21-27
Such a profession might secure membership in most Christian organizations, but they were just empty words spoken to cover unbelief. Are you hearing me here? With these Biblically-sound claims Martha was only expressing her utter disappointment in Jesus, not her faith. She merely responded with what she thought he wanted to hear; for when the reality of Jesus' words had moved past hypothesis Martha was the one to object -- though her reaction surely reflected the common fear.
Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? John 11:40
WE DIDN'T KNOW YOU MEANT RIGHT NOW!
No one wanted that grave opened because of what they fully expected to find, which was the same dead man they all knew had been buried in there. I mean, who wants their expectations blown by the less-than-impossible chance of an absurd present reality when the sense of hope could be preserved by keeping it safely tucked away in the doctrinally-correct realm of Things-Yet-To-Come?
Keep that stone rolled over the grave and don't dare try to convince us that life has replaced death!
But the dead man heard the voice of Jesus and he crossed over from death to life. And there he stood at the entrance to the grave still all wrapped up in grave clothes! Now what?
There was no difficulty on the part of Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the grave. There was no difficulty on the part of the dead man who heard and then rose from the dead. No, that was all undeniably miraculous, and therefore, outside the scope of relativity. The difficulty existed in the perceptions of those who stood around not knowing what to think or what to do. It also existed within the mind of the one who stood there, totally confused by this unexplained confinement.
Take off the grave clothes and let him go.
Could it be so simple? Could it be so matter of fact? Could it be the joyful removal of death rags from the living enabling them to move about in total freedom? But guess what the old religious mind has taught us to do?
Next: Sewing new labels on old clothes