The other day, I was listening to a sermon where the pastor referenced the story of Lazarus and, while he was talking, I noticed something in the story that I hadn’t seen before. I love it when that happens!
In the story, Jesus gets news that Lazarus is sick, waits a few days, and then crashes a funeral with his posse in tow. Everyone’s emotional, the sisters are confused as to why Jesus waited so long, and he’s gearing up to put the glory and power of God on display. He instructs them to roll away the stone covering the cave where Lazarus was buried and then tells Lazarus to come out.
“The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”” John 11:44 (ESV)
Lazarus was in full-on mummy attire when he emerged—can you imagine how bad he must have smelled after being dead for 4 days? I would think the crowd gave him plenty of room just to get away from the stench. But one or two or seven daring friends dove into the mess to help him become truly free.
This story is a beautiful picture of what happens to our lives.
We were dead in our sins, but when Jesus calls us to life, we emerge miraculously. But there’s a problem: we still have those old clothes on that once served a purpose. Though we are free, we can’t move, we can’t speak, we can’t do anything because we are so tightly bound. And it’s almost impossible to take those clothes off on our own.
That’s why a healthy, godly community is so important in our lives. We can’t remove the old parts of our lives without their help. Lazarus wasn’t able to take those grave clothes off by himself, some friends had to come close when it would’ve been easier to back away. They had to step toward the mess, touch some stuff that would’ve been mighty unpleasant, and get very uncomfortable in order for their friend to be truly free.
And we are to do the same for others.
In the story, we are both Lazarus and his friends. We are the ones who have been brought to life and need to shed those old ways of thinking, old behaviors, and old loves in order to truly live as God has called us to. And part of that process is helping others who are still bound. It’s just like Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11: 1 (NIV)
We don’t have to have everything figured out or have all the answers, we just have to be following Him and encouraging others to do the same. We have the privilege of leaving our old grave clothes behind and embracing the new life that Jesus has for us. And we get to do this in the context of community, where people can call us out and hold us accountable as we live out our true identities.
As uncomfortable as it can be, community is a vital part of our healing process. Let’s find ways to intentionally embrace that this week!
How do you intentionally stay connected to community?
Do you relate to Lazarus’s story? Why or why not?