I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
“I am the resurrection and the life, the one who believes in Me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). This was the fifth of seven the “I AM” statements of Jesus Christ. This is one of the greatest of the “I AM” claims of Jesus Christ. These words are comforting because of the context in which they are spoken. But what does the statement “I am the resurrection and the life” really mean? We cannot explain the resurrection intellectually; it is beyond our human experience and comprehension. Now, the question would be; why is it that; resurrection and life are only guaranteed through Jesus the CHRIST alone? The Bible articulates that Jesus the CHRIST alone is God’s power to create. He alone is the reason the world was created (John 1:1-5). If it had not been Him (Jesus the CHRIST), nothing of all creation would be. Jesus is the word of God and the word of God is God Himself. For that reason, Jesus is God Himself. The authority of God the Father to give or to deny is the same authority of God the Son.
Let us try to understand exactly what does the Lord mean by “I am the resurrection and the life”. Does He mean spiritually? Does He mean physically. I believe He means both. Now, still thinking about the spiritual part, when we die, we will not die. Why is that? Think about it. If we are living in and by the Life of the Lord Jesus, how can we die? If our thoughts are His thoughts, how can we cease to think? If our words are coming from Him, how can they cease? If our actions are being directed by Him, why should they not continue after our bodies die? By learning to live as part of Christ, we have entered eternal spiritual life. We will not be in some kind of hazy spiritual existence when our bodies die and enter the spiritual world. We will still be the same person. We will just keep on living by and with the Lord Jesus, as part of Him.
Now let us think for a moment about the physical part. Of course we will die physically, if we are living and believing in Jesus, because our body is dead because of sin. But we will not “perish,” that is, our body shall not cease to be. The resurrection, the awakening of dead bodies to stand before God, is as certain as the existence of the physical world. “Yet in my flesh I will see God,” Job (19: 25-26) prophesied so many centuries ago. There shall be a resurrection of all who have lived on the earth. There shall be a first resurrection of God’s kings and priests. One thousand years later the bodies of everyone who was not made alive in the first resurrection shall come forth and stand before God to be judged. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28,29 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Revelation 20:5 There is no question about the dead bodies being raised. The question is, what will happen to us when our body is brought back to life? If we have been living in the rest of God, always having the presence of Jesus with us, our inner nature is eternally alive. When our body is raised and is joined together with our spiritual nature that has been waiting in the spirit world, then is fulfilled the promise that we shall never die. Our spiritual nature is eternally alive, and our body is immortal. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, Romans 8:13 In the day of resurrection our flesh and bone body will have been made alive, not by the Holy Spirit but by the Divine power that operates the universe and the angels; and there we stand before Christ.
When Jesus was in Jerusalem, in Matthew 22:32 Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6, where God uses the same intensive form to say, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews clearly understood Jesus to be calling Himself God because they took up stones to stone Him for committing blasphemy in equating Himself with God. Moreover, in John 10 Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd and, in a debate with the Jewish leaders, makes the claim, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) These claims of Jesus caused the Jews listening to quickly look for the nearest stone and rock they could grab to kill Him. So in John 10: 39-40 it says that Jesus slipped of their hands and went across the River Jordan to the places where John the Baptist started his ministry and had baptizing. From the map on the right we can see that this is approximately 40 km away from Jerusalem and was generally regarded as a two day walk.
John 11: 1-3 spells that while Jesus was in Jordan, a messenger arrives stating that Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha who live in village Bethany- less than 2 miles from Jerusalem Johan 11:19) is sick and it’s serious. It is always interesting to see how Jesus reacts in a pressured situation. If we were in this situation we’d be starting to fret, firing up all sorts of prayers right about now! But Jesus was, and always is, completely panic-proof! He knew right from the start how things were going to end. He didn’t need to panic. He didn’t need to hurry. He didn’t need to worry. Panic worry and hurry is often our middle name but never with Jesus. In the face of this life and death situation, He calmly said (the slightly cryptic) “this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Some Christians think that sickness is of the enemy or always caused by sin and that Christians, if they were in faith, wouldn’t be sick. But we see here quite the opposite. Jesus loved Lazarus. There is no thought of this being caused by his sin. Instead we see that sickness itself is easily used for His glory. Jesus reveals that the purpose of this sickness will be to glorify God. Similarly, the man born blind was so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). Is all sickness for this purpose? No. The Scriptures show that some sickness is a result of sin (John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 11:28-30), some for other purposes God has for us (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Now this, on the surface at least, is kind of crazy. Jesus hears that Lazarus, whom He loves, is very sick and so what does He do? Well, nothing. He doesn’t immediately leave to help. He doesn’t simply speak a word of healing which He could have done. He simply ‘stays’ where He is two more days (John 11: 5-6). If we were there at the time with the disciples, we’d probably see quite a few puzzled looks and a fair amount of head scratching. “What is He doing? Well, we can see what He is doing… He is doing nothing. But why? He loves Lazarus. Why doesn’t He do, well, something, anything… just do something!” We wonder why God delays acting on our behalf sometimes? We wonder why things take longer than we would like them to? Maybe it is tied up in what we see here. Jesus had a plan… a plan that involved showing many people that He was the life. And that plan meant letting Lazarus die. Temporarily anyway! That was the way God’s Son would be glorified. The plans of God revolve around Him revealing more of His life to us. But generally, that doesn’t happen quickly. It often requires Him to wait. And us to wait… and seek… and wait! But remember again – nothing was out of control here. It might have looked like it from a human point of view, but Jesus was fully in control. He knew in advance what He would allow to happen, what He would do and how it would end. And it was all tied in to allowing the people to see and believe that He is ‘the resurrection and the life!’ And this still plays out today on both an individual and group level.
2.0 THE ARRIVAL, 4 DAYS AFTER DEATH AND RIGHT ON TIME
But after two whole days had passed Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea” (John 11:7). When the disciples realized they could not talk Jesus out of this dangerous trip and situation, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). In other words, they fully expected Jesus to be killed if He went anywhere close to Jerusalem. So, Jesus arrives four days late and right on time… (John 11:18) Perfect according to His Father’s timing! It was a two-day journey from where Jesus was back to Bethany so, as Jesus waited two days before setting out, it is likely that Lazarus died around the time that the messenger got to Jesus asking Him to come. Jesus and his disciples probably take two-day journey trudging up the Jerusalem – Jericho road, rising 3,300 feet from the Jordan Valley to Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem.
When Martha comes out to meet Jesus the first thing she says is ‘if you had been here my brother would not have died’. What do you think she was thinking? Put ourselves into Martha and Mary’s shoes for a moment. When Lazarus, their dear brother first gets sick, they think everything will be okay and decide not to bother Jesus. But things take a turn for the worse. It is SERIOUS so they quickly send a messenger off to Jesus as fast as he can go. By the time he gets back, it is too late… Lazarus is dead. But Mary and Martha are still desperate to know what Jesus said. Did He know about Lazarus’ sickness? Is He coming? Does He care? The messenger replies that Jesus said He was going to stay another couple of days where He is. Thank you very much and that Lazarus’ sickness won’t end in death. Talk about confusion… from a human point of view! Well Jesus wasn’t making sense to Mary, Martha and the Jews gathered on this day. Hence what we see as the first thought coming out of everyone’s mouth:
Martha (John 11: 21) ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’
Mary (John 11: 32) ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’
The Jews (John 11: 37) ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’
Everyone is confused. ‘Why? Why didn’t He come earlier?’ Why didn’t He save Lazarus? He could have… but didn’t’. We can imagine how the enemy would be trying to exploit this, whispering his subtle lies – “Jesus said that he loved Lazarus, but He doesn’t really care. If He did, He would have come earlier. Not wait and let him die!”. One of the main lines he likes to use is to attack the character of God for he intensely hates God. “He says He loves you but where is He? He doesn’t really care about you. Why should He? He says He is kind and faithful but if that is so you wouldn’t be in this situation, you’re in.” It is a very real battle played out in the hearts and minds of believers and maybe even more so in this age as the end draws near and he knows that his time is short.
So the battle within the hearts and minds of Martha, Mary and those witnessing Lazarus’ death would have been great. It is amazing how quickly a negative thought can take root. It is amazing how doubt expressed verbally can spread to others so quickly… especially in times of confusion. But that is why I like Martha’s statement in John 11: 22 – “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I can’t say this emphatically, but I believe there would have been a gap, a pause between John 11: 21 and John 11:22. There normally is in our experience. John 11: 21 expressed the confusion of the moment from a human point of view. But John 11: 22 expressed faith from her inner being even in the time of confusion. If we are in a confusing time, make sure we end with a John 11: 22 and not a John 11:21! Make sure we can say ‘Lord, I don’t understand all that has and is happening… but THIS I KNOW, EVEN NOW YOU ARE ABLE. Even now, You are good. And even now, I will turn, trust and thank you for what you will do in this situation.’ This is where the battle is, and this is part of what Jesus was about to teach her – that He is the I AM. He is LIFE itself, even now, and will always bring life when He is present.
3.0 DO WE TRULY BELIEVE IN OUR HEARTS?
Now though Martha said this great statement in John 11: 22 (and I don’t want to detract from that), but it should be pointed out that Martha still didn’t foresee what Jesus was about to do or who He truly was for that matter. So, when Jesus says Lazarus will rise again, her only thought is of the resurrection at the end of the age. As great as that will be, she didn’t seem to know about the One who is life itself right now. In fact, even later when Jesus is about to raise Lazarus and commands for the stone to be rolled away, Martha basically says “Oooooo…. no… he stinketh my Lord!” (John 11: 39) Many of us are like that, looking in hope to the future (which is great) but not really believing that Jesus can or will be what they need today. It is not enough to make a mental consent to something just in our head. It has to be worked out. Especially as it relates to His life in us. After presenting Himself as the resurrection and the life, Jesus asks Martha an all-important question: “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). May Martha’s answer be ours as well: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world” (John 11: 27).
When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, it is impossible for death to defeat them (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). Jesus shows that neither Death nor time is an obstacle to Him. Outside the tomb, “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43). It’s one thing to claim to be the resurrection and the life, but Jesus proved it by raising Lazarus, who was four days dead. Truly, with Christ, death is but “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Death has no dominion over Him who is Life itself, nor does death have dominion over those who are in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally. Jesus’ statement that He is the resurrection and the life, provides a godly perspective on several spiritual matters. Martha believed that the resurrection is an event; Jesus showed her (and us) that the resurrection is a Person. Martha’s knowledge of eternal life was an abstract idea; Jesus proved that knowledge of eternal life is a personal relationship. Martha thought victory over death was a future expectation; Jesus corrects her, showing that victory is a present reality.
Our resurrection consists of two parts: spiritual and physical. Before we can obtain eternal life in our resurrected physical bodies, we must first be resurrected spiritually by living in Jesus continuously. Only then can the resurrected physical body be clothed with a body from Heaven. The Bible speaks of the resurrection as something that will happen in the future but also something that we can experience now. It speaks of life as something we enter into when we die… but also as a reality and hope for this life. Some brief examples include: