PROMISE OF A LIFETIME
by Daniel Jacob
There is a very famous story in the New Testament. It is the story of Jesus raising a fellow named Lazarus from the dead. I prefer the account in the Gospel of John the most, as John is the Apostle with whom I have the most resonance.
This story is distinctive for several reasons. One is that it is filled with love---the love of Jesus for Lazarus' sisters (Mary and Martha), the love of two sisters for their sick and dying brother, and the pure sense of FAITH that is held close in the hearts of the entire company. You might say that the story of Lazarus is a virtual CAVALCADE OF POSSIBILITY THINKING, encapsulated in a few short paragraphs.
One account is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 11. Most of you know the story. Lazarus is sick, Jesus hears about it, Jesus hightails it to where the man lays dying, but is too late to stop the process. This story contains the shortest verse in the Bible, by the way. It has two words: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35).
I've always wondered why Jesus---who was said to be God in a Body, and who knew instinctively that a miracle was about to happen, and that Lazarus would not be wrapped in those grave clothes for very long---would take the time to stop and weep. Could it be that Jesus was weeping in frustration, over the incredible MISCONCEPTION that people have about death and that obnoxious habit they have of dying all the time? Food for thot. It's got to be frustrating for an Immortal to get close to mortals, doesn't it? They have this nasty habit of DYING, just when the party is just getting started!
Anyway..........Lazarus dies, Jesus weeps, and the whole entourage moves to the tomb. Jesus prays, and body comes out (still wrapped in grave clothes),and everyone resounds with the fact that Lazarus has come back to life. This is the best Cliff's Notes version of this story I can give you.
Now.....here's the kicker. Just before Jesus performs the miracle, he announces to Lazarus' sisters what is about to happen. He says: "Your brother shall rise again."
Upon hearing this, Martha (the worker bee of the two sisters) says: "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day."
This is fitting, and the kind of thing that any of us would say, standing in front of the tomb of a loved one. Haven't you or I said the same thing a time or two? It's doctrinally sound, sensible, appropriately upbeat, and spiritually IMPOTENT. This situation is, in fact, the conceptual bakery where "pie in the sky, by and by" is cooked.
But Jesus, not to be put off with the vi-aggravation of spiritual impotence, counters Martha by making her the offer of a lifetime (the offer of *several* lifetimes really) . He says: "I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
For effect here, we might want to run that last phrase by ourselves again: "He who liveth and believeth in me shall NEVER DIE."
I have spoken about this passage with all kinds of people for several years now. I have run it by ministers, healers, lay people, mothers, doctors..........all kinds of people. When I do, I bring to their remembrance the HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS that followed the speaking of these famous words.
I assume that most, if not ALL JESUS DISCIPLES AND APOSTLES were probably present the day that He made this promise (except Paul, of course). And I also bring up that EVERY ONE of those apostles were reported to have PHYSICALLY DIED at some point following the event. Peter (who was said to have been the Chief Apostle, and whose name is the foundation "stone" for the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church), was even crucified upside down, because he didn't feel worthy to die in the same way his Master had died.
They DIED, folks.
Finis, caput.......gone........nada.......bye-bye. Didn't they HEAR what Jesus said? And, if they understood the promise, didn't they believe what they heard? I mean........gee........what's up here?
Most of the ministers, and lay people alike, to which I have posed this problem, have managed to completely gloss over it. Some will say......"Well, when Jesus said that, he was speaking about spiritual death, not physical death. He was saying that we will never die.........SPIRITUALLY. He wasn't negating physical death. After all, everybody DIES........it's a scientific fact."
Upon hearing this, I remind them........."Uh.......excuse me, but the SCRIPTURAL CONTEXT of this passage does not really support that. Jesus is standing in front of a TOMB, calling out to a DEAD PHYSICAL BODY, bringing it back to life." Considering this, wouldn't it be quite a stretch of LOGIC to say that He was only making a promise about SPIRITUAL DEATH? The man had *grave clothes* laying at his feet, for heaven's sake.
Nevertheless, it's tough going, I gotta tell ya. Most people feel completely comfortable jumping back into Martha's arms, and eating that pie in the sky, by and by. They say: "I know that WE shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day." And they remain completely convinced that Physical Immortality is something we put off for LATER, after we live a few more years........paying those (inevitable) taxes, and tasting of our own (inevitable) physical death.
Meanwhile..........even now........Jesus continues to stand, back at that tomb.....still making this incredible offer..........
Could it be that, instead of living in a "Universe That Doesn't Believe," and tasting of the fruits of that UNBELIEF, we could still be sitting at the table, in that Upper Room, reclining against the bosom of a Master, who said what He meant, and meant what He said? (and who IS that, in DaVinci's painting.......sitting at Jesus' right hand?)
"By the way........" said The Reconnections to me, one day. "Have you ever noticed that DEATH is something that always happens to someone else?"
"Whoa," I said. "Gimme a minute. I have to think about that." And that "minute," it seems..........has lasted over 2,000 years.
Your questions and comments are always appreciated.
Copyright, 1993, by Daniel Jacob. All Rights Reserved. May be copied and shared, for purposes of personal growth and/or research, so long as the above URL and this copyright are included. All reproduction for profit, by any means, requires the written permission of Reconnections, Inc.