Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
”I am the resurrection and the life” is the fifth of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. It was spoken to only one person, Jesus’ beloved friend Martha of Bethany. Lazarus was dead, and Jesus went to Bethany to raise him from the dead. Earlier, Jesus had heard that his good friend Lazarus was sick, but instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days (John 11:6).
He used this occasion to teach his disciples about walking by the spirit. He had earlier taught them that he was the light of the world and used the illustration of how walking in the daylight allowed one to find his way to explain his decision to now visit Bethany, Judea. The disciples, concerned for his safety, tried to dissuade him, but he used a walking in daylight illustration to assure them of their safety. He further informed them that Lazarus was dead, and their mission was to raise him from the dead (vss 7-16).
When Jesus arrived, he met Martha away from the house. He then found out Lazarus had been dead four days so even if he had left immediately upon receiving the sisters request for help he would not have gotten there before his death. We find out only later how significant it was that the one to be raised was dead for more than three days and three nights. Martha went out to meet Jesus saying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (vs 21). Martha was so sure of Jesus authority over sickness that she added, “I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (vs 22). She wanted Jesus to resurrect her brother but hesitated to ask. Jesus replied by assuring Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha expected him to arise in the resurrection of the just and said so. That’s when Jesus makes his fifth “I Am” statement recorded in John’s gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He follows it with a promise which asserted his power over death, “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (vs 26). Jesus knew that if Martha believed his statement she would be comforted so he asked her specifically, “Believest thou this?” She then replied in the affirmative, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God” (vs 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. In asserting his power over death, he knew that death has no ultimate power over him. Eternal life is available to those who believe in him so that they share his triumph over death (I John 5:11-13). Believers who sleep in Jesus (I Thessalonians 4:14) will experience resurrection because it is impossible for death to defeat them (I Corinthians 15:53-57).
Outside the tomb, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” and he that was dead came forth (vss 43-44). 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” (I Thessalonians 4:13). Death has no dominion over him who is life itself, nor does death have dominion over those who are in him (I 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 death. Death is simply sleep; if it happens resurrection is guaranteed. Victory over death is a present reality for believers. The length of our sleep is inconsequential, for the moment of one’s death becomes in our consciousness the moment of awakening to the trump of God to meet Christ in the air (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Lord had already said that whoever believes in him would not perish but would have eternal life (John 3:16). Here in John 11 he provided more detail, saying that even though a believer experiences physical death, he will still have life.
After presenting Himself as the resurrection and the life, Jesus asked Martha an all-important question: “Do you believe this?” (vs 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” (vs 27).
By Wayne Clapp