“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
The funeral was over!
The dead had been laid in his grave!
It was Lazarus, the loved one of the Lord, who had passed away. He was the brother of Mary, who loved to sit docilely at Jesus’ feet to be instructed of Him; and of Martha, who loved to serve Jesus with the finest of delicacies.
Strange as it may seem, even the loved one of the Lord must die. Though the Lord loves His people, and Lazarus was His friend, death, that grim reaper, puts in his scythe and mows down that part of them that is of the earth earthy. For flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Four days had passed and yet the mourners mourned. Especially two had hearts that were filled with grief. Death had torn into a very closely knit family circle. To them the words of the Psalmist must have seemed as idle mockery: “I shall not die but live.”
Over against the reality of death stands Jesus, the resurrection and the life!
Sharply marked antithesis!
On the one hand there was death, and no one could deny it. Lazarus was dead. According to Martha, four days had passed since his body had been placed in his tomb, and decomposition must already have set in. On the other, the Resurrection and the Life! Not, you understand, the resurrection of the last day with which even Martha was acquainted; but the resurrection and the life in the Person of Jesus, Who said, not—I will be the resurrection and the life at the end of the world; but—I am the resurrection and the life—right now.
Significantly He spoke these words before His own death and resurrection! It was toward the end of His earthly ministry when He received the message that Lazarus had died. Long before the stone was rolled away from His own tomb on the first resurrection morn. He declares emphatically: I am the resurrection and the life.
The effect is mentioned before the cause! He is the resurrection from the point of view of death. But He is the resurrection because He is the life.
Jesus is the life!
He is that essentially!
The Lord said earlier in His ministry: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” And in the same context: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” John 5:21, 26. He is the life because He is God, the living God. Being co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He lives the life of God eternally.
Moreover, He is also the Author of all life in the world. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that hath been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. If there is any life outside of Him, it must find its ultimate source in Him. Remarkably it is Jesus Who claims He is the life; the Person of the Son in human nature, the Mediator between God and man, the Saviour of His people.
Therefore, because He is the life, He is also the resurrection!
Let us understand it well. It is not simply the power to recall from the grave back into this earthly life. So Lazarus would be raised and return. But strictly speaking this is not resurrection. Lazarus would return to this earthly, corruptible life. And once more he would have to return to the grave. Resurrection means much more than that. It means never more to die, to taste corruption and misery. It means to pass through the grave, leaving corruption, misery, and the grave behind. It means in principle to possess immortality, and ultimately the perfect participation with body and soul in eternal and heavenly life. O, indeed, He had the power to quicken the dead body of Lazarus and to make it come forth from the grave alive. This power He was about to demonstrate at the tomb of Lazarus—no doubt, one of His greatest miracles. Yet this is not what He is talking about when He declared to Martha: I am the resurrection and the life. He not only has the power to resurrect as the life-giver—He is that power.
A fact He would make most clear in His own case a short while hence, when on resurrection day He Himself would issue forth from His own grave as the Prince of Life. The I AM THAT I AM, the Self-Existent, eternally independent God, speaking in the flesh of Jesus, says: I am the resurrection and the life. Not, I will be in the last day. Not, I will be if you believe. But I am, whether you believe or not—I am the resurrection and the life. I am the resurrection because I am the life.
Neither Martha, nor anyone before her had this conception of Jesus. Martha said: “I know my brother shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She was not a Sadducee who believed not in the resurrection. She understood that there was a resurrection of the dead in the last day. And she believed that in the last day also Lazarus would rise again. But she did not know that Jesus was the resurrection and life now. Yet that is the meaning of our text. In contrast to Martha’s future “he shall” the Lord says “I am.” And as He was in Martha’s time so He is today.
Glorious reality in the face of death and the grave!
On the one hand we may stand before the sad fact of death and the grave. But on the other, stands the glorious fact of the Resurrection and the Life.
He that believeth in Me, even if he dies, he shall live!
The unbeliever never lives. He is dead while he liveth. But the believer is alive with the life of Christ. Fact is, faith is the living bond that ties him to the living Christ. Faith makes the believer to be one plant with Him. He is so engrafted into Christ by faith that he lives out of Him, and appropriates all His benefits.
Gift of God’s grace!
Faith is not a work of man, but a work of God in man! Faith is not a condition man fulfills to obtain life, nor is it another work which man must perform to be saved. Salvation is not of works but of grace entirely. Faith is God’s means of uniting us so perfectly to Christ in Whom is all our salvation that we consciously appropriate and receive to ourselves His life. Faith is a living bond to the living Christ. God works faith in us, and we believe.
Now notice what the Lord says here!
Concerning the one believing into Me, even if he dies, he shall live. This can only mean that the one who is engrafted into Christ and has a living bond of fellowship with Christ is alive when he dies. And this is sustained by the last part of the text where Jesus says: “And whosoever liveth and believeth into me shall never die.” For the believer, therefore, there is continuity of life even when his outward man perishes and is overcome in death.
O wonderful paradox of paradoxes! We live when we die! Death hath no power over us!
We must remember that resurrection does not begin after death, but before death. And that can only mean that in regeneration, in which all the benefits of Christ reside, included in which is faith—immortality—and life, we possess the life that death cannot overcome. Regeneration is indeed resurrection life, which is immortality, that is, undyableness. We are raised first from spiritual death before we are raised from physical death. And only because this is so, can one look forward in hope to the bodily resurrection. If we are become partakers of His resurrection life in regeneration and we are made conscious of this through a true and living faith, then it follows that the whole man, body and soul, shall dwell in eternal life. Every believer experiences two resurrections therefore. The first is in regeneration—the resurrection of the inner man from spiritual death and corruption. The second, in the resurrection of the outward man from the physical death and corruption in the grave. The first resurrection takes place before physical death, and the latter at the end of the world.
What a comfort for the believing child of God!
In Jesus the dead lives!
Even though he dies and enters into physical death and dissolves into dust in his grave; being in Jesus, he shall live. That is, he shall live in glory as soon as he dies, and he shall live in the body and soul perfectly in the resurrection at the last day.
In Jesus the living never dies!
O, this cannot mean that he will not die physically. That is inevitable. No one shall escape this physical death except those who are alive at Christ’s coming at the last day, and they must be changed. But they shall never die in the spiritual sense unto all eternity. For being united into Jesus they live His life forever. And physical death can only be a transition to a higher state of life in the presence of Christ in glory, and to the highest state of life and glory in the day of Christ.
The believer only possesses this comfort!
As we said, this comfort cannot be for those who do not believe. The unbeliever is dead now—in trespasses and sins, spiritually separated from the Resurrection and the Life. And when he dies physically he enters immediately into eternal death. For the unbeliever death stares him in the face every step of the way, and unless he is regenerated by the grace of God, he presently shall enter the place of everlasting death where the wrath of God abides on him forever, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Though they also shall come forth from their graves in the last day, for all the dead shall rise, theirs is not a resurrection unto life, but unto damnation.
The comfort of the resurrection is only for the believer! Believers live now even in the midst of their suffering and affliction of this present time. They live when their outward man perishes and descends into the grave. They live everlastingly presently when all this weary night is past in eternal glory.
Believest thou this?
This question cannot be asked of the dead. The dead must have answered it while he was alive. And if he answered this question affirmatively, the Scripture is fulfilled in him: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
The question is directed to you—Martha!
The question is directed to you, My disciples, who are living!
It is directed to the church of Christ which is able to hear the words of Him Who is the resurrection and the life!
And when you by the grace of God are able to say: Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief—then for you the sting of death is gone when you are confronted by it, and the grave has lost its victory, and you live.
You live now, and forever more!