Study Guide: Take Off Your Grave Clothes

Sunday April 12, 2009 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Easter is about Jesus’ resurrection and the faith of the church in that resurrection. Jesus’ claims to be God were unambiguous but didn’t always receive the same response.

Extended Summary:

Jesus made many unambiguous claims to being God. When he did this, he got various responses from people. In today’s text, Martha responded first with an affirmation of the right beliefs about theology and the resurrection. But Jesus pressed her about whether she believed and trusted in him as God. She answered affirmatively.

In contrast, when Jesus was addressing a group of Jews (John 8:58-59) and identified himself with the very name of God (from Ex. 3:14 “I am”), they understood this to be blasphemy because no one is God but God alone. So they picked up stones and tried to kill him.

In Martha we see faith, but in the group of Jews just mentioned, we see offense. When we are faced with the real Jesus of the gospels, we really have only these two choices: Either we believe in Jesus and submit our lives to him, or we take offense at the very idea of a human being claiming to be God and reject him as crazy. To try to stand somewhere in the middle is evidence of confusion about who Jesus claimed to be. He claimed to be God and he either was or he was not.

For those who believe in Jesus the way Martha did, God gives eternal life. Not only when we die, but in this life too we are made alive in a profound new way. We are no longer dead in our old way of life, but made alive in Christ. But like Lazarus, we are wrapped in grave clothes – things we or others have put on along the way in our lives that constrict us from living life to the full. These need to come off for us to fully live in our new reality in Christ.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting texts?
  2. Do you agree that Jesus claimed to be God? Do you see a third option other than believing his claim or disbelieving it? What difference does this make for our lives?
  3. Read Exodus 3:14 and then John 8:58-59. What connections are there between these texts?
  4. When we accept Christ, we—like Lazarus—must take off our grave clothes in order to live life to the full. Greg mentioned some examples of grave clothes: insecurity, mediocrity, addiction, fear of failure, fear of rejection, condemnation, etc. Which of these do you struggle with personally?