I Am the Resurrection and the Life
Expository Bible Studies
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In John 11, Jesus heard of the sickness and death of Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus. Jesus told His disciples that He was glad He was not there when Lazarus died, because He would glorify God and encourage His disciples to believe in Jesus. This study will focus upon one of the “I AM” sayings of Jesus, which occur many times in the Gospel of John.
The Death of Lazarus
Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’
In John 11:21, Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, met Jesus with the words: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Earlier in the account, Jesus specifically delayed his journey to the home of Lazarus by two days. So, we know that Jesus had a purpose in waiting to go, and after Jesus began the journey, He told His disciples that Lazarus had already died. Now Martha greets Jesus with powerful words. She continued: “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.” Martha had great faith in the power of God.
Your Brother Will Rise Again
Jesus intended to demonstrate the glory of God by changing the grief of death into the glory of God. Jesus emphasized His divine power over life and death, and His gift of eternal life.
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
Jesus replied to Martha: “Your brother will rise again.” So often, we do not grasp the full significance of what Jesus has said. Jesus only used the future tense here: “will rise.” Jesus did not specify “when” Lazarus will rise, or who will raise Lazarus from the dead. Martha expressed her general faith in resurrection: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha clearly had faith in a resurrection of the righteous and that her brother would be raised from the dead on the last day.
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus applied the important term “I AM” to eternal life and resurrection. He linked those terms to Himself and His deity.
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’
Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life.” This “I AM” saying indicates something of great importance in the teaching of Jesus Christ, with great present and personal applications. In this case, Jesus explained the meaning of resurrection and eternal life. He provided precise definitions of those two terms in the next phrases.
According to Jesus, resurrection means: “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” So, we can learn the component parts of resurrection. (1) First we believe in Jesus; and (2) then we will live; and (3) we will live even if we die. In this case, we will also understand that resurrection is human bodily resurrection for Lazarus, unlike the resurrection of Jesus who received a glorified body after His resurrection. Please keep in mind that Lazarus would later die a natural death, and then receive his resurrected, glorified body later, when Jesus raises believers at His coming in the clouds. Jesus, as the first-fruit of the resurrection, received the first resurrected, immortal body, before anyone else received their glorified body. His glorified body could walk through closed doors.
Eternal Life Defined
Jesus also defined eternal life: “and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Notice the order here. First we live. Second, we believe in Jesus. Third, we never die. And so, Jesus has provided sophisticated, short and clear definitions of the terms resurrection and eternal life. But Jesus did not stop there.
Jesus then challenged Martha about her faith. In order to truly practice the truths Jesus gave to Martha about resurrection and eternal life, she must believe what Jesus has told her. Notice the words: “I AM.” The resurrection and eternal life consist in Jesus Christ. He is resurrection and eternal life. Without Him, they do not exist.
Do You Believe This ?
Jesus often challenged believers to expand their faith and deepen their knowledge of Jesus Himself. As they grew deeper into their faith and knowledge of Him, their spiritual lives improved and they saw more of the glory of God.
‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.’
Applying those concepts, Jesus will raise Lazarus before her eyes and she will truly comprehend the “I AM” quality of Jesus. She had faith to say to Jesus: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He Who comes into the world.” Jesus intended to expand her understanding of the “I AM” qualities of resurrection and life inherent in Jesus Christ. She was thinking Jesus would perform a resurrection in the future on the “last day,” but Jesus was teaching her the “I AM” nature of resurrection and eternal life. Please recall that Martha already believed that: (1) Lazarus would not have died if Jesus were there; and (2) that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, if Jesus would only ask God. Jesus expanded her understanding of the relationship between eternal life and resurrection.
The Relationship between Resurrection and Eternal Life
If I already have eternal life, why would I need resurrection? In other words, if I will never die because I have eternal life, then what does resurrection mean, especially in this context with Lazarus dead and buried? Jesus essentially demonstrated His complete power over life and death and the true nature of resurrection and eternal life.
In the case of Lazarus, Lazarus was a believer and had eternal life. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord Jesus. Because Lazarus had believed in Jesus for salvation, we know that eternal life for Lazarus meant that: (1) Lazarus lived; and (2) Lazarus believed; and (3) Lazarus would never die. Yet, Lazarus had physically died and his body was in the tomb. Therefore, we know that eternal life means spiritual life as opposed to spiritual death. Likewise, resurrection in this instance means for Lazarus: (1) first Lazarus believed in Jesus; and (2) Lazarus will live; and (3) Lazarus will live even if he dies. The truths of resurrection and eternal life hold true for every believer. In this passage, however, Jesus revealed the “I AM” qualities of those two truths. Jesus controls both of those truths and how they operate in our lives.
Martha understood that Jesus would raise Lazarus on the last day. Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and give physical life to the same physical body that went into the tomb. In contrast, when Jesus was raised from His tomb, He was raised with an immortal, incorruptible, glorified body that would never undergo decay. With Lazarus, he was merely restored to the same body, and it was not immortal, incorruptible, and glorified. So, what was the point Jesus was making about resurrection and eternal life?
Jesus frequently used physical miracles and signs to demonstrate spiritual truths. Martha needed to learn the “I AM” truth of Jesus. Within Himself, Jesus had the power of resurrection and eternal life. As God in the flesh, Jesus not only did the works of His Father in heaven, but He also acted upon His own initiative. So, Martha needed to believe in the “I AM” God of eternal life and resurrection, so that she would see the glory of God. Martha had observed that she knew whatever Jesus asked of God, God would give to Jesus.
They May Believe that You Sent Me
Jesus performed signs and miracles to increase the faith of believers, and to draw unbelievers to faith in Himself. Jesus wanted everyone to know that His Father had sent Jesus Himself into the world.
So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’
By the end of the story, Jesus said that “Father, I thank You that you have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus wanted to bring faith to everyone who witnessed the miracle of bringing the physical body of Lazarus back to life. Many of the Jews who came to Mary and witnessed the events believed in Jesus. Others reported to the Pharisees and a conspiracy arose among the Pharisees and the council to kill Jesus.