Taking Off the Grave Clothes


John 11: 1-44

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea."

"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?"

Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world's light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light."

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

"Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you."

When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked.

"Come and see, Lord," they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

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 odor, 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 around his face.

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

Taking Off the Grave Clothes

As I reflect on this scripture I see how at times I have on my own "grave-clothes and bindings." It is very easy to get caught up in the “busyness” of life. The job, home, cooking, cleaning, shopping, paying bills, running errands, appointments, just to name a few - I can’t help but feel like Martha and Mary. Just as they were caught up in the “busyness” of the mourning period, I too am caught up in “busy-ness.”  The Lenten Season is a time of self-denial, reflection and spiritual renewal. I want to take off my “grave clothes and bindings” and listen but instead I keep the “grave-clothes” on.  Sometimes we have to slow down to hear Jesus saying, (verses 25-26): “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

No one wants to receive a terminal diagnosis. But those that do find themselves reorganizing their life to better use whatever time is left. Is that “thing” that I find so pressing, really that pressing? Will it make a difference in eternity, or on earth 100 years from now? Will a soul be saved or lost by what I find so important? When faced with what drops us to our knees, do we really have the faith to believe that Jesus is there to remove the “grave-clothes and bindings” and restore us to a perfected relationship with Him? 
Mary and Martha knew Jesus was powerful enough to prevent Lazarus from dying but they couldn’t grasp that he was powerful enough to restore life to his dead body as only God can do. I believe that our own doubts and lack of faith keep us living in darkness when Jesus is waiting in the light to restore a perfect relationship with Him.


Almighty, powerful God, help us to remove the “grave-clothes and bindings” that keep us from hearing your word speak to us. Help us to have true faith and believe that you are always there to lead us into your light. Give us peace during this Lenten Season.
Eunice Glasser is a Director at the United Methodist Village Retirement Community in Lawrenceville.