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 welcomegrace.com and would love to connect with you.

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

Recess, Resurrection, and Redemption

by Kelly Wilson Mize @KellyWilsonMize

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11: 43-44 NLT

Blue skies, fresh air and good friends–what could be better? Remember the sense of joy you felt when it was finally time for recess in elementary school? Or in college when you completed the final exam of the semester?  Five o’clock on Friday after a long week? Stop and think about that feeling for a second…

Ahh, freedom.

As a former elementary educator, I was able to witness that kind of exuberance on a regular basis.  When the doors leading to the playground burst open, bright smiles overtook small faces and excitement permeated the air. No matter how much the kids loved school and their teachers, there was just something about being ‘set free’—released from a place of restriction and confinement—to one of liberty. 

Many of us have lived in a somewhat restricted environment the last few months: our daily outlook has been limited to the view of only ‘essential’ locations. And though some indirect blessings may have come as a result of this strange season of COVID 19—family dinners, leisurely nature walks, a breather from tight, hectic schedules—I think most of us have had struggled with feeling a little restless or maybe even downright claustrophobic. 

The entire world, it seems, is searching for a reason to hope.

As believers, we not only have a reason, but firm assurance of that hope. According to the New Testament, Jesus’ beloved friend, Lazarus, had been dead for four whole days by the time Jesus arrived on the scene. All hope seemed lost. But Jesus had a plan. He went to Lazarus’ tomb, ordered the stone to be rolled away, and called out to him, “Lazarus, come out!” 

Then, the Bible says, the dead man came out, still wrapped in his grave clothes. Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be there?

Jesus then spoke a simple sentence: “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Different versions of the Bible use different words to describe Jesus’ command:

Free him.

Unbind him.

Unwrap him.

Loose him.

…and Let. Him. Go!

Do you sometimes feel that you are being held in the darkness of a tomb, bound by a force that is taking away your very life?

What is holding you back—binding you, wrapping you up—in a way that has rendered you helpless?  What daily confinement do you need to be released from: loneliness? Anxiety, Depression? Anger? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? 

How was Lazarus miraculously brought back to life from death? Jesus spoke. We may not physically have Jesus, in human form, verbalizing life over us. But we do, like Lazarus did, have His presence and His WORD. We were given a life-changing Book bursting with promises that assure us of His love, power, and protection. It’s a freedom that’s even better than the joy of recess on a beautiful day!

Allow God to free you from the negative things that restrict you, so that you can leave the dark tomb behind, and experience authentic life—peace, security, and hope. Listen to His voice when He commands that you be unbound. Embrace His presence and absorb His Word. Because that Word is perfect truth, and truth is the only thing that has the power to truly set us free. (John 8:32)

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Recess, Resurrection, and Redemption – encouragement from @KellyWilsonMize on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two, educator, and freelance writer with a master’s degree in education and 20 years of published writing experience. She has written numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to seven books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts,
(in)courage, and others. Find more from Kelly at kellywilsonmize.com.

Join the conversation: Have you been set free from something holding you back? Please share! What is holding you back or rendered you helpless?