Weeping Unto New Life

“Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet much has been made of it. And many questions asked. Especially ‘why?’

Fr. Thomas Keating makes an interesting interpretation, linking Lazarus’ death and resurrection with the incident involving his two sisters. Not long before Lazarus died Jesus had been in Bethany to visit his best friends. During the evening Martha was preparing a meal alone while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to him talk. Martha complained to Jesus that her sister was not helping her. Jesus responded that Martha was busy about many things and that Mary had chosen the better way.

Keating says all three siblings suggest various responses to the gospel message and also three stages to deepening individual spirituality.

Martha is the level of spirituality that wants to provide hospitality, serve the needs of others, and show compassion wherever needed. Martha is not condemned but rather celebrated for all she is able to do. Jesus makes the observation, however, that she seems worried and upset with her self-appointed responsibilities.

Mary’s decision to sit and listen to matters of the spirit constitutes a deeper level of spirituality–and a higher level of conscious awareness. This stage actively seeks the Kingdom of God through reading, listening, pondering, and meditating on insights that come from the Spirit.

Lazarus, the male sibling, representing the will, the ego, the rational conscious awareness, undergoes a veritable death experience—the third and deepest level of spiritual transformation. His is the counterpart to the initiation into the Greek mystery religions, where the initiate must travel to the deepest realms of the dead, undergo a transformation, and return to the world of the living.

And Jesus, a key player in the story, as closest friend of Lazarus, represents the part of Lazarus that experiences authentic sorrow. Only then can transformation into a new living being take place.

We see in the two sisters and brother from Bethany three stages in the life of Jesus as well. He was a compassionate provider, meeting the needs of many people on many levels. He chose both solitude and conversation as he sought to deepen his understanding of the Kingdom of God. Finally he experienced death in order emerge a new being.

Our spiritual journey, if we allow it, will take us through the same three stages.

(Note: On this website is the story of one who has experienced all three stages.  The key to transformation is the will giving permission for something deep inside to do the work.  “Humpty Dumpty Hatched” is available free of charge.)

NEAR-SACRIFICE

The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is so powerful that it is never referred to as the near-sacrifice. Abraham’s willingness to give up his son was 100%. The story shows, with two characters and God, what, in the Jesus narrative, is accomplished in one human being. In stories the spiritual must be represented in the physical else there is nothing for the reader to work with in a symbolic way. The physical can be interpreted in many ways and that is what makes a good story.

For Abraham, the son he had prayed for, his life link to progeny, his proof of manhood, the long-awaited delivery of God’s promise—all this as his most prized possession was being asked of him.

Jesus was asked to give his life, his most prized possession—a life lived doing what he thought was most important: preaching, teaching, healing—what he thought God wanted him to do. As all those things were given up, he became, in the narrative, one whose very being was transformed. The story says his being was so transparent and ethereal he could move through a locked door, and yet he could eat and drink as a normal human.

He was recognized in a prayer of thanks. He prepared a meal for his friends (first time ever in all gospel accounts). He didn’t preach or teach or heal. He encouraged his friends to be compassionate. He just was. His being was enough. His being was exactly what God wanted of him. And what God wants of us.

A willingness to sacrifice ourselves results in a near-sacrifice in that only what needs to die dies and the real self is born into our transformed personalities. The stories of Isaac and Jesus are our stories—or are meant to be.

(Note: A book entitled Humpty Dumpty Hatched, which tells the story of transformation of one personality, is available on this website.)