Updated: Feb 5
The Fifth Sunday of Easter has a central focus on death and rebirth. The death part is fairly easy, since the Acts story of Stephen’s stoning ends with the words “he died.” In Psalm 31, it is not hard to recall how Jesus said, “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46) when he died. That was Jesus quoting Psalm 31:5. Similarly Stephen, we are told, “prayed, Lord Jesus receive my spirit” not long before he died. So, death is not hard to grasp on this Sunday in the Easter season.
Nothing is written about Lazarus that is published in the New Testament of the Holy Bible telling of his life as a Saint, as an Apostle. Lazarus was touched by God, through His Son, with Jesus not rubbing mud on him, made with spit, or touching him in any way. To think one could be dead for four days and then be returned to life, only to shrug one’s shoulders and go back to living a ‘normal’ life is thinking like the people who stoned Stephen to death. They “covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.” Those Jews who killed Stephen were the same ones who killed Jesus on a cross. Those Jews are the prototypes for all ‘Christians’ who will not give up their life and become servants of God, reborn as His Son. Listen to the ‘reverse parallel’ from Acts 2 and Acts 7:
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
Stephen was speaking to the Sanhedrin like Jesus suddenly became the voice of his disciples on Pentecost. However, rather than receive the Holy Spirit and see the light, they refused that presence.
The Jews of the Temple denied Jesus being born within them. They would hear nothing about giving up all the things they had worked so hard to steal. They were not about to change their lives or die of self-ego. Therefore, when Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” he said that about all who claim to serve God by killing His messengers. Back when the Church of Rome was just whetting its appetite for the blood of people it deemed unworthy of life, in the advent of its first exercise of genocide called the Albigensian Crusade, a campaign of destruction was on the outskirts of Beziers, France. The army was waiting for word on where the heretics [Cathars] were. A scout said the Roman Catholics and the Cathars were intermingled and a Cathar [true Christian] could not be told from a Catholic [church worshipper]. The famous command was then given (in Latin): “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” In English that translates to, “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His.”
Stephen died of self and became righteous. Stephen stood firm till the end. Stephen was a homie in Jerusalem (a Jew), where the Jews who hated Jesus also hated him. Lord knows, persecution of Christians by Christians, just like Jews by Jews, never goes out of style. Jesus said (as we read today), “I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not [believe me], then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Can you see that Stephen was a living example of the truth Jesus told his disciples? Stephen believed as Jesus believed. Stephen was in the name of Jesus by having been reborn. The Father was glorified by Stephen because Stephen was the Son resurrected in his flesh. Stephen asked God to forgive those who think they are doing the work of the Lord, because it is natural for ALL human beings to use their brains and think they know right from wrong – good from evil. The problem that comes from thinking is a brain is more easily influenced by Satan and more willing to do his will. Thoughts of doing good are often overcome by thoughts of putting off till tomorrow. Saints don’t think, and Stephen is an example of a human being who gave up his brain to be led by the Holy Spirit of God, as Stephen had been reborn as Jesus Christ. Stephen said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” just as Jesus quoted David, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” If one hears the words of Stephen a certain way, “Lord [“Kyrie”] Jesus,” one can hear how he actually stated both “God (the Lord)” and “Jesus.” That means his seeming address was actually a statement that his body had already been revived by “Lord Jesus.” Stephen’s soul had already merged with the Father and the Son, when he died of self-ego and became an Apostle – “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” That death and rebirth guaranteed his spirit would receive the reward of eternal life in heaven when his physical body would die, meaning Stephen did not fear death because he had already died. Stephen had made that exchange, as heard from his words, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” He said those words before the Jews drug him outside of the city, where the larger stones were scattered. Normal brains are incapable of seeing God [ask Moses and Elijah] and Jesus was Ascended, so Stephen did not see with physical eyes. Stephen saw within his physical self, where the heavens opened surrounding his spirit and Stephen knew God was in his heart and Jesus was the right hand that brought the Christ Mind to an Apostle. The model of Stephen, the first martyred Saint of many to come, is echoed in David’s Psalm 31. Right off David sang, “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge.” That says David had subjected his powers of being to that of God. The Hebrew root word that is translated as “I take refuge” is “chasah.” According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, of “chasah” is written: “A primitive root; to flee for protection (compare batach); figuratively, to confide in — have hope, make refuge, (put) trust.” David was “In God,” just as Jesus said he was “In the Father.” When David wrote the lyrics, “for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me,” the Hebrew words “ūləma‘an məḵā” are translated as “for the sake of your name.” The root words say, “for the intent of your character.” The Hebrew root word “shem,” meaning “name,” has connotations of death, such that Brown-Driver-Briggs states its usage implies this: “especially as giving a man kind of posthumous life, especially in his sons.” David was reborn as the son of God, “in His name.” Thus, the same source [B-D-B] says Psalm 31’s usage is intended to state “the (revealed) character of” Yahweh.
A tower of strength to house the Lord demands the cornerstone by Jesus Christ.
Certainly, when David sang, “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” the usage of the Hebrew word “paqad” (translated as “commend”) means “commit, entrust” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). That is a statement of marriage to God, which goes along with the ‘change of name’ a wife accepts in such a solemn commitment, where the marriage means the death of the old self and the rebirth of a new self, assuming a new name. This sense of “trust” then relates back to the reference to “refuge,” where that word also meant to “put one’s trust” into the Lord. In verse fifteen (the leap forward in the reading today), David sang, “My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” That perfectly sings about Stephen, as he saw himself as Jesus, at the right hand of God. Stephen saw the presence of the Lord and Jesus within himself, as he was in the hands of his enemies and being persecuted. Stephen was rescued because his soul had already been saved, because he died of self-ego and was reborn as the Son of Man. Now this song of praise can be seen as continuing in Peter’s epistle. He wrote, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation.” Certainly, Peter was not referencing physical babies but adults who had been reborn. The aspect of “pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation” says one’s old self has passed away and a new self has come, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The element of growing through the Holy Spirit is then because the cornerstone of one’s new self is Jesus. Jesus is “a cornerstone chosen and precious” and “the stone that the builders rejected.” That cornerstone is not some imagination of a large square stone for some magnificent building, such as was Herod’s Temple. That cornerstone is the real presence of Jesus Christ becoming the foundation upon which a new human life is built. It is not the fantasy of belief in someone read in a book or heard told by another. Jesus Christ is the knowledge of God within a human mind, which did not exist prior and could not be learned from another, meaning Jesus Christ is resurrected within each and every Apostle. His birth within one’s being brings the Christ Mind, from which comes the “pure, spiritual milk” of the Godhead. When Peter wrote that the cornerstone was “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall,” that speaks of the persecution used against anyone who has been reborn as Jesus Christ. Peter added, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” They stumble and fall as those claiming religious superiority – either Jews or Christians – leading themselves to resort to evil ways that expose their true natures. The Jews used the stones that brought about their downfall on Stephen. They did not throw hand-sized rocks at his head; they picked up large boulders with two hands and slammed those stones against Stephen’s head, killing him. They sealed their own deaths by doing so, while releasing Stephen’s spirit to eternal bliss.
The same clams can be made by all denominations of Christian churches, where the only excuse for more than one Church is Self-interests. A collective of “people” find safety in numbers and hide in the shadows while a few do most of the work; but God has no need for such collectives of betrayal. When Peter said “You are God’s people,” the Greek word he wrote was “peripoiēsin,” meaning a people of his “possession, ownership, acquiring, and possessing.” To be possessed by God one has to make room for God by clearing out self-love.
When Jesus then followed that statement about faith, he said, “believe also in me,” which (again) says “have faith in me.” The words seem to be making Jesus an equal to God, as if saying, “If you can’t have faith in God, then have faith in me, and I will also calm your hearts. That is not what was said.
This first verse in John 14 is the first of several times when Jesus said “faith in God is faith in me,” while also saying, “faith in God brings faith in me.” It says God is the Father of the Son and the Son is from the Father, as the Father born in earthly form. When one has faith in the Father, then one has faith in the Son, because the Father promised the Son through the Prophets. God promised His Son to remove all troubles from hearts of those who have faith in God. When Jesus then said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” the Greek word “oikia” (translated as “house”) equally means “a house, household, dwelling; [alternatively]: goods, property, and means.” The Greek word “monai” (translated as “dwelling places”) means “an abiding, an abode” and also “lodging, dwelling-place, room, abode, and mansion.” To put this statement by Jesus in better perspective, he said: “My Father dwells in many places.”
Heaven is not an apartment building.
To see this in this way, it makes Jesus’ explanation understandable. When he explained, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” First that says, “I have to die (as I have told you three times before),but I will come back from death and prepare you to become a dwelling place for God.” Then that says, “Once I have prepared you to become a dwelling place for God, then I will come back in the Spirit and become one with you – “so where I am, there you may be also.” Finally, Jesus explained, “You know that I am going to take you to eternal life in Heaven.” Now, we see how much the disciples needed preparation to “receive the Spirit,” drunk as they were on Passover Seder wine. Thomas had not figured out that Jesus (also known as the Son of Man) was training his disciples to be like him, so they could all get to Heaven (Judas Iscariot was away betraying Jesus at this time, so Jesus was not saying this for everyone in the world). Philip could not even figure out that the Father was Yahweh, thinking it was in a house somewhere in Judea or Galilee that they could all walk to. Rather than call them ignoramuses, it would be better to simply see them all as still ‘pieces of work’. In response to Thomas asking, “How can we know the way?” (A question that was just as valid then as it is today, when Christians sit in pews without knowing if Heaven is assured) Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That needs understanding. When Jesus said, “I am the way,” think all the way back to last week and Good Shepherd Sunday. Then Jesus said, “I am the gate,” which is what the shepherd enters through, and which is the voice that leads the sheep from within the sheepfold. The sheepfold is metaphor for the metaphor of a tower of strength that needs a perfect and precious cornerstone. God is the gatekeeper who owns the sheep that are shepherded by His Son. That voice of Jesus then leads the sheep out the gate to eternal life with the Father. The way is the gate. When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” this is how Jesus frequently began a statement by saying, “Verily,” or “Truthfully.” The full truth and nothing but the truth cannot be told when one does not know anything about Scripture, beyond the surface meaning of the words. When asked, “What is the truth?” would you say, “Jesus”? What does that mean, if you say, “Jesus”? If saying the truth is what you read in the Holy Bible, then the deeper truth is unknown. The answer to “What is the truth?” is God (YWHW), because God is All-Knowing. God does not speak (through prophets) in hypotheses or deductions based on a few known facts. Because God is the truth, Jesus said “I am God”; but everything Jesus said was from God, through Jesus, so the truth is: “The Father is in me as I am in the Father.” The meaning of Jesus saying, “I am the life” is easily seen as “eternal life,” but to see that as the only meaning misses the whole truth. Mortal existence on earth means being born to die. The root word for “mortal” is the Latin word “mort,” meaning “death.” Simply by being born, at which point God breathes a soul into a body of flesh, means one’s life breath is terminal. One is bound to die. A body can only house a soul for so long. Thus, when Jesus says “I am the life,” he means he is the way of truth to eternal life, which means one must get past the death part of being mortal. To do that one needs to die of self-ego, or die like Jesus and Lazarus and wait for God to yell, “Come out!” [That is not the way.]
God does that in the reincarnation phase of retraining of lost souls. Otherwise, one must be reborn in the same body of flesh that contains the breath of life by God, which is then the metaphor of the sheep (soul) and shepherd (Jesus Christ) and the gate to Heaven (Jesus Christ joined with a soul in one body of flesh). That is just as Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That means Jesus was telling his disciples they would have to give up their selfish lives and become devoted priests, married to the One God Yahweh, giving birth to His Son Jesus, who brings with his soul the Christ Mind (God’s truth). When one returns to the beginning of John 14, where Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe in me also,” we see now how Jesus comes back to that statement of faith, saying, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes [“pisteuōn” – “having faith”] in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” For one to be able to “also do the works that I do,” one has to die of self-ego and marry God, allowing His Son to be resurrected in a human flesh form, doing the things Jesus did when he was in the human flesh. To do “greater works than these” [the works Jesus had demonstrated before his followers] “greater works” means the number of Apostles times one Jesus. Jesus did 1x the works; a million Apostles do a million times more works than Jesus. When Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name,” that means one has died of one’s old self and been reborn as Jesus Christ. The name by which all miracle work is done by Apostles goes under the name “Jesus Christ,” as one is the Son of God reborn (regardless of one’s human gender). The Father is always glorified in the Son as all Apostles are the Son reborn.
[Aside note: There are commercials on television where Franklin Graham (the son of Billy) asks people to pray and say, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” This has become a ‘catch phrase’ that insults God. Unless one is truly in the name of Jesus Christ [the true meaning of being Christian] one sounds as if one is saying, “I have the power to call upon God’s boy, Jesus Christ, and make him do tricks for me.” This is like saying to someone, “The Lord be with you,” as if one has the power to give God away with a few words. To have the name of Jesus Christ, one has to be married to God and that means having first died of self-ego. When one has died of self-ego, then one does not say “I am in anything,” because one is a silent servant of God – His wife, who does what He says without speaking personal opinions. God does all the talking, through the voice of His Son. ACTS speak that one is in the name of Jesus Christ, not words.]
Finally, when Jesus said, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it,” the only use of “you” comes when Jesus said, “If in my name you.” That is then the “you” of self-ego being sacrificed in the preparation of space for God and Jesus Christ in “you.” Once you have that cornerstone as the foundation of “you,” then one is a most holy house of God. When God lives in “you,” then everything done is done by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The flesh of “you” gets no credit. However, the soul of “you” gets eternal life.