Remove Those Grave Clothes

by Jessica Van Roekel

“What is that stench?”

My lips curled as my nose wrinkled. I looked around the garage and found the source of the gag-inducing odor. Sure enough, my farm dog, Roe, had brought me a stinky, smelly carcass. “Eewww, really?” As if my dog could understand. Instead, his back side jiggled, and he smiled a goofy doggy smile. His excitement matched my disgust. This wasn’t the first time I’d received this kind of gift, and it wouldn’t be the last.

I sighed as I found my shovel and pliers. Even if I didn’t touch whatever “it” used to be, the smell would linger in my nose and on my clothes. I longed for a hazmat suit. No, I longed for two hazmat suits. With the pair of pliers, I plopped the carcass onto the shovel.

Roe danced on happy feet, as he supervised me. Then I stumbled across our five acres to the dump pile holding the shovel as far away from me as I could. I gasped for breath like a swimmer in a race. Roe trailed behind me, looking a bit dejected that I wasn’t keeping his gift, but trusting me enough to follow.

I thought about Lazarus decaying in darkness for four days. According to their custom, his sisters had prepared his body and laid him in a tomb. They had begged Jesus to come, but He had waited to come. Lazarus had died. Death had won.

But Jesus had glory to do. When He came, He told them to roll away the stone, despite Martha’s protests about the stench. They took away the stone, and Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”

Do you ever wonder how long it took for Lazarus to come out? His sisters had wrapped Lazarus’s body in spices, grave clothes, and covered his face. Did he flop off the ledge and “do the worm” as he made his way toward the light? Did he hop toward the opening? And what about Mary, Martha, and all their friends? Did they wait in anxious anticipation or hopeful doubt? Did they cover their noses for fear of the stench?

So, it is with us. The grave clothes of our sin bind us, and we reek as we decay in our darkness. People pray and grieve over us, and Jesus calls, “Child, come out.” We wrestle and struggle with the sin that binds us. We flop and flail trying to break free. Our loved ones wait in anticipation, anxious, and hope filled. We persist, as we answer Jesus’ call. He calls us to freedom from the sin that traps us. Then he brings others who help us remove the binds that linger.

I’m so grateful for all the people in my life who have helped me grow in Christ. My issues with abandonment, rejection, and insecurity brought their own stench. But God sent others to help me unwind those bindings so I could walk unhindered. That’s one of the beauties found in the body of Christ. We can help with each other’s burdens because of the love of Jesus and the glory he wants to do in each of us. Even if we get a little stinky in the process.

What darkness is he calling you out of? Who can you help today?

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:43-44 NIV).

About the author: Jessica Van Roekel is a worship leader, speaker, and writer. She believes that through Christ’s transforming grace, personal histories don’t need to define the present or determine the future. Her greatest desire is to see people live this “God-life” with all the power and grace that God provides. She writes at and would love to connect with you.

Join the conversation: Is Jesus calling you out of the darkness?


5 thoughts on “Remove Those Grave Clothes

  1. I cannot stop chuckling: Do you ever wonder how long it took for Lazarus to come out? His sisters had wrapped Lazarus’s body in spices, grave clothes, and covered his face. Did he flop off the ledge and “do the worm” as he made his way toward the light? Did he hop toward the opening?

    Never thought of that. Now, I can’t get it out of my head.

    Like you, I had a lot of baggage wrapped tightly around me. But hearing our Messiah call me out, I did whatever I could to get to him. I love this image. Thanks, Jessica.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do what we must in order to receive His freedom, right? Even if we flop and flail along the way, attuning our ears to His voice. Blessings, Terri! Thank you for your kind response!


  2. Powerful post, my friend. So vivid. The call from our Lord into my darkness was like the sound of a lighthouse in the fog, he leads this almost shipwrecked and drowned girl into the safety of his arms. Thank you for your insight.


  3. Thank you for this awesome visual in words. I had never wondered about how long or method Lazarus took to come out after Jesus called for him to come out of the grave. Like Terri mentioned in her comment Now I too cant stop picturing him coming out to meet with Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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