Dear radio friends,
In John 11:25, 26 Jesus spoke some of the most beautiful words that have ever been spoken. Jesus said unto her (that is, unto Martha), “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?”
We have been following the “I AM’s” of Jesus, sayings in which He identifies who He is and what He has done for us. We come to the fifth of those found in the Gospel According to John, Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Really these words of our Lord are too beautiful for human explanation. It seems to me that any exposition of mine can only spoil them. If ever I felt inadequate, it certainly is now! Would it not be better just to let them stand there as they are, as they have stood throughout all the ages and will continue to stand, world without end?
Jesus is the resurrection and the life! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, you who grieve over the death of a dear loved one, a husband, a father, a brother, a sister, a young man in the Lord Jesus Christ: “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.” Do you hear those words?
Do you hear those words personally, as you are a child of God in the midst of this world of sin and death, as you struggle against your sin and say, “When will that ever be over? It’s always with me.” You grow with the Lord and you grow with the knowledge of sin, of your own sin. Will it ever be over?
Did you hear His words? Perhaps you are going through cancer. Perhaps you stand before the very door of death itself, the dark, horrible door of death, the enemy, the last enemy, a frightening enemy.
Do you hear what Jesus says? “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live!” Do you desire, do you need, comfort? Do you look for inward peace? Are you looking for strength and confidence? Then, by grace, through faith, you must know Jesus. You must know Him personally, by grace. You must not know Him vaguely and indefinitely. But you must know Him personally, in all of His self-sufficiency and in all of His wonderful satisfying truth. For Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and all who belong to Him and by faith believe in Him will never, can never, die. Do you believe this?
Jesus is standing before Martha. He says, “Be-lievest thou this?” Let me give a response of another man: “Yea, Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”
Jesus’ words, here, are marvelous. As I said, they were spoken originally to Martha, who was the sister of Lazarus, who had died. Jesus had come to raise him from the dead. Martha had come out in all of her despair and hopelessness when she had heard that Jesus was approaching. As she meets Him and talks with Him, Jesus speaks these words to her ears: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
When you read John 11, you see that our Lord Jesus Christ has arranged all of this in His tender care—He has arranged this entire scene exactly just so, for this is who He is. He must now reveal Himself to us as to who He is. When Jesus said in John 6, “I am the Bread of Life,” He said that at the appropriate, the right, moment. He said that when men were trying to stuff their miserable life with the bread of this present world, a bread that could not satisfy. He said, “I am the Bread of Life, I alone can satisfy the soul.” When Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” He said that when men were going about lighting candles, thinking that their candles could make light in darkness. When Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” He said that in the context of false shepherds, who wanted to lead the people of God astray in their own paths. He said it at an appropriate time: “I am the Good Shepherd. I give My life for the sheep.”
Now it is time for Jesus to reveal this wonderful truth about Himself. But He must do so at the right time. And He does. For He does reveal Himself as the resurrection and the life as He stands before the horrible reality of death, the horrible reality of the death of one whom He loved—Lazarus.
Our Lord, then, as I have been saying, has arranged this moment. He arranges the lives of His children to prepare them exactly to hear the word that they need to hear of Him. Our Lord, you might remember in John 11, had deliberately waited for Lazarus to die before He would come. He had told His disciples that this sickness of Lazarus was not unto death but for the glory of God (v. 4). He was not saying to them that Lazarus would not die. But He was saying that the purpose of Lazarus’ death was that it would reveal, through Jesus, the glory of God in His Son.
We need to understand that, that the Lord has arranged this in order that He might reveal to us who He is. When the Lord did arrive, it was Martha who ran out to meet Him. And with words bursting with emotion, out of a broken heart, she said, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” Then she held out some hope. She went on to say (v. 22), “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
The Lord responds to those words in the following way (v. 23): “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.”
Then Martha responds to that (v. 24): “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha understood Jesus to mean that there is a coming resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. That truth had been revealed to Martha and to all of the Old Testament saints. Job 19 and in Psalm 17 —from those and other passages the Lord had made abundantly plain that there would be the resurrection of the body at the last day; that in our flesh, even though it would be decayed and destroyed by worms, yet in our flesh we would see God. Yes, they knew there would be a resurrection of the body at the last day, at the end of the world.
But Jesus says to Martha, “No, Martha, no, no. That’s not the only thing that I had in mind when I said that thy brother shall arise again. I’m not talking only about a future blessing. I am come to reveal to you something that is true right now, something that is true about Me and true about all those who belong to Me. I am the resurrection and the life. Martha, your comfort is not first, nor even primarily, in a future hope of the resurrection of the body. But your comfort is Me right now! You need to know that I am the resurrection and the life.”
He means to direct our faith to Him and what He is for us. He means more than just that He is able to give us life and resurrection. He can and does do that. He means more than just, “I am come to earn life and resurrection for you.” He did do and has done that. But He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. I who stand before you, Martha —that is who I am. And because that is who I am, all those belonging to Me shall never die. All those belonging to Me, who are in Me, have been raised, and now are victorious over death.”
Jesus is the resurrection and the life. In Him is the victory over death, and in Him, our Savior Jesus, is life eternal. The life of which He speaks is fellowship with God —for that is life. Life is not, first of all, a biological existence upon this earth. But life has to do with one’s relationship with God. If one does not stand, according to the Scripture, in loving relationship with God, he is dead! No matter how much biological life he may have. And in death he shall enter into the realm of the dead, that is, hell, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
No, life is the intimacy of love with God. Jesus would say in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they might know thee the only true God.” God is life. God has life in Himself as the triune God. He enjoys a blissful, sacred, wonderful, tranquil life within Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to Deuteronomy 32:40 He says, “I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.” God is life. And life for us is to know God, to belong to God, and to be with God in faith.
Jesus says, “I am the life and I am the resurrection, that is, I am the One who has destroyed death. I am the One who has destroyed all that would stand between you and life with God. Sin and guilt—I have destroyed this in My cross. I am victorious. I am able to raise dead sinners into living presence with God.”
What was Jesus saying to Martha? What is He saying to you and to me? He is saying this: “Look on Me. You who are in the midst of death; you who are broken with grief and ruin and sorrow and despair; you who know the guilt of your sin—I am the resurrection and the life. In Myself, on the basis of My cross and My atoning work at Calvary, I am life with God. And in Myself I am the victory over death. I have destroyed death for My children. I have blotted out sin that is the power of death. Now I, as the Head of the church; I, as the Head of the elect—I am the One who gives to all who belong to Me the victory over death and bring them into life eternal with God, to know God and to belong to God and to live with God forever. I’m the One in whom all of this is present. And I am the One who is able to give it by grace to you.”
For that is the glorious consequence. “I am the resurrection and the life”—does He possess this only for Himself? No. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” In other words, He is this for us! By belonging to Him, we are given a life that shall never die. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” He was saying that the believer is immortal. He was saying that by grace, when we belong to Jesus Christ, we shall live forever. That in Jesus Christ, through faith, we possess life that is over death, that is eternal.
That is what it means to belong to Jesus Christ. To belong to Jesus Christ is no common thing. It is no “ho-hum” thing. It is no decision that you have made. It is the power, it is the mighty power of God’s living grace, to translate you from death to life eternal, to bring you out of the realm of eternal destruction and ruin and to bring you into the realm of eternal bliss and glory.
“Whosoever liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” The Lord is picturing the believer, first of all, at the moment of his death. He is saying that, united to Him, the resurrection and the life, at the moment of death we shall live. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Do you believe that? Do you understand that? We shall live with God in glory. Our bodies will be raised at the last day, and those bodies shall be made like unto the glorious body of Christ. This is our hope. This is reality. In Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, death has been changed to the portal, to the door, that enters into life eternal to be with Jesus in heaven. We see that by faith. Look upon Jesus by faith. Oh, physical death is so horrible of itself! We see it working, perhaps, through pain and cancer and sorrow, in our dear, dear loved one. And there is nothing we can do. Perhaps we see it come suddenly in a heart attack. And, again, there is nothing that we can do. That death separates, takes away from this life, tears apart our loved one, brings us down with waves of grief.
Yes, we grieve before death. So did Jesus. In John 11:35 we read: “Jesus wept.” But in the face of that, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”—right now he shall live with the Father. And the body, too, shall live and be raised from the dead. It will happen. You shall awake in glory in the moment of death, believer. You shall see Him. And it shall be the simplest, most profound, most glorious moment imaginable. You shall stand before Him and you shall be satisfied. You shall be filled with His glory and you shall be at rest and peace.
Then, in that great day, that great day of all days when Jesus Christ returns, our bodies, too, shall be lifted from the grave—the body that through old age was wrinkled and slowly lost its strength; or that body that was consumed by cancer; or that body of a young man that was broken in a fall—we shall be raised and we shall be like Jesus.
But Jesus is saying more. He is not only saying that at death we enter into heaven and have the hope of the resurrection of our body at the last day. What Jesus is saying is that whosoever liveth and believeth in Him shall never die. He is saying that the ones now made alive by Him have an imperishable life. He is saying that when, by faith, through grace, we are in Jesus Christ and He is our faithful Savior, we cannot die. Oh, yes, the present body, that shall die and go to the grave. As a seed, it must be sown in the ground for the great day of the resurrection. Oh, yes, this present body, this present corruptible flesh, cannot see God, cannot walk with God in heaven. Yes, we shall die physically.
But Jesus is saying, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me shall never die. I have made you alive. I have brought you from the realm of spiritual death, eternal death. And I have brought you from the guilt and the bondage of your sin. And I have made you alive in Me.” That is His work.
We did not make ourselves alive in Jesus. Can a dead man make himself alive? Can a dead man will to live? No! Look at Lazarus. Did Jesus stand before the grave of Lazarus and say, “Lazarus, I am willing if you are. Just let Me know. Scratch on the inside of the rock. Do something—just a little indication. And I will give you enabling grace, dependent upon your will first to choose Me. Then you will come out of the grave.” Is that what Jesus said? Of course not! Lazarus was dead.
Remember that! Your salvation is entirely, wholly, of God’s grace. Salvation is when Jesus, the resurrection and the life, speaks, as no mere man can speak, His living word in our heart. And He breathes into our dead, sinful hearts everlasting life. Faith is a gift of the living Savior. Do you believe this?
The gospel is distinctive. The gospel is antithetical. Jesus is the resurrection and the life not for all. For those who believe in Him, by the grace of God, but not for everybody, not even in that day of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We read, “Many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did” did not believe. They said, “We are going to deny everything we just saw and everything we just heard. We don’t believe in this Jesus.” There are many who continue in sinful ways, who mock this gospel, who ridicule it, who say, “Well, that’s a nice story. Maybe we’ll come and hear that nice story again sometime.” If you continue in that unbelief, you will be consumed by Jesus Christ. Repent and forsake your sin.
Do you believe this, by the grace of God? You see, that is very personal, is it not? Jesus does not say, “Does your minister believe this? Does your Dad, does your Mom, believe this? Does the person over there believe this?” He says, “Do you believe this?” You see, it is so very personal. That is the work of Jesus—so very, very personal. He gives to me to believe that I am righteous in His work. And by His Holy Spirit and by His grace I am alive. And in Jesus I shall not die, but I shall live and tell the wonders of the Lord. And in death I shall go to be with Him and stand before Him in all of His beauty, entirely by His grace.
But it is personal. Do you believe this? When you, as child of God, stand before death, you cannot be silent. Though our grief in the death of our loved one is great, and though our fear over our own death may also be consuming and great, yet the work of God’s grace convicts our soul and gives us to say, “Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I believe, Thou knowest all things. You know that I believe, Lord, because You put that faith there. I know that Thou hast put that faith there, for I believe in Thee and I embrace Thee by faith.”
So the wonderful words of Jesus stand true, and stand true throughout all ages, world without end. Hear them and embrace them: “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?” “Yea, Lord, we believe!”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word. Write it upon our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.