Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
I AM the Resurrection and the Life
by I Gordon
Our next "I AM" is "I AM the resurrection and the life." This is one of the greatest of the I AM claims of Jesus Christ. But what did Jesus mean by this? Can you remember the time and events that surrounded it? It is a massive claim for anyone to make! If you were down town and someone was yelling out 'I am the resurrection and the life' you would probably think to yourself 'you are, unfortunately, a nutter!' But like quite a few of the other I AM statements, Jesus would back up His words with action that proved the validity of them. If you said 'I AM the resurrection and the life' how would you back it up? That's right. You've still got it! You would have to raise a man, one well and truly dead, back to life! That man of course would be one well loved by Jesus and that is our friend Lazarus. It is a well known story, even among the world. Even today, in the world of sports especially, you'll hear comments like 'you've just witnessed the greatest comeback since Lazarus!' So we will explore that story today. But I am going to split the story and study into two halves.
You see, as I started thinking about resurrection and resurrection life, I had a simple question - Is this a present or a future reality and hope that Jesus is speaking of? The answer obviously is YES! It most certainly is. The Bible speaks of the resurrection as something that will happen in the future but also something that we can experience now. It speaks of life as something we enter into when we die... but also as a reality and hope for this life. Some brief examples include:
Life or Everlasting life
||Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Ephesians 1:18-20 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you... and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
|John 5:28-29 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.
Matthew 22:30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:20-21 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
|Life or Everlasting life
||John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
1 John 5:11-12 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
|Daniel 12:2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Mark 10:29-30 I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
So we will explore both of these aspects. Today will be from the first half of the chapter and focus more on the present hope of His life. The next message, should the Lord not have come back1, will be about the future resurrection and life to come.
A little background: A wee trip to the Jordan and back
John 11:1-4 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (2) 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. (3) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." (4) 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."
Last time, in John chapter 10, Jesus was in Jerusalem and said 'I am the door' and 'I am the good Shepherd.' He also said 'I and the Father are One' which caused the Jews listening to quickly look for the nearest stone and rock they could grab to do you know what. They tried to kill Him. So in John 10:40 it says that Jesus departed Jerusalem and went across the Jordan to where John the Baptist started his ministry. From the map on the right you can see that this is approximately 40 km and was generally regarded as a two day walk.
While there, a messenger arrives stating that Lazarus is sick and it's serious. It is always interesting to see how Jesus reacts in a pressured situation. If we were in this situation we'd be starting to fret, firing up all sorts of prayers right about now! But Jesus was, and always is, completely panic-proof! He knew right from the start how things were going to end. He didn't need to panic. He didn't need to hurry. He didn't need to worry. Panic worry and hurry is often our middle name but never with Jesus. In the face of this life and death situation, He calmly said (the slightly cryptic) 'This sickness will not end in death'. Note that Jesus didn't say 'this sickness will not lead to death'. He didn't say 'This sickness will not cause death'. No - it is 'This sickness will not end in death'. Which it wouldn't. He would see to that! Note also that He said this sickness is for the glory of God. Some Christians think that sickness is of the enemy or always caused by sin and that Christians, if they were in faith, wouldn't be sick. But we see here quite the opposite. Jesus loved Lazarus. There is no thought of this being caused by his sin. Instead we see that sickness itself is easily used for His glory.
God's odd business
Because we are focusing on this thought of Jesus being the resurrection and the life, it is probably worth pausing for a moment here to just say that Christianity is an odd business. The ways of God are opposite to the ways of the world. With God the way up, is down. He who loses his life, as Jesus said, will find it. John the Baptists statement that 'I must decrease so that He can increase' is one that applies to all. Lazarus and all involved will come out of this with a whole new revelation concerning the glory, power and majesty of the Lord Jesus. But we shouldn't be surprised to read that this great revelation comes through sickness and a death. The ways of God are not those of the world. This story, where physical life comes through physical death, is a picture of how spiritual life also comes through a death - a death of self as we lay down our own natural ability to live this Christian life.
So never underestimate what God can do with and through sickness or any difficulty for that matter! He uses it for His glory whether we are delivered quickly or asked to endure. The key thought in such times is 'is Jesus being glorified in my life through this time'. Every revelation of these I AM's are to help us see more of His glory. But nearly all of them come through some sense of need. It was to those that were hungry that He said 'I AM the bread of life'. It was to those who saw their own blindness that He said 'I AM the light of the world.' It was to the shepherd-less sheep that He said I am the good Shepherd. And, as we shall see, it is in the context of death itself that He said 'I AM the resurrection and the life'. So don't fear times of need. All of these 'I AMs' are to see something more of the glory of Jesus. If they don't do that then we have missed the point and I have failed in my task. They aren't so much for facts or knowledge. They are to reveal something deeper about Jesus.
Love causes Jesus to... stay and do nothing!
John 11:5-6 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (6) Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Now this, on the surface at least, is kind of crazy. Jesus hears that Lazarus, whom He loves, is very sick and so what does He do? Well, nothing. He doesn't immediately leave to help. He doesn't simply speak a word of healing which He could have done. He simply 'stays' where He is two more days. If you were there at the time with the disciples you'd probably see quite a few puzzled looks and a fair amount of head scratching. "What is He doing? Well, I can see what He is doing... He is doing nothing. But why? He loves Lazarus. Why doesn't He do, well, something, anything... just do something!"
You wonder why God delays acting on your behalf sometimes? You wonder why things take longer than you would like them to? Maybe it is tied up in what we see here. Jesus had a plan... a plan that involved showing many people that He was the life. And that plan meant letting Lazarus die. Temporarily anyway! That was the way God's Son would be glorified. The plans of God revolve around Him revealing more of His life to you. But generally that doesn't happen quickly. It often requires Him to wait. And you to wait... and seek... and wait! But remember again - nothing was out of control here. It might have looked like it from a human point of view but Jesus was fully in control. He knew in advance what He would allow to happen, what He would do and how it would end. And it was all tied in to allowing the people to see and believe that He is 'the resurrection and the life!' And this still plays out today on both an individual and national level.
God knows all things before hand and is prepared! Even when we aren't!
Let me give you an example I read about recently that shows how God is prepared and ready even when we aren't - even in the face of death!
It involves the nation of Israel. Israel, through necessity, has to keep track of what is happening in all the surrounding nations and have incredibly advanced surveillance systems. Yet in one year they were caught out. It was 1973 and it was their holiest and most solemn day of the year, Yom Kippur (or the day of Atonement). No one was expecting an attack on such a day - but how wrong they were. Syria attacked over the Golan heights in the north where their 1,400 Soviet supplied tanks easily overran the 180 Israel had in the area. Egypt attacked from the south and met little resistance. Within three days half of Israel's air force was wiped out and things were looking bad. Things got so grim that Israel's famous General Moshe Dayan spoke to his Prime Minister Golda Meier, about possible surrender. Meier herself had given her staff pills which would end their lives if it came to that. It was at this time, with the nation facing annihilation, that Golda rang US President Richard Nixon. Now Nixon wasn't a man of great character and he didn't like the Jews. But as he took a 3am phone call from the Israeli Prime Minister asking for help, he would later state that it was not Golda's voice that he heard on the line, but the voice of his mother Hannah who had died 6 years earlier in 1967. You see, Richard Nixon was raised my a Christian mother, a Quaker, and in his youth she had told him that God had shown her that one day he would be in a powerful position. And she made him promise that on that day he would use that position to help the Jews. And so when this phone call came, though he personally didn't like the Jews, he heard his mothers voice and remembered his promise. He sent air planes and supplies which turned the state of the war Israel's way.2 That is God, knowing all things before hand and going before his people to rescue them even in the face of death!
Oh ye slow to learn...
Let's pick up the story in verse 11.
John 11:11-15 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." (12) His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." (13) Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (14) So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, (15) and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
All I want to say about this is that I am thankful that the Bible includes these little insights into Jesus' disciples and how slow they were to grasp spiritual truth. It gives me hope! They were often getting it wrong. When Jesus said 'beware of the leaven of the Pharisees' they thought he was having a go at them for not bringing any bread! Jesus would often use metaphors and parables that went right over their heads. Here, He says that Lazarus has fallen asleep. That sounds good to the disciples as he should get better. So Jesus, in so many words says 'read my lips... Lazarus is DEAD! He has kicked the bucket. He's bought the farm. He's pushing up daises. He's bit the dust. He's belly up. He's food for worms. He's dead as a dodo. He has crossed the Jordan. He's out of here!'
But note also that Jesus says that it was good that He was not there. You see, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. The Bible doesn't record anyone dying in the presence of Jesus. He is life and if He had been there, Lazarus wouldn't have died. But remember again... the pauses and delays of God are on purpose. Then and now. So let's see what happens.
The arrival, 4 days after death and right on time
John 11:17-22 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (18) Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, (19) and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. (20) When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (21) Lord, Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (22) But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
So Jesus arrives four days late and right on time... Perfect according to His Father's timing! It was a two day journey from where Jesus was back to Bethany so, as Jesus waited two days before setting out, it is likely that Lazarus died around the time that the messenger got to Jesus asking Him to come. When Martha comes out to meet Jesus the first thing she says is 'if you had been here my brother would not have died'. What do you think she was thinking? Put yourself into Martha and Mary's shoes for a moment. When Lazarus, their dear brother first gets sick, they think everything will be ok and decide not to bother Jesus. But things take a turn for the worse. It is SERIOUS so they quickly send a messenger off to Jesus as fast as he can go. By the time he gets back, it is too late... Lazarus is dead. But Mary and Martha are still desperate to know what Jesus said. Did He know about Lazarus' sickness? Is He coming? Does He care? The messenger replies that Jesus said He was going to stay another couple of days where He is thank you very much and that Lazarus' sickness won't end in death. Talk about confusion... from a human point of view! When I was a young Christian a book came out called 'When God doesn't make sense' which won awards and sold very well. It seems that it is common, even popular topic! Well Jesus wasn't making sense to Mary, Martha and the Jews gathered on this day. Hence what we see as the first thought coming out of everyone's mouth:
- Martha (vs 21) 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'
- Mary (vs 32) 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'
- The Jews (vs 37) 'Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?'
Everyone is confused. 'Why? Why didn't He come earlier?' Why didn't He save Lazarus. He could have... but didn't'. You can imagine how the enemy would be trying to exploit this, whispering his subtle lies - "Jesus said that he loved Lazarus, but He doesn't really care. If He did He would have come earlier. Not wait and let him die!".3 One of the main lines he likes to use is to attack the character of God for he intensely hates God. "He says He loves you but where is He? He doesn't really care about you. Why should He? He says He is kind and faithful but if that is so you wouldn't be in this situation you're in." It is a very real battle played out in the hearts and minds of believers and maybe even more so in this age as the end draws near and he knows that his time is short. Always remember that he is always looking for an opening to exploit.
So the battle within the hearts and minds of Martha, Mary and those witnessing Lazarus' death would have been great. It is amazing how quickly a negative thought can take root. It is amazing how doubt expressed verbally can spread to others so quickly... especially in times of confusion.
But that is why I like Martha's verse 22 - "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." I can't say this emphatically but I believe there would have been a gap, a pause between verse 21 and 22. There normally is in our experience. Verse 21 expressed the confusion of the moment from a human point of view. But verse 22 expressed faith from her inner being even in the time of confusion. If you are in a confusing time, make sure you end with a verse 22 and not a 21! Make sure you can say 'Lord, I don't understand all that has and is happening... but THIS I KNOW, EVEN NOW YOU ARE ABLE. Even now, You are good. And even now, I will turn, trust and thank you for what you will do in this situation.' This is where the battle is and this is part of what Jesus was about to teach her - that He is the I AM. He is LIFE itself, even now, and will always brings life when He is present.
Do we truly believe in our hearts?
John 11:23-24 Jesus *said to her, "Your brother will rise again." (24) Martha *said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Now though she said this great statement in verse 22 (and I don't want to detract from that), but it should be pointed out that Martha still didn't foresee what Jesus was about to do or who He truly was for that matter. So when Jesus says Lazarus will rise again, her only thought is of the resurrection at the end of the age. As great as that will be, she didn't seem to know about the One who is life itself right now. In fact, even later when Jesus is about to raise Lazarus and commands for the stone to be rolled away, Martha basically says "Oooooo.... no... he stinketh my Lord!" (vs 39) Many Christians are like that, looking in hope to the future (which is great) but not really believing that Jesus can or will be what they need today. It is not enough to make a mental consent to something just in our head. It has to be worked out. Especially as it relates to His life in us. As an example, I went to Bible College when I was three years old in the Lord. Part of the course involved selecting and reading two Christian books and then writing a book review that was given to the Principle of the college. I chose 'The Normal Christian Life' by Watchman Nee and 'The Pursuit of God' by A.W Tozer. The Normal Christian Life is taken from the book of Romans and is all about Christ and His life in us. That Christ is the Christian life. It was amazing. So amazing to this young Christian that I actually felt that all I needed to do was memorise that book and all would be well! But alas!... It doesn't work that way : )4 When I wrote the book review for The Normal Christian Life I said 'For me, reading this book was like being given the map to a great treasure. I know I don't have what He is talking about but I feel that I at least know where to look!'. And where we look is to a Lord that is life Himself. RIGHT. IN. YOUR. SITUATION. NOW!
Conclusion - The One who is life is here!
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; (26) and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
So all of that leads us to this great statement and it is where we will end this part of the message. In response to Martha's hopeful look to a future resurrection at the end of the age, Jesus said I AM! I AM LIFE. Whoever believes in me will never die! Do you believe this? Those would have been penetrating words - "Do you believe this?" Do you believe this for the situation you are currently in? Do you believe it for that which causes you the most angst and concern right now? Have you come to say with Martha 'this I know, that even now He is able'?
What were those earlier scriptures we looked at concerning life right now?
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Born again believers have been reconciled to God by the death of Jesus. But how much more... how much more, shall we be saved by His life in us, now that we are right with God again?
Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Mortal means 'subject to death' - We are very much subject to death! Our old nature only brings forth death in God's sight. And it keeps doing it! About 5 weeks ago I decided to rid my small garden of all traces of any weed. I carefully dug under each weed and made sure that I got the bulb at the end that housed 7 or more weed seeds. It was perfect. A pristine perfect vege-garden, never to see weeds ever again. I looked out at it yesterday and oh what a mess! You see each little seed becomes a weed with many more seeds. Each of those seeds becomes... well you know. It is a never ending problem because of the fall. But when you are next weeding and you see those weed seeds, think not of the weeds but your own heart for the impact of the fall is even worse that those weeds that pop up in your garden. They are only a picture of the real problem in the human heart. It is a problem that has only one solution - the life of Jesus Himself within the believer. So thank God that He has given us Himself, who is life, to give life to our mortal death producing bodies.
"if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you".
That is what Jesus meant when He said, in the present tense, that I AM the Life.