Sayings of Jesus

'Except a man be born again'

'He that believeth..'
'I am the Bread of Life'
'I am the resurrection and the life'
'I am the true vine'
'Salvation is of the Jews'
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‘I am the resurrection and the life’

In John's gospel record we read about one of the most moving incidents in our Lord's ministry. John chapter 11 opens with the words: ‘Now a man named Lazarus was sick.’ Martha and Mary the two sisters of Lazarus, sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ (John 11.3) Jesus' reply to this message was: ‘This sickness will not end in death.’ (John 11.4)

On hearing this news, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. Martha and Mary wished Jesus would come immediately to heal their brother but Jesus did not always respond immediately in the way that men and women wanted or expected. He always acted in complete obedience to his heavenly Father as he said on another occasion: ‘…I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’ (John 5.30)

After two days Jesus said: ‘Let us go back to Judaea.’ (John 11.7) John tells us that on his arrival, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Allowing for the messengers to reach Jesus, the lapse of two days and then the time taken for the return journey, Lazarus must have died shortly after the messengers left Bethany. Yet Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead because we read in this chapter: ‘When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."’ (John 11.4) Yet Lazarus was dead and buried – so what did Jesus mean? After he had said this he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.' (John 11.11) Then Jesus explained to his followers ‘Lazarus is dead.’ (John 11.14)

After this Jesus and his band of followers journeyed to Bethany. On arrival they found Martha, Mary and many people who had come to comfort them. We can picture the sad scene. A loss of a loved one, the tears, the emptiness and Martha's words: ‘Lord…if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ (John 11.21) Martha knew Jesus had the power to heal the sick immediately but Lazarus had been dead four days and his body would have already started to decay.

Jesus answered her with the words: ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha replied with conviction ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ (John 11.23,24) Martha believed in the resurrection, at Christ's return to the earth. She was also convinced that Jesus could raise her brother immediately. Here was true faith. There was no place in her thoughts for the erroneous idea that his soul had left the body and gone to heaven at death. No, she knew that her brother would remain in the grave until the call of the resurrection at Christ's second coming. She believed the decaying body presented no difficulties for the power of the resurrection.

After Martha had expressed her belief in the resurrection of the dead, Jesus said to her:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ (John 11.25)

Here we must pause and consider the meaning of these few powerful words, which form the title of this article. Although they were spoken to Martha, they are recorded for our learning and comfort also.

Lazarus, who had believed, was now in the sleep of death, completely unconscious, waiting the time of resurrection. The one to bring about this mighty work was Jesus who was standing before Martha. Martha was looking on the one, the only one who could through the power of his heavenly Father, bring the resurrection and the life. Martha understood fully and believed the words of Jesus which are recorded in John's gospel: ‘For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ (John 6.40)

Imagine the feelings Martha would have experienced at this time of great sadness in her life. Standing before her was the complete answer to all human problems. She understood Jesus was God's only begotten Son whose work was to preach the gospel of salvation. ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ (John 11.27)

One of the many joys of believing the Bible is to discover how it all perfectly fits together. Martha knew that men and women are mortal. Left to our own devices, death is the final end for all living beings. The words spoken to Martha - ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ held out far more than just the resurrection. Jesus was the life. Martha's sister Mary also understood that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. Martha had to share this great news with Mary as we see from the following verses: ‘And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.’ (John11 28,29)

Yes, she believed in her heart that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead, just as he could have healed him. Mary as well as Martha did not believe in heaven going at death. No, they showed in their actions faith in God through his Son. Why? Because they had listened to the teachings of Jesus based upon the Old Testament prophecies. David wrote in the Psalms: ‘because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.’ (Psalm 16.10) These prophetic words of David expressed his own hope in the resurrection and pointed forward to the resurrection of his greater son, Jesus Christ. By becoming associated with the work of Jesus in the way he has appointed, through belief and baptism, we too can have that great hope of the resurrection.

The Apostle Peter spoke of this same hope in his first letter:

‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.’ (1 Peter 1.13,21)

The prophet Daniel also spoke of the day of resurrection in these words:

‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’ (Daniel 12.2)

The Apostle Paul was also convinced of the resurrection. We read in his first letter to the Thessalonians:

‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.’ (1 Thessalonians 4.16)

Jesus then, being the resurrection and the life, we surely need to associate ourselves with him to be part of the resurrection and life. How do we do that? We need to open our Bibles to search out the true Gospel message and we need to get to know Jesus and to obey his commandments:

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.’ (John 15.9,10)

After the example of Jesus we must get to know what God really wants from us in service to Him. Jesus, in his three and a half years ministry, obeyed his heavenly Father. To have Jesus live or abide in us we must try to copy his Godly characteristics. We need to become adopted children of God by faith and through baptism. Without it we cannot share in the resurrection and life evermore. The teaching of Jesus is unmistakable:

‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’ (John 12.26)

‘…I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.’ (John 3.5)

What greater honour could there be than life evermore? Surely that is what we all long for? Not life as it is now, with pain and sorrow but life in God's promised kingdom upon this earth. Jesus is life. He is our hope, our redeemer. Even if we die we will live again. Those who are still alive at Christ's return who believe in Him are baptised and found worthy, will never die. What a wonderful hope. What more can we wish for? Far better than any lottery prize. Truly something money cannot buy - something freely available if only we act upon it now.

As Martha gazed upon Jesus, in answer to His question 'Do you believe this?' (John 11.26) her reply was ‘Yes Lord,’ and she continued ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ (John 11.27)

The resurrection of Lazarus was a miraculous sign pointing forward to Jesus’ own resurrection and that greater day of resurrection yet to come. The record in John continues: ‘So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (John 11.41-44)

Before their eyes the miracle took place. Lazarus came out of the tomb. They saw the glory of God. At Bethany Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ Jesus also promised that those who were in the graves would hear his voice and be raised at his return to the earth.

‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.’ (John 5.28,29)

We can contrast this miracle with the events surrounding Christ’s own resurrection. In Matthew's gospel record we are told it was an angel who removed the stone. Jesus' grave clothes were lying in the tomb, as well as the burial cloth that had been around him, folded up by itself. It was not thrown in a corner or trampled under foot as it would have been if the false accusations of the chief priests and Pharisees, that grave robbers had been and taken him away, were to be believed. ‘Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.’ (John 20.6,7) Jesus was raised from the dead, free from grave clothes. Death had no more power over him.

The teaching of the New Testament is that forgiveness of sins through Christ is the means of raising the believer to a new life. At Christ's return many will be raised from the dead. The gift of everlasting life will be given to those who have believed in Jesus, have been baptised and truly followed him as his disciples.

The example and teaching of Jesus needs to be a force in our lives today. For those who are his disciples he is ‘the resurrection and the life.’

(All quotes taken from NIV)

 

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