by Jacob Roberts
In the 11thchapter of John, the book’s narrative undergoes a change of direction. Up to this point, Jesus had used Jewish custom as a vehicle for self-revelation. We saw this with his first four I AM statements, all of which were connected to major Jewish holidays. However, starting in the 11thchapter, Jesus begins to reveal his identity in increasingly complex ways. This is particularly true of His next I AM statement—I AM the resurrection and the life—which demonstrates his mastery over both physical and spiritual death.
At the beginning of the chapter, we are told that one of Jesus’ close friends, Lazarus, was ill. Given the time of death indicated in verse 17, it is safe to assume that Lazarus had already been dead a day or two by the time that this news reached Jesus. When Jesus arrives in Lazarus’ home town of Bethany, He tells Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Thinking that Jesus was referring to the resurrection of the dead during the final judgment, she replies, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). To which Jesus responds, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Now, look carefully at Jesus’ I AM statement. He does not say that he bestowsor provideslife and resurrection. No. Jesus says I AM life and resurrection. Thus, both spiritual and physical life cannot be separated from Him but are, instead, aspects of what it means to live in relationship with Him. In other words, to abide in Jesus is to know life and resurrection (more on this in the coming weeks).
So, if Jesus is the resurrection and the life, what does that make us? To put it bluntly, we are dead without Him. I know that none of you who are reading this article are physically dead like Lazarus, but Jesus uses the resurrection of Lazarus to point out the more important reality of spiritual death and, moreover, His power over such death.
Paul speaks directly to this spiritual resurrection in his letter to the church at Colossae:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15)
In these few verses, Paul brings together two very important ideas. First, he reminds the church that they were once spiritually dead but that through Christ they have now been made alive, just like we see in Jesus I AM statement in John 11. Paul then pairs this truth with a second, namely that through the life found in Christ, “the rulers and authorities” of this world have been “disarmed.” Thus, when we are made alive in Christ, we are no longer in bondage to sin.
Paul pairs these two ideas together because we often forget that to live in Christ means that we have life NOW. We do not have to wait until the end of human history or for the resurrection at the judgment to enjoy the power of life in Christ. Yet we often act as if we are still dead in our sins, that we do not have resurrection and life. We say things like, “I will never be able to overcome this sin,” or “this is just who I am and I will never change.” However, as demonstrated by the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus is all about bringing dead things to life, taking things that are not and making them things that are.
This passage begs several questions. Do we actually “know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection”? (Philippians 3:10) If so, are we living in the truth that we are now spiritually alive or do we act as if we are still dead in our sins? Do we look to other experiences and people to offer us life, or do we turn to Christ? As you think over these questions this week, remember the truth that those who have trusted Christ have been made “alive together with him” (Colossians 2:13)