What restrictions are you struggling with today? Where do you feel bound?
Is it physical, in that you are not able to move or do the things that you once were able to do with ease?
Is it mentally as your mind just does not seem to recall or remember things like when you
were a youth?
Is it emotional in that feelings seem somewhat dull and even unfeeling
because of recent restrictions with covid or of your past?
Or is it spiritual as one feels bound by the things others demand, or say, are essential or one will never make it with
In our world today and for me in our country in particular it seems that instead of
‘setting people free’ from the power of evil we seem to just wrap ourselves up as well as
try to wrap others in a different kind of binding/bondage. In John 11 we have the story of
Jesus raising Lazarus, His friend, from the dead.
But Lazarus needed to be unbound from the cloths of physical death so he could live.
A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This
was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them
with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus,
“Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”
4 When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an
occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”
5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus
was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his
disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
8 They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going
9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight
doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might
very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.”
11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m
going to wake him up.”
12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up
feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking
about taking a nap.
14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t
there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”
16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We
might as well die with him.”
17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was
near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha
and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming
and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.
21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I
know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”
23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”
24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”
25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one
who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing
in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who
comes into the world.”
28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is
here and is asking for you.”
29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet
entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her
sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her
way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet,
saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up
within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”
37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to
keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”
38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple
cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”
The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been
dead four days!”
40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the
glory of God?”
41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”
They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful
that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd
standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”
43-44 Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from
head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.
Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”
Whenever I read this passage, my heart is stirred deep within me. First, ‘Jesus wept’ at
the reality of Lazarus’ physical death. I ask myself how often does Jesus weep as He looks upon this world and the spiritual death He observes in so many.
Second, Jesus calls Lazarus to come out and live, however the bondage of the clothes of
death are still in place restricting him to be totally alive. He cannot unwrap himself but
relies upon others to unwrap him and set him free to be fully alive. In our world, when
people come to follow Christ do we unwrap the bondages so they can truly embrace life in
fullness or do we just unwrap them partially? Or do we unwrap them from the past only
to wrap them in what we think are acceptable ‘spiritual clothes/actions’ for followers of God?
Third, Jesus tells the people ‘Unwrap him and let him go,’ in other words set Lazarus free
from the bondage that keeps him dead. Yes, unwrap and let him go’ and set him free to
live life fully and completely. Sometimes we may need to seek God for our own
unwrapping. At times one may need to help others become unwrapped so they too can be
free as Jesus desires. It is all about embracing the resurrection life in fullness for oneself
as well as for others. It is all about leaving the ‘grave clothes of sin’ behind and living free in and through Christ.
‘UNWRAP HIM AND LET HIM LOOSE’
Lord, I see people wrapped in binding clothes that they are fearful for You to unwrap –
Or they are fearful to unwrap themselves –
They are dead inside and longing for life –
New beginnings –
Freedom from pain –
The past –
Possibly even the present –
Yet to embrace the new life You offer/give is so scary –
Yes, and so true –
In spite of the fact, that they cannot unwrap themselves
There is a security in staying wrapped –
In spite of someone offering them hope
They cannot believe anyone would do that for them,
Especially You, God.
Wow – just wow…….
Slowly they are dying inside –
Some have already died –
They are in need of resurrection power
To be enacted in their lives –
But they are so afraid – as one says:
“It will stink!”
It may have some ugliness attached –
“Oh Jesus, please give courage,’
For You are calling out their name –
Tenderly with love
But also, with life-giving power that can set them free –
Oh yes indeed!”
May they pray:
“Give me that fullness of life-giving power,
I long to embrace it –
I know it will offer and facilitate life-giving power not only in me but also in others around
Amen and Amen.
May we go forward in our lives in this world embracing and living in the resurrection
power of Jesus Christ our lord and Savior. Amen and Amen.
Writing and photos by June Friesen.