Focus on Christ Meditations: 31. The Resurrection and the Life
Jn 11:25,26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
The context for this saying is very clear and obvious. Lazarus has just died and Jesus is going to raise him from the dead. That is implied in the story before this and it is what follows. Life, death and resurrection are the foundation of this incident. There is leading up to this saying an interesting discussion, although discussion does not really describe the interaction between Martha and Jesus. Observe: “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.” (v.20) From Luke’s little account of the home of Mary and Martha (see Lk 10:38-) we know that Martha was the ‘get up and do’ sister and so it is that when Jesus comes it is Martha who goes out to meet him.
See her opening words: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v.21) These are words of reproach. She knows Jesus is a healer and so if he had been there he would have healed Lazarus – and they had sent word to Jesus but he hadn’t come! But then she says something interesting, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (v.22) Now it is probable that the messenger they had sent to Jesus came back with his answer: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4) The thought of Lazarus coming back to life after he had been dead and buried some time was just beyond her reach and yet somehow, somewhere in the depths of her mind, there was some glimmer of hope even if she did not understand it herself. Verse 39 shows her mind is on the physical reality – if the grave is opened the body will smell for it must have already started to decay.
Jesus prompts her: “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (v.23) That sounds hopeful, but when? “Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v.24) She is a good Jew and well taught and so knows this teaching. It is in the face of this that this strange and, at first sight, incomprehensible word of self-revelation is spoken: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (v.25a) Now before we try unraveling this, look at what follows: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (v.25b,26) In the face of the teaching of the final resurrection of the dead (see Rev 20:12,13 and 1 Cor 15:12-) it would appear that Jesus is saying that he is the cause of all being resurrected from death to face God at the Final Judgment, but of course at that moment it will be every person who has ever lived, believer and non-believer, so such a general understanding would have little significance. No, there must be a further meaning to what he is saying.
Look again at verses 25b and 26. Jesus puts forward two possibilities, both about believers in Jesus. First, even though someone dies, they will live. So this puts forward the idea of life after death. The second one speaks of never dying. Are those contradictions? No, they are one and the same. We may appear to pass through physical death but that is not the end for us; we continue living with God, i.e. in reality we never ‘die’. We may appear to die physically but in reality, no, we continue on.
The apostle Paul wrote along these lines to the Romans: “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 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.” (Rom 8:10,11) When we are born again, Christ by his Spirit indwells us. In respect of God, our starting point is that our body is lifeless or ‘dead’ but our spirit is alive to God but then because the Holy Spirit is there within us, He imparts ‘life’ to our physical bodies so that in both body and spirit we are raised up or resurrected to be alive to God. This is how healing can come about, by the indwelling power within us. Yes, our physical body is still subject to physical death, and yet there appears a promise in scripture that somehow our whole being – new body and spirit will be raised in eternity (check out 1Cor 6:14; 15:20,23; 2Cor 4:14; Phil 3:21; 1Thess 4:14) There is a mystery here but without doubt we will receive new spiritual bodies, bodies not limited as they are now (ponder on 1 Cor 15:35-44).
We have seen in earlier word-pictures Jesus as the Bread of Life, the one who imparts life to enable us to live. We have seen him as the Light of the World, and we observed that light is necessary for life to occur and continue. There have been references to eternal life but this present word-picture presses that home more vigorously; it is a life that prevents death, a life that continues after physical death has occurred and a life that will even enable us to have some tangible, expressible ‘body’ after death and on into eternity.
This opens up a whole new world of speculation, but we will have to wait to experience and understand the reality of it when it happens. In the meantime, we can look into the future with hope. This present life is not all there is! The path ahead of us stretches away into eternity but changing and improving all the way. If you have ever read C.S.Lewis’s last Narnia book, ‘The Last Battle’, you will remember he sought to convey this wonder and the cry “further in, further up” was the cry that kept coming, all going on from one degree of glory to another in eternity.
To speculate and ponder on: whenever our hopes are dashed by the enemy or by the world and Sin, just remember Jesus is in the business of resurrection. Speaking of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac, the writer to the Hebrews declared, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Heb 11:19) Whenever our hopes or ambitions die, remember Jesus is in the business of resurrection by bringing himself into the equation, but as with our new bodies in 1 Cor 15, remember what he raises up may not be the same as that which died – but it will always be gloriously better! Hallelujah!