Resurrection and the Life
Updated: Aug 11, 2022
Death happens every day. Every day people die from cancer and drug overdoses and car crashes. Every day there are funerals at the local cemeteries. I read that about 160,000 people die each day, all around the world—that’s a lot of death.
And that’s just physical death. Think of the pandemic of spiritual death in this world, the many millions who are living without God and a knowledge of Christ. They are dead in trespasses and sins—just like we would be, apart from God’s grace.
So how wondrous is the good news in John 11:25, where Jesus announces with another of the seven “I am” declarations,
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.
Not far in the background of Jesus’s saying is the raising of Lazarus back to life. Lazarus, together with his two sisters Mary and Martha, were good friends of the Lord Jesus. But Lazarus had become very sick and was fading fast. It seemed like Jesus had an opportunity to go and heal him, but He delayed his journey. Now, when Jesus is finally near Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days.
Martha has gone out to meet Jesus on his way. We suppose that she is broken with grief over losing her brother. But despite her sadness, she speaks of great confidence in the Lord. And Jesus responds: “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). On this dark day, the gospel is beginning to shine. Death isn’t the end, not for Lazarus, nor for anyone who believes.
Now, Martha knows already that Jesus has power to do incredible wonders. But she can’t imagine how Jesus can do something about her dead brother, here and now. This is what she says: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). She’s probably thinking about the Old Testament promises of resurrection, like in Psalm 16, and she is sure that God will raise her loved one on the great day of the Lord.
In response, Jesus doesn’t say, “Nice try, Martha, but think again.” He doesn’t correct her, but He shifts the focus onto himself. He will transform God’s promise of resurrection. For Martha is speaking with the person who is the sure fulfillment of every ancient word. “In me,” He says, “the resurrection has already come!”
For the resurrection is actually a present reality. When Martha thought about the resurrection, she was only looking to the future. Which is how we tend to think about the resurrection too: it’s in the distant future, long past our lifetimes. We won’t see our grandparents again, or our husband or wife, or our parents, not until that glorious day when Christ returns.
But Jesus says that we don’t have to wait. The real resurrection takes place today through the power of Christ. Resurrection happens at the moment when a person hears and believes the gospel. Apart from God’s work of reviving us, we would be spiritual corpses—stone cold and unresponsive—but Christ resurrects us to new life.
For sinners, this is the essential moment of change. Maybe we think that the most important moment is on the day we die, when we’re finally done with sin and we instantly migrate to heaven to be with the Lord. Or perhaps the critical moment is when Christ returns, and we are transformed in the twinkling of an eye.
But the key change happens long before, when we believe in Christ. By God’s power we enter into new spiritual life. This is how Ephesians 2 describes it, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…And God raised us up with Christ” (vv. 4-6).
God made us alive and raised us up.
Not long after John 11, Jesus will come out of his own grave in triumph over Satan and death. It is through the power of Christ’s resurrection that faith lives within us, together with hope, and love. And when we are made alive in Christ, death can no longer keep its hold on us. Believers still die, but now we’re joined to the One who is “the resurrection and the life.”
Remember that when Jesus says this, He still hasn’t done anything. Lazarus is still in the grave, the crowds are still wailing, and Mary and Martha are still grief-stricken over their dearly departed brother. It looks as if death gets the last word once again.
But then Jesus reveals his glory. He shows the truth of his identity, for He calls Lazarus to exit his grave.
It’s a spectacular moment, and until Jesus comes again, we’ll never see such an event. Yet what happens to Lazarus reveals Christ’s enduring power over death. He can change your heart and make it open to him. He can pull you out of life-destroying sin.
Has Christ made you alive? Do you see the effects of this every day?
Do you see the power of death slowly retreating from your life?
Thank God for his work in you, and pray that his work will continue.
When we’re alive in Christ, we also don’t need to fear the looming shadow of death. Death can be sudden and painful, and it can also be long and drawn out. However it comes, it can leave so much sadness. Yet facing this enemy, we have the greatest source of comfort. The living Saviour promises that even if our body is dead, one day it will live again, raised as a glorious body. For Christ has given a new life that can never be extinguished.
And after all this, Christ signals that we must respond to his gift. In verse 26 He asks Martha, and He asks us,
Do you believe this?
Are you putting your faith in Jesus Christ and his Word? Are you alive in him, and are you living for Christ? And will you live with him forever? Do you believe this?
[The Seven “I Am” sayings in John - Part 5]