Peter, James and John
We cannot see how powerfully the scriptures point to Lazarus without first going through the threesome, Peter, James and John. Jesus selected these three for special elevation. On three very special occasions, he took them apart from the others. (For present purposes, we may ignore two others mentioned only in Mark’s Gospel where Andrew went with them.)
The important thing about these three instances is that they portray an increasing sequence of Jesus’ attempt to bring the three disciples to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. The first of these is the raising of Jairus’s daughter, the second is the Transfiguration, and the third occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane. Surprisingly, all three are found in all three synoptic Gospels while none is found in John’s Gospel—the reason being that while Zebedee John was present for all three, the Evangelist John was not present for any.
Something very special is being told to us by the sequence of these three events. We shall see in them a progressive failure on the part of Peter, James and John to reach the level of spiritual insight required for going all the way to the Cross with Jesus in their spiritual consciousness. And we shall see at what point Jesus recognizes this and initiates Lazarus for that purpose. Peter, James and John represented humanity in the Cultural Age of the Lamb, while John was prepared to represent it in the Cultural Age of the Fishes (Pisces), our present Age.1
Let us look first at the raising of Jairus’ daughter. She is said to be twelve years old and the event is reported in all three synoptics right after the account of the woman who had had a continual menstrual discharge for twelve years. We have here two women, undoubtedly with a karmic connection, where Jesus was able to transfer the hormonal excess from the one to the other. The young girl was dying2 because she was unable to develop into womanhood. The power of healing both of them in this manner required high spiritual insights into their karma of such a nature that Jesus told those present to say nothing of it to others. But he wanted Peter, James and John to see it.
The second event is the Transfiguration. It was on a “mountain.” This term (mountain) almost always means a state of higher spiritual consciousness, and Jesus is often said, as here, to have “led them up” (Mt 17,1; Mk 9,2). You know what they experienced there, seeing Jesus “transformed” and seeing the spirits of Moses and Elijah. We will come back to this Transfiguration experience because it is the key to our understanding.
The third event is in the Garden of Gethsemane where all three of them slept through the event in three installments. They may have actually slept physically. But if so it was only an outward manifestation of something much more significant. The meaning of their sleeping here is that they had lost any consciousness of the spiritual drama that was taking place in the passion of Christ. They had, by this time, totally lost spiritual contact and were only bodily present there.
So now we must return to the Transfiguration.
The first thing we note is that immediately before the Transfiguration Christ asks all his disciples who men say that he is. It is here that Peter recognizes that Jesus embodies the Christ Spirit (MT 16,16-18; Mk 8,29; Lk 9,20). Because of that Jesus begins to tell them how he must be crucified, whereupon Peter rejects the idea. This is the first indication of Peter’s failing consciousness—Christ speaks harshly to him (MT 16,22-23).
Then we come to the Transfiguration itself and we are told that Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah. Luke tells us that all three, Peter, James and John, slept through this discussion and only woke to see their presence (Lk 9,30-32), meaning, of course, that they were not conscious of a significant part of the main event.
Later we know that Christ perceived Peter’s shortcomings and told him that he would deny the Christ three times, as he in fact did. But Christ was aware of Peter’s shortcomings long before that.
We must now go to Mark’s Gospel because in the light of modern developments it is the most illustrative (though Matthew and Luke contain most all of it too).
Mark demonstrates step by step the progressive inadequacies of these three, particularly of Zebedee John.
First, shortly after the Transfiguration, Zebedee John tells Jesus that they saw a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name and forbade him (Mk 9,38-39). Jesus had to explain to him how the action was the wrong thing to do. So by now all three have slept through part of the Transfiguration, and Zebedee John has then demonstrated his misunderstanding.
We move into Chapter 10 and the next thing in sequence is Mark’s account of what we know as the “rich, young ruler” incident (Mk 10,17-27). I only point out its place in the story here. We will come back to it.
The next thing in the Gospel of Mark as it is in the canon is the request by the Zebedee brothers, James and John, to have a special place on both sides of Jesus when he comes in his glory (Mk 10,35-37). Jesus tells them they don’t know what they are asking (vs 38). Imagine the effrontery—impossible in one with a high spiritual consciousness.
Now let us return to the “rich, young ruler.”3 This account is found at Mk 10,17-27, sandwiched between the deficiencies of all three at the Transfiguration as well as the correction of Zebedee John’s improper action, on the one hand, and the bald request for privilege on the other. And what is said about the youth? It says, “And Jesus looking upon him loved him” (Vs 21). Nowhere in any Gospel is Jesus said to have “loved” an individual save in the case of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary Magdalene and Martha. We have already seen what “loved” means here. It has a relationship to “the apple tree” in the Song.4 It has a relationship to “remembering” whence one came. This is the incident that is reported in all the synoptic Gospels with a significance far beyond that heretofore recognized. It is identifying the one looked up to by all the disciples, and the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his Mother.