Continuing John 11 and the raising of Lazarus. In our previous entry, Jesus had heard about Lazarus’ illness but delayed going. The disciples assumed it was from fear of the Jewish leaders. But after a few days, Jesus essentially said, “let’s go.”
John records, “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”” (John 11:17–27, NASB95)
This is one of those times when I wish we could hear and see how words were spoken. Martha’s greeting feels like an accusation but a slight change of expression, and it becomes an ardent wish. In Martha’s ears, based on her reactions, Jesus’ response of “your brother will rise again,” must have sounded consoling. That is how Martha heard it, but could Jesus’ tone been that of an immediate promise?
Up to this point, the conversation seems like many that are spoken in the whirlwind between death and interment. “I wish you would have been here.” “She is in a better place.” “I know you’ll see them again someday.” But there is a divide between the Jewish mind and the Greek mind concerning death and the afterlife.
Much of our present-day language and thoughts about life after death, especially in the western world, are influenced more by the Greek Philosophers than a Biblical view. The Greek’s afterlife tended towards a spiritual existence filled with our family and friends. The Jews thought of a complete person resurrection, spirit, soul and body, that focused on being with God and living in His kingdom.
Many mysteries remain. All the questions about the when, where, and what life following death will be like cannot be answered entirely. John writes in his first letter, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2, NASB95) Even John wasn’t sure about the answer. But John was sure about one essential thing.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Resurrection and life are in Jesus. A powerful declaration that also trips some folks up. After all, the simple observation that Christians do die like everyone else seems to make Jesus’ claim false.
In this life, right now, everyone who believes in Jesus will live even if they die. Eternal life, life after death. That part makes sense. The next phrase, “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” is a problem. The answer is that it references what comes after life. At the end of the age, believers will be raised to eternal life. And according to Revelation 21:8 (and others), non-believers will experience the “second death.”
Following Jesus’ “I am” declaration and promise, He asked Martha a straightforward question – “Do you believe this?” She replied, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” Jesus asks the question to each one of us: I am the resurrection and the life – Do you believe this?