The seventh day of Sukkoth dawned slowly, as the skies frowned darkly upon Shiloh. A loud cry of despair echoed like a watchman’s trumpet, and tents everywhere immediately came alive and belched forth men and women, scrambling to see the approaching danger.
“My son! My son!” came the broken cry.
It was Rebekah’s voice, as she hovered over the lifeless body of Eleazar, which she found just outside of the tent in the morning light. It appeared that he had gotten up during the night and had died before he could return.
Nathan and I rushed to the scene and quickly examined Eleazar to see if he had been killed by a weapon of some kind. But there was no evidence of foul play. It appeared that he had died inexplicably from an internal disease or condition.
Nathan wept silently as we carried him lovingly back into the tent to his empty bed, hardly knowing what to think about this disastrous turn of events. A crowd soon gathered to hear the news and to offer whatever condolences they could give to Rebekah and Nathan.
Would there be no end to Rebekah’s calamities? She had already lost her baby girl and her husband, and now her son lay dead. In those days death always lurked nearby, waiting its opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Whether it came at the hands of violent men or by unseen sickness, or even by the swift judgment of unjust judges, death was never banished from the land and could often be seen in dark places or sensed behind large rocks or tall trees.
Now Eleazar was dead, and because he did not show any signs of sickness ahead of time, no one had opportunity to pray for his healing. Not knowing what to do, I left the tent to consult with Pegasus, whose counsel was always good. I found him outside of the camp, standing silently next to Pleiades. Their noses were touching, as if engaged in a long and deep kiss, but their necks were bowed as if in sadness.
“My friend,” I began, “Eleazar has died last night, and his mother is heartbroken once again. A mother should not have to endure so much pain. Look at all she has suffered over the years.”
“You are right,” Pegasus said. “Many have suffered over the years, and few have found meaning in it. Pain is not a good teacher, for it lacks the skills of language and communication to convey its purpose.”
“What shall we do, then?” I asked. “What can we do? Surely there is something that can be done. We know that death is not an end in itself, even though it is the penalty for the sin of Earthyman. Must we accept that penalty? Is there nothing that can reverse it?”
“There is, indeed, something that can be done about it,” Pegasus said with a hint of sadness. He looked at Pleiades with love in his large black eyes. “But it will not be an easy task and will require supernatural love. Death is not easily overcome, for it is jealous of all its captives and also because it is a divine judgment upon all flesh.” 165
“Yet it can be overcome, you say, so there is hope.”
“Yes, there is always hope in love, for love never fails. Love is the most powerful force in the world. Even death cannot hope to withstand the power of love. Both love and death are divine decrees, but love has an advantage, because God is love. Death is only a decree, but love is His very nature. Our hope is to appeal to His nature, rather than to His decree of judgment.”
“How may we do that?” I asked. “Can Rebekah’s love for Eleazar reverse the decree of death?”
“Would to God that it could,” Pleiades said, breaking her silence. “But even a mother’s love is insufficient, however strong. Even my own love for Pegasus is insufficient, though my love causes me to be affected by every pain that he feels.”
“Then where is the hope?” I asked. “What sort of love has the power to overcome death and resolve this problem?”
“I am the only one who can do this,” Pegasus answered. “To give hope to one man is to give hope to all men, for if I overcome death itself, it will benefit all mankind. I must wrestle death into submission to love, for only then can all men receive life.”
“Are you saying that you must exchange your life for his?” I asked.
“Yes, that is the only way, and that is why it requires great love. Death carries great power, because it is a decree from the court of heaven. It cannot be overcome by a contradictory decree. All of God’s decrees must receive satisfaction, and a decree of death can be accomplished only by the death of another. Someone must die, or else the law is destroyed, and the universe will crumble into disorder. I have been given the same nature of divine love that is in the Creator Himself. So that is why I alone can overcome death and give men hope.”
The pure heavenly logic was inescapable, though it brought an ache to my stomach. “You believe, then, that this is your inescapable destiny—hopeless, in fact. You are taking upon yourself the hopeless mortal condition of mankind in order to relieve them of their hopelessness.”
“Yes, something like that,” Pegasus replied. “I was born for this purpose, and I was given the nature of love in order to accomplish it when the time came. Now that I have arrived at the door of destiny, I cannot shrink back from it, though it leads to unexplored regions beyond anything we have known up to now. The knowing is in me that this door is only a transcendent beginning, the only path to an authority that I must receive for the benefit of all.”
“All authority comes with a cost,” he continued. “Giving up one’s life is the price that one must pay for authority over death. Greater love has no man than this, that a man—or horse—should lay down his life for his friends.” 166
“But you are a horse of the future,” I said. “How can you die in the past? Would this not affect your very existence in the future? If you die now, could you be born in the future?”
“My destiny is not subject to time,” Pegasus explained. “What I must do here, I do also for the past and the future and those living throughout history.”
“Is this the end, then?” I asked. “Must we say goodbye forever?”
“No, love is still greater than death. Therein lies hope. Love cannot be separated from life itself, for life also transcends death. Once a life is created, it can neither be wasted nor destroyed. Life is a piece of God Himself, and if any piece is lost forever, God would always have a hole in his heart. He would be incomplete and forever sad.”
“God created all things out of Himself,” Pegasus continued. “When He decreed the sentence of death upon mankind, He felt the pain of death, for He decreed death upon each piece of life that was intimately connected to Himself. It was for this reason I was born, that by my death, I might cure the disease and relieve the pain in God’s own soul.”
“So then, I will see you again?” I asked.
“Yes, my friend,” he responded warmly. “Never lose that hope. Realize that hope is not mere wishful thinking; it is an expectation of things that will certainly come to pass, based upon the promise of God. But now we must go to the camp and do what needs to be done. The good must be done, and then payment must be made.”
We walked slowly back to the camp and made our way to Nathan’s tent, where the mourners were gathered. “Excuse them, please; let them through,” Shalam shouted from the midst of the crowd, and the people parted to make a path for us. Pleiades stopped at the edge of the crowd, and I ushered Pegasus into the tent and closed the door.
Rebekah looked up at us as we came near, and Nathan reached out to touch Pegasus’ nose. “My friend,” he said to the horse, “I know that if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Yet even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
“Your brother will rise again,” Pegasus said. 167
“I know that he will rise again on the last day,” Rebekah said.
“That is not what I mean,” Pegasus explained. “Resurrection life is in me, and he who believes in me will live, even if he dies. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, I have faith in you,” she said, breaking down in tears again.
Pegasus then moved closer to the bed and put his nose to the lifeless face of his friend. He breathed sweet horse breath into his nostrils, and Eleazar awoke with a start, gasping for breath. When he awoke, he found himself looking into the large eye of Pegasus peering at him from above.
“Pegasus!” he said. “What happened?”
With a joyful cry, Rebekah lunged at her son, hugging him and kissing him. Her mourning had turned to joy, bitter tears to the sweet breath of restored life.
“Come, Eleazar!” Rebekah said when she had recovered from tears of joy. “We must present you to all who now mourn, so that they too may rejoice.” She grabbed him by the hand and pulled him to his feet. She pulled him quickly to the door of the tent and shouted: “See, my son lives! God has answered our prayers and has restored him to life!”
The crowd was silent and afraid for a moment, but then Shalam clapped his hands and shouted, “Hallelujah! God has restored Eleazar! Give praise to His name!” The crowd then erupted in praise and rejoicing. But some slunk away, apparently disturbed.
But for Rebekah, as her joy increased, life got bigger.
- Genesis 3:2
- John 15:13
- John 11:23. This correlates the seventh miracle-sign of Jesus with the seventh day of the feast. Eleazar is the Hebrew form of Lazarus.