I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE… During the last winter of His life, Jesus made an earth-shattering statement that literally brought the future into the present. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.
“I AM the resurrection and the life.” We need to read this over and over again to let the Words of Jesus permeate our hearts and our very being. Heaven is on earth and speaking to us through the power of His Spirit and The Word, right this very minute.
This is the setting for His words: “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So, the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’” John 11:1-3
Jesus had just received word that a dear friend was sick. Instead of focusing on the illness, Jesus immediately grasped the incredible opportunity it presented. "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.'”
In the midst of chaos and grief, what an unbelievable blessing was about to occur! Jesus was so certain of this fact that He waited 2 more days to announce His return to the home of His friend, Lazarus. The response of those around Him was predictable as they questioned His touch with reality. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
The disciples did what many of us Christians do when faced with a spiritual dilemma. They quickly decided they needed to use their own intellect to plan their course of action. They knew Bethany was just 2 miles from Jerusalem, and they knew the Jewish leaders had tried to stone Jesus a few short months before following His address at the Feast of Dedication. So instead of believing in Jesus...
Verses 9-10 record how Jesus responded to their flawed earthly reasoning. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
We can learn something very valuable from this allegory. Everything is ordained within its limits, like day and night. So, when it comes to moving forward in our spiritual life, if it’s not in God’s timing, in His light, we’re probably going to stumble around…a lot.
"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.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep."
These verses are wisdom straight from the mind of Jesus. He defined Lazarus’s death as sleep. And His plan to end death’s hold on Lazarus was to wake him up! The timing for this revelation of truth is impeccable. In a few short weeks, Jesus would defeat death on the cross, and would Himself awaken from its grasp. “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18
When Jesus spelled out plainly that Lazarus was dead in verse 14, He followed it up with a statement to the disciples that should shake our very souls. " …Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me. We will go to him now.”
When Jesus and His followers arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead and in the tomb for four days. Martha ran out to greet him saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.” Jesus’ reply would astound the world. “Your brother will rise and be alive again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus' reply challenges the very depths of our traditional beliefs today, just as He did Martha's. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
" I AM the resurrection..." In other words, we don't have to wait for the last day. He is here. Right Now. In THIS place, in this time. He is Calling out to us, asking us to believe in Him as Messiah, sent by God to be the Savior of the world.
May we be quick to answer as Martha did. “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God. You are the one who was coming to the world.”
Then Lazarus’ other sister, Mary, came and bowed at the feet of Jesus and again uttered this statement of belief in verse 32 “...Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Verses 33-34 continue to provide us with invaluable insight. "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.' Where have you laid him?' He asked. 'Come and see, Lord, they replied.'"
What follows next in verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible and without a doubt, the most profound. "Jesus wept." This is the first record in the Bible that Jesus wept. "Then the Jews said, 'Look! He loved Lazarus very much!'” John 11:36.
The people around Jesus reacted just like many folks do. They made assumptions based on their limited understanding of the situation. Though it sounded like a plausible explanation, it wasn’t the truth then, and it isn’t the truth now. How do we know? Because Jesus wept only one more time in His entire life and that was when He entered Jerusalem for the last time. And he wept for the same reason He wept in Bethany at the death of Lazarus.
Luke 19:41 tells us "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Now we understand why Jesus say he was glad He was not there when His friend died. If Jesus had been there, as Martha and Mary said, Lazarus would not have died. “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me.”
Now it becomes clear that Jesus wept both times because it took death for people to believe in Him as the Son of God. Even at the end of this very chapter, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin hatched a plot to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew that a man raising the dead would cause people to do what? Believe in Him!
Most of the time, we connect the shortest verse in the Bible with the love of Jesus for Lazarus. And certainly, He did love Him. But the truth is the great paradox that Jesus wept because it would take Lazarus' death, the death of God's chosen people, His own death, and perhaps the looming prospect of our own deaths, for mankind to finally believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
“But the chief priest and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.” This verse sounds very much like a warrant that the Jewish Talmud asserted had to be publicly voiced or posted in the larger towns in Judea at least 40 days before a trial of a Jewish citizen. Jesus would be crucified on the 14th day of the first month, God’s appointed Holy Day of Passover. That would place the warrant announcement that must occur at least 40 days before, to around the mid-point in the 11th month to the beginning of the 12th month at the latest. Today, February 23 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is the 29th day of God’s 11th month. The crucial legal wheel in the plot to crucify Jesus had begun to turn.
So, what did Jesus do the last winter before His death? He shattered the boundary between heaven and earth, announcing “I am the resurrection and the life... Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”