A Call To Community
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.” John 11:43-44
Whenever I read this passage, I can’t help but notice how the Lord instructs Mary and Martha to remove the grave clothes and release their brother. Jesus does the supernatural work of resurrecting the dead and then He commands the others to help Lazarus walk in newness of life. A parallel is drawn between the deceased brother and a dead sinner. By the power of the Holy Spirit, both are brought to life. By the power of discipleship and community, both are encouraged to truly live.
Jesus could have easily removed the cloth and linen Himself, but instead, He insists the onlookers do it. We know from the whole of scripture that when God asks us to do something He could do Himself, it’s always for our benefit. Jesus most likely wanted the others to touch and see that Lazarus was in fact miraculously returned to them. It’s similar to how Jesus prays aloud before commanding Lazarus to come out with the authority that only He possesses. He’s compelling us to believe both before and after the miracle.
By exhorting the family and friends to work together, Jesus is implying that they need to participate in the event. The miracle itself, however, is reserved exclusively for the Author of life. It’s reminiscent of the human prophets announcing the coming Messiah, followed by the Apostles proclaiming the Good News.
The body of believers collectively plays a part in God’s Kingdom. Although the “heavy lifting” is always done by God alone, He expects our participation in parts of the process. Contrary to popular opinion, God does not “help those who help themselves.” He allows people to take part in what He’s already doing or plans to do. Jesus could have rolled the stone away and removed the grave clothes without any human intervention–but then where’s the lesson in that?
Throughout scripture, God calls His people to work together in fulfillment of the roles He has for them. Yes He can and will do what He wants done, but–true to His character–God will call us to do our part. Jesus saves the lost and spiritually dead. Then He commands the church to help them out of their grave clothes and into victory.