Witness to His Return
Book review by Bette Stockbauer
An 11-year-old girl
lies dying of spinal meningitis in the hospital. The doctors tell her
parents to leave because their daughter is going to die an excruciating
death. Alone in her room, blind and surrounded by pain, the young girl
hears a voice. "Laura, turn over." Turning, she sees Jesus. She can't
look at His face because it is too bright, but notices that His skin
is dark and His hair auburn. They talk and she watches His hand reach
out and touch her twisted leg. When the nurses later realize she has
regained her sight, they call the doctors. Everyone calls her the Miracle
Child. The 11-year-old girl is now a grandmother and has seen Jesus
twice since that day.
In story after story the Christ is seen as a master teacher and healer. Through metaphor, imagery, and powerful emotional experience, He imparts experiences that are unique for each individual. Some encounters are deeply mystical and symbolic; some are experiences of pure energy and light. Some present an obvious message; others leave unanswered questions. Sometimes He appears as the biblical Jesus, robed and sandaled; at times He comes in a form least expected.
A unifying factor in all of the accounts is the perception of unconditional love. Throughout the book, this is described as the great and primary force of healing. A recipient may feel personally unworthy of the experience, but often finds the power of complete acceptance so compelling it dissolves all resistance.
One woman dreamed of wandering in the dark, herself untroubled, but warned by anxious people all around her that a terrible storm was going on and to keep away from the ocean. Doubting this, she decided to go to the ocean and see for herself, but no one else would go along. As she approached the sea, the darkness lightened and she found herself in the basement of a lighthouse. There a man in his 30s with a beard and long hair nodded as she approached. She knew he was the Lighthouse Keeper. Leaving the lighthouse, she walked on toward the sea and to a white sandy beach. The ocean was calm and glistening, the sun shone, and white clouds floated by. She was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all, and happy in knowing there was nothing wrong with the ocean.
Returning to the lighthouse she spoke to the Keeper. "I don't understand. All these people told me not to come here. It's so beautiful. They don't know what they're missing. You take care of this place, don't you? Why don't more people come? It's always safe here, isn't it?" "Yes," He replied, "I am always here and it is always safe." Then He became very gentle as He explained: "People have to find their own way to Me." At that point, the woman knew the Lighthouse Keeper was Jesus. Feeling surrounded by love and happiness, she told Him: "I am so glad I came here. I will never leave you."
Some light-hearted encounters show a whimsical side to these experiences. One woman, after seeing Jesus, asked: "How can I reach you again?" He answered: "I am in the phone book." Thinking He would be listed under Emmanuel, she found the dictionary definition to be "God is present in the world."
Contrary to the notion that only saints and mystics have visions, most of the stories are told by people who describe themselves as ordinary in every way. Many are left wondering why they were chosen for such a special event. Many feel unworthy to the call but remember their vision in detail throughout their lives.
Sparrow thinks that an individual's ability to meet the Christ depends on openness to the experience. Jesus said: "I stand at the door and knock." He will not enter our lives unbidden. There may be many invitations that we simply fail to acknowledge. Sparrow writes, "I have found that there is a pivotal moment in the unfoldment of deep mystical experiences in which the individual either surrenders or resists the full culmination of light and ecstasy. This 'decision' has little to do with the moment itself. Instead, it's a culmination of all we've done up to that point to define who or what we serve above all else. If we're clear about this, then surrender becomes possible, for, in that moment of radical and total surrender, we know for sure into whose arms we commit ourselves."
The Second Coming
In a discussion of popular notions of the Second Coming, Sparrow comments: "Many would agree that there is a sense that humanity collectively stands on the verge of either collapse or divinely mediated transformation. Not since the days of the early Church, when the disciples and their followers went about proclaiming Christ's imminent return, have so many people embraced the idea of the Second Coming. There are numerous versions of how this might take place. At one end of the range of possibilities would be exclusively personal and private encounters with Christ. At the other end of the range would be physical appearances to masses of people."
Regarding his own views, Sparrow says: "When a person has had a Christ encounter, their lives are affected in ways equivalent to having seen Christ physically incarnate, if they are able to let their lives be impacted and changed by it. Since an encounter can have that impact, it may be a prelude to a wider, more collectively perceived phenomenon, either interior, or possibly an external event. It could be that we're approaching a critical mass, whereby if enough people have the experience of Christ inwardly then something will start to manifest outwardly." Sparrow says he and his wife pray that "we may see Him in whatever form He takes. It is an ultimate challenge - "to be ready to see beyond the form to the truth of the matter."
Recognizing the Christ when He comes will be a crucial test of our understanding of His teachings, Sparrow contends. If He comes in a contemporary form or one contrary to our ideal of Him, our response will reveal if the form of Christ's manifestation is more important than the essence clothed by that form.
One man in Witness to His Return dreamed of being invited on a speaking tour with Jesus. When he arrived he found that Jesus was bald, wore a pin-striped suit, and looked like his uncle Ed. During the two-week tour he observed the audience reaction. Some became indignant and quickly left. Some were impressed but cautious. Some showed no doubt as to His being the Christ.
The dreamer finally asked Jesus why He looked so different from his expectation. Jesus answered, "Of course, everyone would come to see Me if I descended from the clouds in a white robe with angels attending; but that is not My purpose. I'm here to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who truly know Me will recognize Me in Spirit - the rest will not know Me. In this way I am gathering My true followers."
In some dream experiences, Jesus bids the dreamer to leave all and come follow Him, just as He called His disciples 2,000 years ago. Sparrow received such a call in a dream:
"I am sleeping in a one-room house in which my family lives. I am aware of other family members milling around the room, even while I 'sleep'. I realize that I am in Palestine at the time of Jesus. As I sleep, I dream that Jesus calls me to leave my family and follow Him. I awaken and tell my parents what has happened. Without regrets, I leave the house on my own and set out to find Him."
After reading Witness to His Return, one may spend some days in expectation of such an experience. One may sense the possibility of expansion beyond the normal scope and become aware of the veils that obscure our vision. Sparrow's book makes these encounters seem possible and imminent - not just for medieval saints and mystics, but for those of us who walk the earth today.
( Readers who wish to write to Dr Sparrow about a Christ encounter may contact him at the following address: Dr G. Scott Sparrow, 1213 Laskin Road, Suite 108 Virginia Beach, VA 23451 )
1996 Update : A new book by Dr Sparrow "Blessed Among Women" is now available from Harmony Books. It includes interviews with dozens of people who say Mary appeared to them. Sparrow, raised a Protestant, recently told Nation that he has not always been a believer in the higher powers of Mary. "I had a lot of scepticism until I smelled roses twice," he said. The new book includes accounts of his own visions. In one, he says he felt his entire mind filled with her blue cloak. ( Source: Nation, November 20, 1996 )
A new edition of "Witness to His Return" has been published under the title "I Am With You Always: True stories of encounters with Jesus".
Both books are available through Amazon.com