light beams shining into dark cave
March 28, 2024

Lazarus, What WERE You Thinking? Resurrection Life for Shuffling, Brokenhearted Believers 

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“[Jesus] cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” John 11:43–44

An Imagined Conversation about a Real Story

“Lazarus…COME OUT!” It’s the familiar voice of One who loves you, but you’d never heard it from inside a dark, lonely, lifeless (until a second ago) tomb. You were bound up tight, the smells of death and burial spices mingled together. Your eyelids slowly fluttered open to see a cloth, a little bit of light. Where am I…where are my sisters?! Did Jesus come and heal me after all?! They were weeping and scared, I remember . . . then it all went dark. What happened?

Lazarus, what were you thinking, feeling, believing in that moment? 

Were you terrified, disoriented? God didn’t give many details, but I’m curious. Jesus clearly left a trail of gospel amazement wherever he went—“hell broke apart at his feet . . . wherever Jesus went, hell was dismantled.”1 The curse was reversed as his kingdom went forward. The sick became healthy, the blind could see, the demon-oppressed were set free—so of course, he could cause life to surge back into your helpless, dead, corrupted, smelly body. Just two words of personal love commanded you: “COME OUT.” And you did!

Somehow, bound head to toe with a dead man’s burial cloths, unable to free yourself, you maneuvered off the cold rock slab and shuffled toward the Voice, the Light, our Resurrection and Life. Fresh air wafted and sunshine streamed through the cloth covering your face. Then you heard gasps, cries, and that Voice again broke through your cloth-covered ears: “Unbind him, and let him go.”

You tried to yell but only faint words came out and tears soaked the cloth: Jesus! Is that you, friend? What’s happening . . . my body feels like it’s coming alive—was I dead?! I’m alive . . . I’m alive! Do my sisters know? The last thing I remember is their worried, heartbroken faces.

You heard footsteps, sensed movement near you, and then gentle hands on your head, feet, shoulders. The strips of cloth were removed. You saw Jesus’s rejoicing, tear-covered face looking back at you, with Mary and Martha stunned and crying. You glanced back at the empty, dark, lifeless tomb and realized: it was your dead man’s tomb. You were dead, bound, still. Now you are alive, unbound, shuffling—moving toward Jesus.  

Lazarus, you became alive again; what were you thinking and feeling?!

Sexual Strugglers: Come Out, Though It Be a Slow Shuffle

Friend, do you resonate with Lazarus, bound up not with burial cloths but hopelessness, shame, and fear that you’ll never be free of besetting sins and temptations which hound you daily?

Though the grave cloths differ in size and color, we all have them—persistent sins that cling hard, vestiges of the old man in us (Rom. 7:21–25).

You trust Jesus—you’ve been saved! But your sin seems inescapable. You promised you wouldn’t sleep with him again, and you did. You paid big bucks for an elaborate internet filter and accountability system, then schemed a way around it. Last night you spent hours devouring content that belongs in the tomb of killed sin. Brother, your wife cry-screamed when, once again, she discovered you’d been using her clothes to indulge dark fantasies at the expense of your marriage. Sister, the enticing woman who kept coming after you, seducing you with a craving to be “your person,” is now your secret lover. You’re stuck, yet you can’t let go. Be encouraged! The fact that you’re aware of going back to a dark tomb is evidence that you’ve seen the Light.

Jesus is calling to you—not just inviting but commanding you to come out. Listen to your Shepherd’s voice and follow. Like Lazarus, you can’t see the entire path, but you can shuffle forward one inch at a time. God is calling you to believe and act by faith, even as he alone causes your heart to heal, your desires to change, and your mind to be renewed. This IS resurrection hope for your daily life and it is yours for the taking, if you will receive it.

Brothers and Sisters: Draw Near and Unbind Fellow Sufferers and Sinners

All around us are spiritual siblings bound in sin, shame, fear, anger, and broken heartedness. These dear ones are alive in Christ, yet need help to walk forward, to see with eyes of faith and hear the Savior’s voice rising loudly and compassionately, “unbind them and let him, let her, go free.”

Together we can shine the light of God’s Word into the places that feel so dark, reminding one another of who we really are in Christ—alive!

Though the grave cloths differ in size and color, we all have them—persistent sins that cling hard, vestiges of the old man in us (Rom. 7:21–25). These siblings in Christ are men enslaved to cross-dressing and excruciating gender distress, women in secret relationships with each other, teen girls addicted to pornography, and college guys convinced they’re really women. They aren’t in a tomb of spiritual death anymore; salvation has come. But, like Lazarus, they haven’t been raised to their ultimate home yet. They aren’t free of sin completely. They desperately need compassionate discipleship to help them shake off their grave cloths and put on Christ (e.g. Rom. 6:1–14, Col. 3:1–18, Rom. 13:11–14).

My coworker John Freeman (and Charles Spurgeon2) taught me that, while Jesus could have done this unwrapping miracle alone, he invites the community to participate. Lazarus didn’t come out of the tomb dancing, hands raised in the air, hugging everyone! He was raised, then responded, and finally received the care of others to shake off those dead man’s clothes. They no longer belong on a man raised from the dead!

May God use you, and me, to help our brothers and sisters throw off lingering grave cloths which cling so closely. It’s an “us” that is to run the race with our eyes on Jesus, alongside each other. Together we can shine the light of God’s Word into the places that feel so dark, reminding one another of who we really are in Christ—alive!

  1. Gary Thomas, Seeking the Face of God: The Path to a More Intimate Relationship (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 29. ↩︎
  2., 3.18.24. ↩︎

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Ellen Mary Dykas

Director of Equipping for Ministry to Women

Ellen joined Harvest USA in 2007 as our first full-time women’s ministry staff. Ellen received her MA from Covenant Theological Seminary and a graduate certificate in biblical counseling from Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF).

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