"I AM the Resurrection and the Life"
Our passage for this morning is in John chapter 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This is the culmination of the miraculous signs spotlighted in John’s gospel. Beginning with the changing of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana, John presents seven signs by which Jesus revealed his glory. This one is the seventh and last. It is the one in which we see Jesus as the giver of life and the one who can raise the dead.
The raising of Lazarus covers 44 verses, so we will not be reading the entire passage. I hope that you will take the time to read the entire story on your own. This morning I want to especially focus on verses 25-27,
Jesus said to her, “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?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
We all face man’s greatest enemy. That enemy is death. One day, if Christ does not return first, every one of us will face the time of our own death. Presently, we all face the death of loved-ones; the death of family members; the death of a parent; the death of a spouse; the death of a child; the death of a friend. No one is exempt from facing death.
With death comes the experience of loss—the loss of a relationship; the loss of love; the loss of support
Death is no respecter of persons. Death takes from those of every station of life. It comes to the house of the rich and the poor. It comes to young and the old. It comes for those who are sick and those who are healthy. Death comes to those who are ready for death and those who are not ready.
We are all powerless in ourselves before the Grim Reaper of death. We cannot prevent its inevitable coming, death is faced by each one of us.
How are we to face death?
Is there any hope?
Is there any comfort?
Is there any assurance that we may see loved ones again?
There is only one hope in the face of death and only one hope of what lies beyond. That is found in the words that our Lord speaks here when he declares that he is the resurrection and the life. This is the declaration that Jesus makes to Martha upon the death of her brother, Lazarus.
Jesus had become a close friend of this family. As he passed through Bethany, he often stopped at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Their home had become a quiet refuge from the mounting demands of his ministry.
Lazarus had become ill. He was, in fact, gravely ill. So, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message for Jesus to come and heal their brother. But Jesus did a very strange thing:
When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days (John 11:6).
Jesus intentionally delayed going to Bethany. He purposely waited long enough for Lazarus to die. After Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, he said, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there” (vss. 14-15).
We know that God works in his own way and by his own timing. And God works for higher purposes than what we initially can see. Jesus purposely delays until Lazarus dies so that there would be a greater manifestation of his glory. Greater than the restoration of Lazarus from a sick bed would be the resurrection of Lazarus from a tomb.
But before Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, he would speak these words. These words are intended to comfort the heart of Martha, to bolster her faith and to deepen her confidence in the Lord Jesus. These are words that I want to draw our attention to today. These are words which should form a firm foundation under our faith.
We are all drawing closer to death. We are one day closer to death today than we were yesterday. We all have loved ones who are in various stages of life. Some of them find themselves very close to death.
So, it is in this context that I want us to look at these words and to be reminded of this great truth that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, and that the Lord Jesus has the keys to the grave, and that he is Lord over death as well as life.
We will consider these words under four main headings:
The Great Claim
“I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).
The “I am” here is solemnly emphatic. Jesus is saying, I and only I am the resurrection and the life. Not merely one who gives resurrection and life – I AM resurrection and life
This is one of the “I am” statements around which John arranges his gospel. There are seven of them:
I AM the Bread of Life (6:35, 48)
I AM the Light of the World (9:5)
I AM the Door for the Sheep (10:6, 9)
I AM the Good Shepherd (6:11, 14)
I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6)
I AM the True Vine (15:1)
These statements from the lips of Jesus are declarations of his deity. They echo Exodus 3:14. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses asked him what his name was. God answered,
“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
The Greek translation of the Old Testament translates this name of God with the very same words Jesus uses of himself—I AM. Jesus is applying the very name of God to himself. It is an explicit claim that he is none other than God Almighty. And it makes sense, for only God can raise the dead, only God can give life.
By taking the Divine name to himself, Jesus is saying that he alone is sovereign . . .
. . . over sin
. . . over death
. . . over the grave
. . . over the world to come
. . . over the final judgment
. . . over the body and over the soul.
Jesus as the resurrection is a repeated emphasis in the Gospel of John:
In a discourse in which the deity of Jesus is revealed, THE Lord says,
“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 what is good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (5:28-29).
At the end of the age, there will be a general resurrection as the voice of the Son of God will be heard even by the dead in their graves and they will come out of the grave. Some of them—those who have followed the Lord—to a resurrection to life. Others—those who have not known him—to a resurrection to judgment.
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (6:39-40).
Here the Lord speaks of the resurrection to life, in which all those who belong to him will be raised from the dead in the last day.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (6:54).
Again, Jesus speaks of those who have placed their faith in him; here symbolized as eating his flesh and drinking his blood; whom he will raise up in the last day.
And this does not apply just to his people whom he will raise up, but to his own resurrection as well.
“No one takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (10:18).
Jesus’ life was not taken from him against his will. He gave it up voluntarily. He was in control of the entire process. When he died on the cross for us, he did so of his own free will.
The opposite is also true. He had the power to lay his life down, and he also had the power to take it up again. And he did so in his resurrection.
I recall what C.S. Lewis said about these claims of Christ. Either they are false, and he believed them to be true and was therefore deluded. Or, he did not believe them, in which case he was a liar. Or, they are true, and he is the Lord. He has not left us any other options.
Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and he claimed to be the life. The “life” refers to life in every aspect; not merely spiritual life, but physical life as well. Jesus is the sole essence, possessor, and giver of life. There is no life apart from the Lord Jesus. He was the active agent of creation. All life comes from him.
In John’s Gospel life (Greek zōe) refers to the power to give the knowledge of God – the authority to grant fellowship with God. Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God:
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (17:3).
The great claim that Jesus makes here is that he is God come in the flesh. He is the only one who can raise the dead. He is the only one who can give life. And he is the one who is sovereign over our final destiny.
Second, consider . . .
The Great Comfort
“The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (vss. 25b-26a)
These words were meant to comfort Martha at the death of her brother. There is no greater comfort which can be given to us at the death of a loved one than these words. Jesus is saying that all those who believe in him will live forever with God.
Let’s take it phrase by phrase:
“The one who believes in me.” This is far more than intellectual head-knowledge, far more than assent to some theological facts. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ means to turn from one’s pursuit of sin and self-effort and rely totally upon the Lord. To commit one’s life to him entirely. To surrender one’s life to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
“The one who believes in me will live even though he dies.” Jesus has Lazarus in mind here--“This one.” Live here means to live forever with Christ. There is also an echo of Christ’s own resurrection: “though he die, he will live.”
This is such an amazing promise. Even when we die physical we will not die eternally. We will never be more alive than the moment after we die. The moment after we die we will be ushered into the presence of God, there to live forever.
The second half of this comfort reverses the order of belief and life: “whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Note the present tense—eternal life begins the moment we believe. It is not something we enter after we die. We are given eternal life when we believe, and that life continues forever.
“Will never die.” Obviously, he is not speaking about physical death, for we will all die (if Christ does not return before). He is talking here about spiritual death—eternal separation from God in hell. If you put you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will never die spiritually and when you do die physically, you will live forever in the presence of God.
Jesus makes the great claim, gives Martha the great comfort, and then issues . . .
The Great Challenge
Jesus probes Martha’s heart and soul. He asks her a question:
“Do you believe this?” (vs. 26b)
Why does he ask this? Surely, he knows her heart. But, he presses this question so that she will be forced to search out her own life and come to the place where she affirms before him that she does believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Today, the Lord asks this same question of us. No one can answer for Martha and no one else can answer for us. We must individually respond to this question to the Lord.
Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Do you believe that at the end of the age those who hear the voice of the Son of God will come out of the grave?
Do you believe that there will be a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment?
Do you believe that the believer who dies will never die but will live forever with the Lord?
Do you believe that the Son of God has absolute authority over your life, and over your soul, and that even death itself cannot separate you from him?
“Do you believe this?” – That is the question the Lord is asking us even now.
Each of us must come to this firm, settled resolve of putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 11 the question was posed to Martha. Now note . . .
The Great Confession
Martha makes a strong confession of her faith without equivocation:
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (vs. 57).
“Yes Lord” – saving and sustaining faith is saying “Yes, Lord, I do believe in what you say about who you are.” Martha had more than mental assent. She had made the volitional choice to commit herself to Christ. She had more than just warm feelings about Christ. She had more than just head-knowledge about Christ. Down in the depths of her heart and soul she had made the fundamental choice to entrust her life into the saving hands of Jesus Christ.
She goes on to define three aspects that are fundamental to saving faith:
1. “You are the Messiah.” Messiah means “the anointed one.” Jesus is the one chosen by God the Father to bring salvation to the earth.
2. “You are the Son of God.” Martha affirms her belief that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father. He is that Word which John declares in the Prologue:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1).
3. “You are the one who is to come into the world.” She believes that he has been sent by the Father on a mission to seek and save that which was lost. To live in obedience to every point of the law and yet to die on that cross as a substitute for the sins of his people—the just for the unjust.
This is her confession.
Is this your confession?
If you stood before God today are were asked to give an account, would you say with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is to come into the world”?
Faith in Christ alone is the only way by which we may find favor with God. It is the only means by which we may enter his presence forever.
William Gladstone was one of the greatest leaders of Great Britain. He served as Prime Minister in the Nineteenth Century. He was also a devout Christian. Once a young man came to Gladstone seeking advice about what to do with his life.
Gladstone asked him what his plans were. The young man answered, “I am interested in entering either Oxford or Cambridge and getting a good education.”
Gladstone asked him, “What then?”
The young man replied, “Then I would like to become a lawyer and help people with their legal problems.”
“After I have practiced law for a while and built up a reputation, I think I would like to run for office and serve the public as an official in the government.”
“Well, after serving for some years in the Parliament, I think I would like to become the Prime Minister of England and serve the interests of the entire nation.”
“Then I would retire, write my memoirs and help other young men as you are helping me.”
“I suppose I would come to the end of my days and finally die.”
And Gladstone asked, “And what then?”
The young man had no answer.
Gladstone looked him in the eye and said, “Young man, you are a fool that you have not considered the final then what for your life. For you will surely die and you have not yet considered the then what at the end of your life.”
When we come to the end of our life, when we draw our last breath, when we at last die—Then what?
If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—if we have trusted ourselves without reservation to him—when we come to die, then we have only begun to live.