Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
I've been thinking about this passage of scripture a lot lately. It's a well known "bible story," and one most Christians have heard. But the part of the story that stands out to me isn't the typical portion that I've heard teachings on. The part that sticks with me is the very last line.
Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." (Emphasis mine.)
I see in this passage a parable of sorts about salvation. Lazarus was dead, but only at the word of the Lord was he brought to life again. Likewise, our salvation comes from Christ's work alone on the cross. But I love the last line because I think it foreshadows the fact that this was not actually the end of a story, but a beginning. I think that's true of a lot of the accounts we read in scripture. Where we have put a period, God has actually placed a comma.
Too many people are offered the false impression that salvation is the end of the story. And although it is a completed work in Christ, it's really the beginning of the walk of faith for the new believer. Life doesn't suddenly become simple, solved and easy because someone has given their life to Christ. Quite the contrary, in a lot of ways, things will get tougher for most.
Like Lazarus, despite the "resurrection life" that now lives inside of us, we are still walking in the "grave clothes" of the life we've lived before. And it wasn't Jesus Himself, who walked up and unwrapped Lazarus from the heavy clothes that entangled him, it was then that he called the community of disciples around him to become untangled so he could move forward free from the cloths.
That, to me, is the importance of discipleship. No one can walk the walk of faith alone or on their own. It's why the Bible tells us not to neglect the gathering together of fellowship with other believers. And it's also why though those of us who are disciples need to be reaching out, investing, and helping others untangle from the "grace" from where they have come before coming to the Lord.
Imagine in your mind the process. Anyone who has ever helped a toddler or an infant out of an outfit can imagine in their mind the process of untangling someone from the awkwardness of grave clothes. The squirming, the struggle, the process has to be led by someone outside of the clothes. It requires patience and intention. It's both a commitment, and a call. Investing in the kingdom means investing in individuals and doing it with a purpose.