Grave Clothes and the Importance of Community

The biblical account of Lazarus in John’s gospel is the account of every Christian. Like Lazarus, we were dead. We were dead spiritually, dead in our trespasses and sins. Like Lazarus, Christ raised us to new life. Just as He called Lazarus by name and pursued him, Christ pursued us. He set His love and affection on us in the midst of our sinfulness and brokenness.

Preachers sometimes inadvertently draw an unhelpful distinction between “being saved” and “being radically saved.” Being saved often sounds like “grew up in a church family and became a Christian at a young age” and being radically saved often sounds like “got pulled out of a crazy life and have a really cool story (and maybe a record) about it.” But because our story is like Lazarus’ story, there is no distinction between “being saved” and “being radically saved,” because one cannot be more dead than dead. Every salvation is radical.

Lazarus’ story does not end with him walking out of tomb, and our story does not end there either. When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he still carried some remnants of the grave. He was saddled with grave clothes. He had trouble walking. He was alive, but he looked a little dead. So, Jesus said to the crowd, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Get those grave clothes off of him so he can walk like he is alive.

In the same way Christ has raised us to new life and He calls us to remove the remnants of our old lives. The apostle Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4:22-24: “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We are commanded to take off our grave clothes, to “put off our old selves.” And we must take off our old selves or we won’t be able to walk as we should or enjoy the freedom we have been given.

When Lazarus walked out of the tomb, Jesus asked the crowd to help take off the grave clothes. Lazarus needed help taking off the remnants of his old life, and we need help too. Some remnants of our old selves must be taken off in community. It takes others to encourage you when you are struggling. It takes others to pray for you when you need wisdom. It takes others to graciously help you see grave clothes that you can’t see, remnants of your old life that remain. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes community to mature a Christian. 

We need community to grow and mature. We need community to walk in our new selves.