Not long after John 11, Jesus will come out of his own grave in triumph over Satan and death. It is through the power of Christ’s resurrection that faith lives within us, together with hope, and love. And when we are made alive in Christ, death can no longer keep its hold on us. Believers still die, but now we’re joined to the One who is “the resurrection and the life.”
Death happens every day. Every day people die from cancer and drug overdoses and car crashes. Every day there are funerals at the local cemeteries. I read that about 160,000 people die each day, all around the world—that’s a lot of death.
And that’s just physical death. Think of the pandemic of spiritual death in this world, the many millions who are living without God and a knowledge of Christ. They are dead in trespasses and sins—just like we would be, apart from God’s grace.
So how wondrous is the good news in John 11:25, where Jesus announces with another of the seven “I am” declarations,
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.
Not far in the background of Jesus’s saying is the raising of Lazarus back to life. Lazarus, together with his two sisters Mary and Martha, were good friends of the Lord Jesus. But Lazarus had become very sick and was fading fast. It seemed like Jesus had an opportunity to go and heal him, but He delayed his journey. Now, when Jesus is finally near Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days.
Martha has gone out to meet Jesus on his way. We suppose that she is broken with grief over losing her brother. But despite her sadness, she speaks of great confidence in the Lord. And Jesus responds: “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). On this dark day, the gospel is beginning to shine. Death isn’t the end, not for Lazarus, nor for anyone who believes.
Now, Martha knows already that Jesus has power to do incredible wonders. But she can’t imagine how Jesus can do something about her dead brother, here and now. This is what she says: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). She’s probably thinking about the Old Testament promises of resurrection, like in Psalm 16, and she is sure that God will raise her loved one on the great day of the Lord.
In response, Jesus doesn’t say, “Nice try, Martha, but think again.” He doesn’t correct her, but He shifts the focus onto himself. He will transform God’s promise of resurrection. For Martha is speaking with the person who is the sure fulfillment of every ancient word. “In me,” He says, “the resurrection has already come!”