Lazarus had died, and many Jews from Jerusalem were with Martha and Mary who had come to comfort them. When Jesus was near to the village, first Martha and then Mary went out to meet Him. "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," they said. But they still trusted that the Lord would help them. They were weeping and the Jews were weeping who were with them. "Jesus wept." He went with them to the grave. It was a cave in the rocky hillside, and it was closed by a stone. "Take ye away the stone," the Lord said, and when He had prayed He called, "Lazarus, come forth," and Lazarus came forth, alive, and was again among his friends. The sickness was for the glory of God, for they saw the Lord's great power. It is the same power of the Lord which wakens all people, when they die, into the life of the other world. "I am the resurrection and the life," He said.
Can you tell me about the home in Bethany where the Lord loved to go? What had happened to make it sad? Was the Lord there when Lazarus died? Did He know about it? Did He come to Bethany? Yes, He came; and in our lesson today we learn what happened there. You know that Bethany was near Jerusalem, not two miles away, and many friends of Martha and Mary had come from Jerusalem to mourn with them, or comfort them. It was the custom.
The Lord seems not to have come to the house; but as soon as Martha heard of His being near, she went out to meet Him; and her first words were, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." And Mary when she came to the Lord said the same thing, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." They both believed in the Lord's power when they could see Him present with them. But they did not know that He was just as near and His power was just as great when they did not see Him.
The Lord asked where they had laid Lazarus, and they took Him to the grave. It was a cave, probably in the hillside, against the opening of which a stone had been rolled. Jesus told them to take away the stone. Then praying to the Father within Him, He called with a loud voice, "Lazarus come forth"; and Lazarus came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes.
We have seen that the Lord knew of Lazarus' death. He knew of the sickness, the sorrow of the sisters, and of the quiet sleep of death that came to Lazarus. And He came to awaken him as He comes to awaken everyone, only this time the awakening was to be in this world instead of the spiritual world. He raised Lazarus in this world to show the Jews at that time, and people forever after, that one who dies still lives, the same person he was before. He has the same loves, the same character, the same understanding, which if they are good, will grow forever stronger and more beautiful in heaven. The resurrection, we are taught, comes usually on the third day. There is no waiting for the call, when all shall rise together, as Martha believed and as many people still think, but it comes to each one of us a few days after death; a glad awakening to the happiest things we are able to love, to the happiest life we are able to live. Because we do not see a thing it is hard for us to believe it, and for this reason the Lord showed it to men, so that they could see and know that it is true.
We all shall die, and either before us or after us all our friends will die, and the more we can think of it as an awakening to a happier life in heaven, the less sad it will all be to us, and the more truly we shall try to live here so that when our turn comes we shall have learned to live and love the happy heavenly life. For as we have just said, the same loves, the same character, that we make ours here go on forever.
In the New Church we are taught much that is beautiful about this sleep of death, which is made wonderfully peaceful by the near presence of holy angels. We are taught, too, about the gentle awakening, usually on the third day. First one becomes conscious of the presence of the angels. Soon he opens his eyes to see their faces and the beautiful world around him. Every care is taken that it shall seem home-like, nothing strange. Then good angels lead him on in his preparation for his heavenly home. The homes of heaven with their many uses are the mansions in the Father's house of which the Lord spoke in the verses that we are learning to say.
1. What miracle is referred to in verse 37?
2. What seems to you to be expressed by the Lord's weeping, as He went with them to the tomb of Lazarus?
3. Tell me about the awakening into the other world. When does it take place? What is it like?
4. By whose power is it accomplished?
Older students must turn again to the chapter of Heaven and Hell which describes the resurrection from the sleep of death into the life of the spiritual world. (H.445-452) We are especially impressed, in reading this account of resurrection, with the wonderful gentleness of the awakening. There is nothing sudden or startling about it. At first one becomes conscious of the angels' presence. Soon he sees them, and the objects about him. Everything is home-like, and only gradually one is given the power of reflection and comparison, which shows him that he is in another world.
Notice the statement in H. 447, that the withdrawing of the spirit from the body is effected by the Lord alone. In D. 322 and 328, it is said again that the love of mercy of the Lord, expressing itself as a drawing attraction, is the sole means by which resurrection is effected. The Lord taught that this power belongs to Him, when He raised Lazarus from the grave, and when He said, "I am the resurrection and the life."
The Lord's miracles of raising from the dead also represent the raising from the spiritual death of a false and evil state. Can you see the meaning of particulars of this story, as applied to spiritual death and resurrection? Lazarus had lain in the grave four days. It pictures a state that is confirmed in falsity and evil. The cave in which Lazarus was laid suggests the darkness and oppression of the evil state. The stone that closed the door is the denial that any rising to a higher state is possible. Notice how the taking away of the stone is associated with the belief in the Lordís power to help. (Verses 39-41.) We shall find the same thing true of the sealing of the stone and the rolling away of the stone at the sepulchre of our Lord. The grave clothes would seem to represent the habits of thought and life belonging to the evil state. They bind one hand and foot and cover the face, because they prevent the doing of good uses and the enjoying and expressing of heavenly affections. The command, "Loose him, and let him go," is the command to cast off the habits of thought and conduct which hinder the exercise of heavenly life from the Lord. (A. 2935, 5096; E. 687)
Do we see a meaning in the sisters' going to the Lord outside the town? The Lord's meeting the sisters there, suggests His desire to draw us out of a sad, despondent state into a state that is freer and more receptive of comfort. Compare His leading the blind man out of town. (Mark 8:23) The rising of the sisters and their going to the Lord suggests the need of effort on our part to come out of a state of grief and to find the Lord's comfort. Do you see a deeper thought in Martha's first rising and afterwards calling her sister Mary? We must often begin by doing the simple external duties for the Lord's sake, and this opens the way for a deeper sense of His love and comfort.
We saw in the Lord's declaration, "I am the resurrection and the life," the truth that He only has the power to raise us into the spiritual life when the body dies. It teaches also that He alone has power to lift us up from states of spiritual death, and to give new spiritual life. This heavenly life, if it has begun to be received in this world, is not interrupted by the death of the body, but goes right on into the eternity of heaven. (E. 899; A. 10083)