John 11: 38-44
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.
‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’
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 round his face.
Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’
Ephesians 2: 1-2; 4-5
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live...But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ...
While it was obviously Jesus who raised Lazarus back to life from the grave, it’s important to notice the role of other people in the miracle. Firstly, in the removal of the stone from the entrance to the tomb. Could Jesus not have moved it himself with just a word? Or called upon a few angels to do the job for him? Yet he includes the people around him. The only thing they have to do to participate in the miracle is to obey his commands.
It’s the same in our lives. Miracles are almost always the result of a partnership between God’s unlimited power and our faithful obedience. When we move, He moves. When we pray for the sick, He heals. When we share the Gospel, He saves. When we show up on our community, He transforms.
Once Lazarus is brought back to life, look at the next instruction Jesus gives to the onlookers:
‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (v. 44)
He has been raised but not released. While Lazarus has new life, he is restricted by the past trappings of death. The grave clothes are no doubt causing him to stumble and limiting his ability to enjoy what Jesus has done for him.
This is such a vivid picture of what Jesus does in our own lives. First of all, he calls us out of a place of death. The Bible teaches that until we are born again we are dead in our sins. But as soon as we put our trust in Jesus this all changed. Resurrection life caused our spirits to become suddenly alive to God.
However, having received new life, we may still need to be set free in certain areas of our lives. Like Lazarus emerging from the tomb, we can still bound by the trappings of our former life. The programme ‘Celebrate Recovery’ tells us that there are 3 things that keep us from being completely free: hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
Hurts: are those painful things that have happened to us. We still carry the memory of them around with us and they affect how we think and behave today.
Hang-ups: Mental blocks and emotional barriers that cause unhealthy attitudes and patterns of behaviour. These could include things like anger, unforgiveness, people pleasing and so on.
Habits: Addictions and compulsive behaviours we’ve turned to so often that they’ve become a part of us.
These three things - hurts, hang ups and habits - bind us, trip us up, stop us moving forward and prevent us from fully experiencing and enjoying the new life that Jesus has given us.
Satan’s primary goal is to stop you becoming a Christian. After that, it’s to keep you from being effective for God’s Kingdom. If you’re a Christian, but you’re stuck and bogged down in the grave clothes from the past, you’re not much of a threat to him. So he concentrates his efforts on containing and restraining you through sinful habits, keeping you entombed by and consumed with your past, or keeping you tied up and tripping over your hang-ups.
That’s where the church comes in. We become part of a community of people who are dedicated to removing our grave clothes so we can run through life rather than stumble and fall. We help one another get unstuck from our hang ups, healed from our hurts and set free from our habits.
That can take some time. The miracle of new life from Jesus happens in an instant, it’s a one-off event, but getting free is often a process. That’s why we need one another.
With that in mind, we look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am and 11.30 am. On Sunday evening we will gather at 7.00 pm and go out into our community as part of our 10,000 Hours project.
If you haven’t yet registered for 10,000 Hours, you can sign up today using this link: