Part 47 – John 11:25
The resurrection and the life.
From tackling the whole question of the real truth of this whole story in the last study it is a great relief to move on to this, perhaps the greatest of all the I AM statements. It was Martha who started Jesus off on this line of thought when she said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” referring to her brother. She was reflecting a common, but not universal idea of those days. (Paul used the disagreement over resurrection when he was before the Sanhedrin to cause an ‘uproar’ and so disrupt matters that they forgot to continue to question him.) The idea was based on the verse in Daniel 12 which says, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” together with the scene in Ezekiel 37 where in the valley of the dry bones, representing the people of Israel “when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land”. What they certainly were not expecting was that one man would be resurrected ahead of everybody else.
They thought, as those Old Testament quotes suggest, that there would be one general resurrection at the end of time. What Jesus was saying in his simple little 7 word sentence was that he, alone, was the resurrection – that is that he would represent all of mankind and, so to speak, go ahead of them into the new world that lay ahead for everyone after death, for good or ill. This world would be a new revitalized earth, nothing to do with the clouds and harps of popular imagination. We gather from other scriptures that this is not entered instantaneously after death, but only after a pause of which the details are not very clear.
What Jesus said was therefore a promise, a great promise. When he adds that he is “the life” he is also promising that he will be with us and in charge of the time from now to then.
If he had been asked to explain what exactly he meant he might have said something like this: ‘when I say your brother will rise again I mean now, not at some date in the distant future long after he, and you, are dead. The resurrection is a date in that far future when the whole earth will be revitalized and all those who follow me will enjoy life in this new earth with new bodies. I am not going to tell you all the details of when that will be, what life will then be like, or what you will look like, or anything like that. It is far better for you not to know such details, which you would only think about, and worry about. I am going to go ahead of you very soon. I will die and be resurrected as a representative of what will happen. I will then be able to prepare the situation for you all ahead of the final great day. Of course there is a gap between now and then while you continue to live on this earth and then after you die before the day of resurrection. I will be with you every moment of the way through that time. I am not going to protect you from all the ups and downs of this life but I will be with you, at your side. So I can say of myself that I am the resurrection for that final day and I am the life you should live now.’ and just to make sure of his right to say these things he announces himself once again with the I AM formula.
“Do you believe this?”, Jesus asked Martha. “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” We have much more reason to believe than she had – the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, the giving of the Spirit, the history of the church and our own experience.
Can you imagine the size of the smile Jesus gave Martha? And he gives you, when you join in?
Rejoice in that smile and let the power of what he said – The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die – thrill you through and through.