Resurrection - The Day John Died.
There are a number of stories in the Bible of people being miraculously raised from the dead. The most important one for us is of course Jesus being raised up after three days in a tomb.
I have always been fascinated by the story of Lazarus in John chapter eleven. Jesus is clearly good friends with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Although reports of Lazarus's illness have come to him at a distance, by the time Jesus reaches Bethany, Lazarus has died and has in fact been in his tomb for three days. Jesus brings Lazarus back to life to the astonishment of everybody - they have seen Jesus heal the sick, but this is the first time they have witnessed the dead raised. Some time later (John chapter 12) the story has become so influential that the religious leaders, who are very threatened by Jesus, consider having Lazarus murdered.
In 2002 the amazing story of the death and resurrection of Nigerian Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu was released. Daniel had been dead for nearly three days with his body partially embalmed and wooden pegs stuffed up his nostrils. The doctor who attended to him in hospital and the mortician both pronounced him dead. His body was taken to a a revival meeting where local pastors prayed for him in a room below the stage while the internationally known evangelist Reinhard Bonnke was on the stage above leading a revival meeting with thousands of people praying and worshipping Jesus. Daniel came back to life and has remained alive, leading his church and speaking to anyone who would listen to his remarkable story.
I have always been fascinated by such stories and I even prayed and asked God to let me witness such an event first hand. Well, God answered my prayer when I was not expecting it. The church that Heather and I were leading in the early years of the new millennium went through a tough time. We knew that we were under attack spiritually and that the divisive behaviour of some of the people who were coming was really a spiritual battle. The bible tells us that our real enemy is the devil, an evil fallen angel who really does exist and who will take advantage of weak and fallible people to bring division and animosity between people. I knew it all in theory, but it is quite another thing to experience and I was taking the criticism much too personally. I became quite exhausted with the whole situation. During this difficult few months we had some visiting speakers who, in a sense, took some of the weight off my shoulders. One Sunday we had John Hardy. He had been to us on a number of occasions and people liked him. John had only been speaking for a few minutes when he went deathly pale. He was talking on the subject of human weakness and started to say, "I feel weak at the moment.." - when he suddenly fell heavily to the floor. I ran to his aid and two of our congregation with medical training also rushed to his side. They tested him for vital life signs but said there were none. He had no pulse, he wasn't breathing, there was no sign of life at all. While one person ran into the Sunday school room to fetch my wife, a nurse who has specialist training in intensive care, I asked the whole congregation to stretch their hands towards John and to start praying aloud in their own words. Those of us at the front also prayed and asked God to restore John to life. We commanded anything evil which might be the cause of this to go. Within two or three minutes, John started to move. He began breathing again, his colour started to return and after another minute or two he opened his eyes. We were all amazed.
God did answer my prayer and it is an event which had a profound effect on me. First, although I had asked God to let me see someone restored to life after prayer, It was one of those hope prayers, like we may pray and hope that God will make us rich for example! Deep inside I wanted it to happen, but I guess I wasn't expecting it. Second, when faced with the emergency, I am certain that the Holy Spirit prompted us to pray and to expect John to come back. God had prepared me in advance and I realised that my hope prayer was actually preordained by God. God knows all things. He knew that John would collapse that day, and he wanted us to be ready to pray a prayer that would enable the Holy Spirit to bring life and healing into a death situation. Third, God used the situation to bring healing to our damaged church. We had been attacked spiritually and many people were shell-shocked, including me. This event, which I believe to be a miracle, helped to take our thought off the troubles and to refocus our minds and hearts on Jesus, the miracle worker, God incarnate who came to restore relationship between man and God. And fourth, it brought healing to me.
Skeptics have told me since that time that John could have had medical condition that caused him to pass out and have a weak, almost undetectable pulse. They can say what they like. I was there. John had no pulse. John had died and he needed our prayers. God restored him to life and he has been well ever since. Its as simple as that.
God knows what you and I need ahead of time and before we even ask him. God knew the needs of the church, John and myself on that day. God does the healing, God does the resurrecting - he doesn't really need us! But God is good to us and he allows us to take part, to be catalysts in his plans. The day John died and lived again is a day that changed my life forever.