Do Christ's words in Matthew directing his disciples to raise the dead apply to his 21st followers?
Tackling modern day resurrection stories is the subject of Johnny Clark's new documentary DEADRAISER, which explores the motivations and stories of several Christians who have decided to literally act on Jesus' words.
Clark, a filmmaker who lives with his family in Boulder, Colo., said his initial fascination with the subject came when he was a kid and saw a "bonky video" of the apparent resurrection of man in "Africa who had been dead for two or three day."
"It seemed very legitimate," Clark told The Christian Post. "It didn't seem like they were trying to get you to buy or do anything. I thought if this is actually happening, why aren't we hearing anything about it?"
"[Resurrection] is the cornerstone of the Christian faith," Clark continued. "I don't get the feeling that most Christians realize that when they say they are a Christian, you are believing that someone (actually) came back from the dead."
Clark returned to the Bible to learn more about resurrection, noting that there are nine other accounts in both the Old and New Testaments of people coming back to life. He soon began to get curious about finding individuals who took Jesus' resurrection mandate literally, after two experiences with death rattled his worldview.
Three years ago, at a lake where Clark and his family were enjoying a summer in Wisconsin, a 16-year-old drowned. The former church leader said that as he watched the teenager's friends "who were really in shock and sobbing hysterically," he began thinking what Jesus might have done in the moment and if it would be any different than the comfort he and several other church leaders attempted to provide to the grieving kids.
Several months later, Clark visited a patient who was about to be removed from life support after a heroin overdose.
He began to pray for the unresponsive woman, telling her "Jesus is here with you, holding you, loving you. Accept who he is and what he has to offer you," when suddenly she turned her head. Surprised, Clark looked to the other church leader with whom he was with and kept praying for the next 40 minutes, this time reminding her of her son.
By the time they had finished praying and her shocked family had come into the room, the woman had sat up. According to Clark, the woman was eventually taken off life support and lived one more month after they had prayed for her.
In the aftermath of those experiences, Clark channeled his curiosity into filmmaking and began looking for subjects, Christians who felt convicted to try and bring people back from the dead. He spoke with Jesse Burke, a paramedic in Florida who prayed with people in the back of ambulances and the author of Life Resurrected: Extraordinary Miracles Through Ordinary People.
Clark, who comes from an Assemblies of God background, also met Tyler Johnson, who leads a ministry called the Dead Raising Team. Johnson claims that he has brought several individuals back to life and has been taken seriously enough by law enforcement that he has been granted permission to cross police lines in car accident scenes to pray in an attempt to resurrect casualties.
Beyond the relationships that he has built as part of his documentary, Clark said that he has also been forced to think through a lot of issues of what actually constitutes death or what the difference between being "brain dead" and being "dead dead" might be.
"I don't have any of those answers," he said. "But there's some pretty significant things that seem to be happening."
With the release this week of the Heaven Is for Real movie - about a four-year-old's near death experience - and a new ABC show Resurrection, Clark expects death and the afterlife to be on the minds of more Americans.
"I'm not going to tell someone what to think [about resurrection,] that's their job," said Clark. "[But] how could you give these hurting families hope, if there's even an ounce of truth that this can happen, if you're holding your dead child?"
DEADRAISERS is available for screening during Easter week for $0.99 here.