In the following paragraphs, I paraphrase a few pages of an account of the life of Jesus as recorded in Past Eras Awaken, Volume II. Growing up, the child Jesus enjoyed a very close relationship with Joseph, His earthly father. Frequently and without hesitation, Jesus went to Joseph with questions that stirred within Him. Joseph always listened patiently, showed understanding, reflected on the questions, and came up with answers that satisfied the child Jesus. Apparently for Jesus, Joseph was the only earthman who played this role of patient listening gladly and who consistently showed unpatronizing understanding. The death of Joseph was, therefore, a great loss to the teenage Jesus.
On one occasion, Mary, the mother of Jesus, wondered how the death of Joseph had affected her son and how she might help him. She asked Jesus if He still had unresolved questions such as those He used to ask Joseph. She imagined that at His age (He was then sixteen years old), Jesus might have seized contemplating the sorts of questions he constantly asked Joseph. To Mary’s surprise, Jesus said He had many more questions. “Why do you not ask me, my son?” Mary said good-naturedly. She pressed Jesus to ask her one of the questions. “Mother, where were we before we came to the earth?” Jesus enquired without any hesitation. Mary sensed that this question was of great concern to Jesus but she wondered how to answer it. She too had pondered the same question in her youth but it would never have occurred to her to ask another person. “Why do you want to know?” she asked in return. “Does it not satisfy you that we are here now?”
Jesus shook His head. “That cannot satisfy me, for I feel that I lived before I came here. And all of us would have existed before now. I think that this must also be the reason why we are so different. Just think, Mother,” the otherwise so quiet youth grew excited, “surely there must be a difference in whether, up to our entry on earth, we were permitted to live in some Luminous Realm or had to languish in the Dark, or whether we had even been on earth already once before, as some say!” (See Past Eras Awaken, Volume II. page 488). Mary responded: “I do not understand you, Jesus. Surely there is no need to reflect on such a thing. Go your way, God-fearing, and do not rack your brains over matters that are none of your concern. Let the scribes resolve such questions. But if you cannot cope with them go to the priest!” Jesus had to smile. “You see, Mother, how much I miss Father? He always knew the answer to all my questions and he gave it in such a way that I understood at once.”
Past Eras Awaken Volume III has a section entitled “Unknown Events from the Life of Jesus, The Son of God”. The next paragraphs are a paraphrase of a few pages of the account (see especially pages 253-255 and 257- 258). On one occasion, at about the time the Mission of Jesus was nearing its end, a group of Greeks came to Bethany. They met the disciple Philip (who was known to one of the Greeks) and implored him to let them see Jesus. Philip asked them to wait while he went into the house. He told Andrew about the request and Andrew suggested that whether or not the Greeks should see Jesus would be for the Lord Himself to decide. The disciples presented the request of the Greeks to Jesus, and Jesus decided to go out and see them.
One of the Greeks stepped forward, bowed and said: “It is given to me to see the gods in whom we believe. But verily: neither Jupiter nor Apollo is as sublime and pure as is this One. Jesus is in truth the Christ, the Highest Whom the World has ever beheld!” Deeply moved, the other Greeks too bowed.
But Jesus said: “You men from the sunny land, Grace has been given to you that you might perceive and recognize those who hover imperceptibly about you. However, you have not made use of the Grace. Instead of letting them guide you to Him Who is the Only True God, you have worshipped and remained with them. Go back to your people and recount Whom you have now seen.” “First tell us about the True God, Lord,” the Greeks pleaded, adding that they knew very little (See page 254).
Jesus spoke of the Darkness that had enveloped the earth with the result that everything would soon sink into utter gloom. “God wanted the human beings to be helped. And He was merciful, and sent a Part of Himself to the earth; for the Father and I are One. Do not forget this! And the Son of God could take the Light from the very Summit. He can tell you about God as no human being can. Your gods could have told you much about God; but they do not know everything either. They have never beheld Him. But I have beheld Him in all His Glory. I shall return to Him again when My task down here is accomplished. Then your task will begin” (page 255). Jesus clarified many things for them, including the joy among even the angels when one who has strayed finds his way back onto the right path.
One of the Greeks later posed the question: “Lord, how is it with birth? There are some in our country who teach that at death everything is over for good. Others say that after death we enter Olympus or some other of the blessed places, perhaps even a place of punishment. A few, however, are of the opinion that we are born again and again on this earth. Who is right?” (page 257).
Jesus perceived that the man was in earnest and that he bore within him an unshakable faith which he was struggling to have confirmed. Instead of answering, Jesus asked: “Which teaching do you support?” The Greek responded eagerly: “Lord, were I to believe that we come into this world only for one short life, that we then perish or continue to live somewhere else, then I would have to lose faith in the wisdom of the Godhead. I hold with those who say that we are permitted and have to return until we have reached a definite goal.” Jesus asked him, “And what is that goal?” “To be permitted to approach the Godhead,” answered the man. Jesus understood what he was trying to convey. “What you believe is right,” Jesus said kindly (page 258).
With the response of Jesus a torrent of questions came from the disciples. “Lord, you have never yet told us that! Why have you kept it from us? Have I also been on earth before? Was I a Jew then as well? When did I live? How often?” Jesus raised His Hand and smiled. “You have answered your own question,” He said, “you have never asked me about such things. Nor are you indeed ready to hear of them. That is why I have kept silent on this. Instead of enquiring into the purpose and objective of this being-born-again, you consider it important to know all kinds of things about your past. Is it not enough that you are now with Me and receive Light and Power from Above?”
Then He turned again to the Greek, with whom He was well pleased. “See to it that this life bears you nearer to God, then you will have to wear the earthly garment only once more. When the Son of Man dwells on earth, you will be permitted to be close to Him and serve Him, for I see the flame in your heart burning with great intensity.” The Greek went down on his knees and prayed in a soft voice as he was accustomed to doing. Jesus laid His Hand in Blessing upon his head, and it was as though fire penetrated into him from above. The man subsequently built a temple to God the Lord in his hometown of Ephesus and preached about God until a disciple of Jesus assumed this office.
A section of Past Eras Awaken Volume III is on the activities of the Apostles. In the following paragraphs, I paraphrase pages 342-345. Apostle Paul was for the first time in Athens and had been addressing ordinary Athenians. Many of them became believers and frequently spoke of the salvation granted them. The interest of Athenian scholars belonging to various philosophical schools was enkindled and they requested Paul to proclaim the new teaching to them as well. What Paul was hearing about the controversies of the scholars displeased him and he was at first not inclined to speak with the scholars. But one day Timothy, his companion, asked Paul: “Paul, do you imagine that the Greeks would have found the way to belief in those days in Jerusalem if Jesus had not addressed them in their manner about their gods?” (page 343).
Although, he was not himself present, Paul had often heard how wonderfully Jesus had entered into the thoughts of the Greeks. He changed his mind and announced that he would defend the new Teaching publicly against all who were earnest in the Athenian market-place. A crowd gathered on the appointed day. The scholars representing every school of thought sat together in a circle. Paul, who had spent the whole night in prayer, stood in the center alone. His presentation created a profound impression and he responded to diverse questions and interjections. Initially, the men asked questions merely for the pleasure of controversy. But later the genuine desire for better recognition awakened and the questions changed. At the end, joyful acclamations rang out and the men were as though euphoric about what they had heard.
The master of the most pre-eminent school invited Paul to his house for dinner and to continue the discussion with the small circle of members of his school. Paul accepted reluctantly. He took the food offered but refused to drink wine. They asked him if his faith forbade wine. He responded that it did not but that he abstained from such drinks because they were harmful to him. One of the men agreed that Paul had to be careful as he did not seem to be in good health. Another man remarked: “Then all the greater is the miracle that you were able to stand and speak for so many hours…”
Comments and questions on the new Teaching followed. In the course of answering a question, Paul spoke of the Beneficent Hand of God, and that provoked the following comment and question from one man: “Not every human being has reason to be grateful for life. Think of the many wretched people, the sick, the destitute. Where then is your beneficent God?” (page 344). Paul looked steadfastly at the questioner and said: “We all reap what we have sown.” One of the scholars interrupted him tempestuously: “Then you hold with those who say that we actually live a succession of lives? In each we are given the reward for the preceding life.” “You are right,” Paul admitted. “I believe in a continuous return of man. For as long as the earth exists the alternation between summer and winter, between seed and harvest, shall not cease. Thus it is written in our Holy Book. Thus also the alternation between death and being-born-again will not cease.” (p. 345).
One of the scholars then asked if all Jews were as learned as Paul. Paul’s smile led the questioner to clarify his point, “I mean do all Jews believe in rebirth?” “No,” said Paul, only a few believe in it. The scribes give instruction about it only to those who are to advance further in their knowledge than the others. The common Jew has no idea of this teaching. And yet it is imperative for all mankind to learn of it,” he concluded with a sigh.
by Stephen Lampe