Today we welcome Peter Davey. Peter is married to Jill and together they have been in Christian ministry since the early days of their marriage. They have four grown up children and dozens of grandchildren and are a great addition to the Jubilee family in their example and wisdom of years.
Taking the bandages off Lazarus (John 11:1–44)
Some comments on an often-overlooked but significant verse.
In the story of Lazarus many have highlighted the role of Mary and Martha and others have remarked on the fact that Jesus intentionally delayed arriving in Bethany after Lazarus had died (v.6) but have you ever wondered about the bandages he came out with?
John tells us that Jesus called out in a loud voice “Lazarus, come out!” and immediately the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. (v.43-4)
Pause for a moment and imagine this happening!
- HOW did Lazarus come out – how on earth did he manage to walk?
- WHAT did he smell like – did those nearest to the tomb stagger back as they smelled the first blast?
We all too easily skip over the fact that he was still bound and his face still covered! …… and so miss the significance of what Jesus said next: (v.44b) Jesus said to them: “(You) take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
To whom was he speaking? Who are the ‘you’ implied in this account?
Those who had just moved the stone? The Jews who had complained that Jesus could have / should have healed Lazarus and prevented his death?
Mary and Martha and the ladies who had only a matter of days before with tears and sadness anointed his body covering it with spices as they wrapped it in strips of cloth?
Or was it the disciples who accompanied Jesus – the ‘elders’ and ‘leaders’ of the embryonic church?
Well of course it is clear that this was a general instruction to everyone in the crowd!
A challenge to the church?
For me it is a challenge to us as the church family! Jesus really is the one who ‘sets free’ but amazingly the role of actually loosing the strips of cloth that enshrine or the chains that bind becomes the collective responsibility of (the church) family and friends!
From the resurrection of Jesus we must acknowledge that Jesus could have arranged for Lazarus to leave the tomb UNbound with the cloths and napkins left behind neatly folded (see John 20.6-7).
I find it amazing and exciting that Jesus didn’t complete the job of setting Lazarus free! Just as we often need the support and encouragement of others so incredibly Jesus chose to bring Lazarus out still bound thereby creating opportunity to involve his friends and family in the completion of his release.
As I have observed over the years there are many times when undoubtedly we have a significant encounter with God and something amazing happens but we still need help and encouragement as we walk out of our ‘mess’ to fully embrace our freedom and become the ‘message’ of hope to others.
This is really one of the roles and privileges of being ‘family’ together. There is also something else we need to be aware of to do with authenticity. This something Rob talked about this Sunday for example when he spoke about the elders sharing together and being open about things they are facing.
In the same way Lazarus allowed those around him to help him get fully free!
Imagine if, as he stumbled and staggered forwards, he had protested: “It’s fine I’m just working through something here” or if he had brushed away those who tried to help with an embarrassed: “I smell, I can’t bother you with my mess / problem / struggles” or “I just need to get this cloth from around my face and I’ll be alright.”
Sound familiar? We all do it but really we deny ourselves the really powerful blessing that Jesus has instigated by his instruction to ‘take off the cloths and let him go’.
Being ‘real’ and engaging with each other at the deepest levels only comes with those with whom we feel secure, accepted and loved unconditionally and results from being available to each other in supportive and caring ways consistently over time.
Peter wrote this in response to the talk on Sunday: Keeping the main thing the main thing. Peter ties the talk together with some of the prophetic themes that came through during the worship. Thank you Peter.