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“Why is this happening to us, Mommy? First Daddy and now Benjamin! Is God angry with us? Did we do something wrong? Will you leave me too? I’m so scared! When daddy died, Benjamin took over his work. If Benjamin dies, how will we even buy food to eat?”

Rachel’s mother couldn’t answer right away, and as they both cried together a flood of memories raced through Rachel’s mind.

First came the vision of her daddy in bed day after day, unable to get up and work, and her mommy feeding him as he kept getting weaker and weaker. Rachel would feed him for her mom when she could, just to talk with him and hear his words. Then he got so sick that he couldn’t say more than a word or two.

Her next vision was of the day when she was four that her daddy couldn’t talk to her or anyone else, and her mother couldn’t stop crying, and all the people who came to help were whispering, and finally the men who were her daddy’s friends carried him in a special box in front of her mommy who was holding hands with her brother and Rachel, and so many people followed, slowly walking out to a cave where they left her daddy.

The following week was a blur of people coming to her home, bringing food, talking about her daddy, and patting her on the head. Some of the women loudly cried with her mom so much that Rachel wondered if they were really sad or maybe just trying to make her mother feel better.

Then they stopped coming.

After a while, Rachel tried to get back to the things she liked to do before her daddy got sick, like playing in the street outside her home with her friends, going to the market with her mother, playing in the house with some of the wooden toys her brother made for her and visiting her cousin. But in everything she tried, she would sooner or later start crying because her daddy was gone, so she would end up on her bed crying and listening to her mother cry until she would fall asleep.

A few months later she wandered into her daddy’s shop because Benjamin was in there.

Benjamin who was twelve, had been helping his dad since he was eight, learning the skills of carpentry in the shop next to their home. Now he went back into the shop alone, and started working to finish the projects his dad had been working on before he got sick. Before anyone noticed, Ben (as Rachel called him) had finished several small shelves, a table, then a desk and a bed frame, and taken them to the people who had ordered them. As they each paid him, Ben brought the money to their mother, and she was able to continue buying food and supplies for the three of them.

Ben turned out to be a great carpenter like his dad, so he kept getting orders and building custom furniture as well as fixing doors and windows.

At first, when Rachel walked into the shop, she just sat and watched. She could sit silently, for hours, just watching, sometimes crying softly, sometimes drawing outlines of birds and animals in the dust on the floor. As Rachel thought back to those days, her best memories were of conversations with Ben in the shop. She would sit there, watching Ben work, and they would talk. Ben had been preparing for his Bar Mitzvah before his dad died, and Rachel kept asking him what he had learned.

Rachel’s favorite conversations were about some of the Psalms Ben was learning. The very best one was a day when they talked all day about Psalm 23 while Ben worked.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,” he taught her.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,” he added. “The LORD knows when I need rest and when I’m thirsty.”

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He will restore and guide you too,” Ben said.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Ben patiently explained all these ideas to me. “You know why that psalm is so important?” he asked. “Because if the LORD is my shepherd he will see to it that all my needs will be met; as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with me, and when I die I will live in God’s house – heaven – for ever!”

Now, as I remember this conversation, I know that he knew he was going to die.

I learned a lot more from Ben as he worked. He gave me scraps of wood, and showed me how to whittle. At first I couldn’t make anything beautiful, but in time I learned, and he always showed my work to people who came into his shop. By the time I was six, people were buying the toys I made to take home to their children. For two years we worked and talked in the shop.

Then Ben began to tell me about the pain and weakness he was feeling. He didn’t want his mother to know about it, and told me not to tell her. Ben said it was just something that would go away and that he would be OK, but I remembered that my daddy said exactly the same words to me before he died.

When the day came that Ben couldn’t get out of bed, Rachel was afraid that he would die soon.

“I can’t even tell you how scared I got.” Rachel told a friend. “I was afraid my brother was going to die just like my daddy did and nobody could stop it from happening. Without Ben, who would I talk to? Who would work with me in the shop? I wanted to be with Ben every minute, but as he kept getting worse and all I could do was cry.”

“Ben would say to me, ‘Please don’t cry, maybe I will get well. But if this is the valley of the shadow of death, God is with me and He will be with you too.’”

Rachel’s mommy was more upset as she was. More than once she overheard her say, “Son, I don’t know how long Rachel and I can survive without your ability to make and sell furniture.” They tried not to cry when they were with Ben, but neither one could stop crying.

Then, it all happened again just as it did with Rachel’s daddy. One morning Ben couldn’t talk to her or anyone else. Rachel knew what would happen next. Her mommy’s crying was harder than it was when they lost daddy. She couldn’t even go tell anyone that Ben was gone: she sent Rachel to go tell their friends. Just like with daddy, so many people came to help. Some ladies even cried with her mommy. People talked quietly with each other and tried to tell Rachel that soon everything would be OK, but she knew they were just trying to make her feel better. Added to the loss of her brother was the growing fear that she and her mother would not survive without Benjamin.

Finally the same men who carried her daddy in the special box came to carry Ben to the cave. Mommy, crying loudly, took Rachel’s hand and they followed the men carrying Ben toward the cave outside the town. As they got to the edge of town Rachel looked back and saw just about everyone in the town was following them. Lots of women were crying; the men were mostly frowning. It was the worst day of Rachel’s life.

As they got just outside of town, Rachel saw a lot of people coming toward them from the opposite direction. There were so many of them that she got scared. Her mommy was still crying loudly so Rachel didn’t think she even saw them.

When the crowd got right in front of the procession, the men carrying Ben in the box had to slow way down. Then a man they had never seen stepped around the box, came up to them, looked deeply into Rachel’s eyes, then her mother’s eyes and gently said to her mother, “Don’t cry.” Rachel’s mom got quiet, still crying but not so loudly, and the man went up to the box and touched it. When he did that, the men carrying the box stood still.

Then the man said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Ben sat up immediately, saw his mother and Rachel, and said, “Mom, Rachel, I’m OK!” The men carrying the box were shocked, and quickly put the box on the ground. Rachel and her mother were shocked too! The man reached out his hand, took Ben’s hand and helped him stand up, and step out of the box. He then gave Ben to his mother and sister and let go of Ben’s hand. Ben opened his arms and hugged his mother and sister for a long time. Ben was alive and warm, holding them and kissing them. This was truly awesome!

People began praising God and loudly saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us!” and “God has come to help his people!”

The family’s friends began to come up to Ben and to his mother and sister to celebrate with them. Two of the men carried the empty box back into town, and in all the celebration, the great prophet and his friends walked through town, and were lost in the crowd.

To this day, when Rachel thinks about losing Ben then getting him back alive, she says, “It was the best day of my life.”

She closes her eyes and sees the great prophet looking into her eyes. Then she hears the echo of his words to her mommy and to her, “Don’t cry,” and Rachel says, “I hope to see him again so I can thank him and follow him.”

Family Discussion Questions
Hope Resurrected

This story is fictional, based on the true account of the events recorded by Dr. Luke in the Bible in Luke 7:11-17.

Q. What words did you hear in the story that you didn’t know?
A. Give your children the meaning of each word they remember but can’t define.

Q. Have you ever been sick long enough to wonder if you would ever get well?
A. Listen for expressions of powerlessness or hopelessness. Talk about belonging in your family and in the Family of God.

Q. Have you ever worried that someone in your life will go away?
A. Listen for expressions of powerlessness or hopelessness. Talk about belonging in the family. When kids become aware of other kids’ loss of a parent through divorce or death, they may begin wondering about losing their own parents.

Q. If your child or children have not yet witnessed a funeral, feel free to skip this question. What were some of your thoughts and feelings when we went to X’s funeral or memorial service?
A. Listen for awareness of death and of eternal life in Messiah Jesus.

Q. If you skipped the previous question you might begin preparing your child or children for the first funeral or memorial service they witness by describing what normally happens at these events, and what meanings are attached to the ceremony.

Q. Do you remember Psalm 23? Can you quote it to me?
A. If your child or children quote it, reward them with praise, maybe even their favorite treat. If not, you might want to work with your child or children to memorize it.

Q. Remind your child or children of Jesus’ look into Rachel’s eyes, then ask how they felt when someone looked into their eyes.
A. Listen for awareness of connection.

Q. Do you know what “resurrection” means?
A. It means bringing someone back to life. Jesus brought three people back to life including the boy we called Benjamin. Then Jesus, himself was brought back to life by God’s Holy Spirit. When we become one of God’s children we are promised resurrection from death too – into heaven and eternal life – never dying again.

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Copyright © Dr. Rex Johnson
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