Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From Death to Life


A story by Sydney Lupkin of ABC News from two months ago -- When 17-year-old Lawrence Yahle learned his father was dead earlier this month at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio, he ran down the hall to see nurses around his father's body. They weren't trying to revive him anymore. Distraught, Lawrence pointed and shouted, "Dad, you're not going to die today." Moments later, Anthony Yahle's heart monitor showed signs of life, Dr. Raja Nazir, his cardiologist at Kettering Medical Center, told It wasn't a regular heartbeat, but once or twice a minute, the monitor would pick up tiny electrical movements. "When I looked at the electrical activity, I was surprised," Nazir said. "I thought we'd better make another effort to revive him." Nazir gave one of Yahle's hanging medicine bags a squeeze to restore his blood pressure and the team began working on him again. "Very slowly, the heart rate was picking up," Nazir said. That was more than a week ago, on Aug. 5. Doctors thought Yahle, a 37-year-old diesel mechanic, would need a heart transplant or be in a vegetative state the rest of his life, but he's home resting and seems fine. "I'm calling it a miracle because I've never seen anything like it," Nazir said. Yahle's near-death experience started at 4 a.m. that day, when his wife, Melissa Yahle, woke up and realized his breathing didn't sound right. Melissa, who has been a nurse for seven years, said she tried unsuccessfully to wake him up. Melissa and Lawrence performed CPR until an ambulance could arrive, and first responders found a heartbeat after shocking Yahle several times. At the hospital, doctors expected Yahle's arteries to be clogged, but they were clear. Things were looking positive until later that afternoon, when Yahle's heart stopped. He "coded" for 45 minutes as doctors tried to revive him. "We looked at each other," Nazir said. "We'd given him all the medicine we had in our code cart. At some point, you have to call it off." Nazir said he wasn't sure exactly how long Yahle was "dead," before Lawrence ran down the hall to tell his father he couldn't die that day. "Suddenly that trickle of a thing came back," Nazir said. "We were lucky we saw and reacted to it, and that brought him back." Nazir said it was "mind boggling." Melissa said she, Lawrence and the people from their church who were praying with them witnessed a miracle. Yahle was transferred to Ohio State University, and he returned home to West Carrollton on Aug. 10 with a defibrillator in his chest. He doesn't remember any of the experience after he went to bed on Aug. 4. "He doesn't have one broken rib," Melissa said. "He's not sore. These are things that just clinically don't happen." Yeah…except they do. This is what happens with God. He has a way of doing miracles…in His way and at His discretion, of course. This seems to be a pretty prominent theme in the Bible.  Here, we have the story of a young person who dies and comes back to life by the power of God.

This is the first recorded instance in the Word of God of a person being raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). It is evident that the young man in the story is dead, as it not only indicates that he stopped breathing, but that his spirit has left his body (vv.21-22). His mother is grieving, as well. It is interesting to note that the mother’s response is to feel guilty because of past sins. She believes that her son’s death is God’s way of punishing her for misdeeds. It is not uncommon for people to feel guilt in connection with bereavement, but is curious that she points her finger at her guest. She recognizes Elijah as a man of God. Perhaps, she believes that his presence should have protected her and her son, and should have prevented her son’s death.

Elijah’s response is to carry the boy to the upstairs room and to cry out to the Lord for the life of the child. He can’t believe that the Lord would miraculously provide food for the three of them and then allow the son to die. There has to be something else at work. Elijah doesn’t stretch himself out on the boy’s dead body in hope that he could somehow transfer his life to the lad, because he knows that only God can impart life. It is after Elijah stretches himself out on the boy for the third time that he comes back to life. Is this a coincidence…given that our Lord arose on the third day after His death? I would say -- probably not. There seems to be a looking ahead or foreshadowing to Jesus’ experience in most, if not all, of “the raising from the dead” stories. In a similar manner, Paul raises the boy Eutychus in Acts 20, as it says, “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don't be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He's alive!’” (v.20)

The result of the miracle is the woman’s confession of her faith in the God of Israel. She now understands that Elijah is a true servant of God, and not just some religious teacher looking for support. This is all interesting since God has already provided food for the widow through Elijah, as we go back to the previous message. So, the God of the universe is not only able to sustain life, He also grants life. Like the man with the five talents, Elijah has proven himself to be faithful…all while in enemy territory. During these three years on the run, Elijah has learned a great deal about the Lord, about himself and about the needs of people…which is good, because he is about to face his greatest challenge.

One final thought…Jesus uses this story Himself (Luke 4:25-26) to emphasize the grace of God on people. This is an important message, not only in the New Covenant, but in the Old, as well.

One might ask -- what is the purpose in the raising of one from death to life? We will consider this thought in Paul’s relationship to Jesus. What can we see from Paul’s life in regards to the impact of the resurrected Christ? One commentator notes: “The truth and power of the resurrected Christ brought three great changes in Paul. First, was a deep recognition of sin. For the first time he realized how far his external religious life was from being internally godly. He saw himself as he really was…an enemy of God and a persecutor of His church. Second, he experienced a revolution of character. From a persecutor of the church he became her greatest defender. His life was transformed from one characterized by self–righteous hatred to one characterized by self–giving love. He changed from oppressor to servant, from imprisoner to deliverer, from judge to friend, from a taker of life to a giver of life. Third, he experienced a dramatic redirection of energy. As zealously as he had once opposed God’s redeemed he now served them”. (MacArthur, J. F. (1984). First Corinthians. MacArthur New Testament commentary (395). Chicago: Moody Press.)

And what does this story mean for us? Once again, we see the providence of God at work. The God who protects Elijah for three years, who protects the widow and her son, can also protect us. Not only this, I believe that the story is not only a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection, but it is also a foreshadowing of ours. It we believe that Jesus is raised from the dead and that He is coming again for us to take us home to be with Him…then, as we have studies in 1 Thessalonians 4, etc., we will likewise be raised from the dead! The miracle that takes place for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, also takes place for all who have trusted in Him for salvation, just as Martha indicates to Jesus, "I know he (Lazarus) will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…” (John 11:24-25, NIV) This is our hope!

Blessings, Don

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