THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS
168:0.1 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
168:0.2 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.
168:0.3 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
168:0.4 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
168:0.5 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.
168:0.6 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."
168:0.7 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."
168:0.8 Jesus having inquired for Mary, Martha went
at once into the house and, whispering to her sister, said, "The Master is
here and has asked for you." And when Mary heard this, she rose up quickly and
hastened out to meet Jesus, who still tarried at the place, some distance from
the house, where Martha had first met him. The friends who were with Mary,
seeking to comfort her, when they saw that she rose up quickly and went out,
followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep.
168:0.9 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
168:0.10 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.
168:0.11 When the mourners saw that Mary had gone to
greet Jesus, they withdrew for a short distance while both Martha and Mary
talked with the Master and received further words of comfort and exhortation
to maintain strong faith in the Father and complete resignation to the divine
168:0.12 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.
1. AT THE TOMB OF LAZARUS
168:1.1 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.
168:1.2 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, as of record in the mind of the
Personalized Adjuster, 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, such as:
168:1.3 1. He felt a genuine and sorrowful sympathy
for Martha and Mary; he had a real and deep human affection for these sisters
who had lost their brother.
168:1.4 2. He was perturbed in his mind by the
presence of the crowd of mourners, some sincere and some merely pretenders. He
always resented these outward exhibitions of mourning. He knew the sisters
loved their brother and had faith in the survival of believers. These
conflicting emotions may possibly explain why he groaned as they came near the
168:1.5 3. He truly hesitated about bringing Lazarus
back to the mortal life. His sisters really needed him, but Jesus regretted
having to summon his friend back to experience the bitter persecution which he
well knew Lazarus would have to endure as a result of being the subject of the
greatest of all demonstrations of the divine power of the Son of Man.
168:1.6 And now we may relate an interesting and
instructive fact: Although this narrative unfolds as an apparently natural and
normal event in human affairs, it has some very interesting side lights. While
the messenger went to Jesus on Sunday, telling him of Lazarus's illness, and
while Jesus sent word that it was "not to the death," at the same time he went
in person up to Bethany and even asked the sisters, "Where have you laid him?"
Even though all of this seems to indicate that the Master was proceeding after
the manner of this life and in accordance with the limited knowledge of the
human mind, nevertheless, the records of the universe reveal that Jesus'
Personalized Adjuster issued orders for the indefinite detention of Lazarus's
Thought Adjuster on the planet subsequent to Lazarus's death, and that this
order was made of record just fifteen minutes before Lazarus breathed his
168:1.7 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.
168:1.8 Many of Jesus' enemies were inclined to
sneer at his manifestations of affection, and they said among themselves: "If
he thought so much of this man, why did he tarry so long before coming to
Bethany? If he is what they claim, why did he not save his dear friend? What
is the good of healing strangers in Galilee if he cannot save those whom he
loves?" And in many other ways they mocked and made light of the teachings and
works of Jesus.
168:1.9 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.
168:1.10 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, by direction of the Personalized Adjuster of Jesus, vibrating with
expectancy and ready to execute the bidding of their beloved
168:1.11 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.
168:1.12 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
168:1.13 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.
168:1.14 It was the common belief of the Jews that
the drop of gall on the point of the sword of the angel of death began to work
by the end of the third day, so that it was taking full effect on the fourth
day. They allowed that the soul of man might linger about the tomb until the
end of the third day, seeking to reanimate the dead body; but they firmly
believed that such a soul had gone on to the abode of departed spirits ere the
fourth day had dawned.
168:1.15 These beliefs and opinions regarding the
dead and the departure of the spirits of the dead served to make sure, in the
minds of all who were now present at Lazarus's tomb and subsequently to all
who might hear of what was about to occur, that this was really and truly a
case of the raising of the dead by the personal working of one who declared he
was "the resurrection and the life."
2. THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS
168:2.1 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
168:2.2 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!"
168:2.3 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."
168:2.4 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.
168:2.5 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.
168:2.6 As Lazarus came out of the tomb, the
Personalized Adjuster of Jesus, now chief of his kind in this local universe,
gave command to the former Adjuster of Lazarus, now in waiting, to resume
abode in the mind and soul of the resurrected man.
168:2.7 Then went Lazarus over to Jesus and, with
his sisters, knelt at the Master's feet to give thanks and offer praise to
God. Jesus, taking Lazarus by the hand, lifted him up, saying: "My son, what
has happened to you will also be experienced by all who believe this gospel
except that they shall be resurrected in a more glorious form. You shall be a
living witness of the truth which I spoke -- I am the resurrection and the
life. But let us all now go into the house and partake of nourishment for
these physical bodies."
168:2.8 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 Urantia, and the last, where a mortal creature had
been resurrected in the likeness of the physical body of death.
168:2.9 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.
168:2.10 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.
3. MEETING OF THE SANHEDRIN
168:3.1 Even though the testimony of this man raised
from the dead did much to consolidate the faith of the mass of believers in
the gospel of the kingdom, it had little or no influence on the attitude of
the religious leaders and rulers at Jerusalem except to hasten their decision
to destroy Jesus and stop his work.
168:3.2 At one o'clock the next day, Friday, the
Sanhedrin met to deliberate further on the question, "What shall we do with
Jesus of Nazareth?" After more than two hours of discussion and acrimonious
debate, a certain Pharisee presented a resolution calling for Jesus' immediate
death, proclaiming that he was a menace to all Israel and formally committing
the Sanhedrin to the decision of death, without trial and in defiance of all
168:3.3 Time and again had this august body of
Jewish leaders decreed that Jesus be apprehended and brought to trial on
charges of blasphemy and numerous other accusations of flouting the Jewish
sacred law. They had once before even gone so far as to declare he should die,
but this was the first time the Sanhedrin had gone on record as desiring to
decree his death in advance of a trial. But this resolution did not come to a
vote since fourteen members of the Sanhedrin resigned in a body when such an
unheard-of action was proposed. While these resignations were not formally
acted upon for almost two weeks, this group of fourteen withdrew from the
Sanhedrin on that day, never again to sit in the council. When these
resignations were subsequently acted upon, five other members were thrown out
because their associates believed they entertained friendly feelings toward
Jesus. With the ejection of these nineteen men the Sanhedrin was in a position
to try and to condemn Jesus with a solidarity bordering on
168:3.4 The following week Lazarus and his sisters
were summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin. When their testimony had been
heard, no doubt could be entertained that Lazarus had been raised from the
dead. Though the transactions of the Sanhedrin virtually admitted the
resurrection of Lazarus, the record carried a resolution attributing this and
all other wonders worked by Jesus to the power of the prince of devils, with
whom Jesus was declared to be in league.
168:3.5 No matter what the source of his
wonder-working power, these Jewish leaders were persuaded that, if he were not
immediately stopped, very soon all the common people would believe in him; and
further, that serious complications with the Roman authorities would arise
since so many of his believers regarded him as the Messiah, Israel's
168:3.6 It was at this same meeting of the Sanhedrin
that Caiaphas the high priest first gave expression to that old Jewish adage,
which he so many times repeated: "It is better that one man die, than that the
168:3.7 Although Jesus had received warning of the
doings of the Sanhedrin on this dark Friday afternoon, he was not in the least
perturbed and continued resting over the Sabbath with friends in Bethpage, a
hamlet near Bethany. Early Sunday morning Jesus and the apostles assembled, by
prearrangement, at the home of Lazarus, and taking leave of the Bethany
family, they started on their journey back to the Pella encampment.
4. THE ANSWER TO PRAYER
168:4.1 On the way from Bethany to Pella the
apostles asked Jesus many questions, all of which the Master freely answered
except those involving the details of the resurrection of the dead. Such
problems were beyond the comprehension capacity of his apostles; therefore did
the Master decline to discuss these questions with them. Since they had
departed from Bethany in secret, they were alone. Jesus therefore embraced the
opportunity to say many things to the ten which he thought would prepare them
for the trying days just ahead.
168:4.2 The apostles were much stirred up in their
minds and spent considerable time discussing their recent experiences as they
were related to prayer and its answering. They all recalled Jesus' statement
to the Bethany messenger at Philadelphia, when he said plainly, "This sickness
is not really to the death." And yet, in spite of this promise, Lazarus
actually died. All that day, again and again, they reverted to the discussion
of this question of the answer to prayer.
168:4.3 Jesus' answers to their many questions may
be summarized as follows:
168:4.4 1. Prayer is an expression of the finite
mind in an effort to approach the Infinite. The making of a prayer must,
therefore, be limited by the knowledge, wisdom, and attributes of the finite;
likewise must the answer be conditioned by the vision, aims, ideals, and
prerogatives of the Infinite. There never can be observed an unbroken
continuity of material phenomena between the making of a prayer and the
reception of the full spiritual answer thereto.
168:4.5 2. When a prayer is apparently unanswered,
the delay often betokens a better answer, although one which is for some good
reason greatly delayed. When Jesus said that Lazarus's sickness was really not
to the death, he had already been dead eleven hours. No sincere prayer is
denied an answer except when the superior viewpoint of the spiritual world has
devised a better answer, an answer which meets the petition of the spirit of
man as contrasted with the prayer of the mere mind of man.
168:4.6 3. The prayers of time, when indited by the
spirit and expressed in faith, are often so vast and all-encompassing that
they can be answered only in eternity; the finite petition is sometimes so
fraught with the grasp of the Infinite that the answer must long be postponed
to await the creation of adequate capacity for receptivity; the prayer of
faith may be so all-embracing that the answer can be received only on
168:4.7 4. The answers to the prayer of the mortal
mind are often of such a nature that they can be received and recognized only
after that same praying mind has attained the immortal state. The prayer of
the material being can many times be answered only when such an individual has
progressed to the spirit level.
168:4.8 5. The prayer of a God-knowing person may be
so distorted by ignorance and so deformed by superstition that the answer
thereto would be highly undesirable. Then must the intervening spirit beings
so translate such a prayer that, when the answer arrives, the petitioner
wholly fails to recognize it as the answer to his prayer.
168:4.9 6. All true prayers are addressed to
spiritual beings, and all such petitions must be answered in spiritual terms,
and all such answers must consist in spiritual realities. Spirit beings cannot
bestow material answers to the spirit petitions of even material beings.
Material beings can pray effectively only when they "pray in the spirit."
168:4.10 7. No prayer can hope for an answer unless
it is born of the spirit and nurtured by faith. Your sincere faith implies
that you have in advance virtually granted your prayer hearers the full right
to answer your petitions in accordance with that supreme wisdom and that
divine love which your faith depicts as always actuating those beings to whom
168:4.11 8. The child is always within his rights
when he presumes to petition the parent; and the parent is always within his
parental obligations to the immature child when his superior wisdom dictates
that the answer to the child's prayer be delayed, modified, segregated,
transcended, or postponed to another stage of spiritual ascension.
168:4.12 9. Do not hesitate to pray the prayers of
spirit longing; doubt not that you shall receive the answer to your petitions.
These answers will be on deposit, awaiting your achievement of those future
spiritual levels of actual cosmic attainment, on this world or on others,
whereon it will become possible for you to recognize and appropriate the
long-waiting answers to your earlier but ill-timed petitions.
168:4.13 10. All genuine spirit-born petitions are
certain of an answer. Ask and you shall receive. But you should remember that
you are progressive creatures of time and space; therefore must you constantly
reckon with the time-space factor in the experience of your personal reception
of the full answers to your manifold prayers and petitions.
5. WHAT BECAME OF LAZARUS
168:5.1 Lazarus remained at the Bethany home, being
the center of great interest to many sincere believers and to numerous curious
individuals, until the day 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.
168:5.2 And so Lazarus took hasty leave of his
sisters at Bethany, fleeing down through Jericho and across the Jordan, never
permitting himself to rest long until he had reached Philadelphia. Lazarus
knew Abner well, and here he felt safe from the murderous intrigues of the
168:5.3 Soon after this Martha and Mary disposed of
their lands at Bethany and joined their brother in Perea. Meantime, Lazarus
had become the treasurer of the church at Philadelphia. He became a strong
supporter of Abner in his controversy with Paul and the Jerusalem church and
ultimately died, when 67 years old, of the same sickness that carried him off
when he was a younger man at Bethany.