“This stinks!” you’ve said (or at least wanted to say) something similar, right? maybe in regard to a seemingly insurmountable difficulty?
Martha said it – you know, Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. The three siblings were friends of Jesus - so close that when their brother became ill, the sisters summoned Jesus. He came, but arrived after Lazarus had passed. Grief displayed itself in tears.
Arriving at the tomb, Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Shock must have rippled through the crowd of mourners. But Martha went practical: “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
In that day, an embalmed body was wrapped with strips of textile, then slid into sub-terrain rock. That’s where Lazarus’s body had been – for four days – one day beyond “third day” redemptions experienced frequently in the Old Testament. One day beyond the three days:
· prior to Jonah’s escape from death-by-fish – Jonah 1
· Joseph’s brothers were retained in jail before their release – Genesis 42
· of waiting for God to speak at Mt. Sinai – Exodus 19
· of prayer before God brought healing to the dying King Hezekiah – 2 King 20
Four days. One day beyond hope. “This stinks!” But Jesus encouraged Martha to keep faith, and see God at work!
So, they moved the stone,
Jesus prayed, then called to Lazarus.
and he came out, walking but wrapped with strips of linen –
alive, but bound,
and probably stinky.
“Unwrap him,” said Jesus.
In human purview, death = end. But Lazarus had been raised! And grave clothes don’t belong on a living person! And apparently, the stench of death has been removed, for we don’t hear Martha complaining about that again!
Easter is the celebration that Christ put death to death!
Remember the women who thought Jesus’ corpse stunk (Luke 24)? On Easter morning (not knowing it was Resurrection Day!) they carried embalming perfumes to his burial spot. Was one of them Mary, sister of Lazarus? Did she remember what happened the last time Jesus encountered death? Did she remember that Christ did the undoable? What did she think when she arrived at the tomb to see Jesus’ grave-clothes – only the grave clothes…?
Has Christ done the undoable in your life? Has Jesus brought you to a place of death-to-self, and given you life-with-God? Though we are sometimes aware of the restraint and odor of grave clothes, Christ’s life-in-you means you are a living, Holy Spirit-breathing, child of God!
When Christ’s forgiveness, hope, and purpose hold a loving grip on our hearts, we must discard the burial garments – those characteristics and habits natural to sin and death? Maybe it’s those actions not yet re-formed to be like Christ. For me, it’s those attitudes where “the fruit of Beth” is produced rather than “the Fruit of the Holy Spirit”!
The odor of death is serious. It is for God to reckon with. And God is into resurrection!
The clothing of death is serious. Christ has conquered the source of the odor. Now – even today – the challenge is for us, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to remove the grave clothes. And ask the community around to assist in setting you free!