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Not Dead, Only Asleep


 The Experience of Luke (a first person account)

 

As one who belonged to the medical profession,
I had a special interest in death.
As a believer, however,  I began to see more and more
its significance as an event in LIFE itself.
It was triggered by Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter
and his friend Lazarus from the dead.
The death of my patients occurred with a frequency
that often left me cold and immune,
part of the inevitability we must learn to accept with stoic indifference.
How I smiled as I inwardly knew
that Jairus had sent for Jesus since his daughter was dying.
He was in no hurry to reach there;
when he did, he simply assured them
that she wasn’t dead but only asleep.  
But while the others laughed, my own smile had begun to narrow.
In the next few moments, I would see death lose its sting.
Some time later, nearing the Passover,
we heard Jesus being told of the illness of Lazarus his friend
and once again he didn’t think it necessary to go there immediately.
He simply said that his sickness would not end in death
but instead reveal the glory of God.
While on the way, he continued to assure the disciples
that Lazarus was merely asleep,
only to let them, uncomprehending as they were,
know that he was in fact dead.                                                                                                          

On both occasions he took Peter, James and John with him,
the very three to whom he had revealed his glory on Mount Tabor.
As I pondered on these events with the eye of the heart,
death was suddenly no longer the abstraction I feared.
Jesus, in deciding to go to Bethany knew
that the chief priests were plotting his death.
That surprised me, especially since he had said
that Lazarus’ sickness  would reveal his glory.
It was not to be a healing, but raising him from the dead
that would reveal it and he seemed unfazed.

 

The fear of death, is not easily put away.
It can only happen if, like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter,
who were privileged to experience it,               
we see it as the gateway to LIFE beyond our limitations.
To experience life merely as a succession of unconnected events
is to be asleep, self-conscious but unaware of anything beyond ourselves.
It is to experience disconnectedness and with it loneliness and isolation.
We fear death if we see it as an end in itself,
something that comes inevitably, to snatch away everything we possess.
In correlating his glory with suffering and death,
Jesus penetrates the veil that separates us from God.
(significantly torn in two in the temple, at his death).
and invites us to walk through it with him.
He replaces  the veil intended to obscure, discriminate and separate.
IN him and through him, eschewing all distinction and discrimination,
we can see and know the Father and behold his glory
if only we keep awake, as Jesus asked us to be.
We are awake only if we are dispossessed,
and thus release within us the power to love.
The incarnation is God’s greatest act of dispossession
It is also the greatest act of love of the F ather.

 

Death is the great dispossessor which wakes us from our slumber
and opens our eyes to the vision of God.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, face to face with suffering
Jesus finds Peter, James and John asleep,
even while he battles with his human consciousness
which makes him pray to be delivered from this hour.
They are asleep because they cannot penetrate the veil of suffering.
They are unable to understand that
there is sweetness in the cane even as it is being crushed;
there is joy in the pain of giving birth to New Life.
Life it would seem continues only
in as much as we are able to transform pain.
And then I knew that in dying before we die
we will not be afraid to die when we die.
Blessed are those who find themselves
dispossessed at the hour of their death.
That day, they shall be with the LORD in paradise.

 

Christopher Mendonca



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