John 11 “Whosoever Lives and Believes in Me Shall Never Die. Do you believe this?”
Last month while reading the story of Lazarus from John 11, I gained some insights on unanswered prayers and shared them in a post on our Colo Spgs and Worldwide Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Internet Meetup Message Board http://www.meetup.com/exjw-worldwide/. A discussion ensued but one of our members ended up giving us such an encouraging testimony within that thread I just had to share it here! This is what she wrote:
Actually, the story of Lazarus has a lot of meaning for me personally.
When I was in the Jehovah’s Witness organization, I was out in the ministry one day and the woman I was with used Jn 11:25 & 26 with a person we were calling on. She got to the part where Jesus said, “Do you believe this?” And asked the person, do you believe this? It was kind of lost on the householder but the words kept going round in my mind.
I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever Lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?
It was a bit of a departure from the standard presentation using Watchtower material or the topic for the month and it turned out that my co worker had simply been reading the bible and come across it and had thought it might be a good way to get a householder to interact because of the question Jesus asked. For me though it created a sort of uncomfortable feeling in my mind which I now know would be called cognitive dissonance. Basically it wasn’t what we were taught. We were part of The Great Crowd, not the Anointed 144,000. Jesus was the resurrection and the life for the anointed who were going to heaven, not for us, at least not directly. And yet, the words kept going round in my mind. I think my co worker must have used the KJV because it was the word “whosoever” that kept coming back to me. Even in the NWT the word used was “everyone.” As a Jehovah’s Witness, I remember being told that the New Testament was written for the anointed and that we were not to just take it as a personal message to us, that our hope was in staying faithful to the anointed and Gods chosen instrument The Watchtower.
Years later when I was out of the organization and doing my best to forget about religion, I had to go to the funeral of a lovely old gentleman who had been a resident of a Nursing home that I managed for a short time. The service was in the crematorium and was conducted by his priest from the Episcopal Church.
As the priest came down the aisle he was quoting from Jn 11:25-26
I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
I’ve been to lots of funerals since, including my mom and dads so I know that particular passage is fairly standard at funerals. However, at the time, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d never actually heard it said like that at a funeral and I’d been told by my study conductor in the Watchtower that while such words are used by ministers at funerals, they are meaningless in that context because it’s not the whole truth. But it was powerful. It was like a statement of fact that the church had been stating for centuries. I just hadn’t heard it. I had only heard the Watchtower’s spin which cut me out of the deal when it seemed fairly clear that it was whosoever and whosoever could mean ME!
I’d been particularly fond of the old gentleman whose funeral it was. He really was a lovely man. His rooms even had a lovely atmosphere. He had been very ill and I’d spent a lot of time with him and so I was feeling pretty miserable about his death. When the minister came down the aisle boldly declaring the words of Jesus to Martha I somehow knew they were for my old gentleman. He lived and believed in Jesus and that was what made him so lovely and he was not dead.
Years later that scripture became important to me again. By that time I was living and believing in Jesus. However, I woke up one morning to the dreadful and agonizing realization that I was having a heart attack. I was pouring with sweat, throwing up and in so much pain, I was sure I was going to die in a matter of minutes. I said, “Lord, am I going to die?” Amazingly enough, not only was that little prayer answered immediately, I actually heard the answer. It was “NO.” Somehow that gave me enough strength to reach for the phone and a few minutes later the ambulance arrived. About ten days later, I was out of hospital but not allowed to drive or anything and I needed to get to the chemist for the balance on my medication so my dad came over and drove me.
He seemed unusually at peace with himself which was nice because he was normally quite a tense sort of person. We used to joke that he was like John Knox in the morning and Rabbi Burns at night after a wee whiskey or three. On this day though, it was like the characters had swapped places.
Anyhow, on the way back from the chemist we were talking about a chap who had died and it turned out my dad had been to his funeral and he started talking about the songs that were sung in particular The Lord Of The Dance.
From there he started talking about Jesus and how the ordinary people had believed in him but the Pharisees didn’t and how they had him killed, but how he rose again from the dead. And then to my complete astonishment he said, “And he is still alive, isn’t he?”
My dad wasn’t a professing Christian. He was a bit of a moralist and had been sent to church as a child but he never went to church as a rule and never claimed to know anything much about the bible. And although I had come to believe, I didn’t think it had had much influence on my dad so I was really shocked to hear him making all these statements about Jesus. Somewhere between me having a heart attack and his old friend dying, the penny had dropped. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say except yes, he is still alive. It was so odd and my dad and I parted company as if we had just been chatting about the price of fish.
At that time, I was trying to build up my strength with twice daily little walks and that evening my walk took me past the church yard. Although I’d passed by the churchyard lots of times I’d never noticed the huge gravestone near the gate with the words, ” I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
It’s hard to explain but somehow I knew as I was looking at the gravestone that I’d seen my dad for the last time in this life.
My sister in law came early the next morning to tell me that he had died but all I could think of was the gravestone I looked at the night before and the words, ” I am the resurrection and the life ……
I think my dad must have been like the workers hanging around the market place in the parable about the workers in the vineyard in Matt 20. He got the call at the eleventh hour.”
(The Meetup member who wrote this gave me permission to share it. May it bless and encourage you)
Keep yourself in God’s love,