"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." (John 11:11-15)

At the time he said this, Jesus was in Bethany, where he had heard from two of his students (Mary and Martha) that their brother Lazarus was sick.

How do we know that Martha and Mary were students of Jesus? In John 11:28, Martha told her sister: "The teacher is here and is asking for you." A person who qualifies someone as their teacher is a student.

According to John 11:18, Bethany was about two miles away (in Greek, fifteen stadia, which is about three kilometers) from where Jesus was.

Jesus was told that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus knew that Lazarus' body had died. When Jesus said at first that Lazarus had fallen asleep, his disciples did not initially understand what Jesus meant. So Jesus had to clarify by saying, "Lazarus is dead."

So how did Jesus know that? We can tell from the verse that no one around him knew this, because Jesus' disciples had understood "asleep" to mean Lazarus was sleeping and not dead. This is confirmed:
His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (John 11:12-13)
Therefore, we know that Jesus had information about Lazarus that no one else around him had. How did he know that?

The physical body is a vessel of the living being. We are each non-physical living beings who are each temporarily operating a physical body. Just as one steps into a car and drives the car for awhile, the living being (or self) steps into the body and drives it for awhile. Then at some point the self must leave. This is the time of death. When the self leaves, the physical body is lifeless and begins to decompose.

Clinical death research has established that the self will rise up over the body at the time of death and look down upon it. Then the self will travel to locations where their loved ones are. At that time, the self will attempt to say goodbye. Most relatives will not realize this, as we cannot see spirit with the physical eyes. However, in some cases, relatives have reported that they felt the presence of the person whose body had died. Some of these were clinical death reports where the dead body was revived and the living being returned to the body to report their death experience, including going to visit the relative who also experienced a sensation of the "dying" person's presence at the same time the revived person reported going to the relative for the visit.

Unlike those around him, Jesus had spiritual vision. He could see that his student Lazarus' body was dead, likely because Lazarus came to see Jesus after he left his body. In other words, a devoted student will follow his teacher in life and in death.

The lesson here is that the direction of a person's life while they are occupying a physical body propels them to their next destination. Their attachments in the world will continue. It is not as if a person is attached to someone while they are in the body, and as soon as they die, that attachment ceases.

This is important to consider because the attachments we make in the physical world will continue after the death of our body, and those attachments will determine our destination after death.

If we are attached to our dog, for example, there is a strong likelihood that we will follow that dog into our next life. This means that our next body will likely be a dog's body. We might even take birth as a neighborhood dog that comes to play with our dog from this life. Or perhaps our dog gives birth to a litter after our body dies, and we are one of the litter. Or we will go where the dog goes in their next life. Whatever the means, we will follow that relationship after death.

Of course our relationship with our dog may not be as strong as our family relationships. So instead of following our dog, we may follow our family. For example, in our next life we might take birth in a family where the mother and/or father of our current body is also in that family. Our mother of this lifetime might be our brother of the next. Or our older sister of this lifetime might be our aunt of another lifetime. Or we might even marry our former brother, sister or even mother or daughter in our next lifetime, depending upon who dies first and how strong our relationships are. In other words, families tend to transmigrate together.

While this might seem like a nice thing, it also has tremendous risk. For example, if the whole family also became attached to the family dog, the entire family may take birth in a family of dogs.

Many even say how nice it would be to be a pet dog: "What a life," some say. But an animal body is a body of lower consciousness. It leads to further loss of consciousness in successive lifetimes. These lower consciousness forms of life also experience significantly more pain and suffering, as they tend to be chased and eaten by larger, more vicious animals.

On the other hand, if we become attached to Jesus' teachings, and re-develop our natural love and attachment to God, we can transcend the physical world after this body dies. We can leave behind all the pain and suffering this world is known for and return to our natural position as one of God's loving servants within our real family of the spiritual world. This is what Jesus was trying to teach his students. He wanted them to become attached to God.

Becoming attached to relationships with those who want to remain in the physical world - a place of selfishness, suffering and pain along with temporary (and short) glimpses of pleasure - cements our continued existence in the physical world. It guarantees our continuing to remain separated from our Best Friend and Beloved, God. It guarantees that we will keep seeking pleasure where there is none. It guarantees that we will remain in the illusion - body after body - that we are each of these physical bodies, while we ignore our real spiritual identity.

We know that Jesus taught his disciples about this transmigration of the spiritual living being. This is why they asked him, when they saw a man crippled from birth:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)
The only way the man's sins could have caused his being crippled is if he had a former life.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.” (John 9:3)
Jesus' answer indicates that the man's actions in his previous life could have caused his being crippled - though it actually had another purpose.

Jesus knew that Lazarus had left his body because he had spiritual vision. And he wanted those around him to become freed of their ignorance of God and their false bodily identification. This is why Jesus said: "for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe."

What does Jesus want them to believe? The physical world and our illusion that this is all there is is quite strong. This is part of God's design to enable those of us who chose at some point in the past that we wanted to get away from God. So God created a world where we could pretend that we are these bodies, and this physical world is all there is, so we could ignore God's existence.

The Supreme Being created this world of illusion because we can't really get away from Him. He can go everywhere. He is unlimitedly expandable. He can expand and duplicate Himself without limit. Therefore, He is always with us, following us where ever we go. This is what a friend does. A real friend never abandons their friend, even if that person wants to get away. So the Supreme Being designed an illusory force that allows us to feel we are away from God.

This is why we forget our former lifetimes in other bodies. For example, researchers who have studied the ability of children to remember a past life have found that children under the age of seven readily regress back to former lives. But after about age seven, their recall typically dwindles. Many children under the age of seven will remember their past lives readily. As the research continued - led by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a medical doctor and professor of research at the University of Virginia, Department of Psychiatric Medicine - it was found that their past lives could be historically verified. Dr. Stevenson and his associates conducted nearly 2,000 regressions. While most regressions revealed personal things about the former person, they confirmed repeatedly that there was no way the child could have known these things otherwise.

Other peer-reviewed research has been conducted to confirm Dr. Stevenson's findings over the years. Some have used hypnosis. Leaders of this research have included Dr. Helen Wambach (1978), Dr. Morris Netheron (1978), Dr. Edit Fiore (1978), Dr. Bruce Goldberg (1982), Dr. Joel Whitton (1986), Dr. Brian Weiss (1988), Dr. Christopher Bache (1994), Dr. Winafred Lucas (1993), Dr. Marge Rieder (1995; 1999) along with others.

Consider the rationale of God's design that we forget our former lifetimes. Consider James Leininger, who at the age of 2-1/2 began to suddenly communicate knowledge of aviation he could not have otherwise known. He remembered being a fighter pilot in World War II, and remembered being shot down. He described the events of Lt. James McCready Huston's life in detail, only in a way that the pilot could. He also remembered being shot down.

This continued for over five years, until James was eight. This period was very rough on James and his folks. He had nightmares and a lot of trauma. He was confused about who he was. He had a rough time in school.

At eight, James' memory of his former lifetime began to fade. Today, James is finally absorbed into his present life, and is a healthy boy.

This memory of our past lives may fade differently for most of us, but for the most part, we all forget as children, as we become wrapped up in our current physical environment. This is God's design, which allows those of us who wanted to get away from God to identify with these bodies.

Jesus is God's loving servant, sent by Him to bring those of us who want to, to return home to our relationship with the Supreme Being and leave behind this cycle of birth and death in the physical world. This means he had to jolt his students out of their comfort zone. The phrase "so that you may believe" clearly indicates Jesus' desire that his students trust what he was trying to teach them.

The word "believe" here is translated from the Greek πιστεύω (pisteuō). This means, according to the lexicon, "to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in." Jesus wanted his students to have confidence in his teachings. He wanted them to trust what Jesus was telling them about God.

Jesus was telling them not just that the Supreme Being exists and they can believe he exists. Jesus was teaching his students that they could trust in God, and have a loving relationship with God. This is why his most important instruction was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)