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Rolling back the stone

From the March 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

IT MUST HAVE SEEMED LIKE A VERY ODD CHOICE. JESUS HAD just learned that one of his good friends, a man named Lazarus, was sick—sick enough to warrant a request from his sisters that Jesus come and heal him. Yet rather than hurry to his friend's side, this man—whose ability to restore people to health had made him famous throughout the region—decided to stay where he was. It wasn't until two days later that Jesus and his followers began the journey to Lazarus's home in Bethany. Why the delay?

Jesus' own words provide a possible insight into his motivations. Just before setting off for Bethany, he told his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. By sleep, he explained, he meant death, implying he knew that Lazarus had died during the two days he'd waited. This wouldn't be the first time Jesus had raised someone from the dead. According to the Gospel of Luke, he'd done it at least twice before. But waiting for two days meant that Lazarus's body would have begun to decompose by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany and that a large group of friends from nearby Jerusalem would probably have gathered to comfort Lazarus's grieving sisters. This meant that Jesus would have an opportunity to demonstrate incontrovertibly to a significant number of witnesses that the healing power of God is not limited to the cure of disease and the destruction of sin, but also includes resurrection from the dead.

This healing may also have accomplished something else. It may have shown to his students that Jesus himself was, by degrees, progressing in his ability to overcome death. And that would mean that they, and any followers to come, could also learn how to master any form of bodily ailment. That Jesus' ability to heal even the most serious condition—death—was not a divinely bestowed gift, but a skill that anyone can develop. This skill would be put to its ultimate test in Jesus' own resurrection, which proved conclusively that nothing is beyond the scope of God's saving power.

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