John’s Gospel Chapter 11
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject - THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.
The FifthWonderful Saying.
Study Portion - Chapter 11. 1-46.
In a previous article we considered the Wonderful Sign of the Raising of Lazarus; we now turn to the Wonderful Saying of our Lord Jesus to Martha in the day of crisis and conflict, vv. 25, 26, 'I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on me, though he were dead yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die'. Here are three important and essential facts:
1. It asserts the Claim of Deity.
2. It affirms the Conquest of Death.
3. It announces the Condition of Deliverance.
The saying embodies both the cause and conclusion of the whole incident. Note –
The Unique Testimony and the expression of His Person. 'I am the Resurrection and the Life'. The Unexpected Trial and the explanation of His Purpose. ' ... he that believeth on me . .'
The Ultimate Triumph and the experience of His Power. '. . . though he die yet shall he live'.
Let us now observe the relation of the 'Saying' to the 'Sign' in more detail and note that it –
Declares Deity - 'I am'.
In days when the deity of Christ is denied by those who claim to be God's faithful witnesses, it may be well to digress a little from the immediate context to clarify our thoughts on this all important subject.
It has been said that if Christ was not God, He was the greatest egotist the world has ever seen. A late expositor on this subject has written - 'If He is only man then I am an idolater. If He is very God, then the man who denies it, is a blasphemer. There can be no union between those who hold His deity and those who deny it'.
The attributes of God are ascribed to Him. Rev. 22. 13 reveals clearly His eternity of being, for He says 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last'. This claim is all the more striking following upon the statement of God in 21. 6, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end'. There can be only one first and one last. Prov. 8. 23 reads 'He was set up from everlasting from the beginning, or ever the earth was'.
He is the self-existing one and claims that 'Before Abraham was, I am', John 8. 58. The name of God revealed to Moses in Exod. 3. 14 was, 'I am, that I am'.
With Him, as with God the Father, there was no past or future, all was eternal present. It mattered not to Him how long Lazarus had been dead for He was, 'I am'. Martha looked to the past and to the future resurrection and could only appreciate what He would do in the future, but she must realize that He is Himself the Resurrection and the Life.
Rev. 1. 4 records a benediction from Him, 'which is and which was and which is to come'. It has been noted that 'Him which is' signifies in Greek, 'He who always is'; 'Him which was', the imperfect tense, expressing continuance in the past 'He who always was'; and 'Him which is to come', the present participle with the article, 'Ever, the coming one'.
John on Patmos Isle saw One at whose feet he fell as dead. He records, Rev. 1. 17, 'And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hades and of death'.
The reason for not fearing is not simply where we are or what we are, but what He is. This was the lesson that Mary and Martha must learn.
He lives in resurrection, He dies in redemption and He is alive for evermore in new creation glory.
Trench remarks 'As He is the Resurrection of the dead, so is He the life of the living - absolute life, having life in Himself, for so it has been given Him of the Father (John 5. 26), the fountain of life'.
Note, Col. 3. 4,'. . . Christ our life'. He is -
The Source of our life - 'you hath He quickened who were dead . . .', Eph. 2. 5.
The Substance of our life - 'We live by His life', Gal. 2. 20. 'Christ in you, the hope of glory', Col. 1. 27.
The Sustenance of our life - 'This is the bread that came down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die', John 6. 50.
The Solace of our life - 'Our life is hid with Christ in God', Col. 3. 4.
The Sum of our life - 'To live is Christ', Phil 1,21
We further note that the 'Saying' –
Dispels Doubt -
It would seem that the sisters at Bethany were in doubt as to the extent of the love of Christ for Lazarus and themselves. If Jesus loved Lazarus why then was he sick even to the point of death? They said, 'He whom thou lovest is sick', v. 3. Here the word used for 'love' is that of emotional affection, perhaps we might say that He was very fond of Lazarus.
But Jesus said 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby' - that is, death was not the final issue in this trial, but the glory of God and the glorification of His Son.
In v. 5 we note that 'Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus' and here the love expressed is devotion born of intelligence, understanding and judgment.
It is in trial that His love is better understood.
Now note that the 'Saying' –
The life of the Saviour was ever marked by an absence of fear and feverish haste. He was never in a hurry but always in time, never in a panic but always at peace. This was the atmosphere which surrounded His life and tempered His words.
In this time of crisis, He was content to abide 'two days still in the same place where he was', then after that He saith to his disciples, 'Let us go into Judea again', v. 6. 7.
His disciples were fearful for His safety and saw danger ahead, for had not the Jews sought lately to stone Him in the very place to which He now proposed to return?
Note the serene calmness and dignity of the Saviour's reply, v. 9. 'Are there not twelve hours in the day? if any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of the world, but if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him (that is he cannot see where he is going)', v. 10.
To our Lord Jesus all was light, nothing ever came His way by accident, He knew the end from the beginning.
Again, these glorious words of the Saviour –
Defeat Disappointment -
It seems obvious that Martha was now a disappointed woman. Did she not say, v. 21, 'Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died' - and might He not have been there had He not delayed His coining when the message came?
However, Martha knew that all would ultimately be well in some distant future, but for the present she was bitterly and sadly disappointed.
Her words were the expression of knowledge and sound Hebrew theology, v. 22, I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee;' and again, v. 24, 'I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day'.
There is a vast difference between what we know and what we are. Nicodemus had said, 'We know that thou art a teacher come from God', 3. 2 but like Martha he must learn the lesson of faith and trust in a personal and present Saviour. To Nicodemus the Saviour said, 'whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life', 3. 16. Note, the emphasis and recurrence of the word 'believe' in this chapter -
v. 15. 'To the intent that ye may believe'.
v. 25. '. . . he that believeth in me'.
v. 26. 'Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die' Believest thou this?'
v. 27. 'She saith - yea Lord, I believe'.
v. 40. 'Saith I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?'
v. 45. 'Many of the Jews which came to Mary and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him'.
It is only by believing or trusting that the purposes of God become plain. 'I believe' makes all that He is, our present and enjoyed possession.
Now let us note that His Words –
Destroy Despair -
The grave, the cave, the stone - this was the scene to which the Saviour came with the sorrowing sisters. To them an emblem of despair, for had not Lazarus been imprisoned therein for four days. By this time death and decay had done their worst and there seemed no hope of present deliverance. Thus Martha expressed her feelings, v. 39, 'By this time he will be decaying . . .'. How could they dare open the tomb. Again the Lord Jesus reminds her that the answer to her problem was in her belief in His word, for only then would she see the wonder of what God could do, v. 40. 'He that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live'.
Finally let us observe that the Saying –
Defies Death -
The last enemy to be destroyed is death, 1 Cor. 15. 26. He who is the resurrection and the life, upon whom death had no claim, can challenge the power of the grave and with a loud voice call forth its victim in victory. 'O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ', 1 Cor. 15. 55-57.
He is the Resurrection and the Life; is He yours?