Grave Clothes


I. Scriptural Reference:
    John chapter 11 gives a beautiful account of steps to freedom in the removing of grave clothes.  It is the story of Mary and Martha and the death of their brother Lazarus. We should note that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus very much.  In brief, Lazarus became very sick and Jesus got word of Lazarus being sick but stayed ministering where he was for two more days. In the mean time, Lazarus dies. When Jesus returns to Bethany, Martha, in her disappointment and grief attacks Jesus by saying, "If you would have been here, he would not have died."  She knew about Jesus healing people.   Jesus declared unto Martha that he was the resurrection and the life and asked her if she believed it.  She responded, "Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."  However, she thought that he was referring only to the resurrection when Jesus would come again. Later, Mary also accused Jesus by saying that if he would have been there Lazarus would not have died.  By the time that Jesus comes to the grave, Lazarus had been sealed in the grave four days. It was beyond hope that the spirit of Lazarus would return from the dead. The Jews also commented that since Jesus had healed others he could have prevented the death of Lazarus.

    Jesus commanded that the stone in front of the grave be removed, but Martha objected saying that the body was already decaying and stinks. Jesus challengers her by saying that if she would believe then she would see the glory of God.  They then removed the stone.  Jesus prayed aloud that the people might hear and then called forth Lazarus from the grave.

The next verse is of great importance.  "And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go" (John 11:44).  The grave clothes were strips of cheap white linen cloth used to wrap the body with various spices to cover some of the strong odor of a decaying body in the grave.  The napkin was large handkerchief.  It would be a sight to behold, someone alive, coming out of the grave, standing, but still bound hand and foot with graveclothes. Hiis face was also bound with a handkerchief.  There is no indication in Scripture that Lazarus walked out.  It may be that he was transported out.  Jesus said, "Loose him, and let him go."

    It would be easy to get bogged down in the details of the story at this point; however, I would like to bring some spiritual applications to being set free.
II. An application overview.
A. Although Lazarus seems to be a good person and a close friend to Jesus, it was appointed unto him, a time to die.
1. This is a spiritual picture of mankind.
2. Because of sin, everyone becomes spiritually dead. (Romans 6:23, 7:9).
3. Even though Jesus loves us, he will not prevent the sentence of spiritual death.  (Romans 5:12).
B. No earthly physician can resurrect one who is spiritually dead.  (Matthew 19:25-26).

C. Only through faith in Jesus is there a spiritual resurrection.  (John 11:25).

D. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  (John 14:6).

E. Jesus calls people from spiritual death into Life. ("Lazarus, come forth" ) (Matthew 19:14, 22:14). Find Life, Purpose, Joy.

F. However, after one hears and obeys the call to Life from Jesus, there is still the matter of being bound!

G. NOTE:  Lazarus hands and feet were bound.  He was alive but could not go anywhere or do anything.  Lazarus' head was also bound.  He couldn't hear, see, or speak.  In like fashion, many Believers are bound up.  They are spiritually alive, but bound up where they can't go anywhere or do anything for the Lord.  They are bound up so they can't hear the voice of Jesus, see spiritual things, or speak or share the Word of God.  What grave clothes do you still have on????  What is keeping you bound up?

III. Some grave clothes that keep people bound.
A. Religious and social traditions often keep people in bondage.  "We have never done it that way before."
"And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:6).

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?" (Colossians 2:20-22).

B. Legalism keeps people in bondage..
"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, ... How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" ((Hebrews 6:1, 9:14).  Believers sometimes are bound by dead works.    Dead works are anything we do to obtain or maintain our salvation.

"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3).  The obvious answer is that we receive the Spirit by faith rather than by keeping the law.

"No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles" (Mark 2:21-22). Fresh grape juice can only be put into a new leather bottle, else when the juice begin to expand it will bust the bottle.  The Gospel of salvation by faith and living by faith can not be put in the old wineskin of keeping the laws of the Old Testament.  Even if one puts a patch on the old wineskin, the new grape juice with rip the old wineskin.

C. Old sin habits keep people in bondage.
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).

"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:8-9).

D. A failure to understand the exchanged life may keep one in bondage.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
E. Trying to live the Christian life by our natural abilities rather than the grace of God keeps us in bondage.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13)

F. Generational curses keep many people in bondage.
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:10-14).

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6).

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

G. Performance orientation keep many people in bondage.
"Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone" (Exodus 18:18).  Moses was trying to do everything by hear all the cases that the people brought before him.  Jethro, his father in law warned him that he was wearing himself and the people out also.  See: Overcoming Burnout.

"Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.   For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.  For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow" (Philippians 2:25-27). Epaphroditus almost killed himself trying to do everything in ministry.

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42). Martha was trying to perform rather than choosing to fellowship with Jesus. See: The Problem With Performance

See: "Approval Addiction"

H. If your are not sure of what bondages that you may have, pray and ask God to show you.  SEE: "Prayer For Discovery"
IV. Some principles of removing the grave clothes. Also see: Removing The Enemy's Legal Rights.
A. We need to understand the nature of the new man
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17.  Notes:  "are passed away" ... an accomplished fact with continuing results and "have become new" ... perfect active indicative tense.
B. We need to recognize that there may still remain a bondage.
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24).  But the answer is found in the next verse.  "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:25).
C. We need to know that there is freedom in Christ.
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).

D. We need put off the old man.
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).

"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).

"In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Colossians 2:11)

V. We need to replace the grave clothes.
We should also note that the body of Lazarus would have been stripped naked and washed after his death before he was wrapped in the strips of white linen. At his resurrection, once his body was unwrapped, he would be found naked and needing new clothes.
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).

"And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Colossians 3:10-17).

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).

Final Note:  You may need the help of others in discovering what grave clothes you are wearing, how to remove them, and how to put on Christ.  This is a major part of my counseling ministry. For more information see: Contacts.

Freedom In Christ