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ave entrance looking out onto sunlit trees

Chapter 11 in John’s gospel is a pivotal point. From this chapter onward we are looking at the events leading to Golgotha and the fulfilling of the Christ destiny, the epic story of the incarnation made clear in the Prologue.

The eleventh chapter also introduces Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a special family in a village called Bethany at the foot of the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Jesus loves all three in a special way. The quality of this love is spiritual, agape, of the master towards an inner circle of close pupils. It seems they are not part of ‘the twelve’. Lazarus is the Gospel of John’s anonymous author, the beloved disciple, so this is about direct experience. I am sure Mary, who will soon anoint the feet of Jesus, is the Magdalene (although not everyone agrees with this). Practical Martha is the third character. The three may be family although in the context of agape they are spirit-siblings.

The events that follow are only recorded in John’s gospel. Lazarus becomes ill and the women send for Jesus who is in another Bethany beyond the Jordan River. He does not come right away and explains to the disciples with him how the illness is about revealing ‘the glory of God’. Meanwhile Lazarus dies. By the time Jesus does arrive he has been dead for four days and is wrapped in a burial shroud in the family rock tomb. Martha hurries to the outskirts of the village to meet her teacher and trusting that all things are possible through him pleads for a miracle.

In their brief exchange Jesus declares, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though they die, yet they shall live.’ And Martha believes him.

The raising of Lazarus follows. It’s an extraordinary scene, as Jesus orders the astonished watchers to roll the stone away. He then offers a prayer, and in a loud voice calls Lazarus forth. And the man still wrapped head to foot in his shroud must surely have been a ghostly sight as he hobbled out.

So, has Jesus brought a dead man back to life? Two other such deeds are recorded in Mark and Luke and it’s a familiar trope in legends. The raising of Lazarus from the dead marks the last sign and I AM saying before the supper Jesus shares with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion.

Death and resurrection - for a person on the spiritual path it’s helpful to bring it home – to the individual. On one level John’s whole gospel is about initiation and for Lazarus we are looking at his dying to the old life and birth into the new, that is, initiation.

The old initiatory context

In certain old mysteries initiation was performed in secret through rites overseen by the hierophant, one who had sacred esoteric knowledge. What took place was never fully revealed, but those who went through the ordeal spoke of a death-like state, of being enclosed in a tomb or cave, and of being reborn. In this story Jesus acts as the hierophant, but he performs this initiatory rite in broad daylight, in the open – and thus breaks it apart. The action would arouse fury among the Judean leaders who understood what was going on.

The raising of this ‘dead’ man to life was the last of the old way and the preparation for a new mystery. For Lazarus this was an initiation – but as transition. It is said that in the death-like sleep Lazarus experienced the awakening of his spiritual ‘I’ in readiness for the Christ initiation that would take place through Golgotha.

The experience would lead to the power of I AM, the Christ spirit, finding its home in his soul. It would also happen personally for Mary Magdalene, for Martha, and other disciples who became apostles, messengers of the Christ.

A new kind of initiation

Let's view the death and resurrection of Lazarus as the last of the old way. From Golgotha thenceforth there has been a new kind of initiation. Jesus emptied himself so the Christ could enter. Christ is now the spirit permeating the world and is available individually as the spiritual self. Into our age and onward, the spirit within is discovered by the personally seeking individual, not through anyone else who ‘initiates’ you to become part of a consensus of the chosen. Nor does it come through following a set pathway. This can serve as guidance from those who are further along the path. But the way of walking always belongs to the individual.

And as the age progresses it will not be as it was, through retreating from the world. It is a journey lived in the world with all its trials and evils – walking with spirit while being ‘in the world, but not of it’.

Of course, still today many do decide to move apart from the world. This may be by joining a spiritual group or movement, for a time of retreat or even for a lifetime. The new initiation is a process. Preparation takes place in stages and takes many lives. All the while our souls are readying us for the challenges. For at heart, it is a lonely path, yet the promise is life experienced through a spiritually conscious individuality.

When Jesus said to Martha, ‘I AM the resurrection and the life’, he spoke of the humanity of the future. The resurrected self is the fully spiritualised human being, the free individual who lives their true humanity.

By undertaking the journey, we are learning to die to the ordinary self, the self that lives for the world. Through the spiritual will we are reborn. Through the Christ spirit, the divine I AM, we experience the resurrection and the life – life lived on a higher level. We will encounter obstacles and resistance, both inner and outer. And we will often fail to live up to the ideal, but by keeping our vision alive we will have greater understanding of the lessons to be learnt from our missteps.

The inner work

When we meditate on this I AM saying action is involved, which is described in Matthew 7:7: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’ This asking is not a ‘please can I…’ but a request from a soul alight with the determination to break through from the lower self into life. That’s the essence of the affirmation I chose.

pink rose painting with leaves and dewdrops

I AM the resurrection and the life – May the base elements of my existence be transmuted into the beauty and glory of spirit.

When we contemplate the I AM saying with an intention to listen to the deep well of wisdom within, there we will discover the questions we need to ask. These may concern concepts, feelings, habits of behaviour, relationships, or something quite unexpected that needs to be transformed. It is vital that we question and probe deeply, with discernment, because we can be genuinely surprised – ‘I didn’t realise that was a limitation’.

Then it requires quiet inner strength to surrender and be open to the call of our higher self. And it takes courage to step into the unknown. This is all part of the inner work – while we live in and relate to what the world throws up.

I AM is the potent life force in the individual who emerges from the tomb of ignorance, who is ready to live for the spiritual ‘I’ in the soul, who comes through the darkness able to stand firm in the reality of their higher self, and to express in thought and deed the love of the Christ alive in the soul.

‘I AM the resurrection and the life’ speaks to us of a profound transformation, after which our lives can never be the same. The former self has been stripped away; the life in us becomes attuned to the spiritual cosmos, to the eternal I AM. If and when you reach this place, you are blessed indeed.


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