It is a stark fact that all of us will face death one day. Usually, we are able to postpone thinking about it when we are in the whirlwind of life, but when we have the fact of our mortality staring us in the face through the death of a loved one, or if we, or someone we know is near death, death looms again to challenge us. It can challenge our faith, our peace of mind, our happiness. This article: Allow Jesus to share our fear of death by Very Rev. John D. Payne is a very nice essay about death. Rev Payne shares some of his own poignant experiences with death and also references the resurrection of Lazarus as evidence of Jesus' power over death. This is one of the most interesting stories from Jesus' life. We'll blog about that below, but first, here are a few snips from the article:
"The friends of Mary and Martha came to the family home in Bethany to share the grief of the sisters at the death of their brother, Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Jesus arrived four days after he learned of Lazarus' sickness and no one in the story knows why he delayed, except the disciples, and even they didn't completely understand.
"Jesus gives Lazarus back his physical or natural life temporarily as the sign of the power of eternal life because Jesus is "the life." He tells Martha that he is the life in his own person, and that whoever believes in him will never die.
"We need this life more than anything, and John's Gospel teaches us that somehow it comes more readily when we allow Jesus to share our grief and our fear. Life does not end in death, but death ends in life. This is Jesus' great gift to you and me."
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Death - the great equalizer
The Urantia Book offers the reader quite a bit of hope and even some healthy anticipation in its teachings about death - and more importantly, life AFTER death. We have put together an informative topical study of Urantia Book teachings about death that you can access HERE. We insert these teaching at the very beginning to hopefully familiarize the reader with The Urantia Book's inspiring teachings about the fact of death and its meaning for our lives.
Not only is the resurrection of Lazarus a clear demonstration of the Master's power over life and death (which should help any believer feel better about death), it is also a masterful demonstration of Jesus' clear-headed and deliberate attempt to make an impression uoon the Jerusalem authorities who were arrayed against him.
The Urantia Book account, as is so often the case, clarifies the facts of the event and puts it into perspective for us, so that we receive a fuller picture of our brother/friend/Savior Jesus.
It's one thing to read the story in its bare-bones state, as in the Bible; it's quite another when we can read it as it happened and also glean heretofore unknown details that enrich and intensify the value of the story. These kinds of detailed accounts are available nowhere on earth but in The Urantia Book.
Why did Jesus wait so long to go to Lazarus?
The resurrection of Lazarus is one of the greatest of Jesus stories, and one in which the Bible story in John 11 parallels the story as told in The Urantia Book fairly well. The Urantia Book account, however, is far more complete, far more detailed, and filled with commentary by the midwayers who were present for these events, and who are the ones responsible for the restatement of Jesus life that we read in The Urantia Book. For example, we get these intimate details of the Master's thinking when he first received the news of Lazarus' condition. We find out why Jesus decided to wait before rushing to the home of Lazarus to save him:
167:4.1 Very late on Sunday night, February 26, 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."
167:4.2 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.
As regards the article above, this information is thrilling, indeed, knowing that this is Jesus' deliberate, and planned strategy to "make this last appeal to Jerusalem the most profound and stupendous outward working of his entire earth career. " Jesus was always very deliberate in what he did, and in how he arranged his public ministry for maximum effect. And this resurrection of Lazarus is no exception. He appears to be communing with the Father as he begins formulating his plan.
To read the rest of "The Message from Bethany," please click here
Between the time Jesus received the message on Sunday night and the time that he and the apostles arrived in Bethany on Thursday, Jesus and his apostles were on their way, but in no particular hurry. Later commentary regarding other "interesting side lights" around this amazing event of Lazarus' resurrection points out the true significance of Jesus' waiting four days before arriving at the home of Lazarus; this was to ensure that the authorities knew of a certainty that Lazarus was truly dead, and not just sleeping.
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."
The Urantia Book devotes the whole of Paper 168 to the resurrection of Lazarus. It is a most thrilling and interesting account. Again, much of it parallels the account of John, but with far more detail. Of interest is the sentence "Jesus wept," which is supposedly the shortest sentence in the Bible.
Read the authors' commentary on just why Jesus may have wept HERE
The remainder of Paper 168 relates the well-known facts of Lazarus' resurrection but with the addition of details ... for example the participation of "a vast host of celestial beings" who were ready to execute the Master's commands, and the fact that it took twelve seconds for life to return to Lazarus.
We also see the ever-present dedication of Jesus to the will of the heavenly Father when he prayed:
"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!"
This was the first time in his life that Jesus exhibited this power that he has over life and death; not only his own life and death, as later demonstrated after his crucifixion, but the life and death of all of his children as well. And this should be a great comfort to any who worry about death and/or their own resurrection from it. Jesus explainss very clearly that what happens to Lazarus is what will happen to us - not here on this earth, as was the case for Lazarus, but resurrection IS sure. The Master says so.
"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.' "
Another aspect of this resurrection is the clarification about the prevalent belief of some religionists that we mortals will be eventually reurrected in the bodies that we inhabited on earth. Not so...
The revelators tell us thst this was "the first instance on Urantia, and the last, where a mortal creature had been resurrected in the likeness of the physical body of death."
Following the resurrection of Lazarus, as Jesus and the apostles were leaving Bethany for Pella, there's this wonderful section with inspiring teachings about prayer that Jesus gave to his apostles as they were
"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."
And finally, we are told about what became of Lazarus - how and when he finally died.
A story that's never lost its meaning for us
In this story of the resurrection of Lazarus we see for a certainty that Jesus has this amazing power over life and death. He had it while he was here on earth, and he has it still. We know that Jesus is well-acquainted with death - the sadness of it, the loss of those left behind, and its necessity to propel us into a new form of existence. What happened to Lazarus "will also be experienced by all who believe this gospel except that they shall be resurrected in a more glorious form."
Again, we invite you to explore further Urantia Book teachings on Life After Death
When death perplexes us here on this world, we may want to remember and ponder these stories of the resurrection of Lazarus and be assured that Jesus wil never leave us or forsake us - even in death. His power over death and the certainty of resurrection is active still, and into eternity. He IS "the resurrection and the life."