Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Why and How of Jesus Bringing Dead Lazarus to Life: What is not Written in the Bible !

Very late on Sunday night, February 26, [ AD 30 ] a runner from Bethany arrived at Philadelphia,bringing a message from Martha and Mary which said, 

“Lord, he whom you love is very sick.” 

This message reached Jesus at the close of the evening conference and just as he was taking leave of the apostles for the night. 

At first Jesus made no reply. There occurred one of those strange interludes, a time when he appeared to be in communication with something outside of, and beyond, himself. 

And then, looking up, he addressed the messenger in the hearing of the apostles, saying: 

“This sickness is really not to the death. Doubt not that it may be used to glorify God and exalt the Son.”

Jesus was very fond of Martha, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus; he loved them with a fervent affection. 

His first and human thought was to go to their assistance at once, but another idea came into his combined mind. He had almost given up hope that the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem would ever accept the kingdom, but he still loved his people, and there now occurred to him a plan whereby the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem might have one more chance to accept his teachings; and he decided, his Father willing, to make this last appeal to Jerusalem the most profound and stupendous outward working of his entire earth career. The Jews clung to the idea of a wonder-working deliverer. And though he refused to stoop to the performance of material wonders or to the enactment of temporal exhibitions of political power, he did now ask the Father’s consent for the manifestation of his hitherto unexhibited power over life and death.

Accordingly, early on Wednesday morning he said to his apostles: 

“Let us prepare at once to go into Judea again.” 

And when the apostles heard their Master say this, they drew off by themselves for a time to take counsel of one another. James assumed the direction of the conference, and they all agreed that it was only folly to allow Jesus to go again into Judea, and they came back as one man and so informed him. 

Said James: 

“Master, you were in Jerusalem a few weeks back, and the leaders sought your death, while the people were minded to stone you. At that time you gave these men their chance to receive the truth, and we will not permit you to go again into Judea.”

When they could not persuade him to refrain from going into Judea, and when some of the apostles were loath even to accompany him,Thomas addressed his fellows, saying: 

“We have told the Master our fears, but he is determined to go to Bethany. I am satisfied it means the end; they will surely kill him, but if that is the Master’s choice, then let us acquit ourselves like men of courage; let us go also that we may die with him.” 

And it was ever so; in matters requiring deliberate and sustained courage, Thomas was always the mainstay of the twelve apostles.

On the way to Judea Jesus was followed by a company of almost fifty of his friends and enemies.

It was shortly after noon when Martha started out to meet Jesus as he came over the brow of the hill near Bethany. 

Her brother, Lazarus, had been dead four days and had been laid away in their private tomb at the far end of the garden late on Sunday afternoon. The stone at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled in place on the morning of this day, Thursday.

When Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus concerning Lazarus’s illness, they were confident the Master would do something about it. They knew that their brother was desperately sick, and though they hardly dared hope that Jesus would leave his work of teaching and preaching to come to their assistance, they had such confidence in his power to heal disease that they thought he would just speak the curative words, and Lazarus would immediately be made whole. And when Lazarus died a few hours after the messenger left Bethany for Philadelphia, they reasoned that it was because the Master did not learn of their brother’s illness until it was too late, until he had already been dead for several hours.

But they, with all of their believing friends, were greatly puzzled by the message which the runner brought back Tuesday forenoon when he reached Bethany. The messenger insisted that he heard Jesus say,“...this sickness is really not to the death.” 

Neither could they understand why he sent no word to them nor otherwise proffered assistance.

Many friends from near-by hamlets and others from Jerusalem came over to comfort the sorrow-stricken sisters. Lazarus and his sisters were the children of a well-to-do and honorable Jew, one who had been the leading resident of the little village of Bethany. 

And notwithstanding that all three had long been ardent followers of Jesus, they were highly respected by all who knew them. They had inherited extensive vineyards and olive orchards in this vicinity, and that they were wealthy was further attested by the fact that they could afford a private burial tomb on their own premises. Both of their parents had already been laid away in this tomb.

Mary had given up the thought of Jesus’ coming and was abandoned to her grief, but Martha clung to the hope that Jesus would come, even up to the time on that very morning when they rolled the stone in front of the tomb and sealed the entrance. Even then she instructed a neighbor lad to keep watch down the Jericho road from the brow of the hill to the east of Bethany; and it was this lad who brought tidings to Martha that Jesus and his friends were approaching.

When Martha met Jesus, she fell at his feet, exclaiming, 

“Master, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” 

Many fears were passing through Martha’s mind, but she gave expression to no doubt, nor did she venture to criticize or question the Master’s conduct as related to Lazarus’s death. When she had spoken, Jesus reached down and, lifting her upon her feet, said,

“Only have faith, Martha, and your brother shall rise again.” 

Then answered Martha: 

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day; and even now I believe that whatever you shall ask of God, our Father will give you.”

Then said Jesus, looking straight into the eyes of Martha: 

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live. In truth, whosoever lives and believes in me shall never really die. Martha, do you believe this?” 

And Martha answered the Master: 

“Yes, I have long believed that you are the Deliverer, the Son of the living God, even he who should come to this world.”

Many of those present were Jesus’ bitter enemies. That is why Martha had come out to meet him alone, and also why she went in secretly to inform Mary that he had asked for her. Martha, while craving to see Jesus, desired to avoid any possible unpleasantness which might be caused by his coming suddenly into the midst of a large group of his Jerusalem enemies. It had been Martha’s intention to remain in the house with their friends while Mary went to greet Jesus, but in this she failed, for they all followed Mary and so found themselves unexpectedly in the presence of the Master.

Martha led Mary to Jesus, and when she saw him, she fell at his feet, exclaiming, 

“If you had only been here, my brother would not have died!” 

And when Jesus saw how they all grieved over the death of Lazarus, his soul was moved with compassion.

The human mind of Jesus was mightily moved by the contention between his love for Lazarus and the bereaved sisters and his disdain and contempt for the outward show of affection manifested by some of these unbelieving and murderously intentioned Jews. Jesus indignantly resented the show of forced and outward mourning for Lazarus by some of these professed friends inasmuch as such false sorrow was associated in their hearts with so much bitter enmity toward himself. 

Some of these Jews, however, were sincere in their mourning, for they were real friends of the family.

After Jesus had spent a few moments in comforting Martha and Mary, apart from the mourners, he asked them, 

“Where have you laid him?” 

Then Martha said, 

“Come and see.” 

And as the Master followed on in silence with the two sorrowing sisters, he wept. When the friendly Jews who followed after them saw his tears, one of them said: 

“Behold how he loved him. Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind have kept this man from dying?” 

By this time they were standing before the family tomb, a small natural cave, or declivity, in the ledge of rock which rose up some thirty feet at the far end of the garden plot.

It is difficult to explain to human minds just why Jesus wept. While we have access to the registration of the combined human emotions and divine thoughts, we are not altogether certain about the real cause of these emotional manifestations. We are inclined to believe that Jesus wept because of a number of thoughts and feelings which were going through his mind at this time.

Did the divine mind of Jesus know, even before Lazarus died, that he would raise him from the dead? We do not know. We know only what we are herewith placing on record.

And so, on this Thursday afternoon at about half past two o’clock, was the stage all set in this little hamlet of Bethany for the enactment of the greatest of all works connected with the earth ministry of Michael of Nebadon, the greatest manifestation of divine power during his incarnation in the flesh, since his own resurrection occurred after he had been liberated from the bonds of mortal habitation.

The small group assembled before Lazarus’s tomb little realized the presence near at hand of a vast concourse of all orders of celestial beings assembled under the leadership of Gabriel and now in waiting, vibrating with expectancy and ready to execute the bidding of their beloved Sovereign.

When Jesus spoke those words of command, 

“Take away the stone,” the assembled celestial hosts made ready to enact the drama of the resurrection of Lazarus in the likeness of his mortal flesh. 

Such a form of resurrection involves difficulties of execution which far transcend the usual technique of the resurrection of mortal creatures in morontia form and requires far more celestial personalities and a far greater organization of universe facilities.

When Martha and Mary heard this command of Jesus directing that the stone in front of the tomb be rolled away, they were filled with conflicting emotions. Mary hoped that Lazarus was to be raised from the dead, but Martha, while to some extent sharing her sister’s faith, was more exercised by the fear that Lazarus would not be presentable, in his appearance, to Jesus, the apostles, and their friends. 

Said Martha: 

“Must we roll away the stone? My brother has now been dead four days, so that by this time decay of the body has begun.” 

Martha also said this because she was not certain as to why the Master had requested that the stone be removed; she thought maybe Jesus wanted only to take one last look at Lazarus. She was not settled and constant in her attitude. As they hesitated to roll away the stone, Jesus said: 

“Did I not tell you at the first that this sickness was not to the death? Have I not come to fulfill my promise? And after I came to you, did I not say that, if you would only believe, you should see the glory of God? Wherefore do you doubt? How long before you will believe and obey?”

When Jesus had finished speaking, his apostles, with the assistance of willing neighbors, laid hold upon the stone and rolled it away from the entrance to the tomb.

As this company of some forty-five mortals stood before the tomb, they could dimly see the form of Lazarus, wrapped in linen bandages, resting on the right lower niche of the burial cave. 

While these earth creatures stood there in almost breathless silence, a vast host of celestial beings had swung into their places preparatory to answering the signal for action when it should be given by Gabriel, their commander.

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

“Father, I am thankful that you heard and granted my request. I know that you always hear me, but because of those who stand here with me, I thus speak with you, that they may believe that you have sent me into the world, and that they may know that you are working with me in that which we are about to do.” 

And when he had prayed, he cried with a loud voice, 

“Lazarus, come forth!”

Though these human observers remained motionless, the vast celestial host was all astir in unified action in obedience to the Creator’s word. In just twelve seconds of earth time the hitherto lifeless form of Lazarus began to move and presently sat up on the edge of the stone shelf whereon it had rested. His body was bound about with grave cloths, and his face was covered with a napkin. 

And as he stood up before them—alive—Jesus said, 

“Loose him and let him go.”

All, save the apostles, with Martha and Mary, fled to the house. They were pale with fright and overcome with astonishment. While some tarried, many hastened to their homes.

Lazarus greeted Jesus and the apostles and asked the meaning of the grave cloths and why he had awakened in the garden. Jesus and the apostles drew to one side while Martha told Lazarus of his death, burial, and resurrection. She had to explain to him that he had died on Sunday and was now brought back to life on Thursday, inasmuch as he had had no consciousness of time since falling asleep in death.

As they walked toward the house, Gabriel dismissed the extra groups of the assembled heavenly host while he made record of the first instance on earth, and the last, where a mortal creature had been resurrected in the likeness of the physical body of death.

Lazarus could hardly comprehend what had occurred. He knew he had been very sick, but he could recall only that he had fallen asleep and been awakened. He was never able to tell anything about these four days in the tomb because he was wholly unconscious. Time is nonexistent to those who sleep the sleep of death.

Though many believed in Jesus as a result of this mighty work, others only hardened their hearts the more to reject him. By noon the next day this story had spread over all Jerusalem. Scores of men and women went to Bethany to look upon Lazarus and talk with him, and the alarmed and disconcerted Pharisees hastily called a meeting of the Sanhedrin that they might determine what should be done about these new developments.

Lazarus remained at the Bethany home, being the center of great interest to many sincere believers and to numerous curious individuals, until the week of the crucifixion of Jesus, when he received warning that the Sanhedrin had decreed his death. The rulers of the Jews were determined to put a stop to the further spread of the teachings of Jesus, and they well judged that it would be useless to put Jesus to death if they permitted Lazarus, who represented the very peak of his wonder-working, to live and bear testimony to the fact that Jesus had raised him from the dead. Already had Lazarus suffered bitter persecution from them.

Soon after this Martha and Mary disposed of their lands at Bethany and joined their brother in Perea.

He ultimately died, when 67 years old, of the same sickness that carried him off when he was a younger man at Bethany.

[Adapted from the Urantia Book]

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