Vincent Van Gogh, The Raising of Lazarus (After Rembrandt), 1890
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” (John 11:25)
This is the fifth of the seven mysterious “I am” sayings of Jesus.
But what’s the story?
Lazarus was dead. Earlier, Jesus had heard that His good friend was sick, but instead of going to visit him, Jesus, rather oddly, “stayed where he was for two more days” (John 11:6). He explained to His puzzled disciples that the sickness was “for God’s glory, that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v. 4). And then Lazarus died.
Only then did Jesus begin a journey Lazarus’s home in Bethany. When Jesus informed His disciples that Lazarus was dead, He said, cryptically, that His friend was “asleep, but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11).
En route, Lazarus’s sister Martha went out to meet Jesus. “If you had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died.” She declared her faith in Jesus’ power to heal. Jesus replied by assuring Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha responded again in faith: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” And that’s the build-up to this statement. Jesus replies: “I am the resurrection and the life,” and He follows it with a call to faith: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:21-24).
So what does the statement mean?
First, 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.
Second, Jesus was also making a statement concerning who He was. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him.
And third, the statement, by implication, says something about us. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Those who believe 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 reads thus:
“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do you see how Martha’s faith is being stretched in the narrative?
She begins by wishing that Jesus had arrived earlier so He could have healed her brother. That’s level one.
And when Jesus spoke of resurrection, Martha assumed He was speaking of “the resurrection at the last day.” In both statements, Martha reveals that she considered Time an insurmountable obstacle. In effect, Martha was saying, “It’s too late to help Lazarus (the time is past), so now we must wait (allow more time).”
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.
This I AM statement makes three vital points:
- 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.
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” (verse 27).
I think that God wants to stretch our faith too. Do you see the trajectory of faith-growth? Faith for healing must develop into total trust in the Healer Himself, and an undertanding of who He is and precisely what that entails for us.
And in a word, Jesus claims everything!
And His actions substantiate the word spoken.
(This clip is edited from gotquestions.org )