“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25, NKJV)
Jesus wants to impress upon us that in Him there is life, and that life is ours through faith in Him. All of the various ways by which He communicates Himself tells us something about life. He is the Word who begets life, the Lamb who gives His life, the Bread that sustains life, the Light that leads to life, the Shepherd who comes that we might have life and have it abundantly. Later, He will describe Himself as the Vine with whom to be united brings life, growth, health, vitality, and fruitfulness.
Now in John 11, at a funeral no less, we learn the impact of what it means for Jesus to be life.
Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus had died. He traveled with His disciples to the funeral. He is greeted by Martha, the sister of Lazarus. The conversation dabbles around the edges. She tells Jesus if He had been there when Lazarus was sick he would not have died. Martha knows the power of Jesus.
Jesus does not disagree. He could indeed have prevented the death of Lazarus. He assures Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha expresses agreement. She knows that he will indeed rise again in the resurrection to come.
But then Jesus meets the issue of death head on. He tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26). Martha grasped the significance of His words: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).
With everyone staring death in the face and smitten with grief, Jesus turns their eyes to Him and declares Himself to be death’s remedy. To validate His claim, almost as an object lesson, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, calling him by name to come to Him. With that call Jesus gave Lazarus the ability to hear and come forth.
In referring to Himself as the resurrection Jesus points us not only to life now but also the life to come. The life wrought by the Holy Spirit (John 1:13; 3:1-8) is the life of Christ that begins in the present and reaches into eternity.
To believe in Jesus and believe the Father’s testimony about Him yields eternal life, meaning that though we die temporally, we shall live eternally. Death is not the final answer. Jesus explained something of this earlier in the Gospel of John. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:24–25).
The words of Jesus to Martha at the funeral of her brother were not empty words of comfort that we typically hear at a funeral. They were words of life and hope. They were words that challenged each person present at the tomb and each person since who comes face to face with the enigmatic enemy of death.
John’s Gospel teams with life. It is emphasized at every turn. John’s purpose in writing is that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). John impresses upon us two things, the same two things cited by Jesus to Martha. One, life is bound up in Jesus Christ. Two, life is found through faith in Him.
1. Why does Jesus call Himself the resurrection and the life, and not just the life?
2. When Jesus asks Martha if she believes His claim (John 11:26), how does her answer about what she believes relate to His question (John 11:27)?
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.