Summary: "I AM the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?" asks Jesus.
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS
The family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary of Bethany were especially loved by Jesus (John 11:3). Yet the sovereign Lord, for wise reasons of His own, did not rush to the bedside of His sick friend. It was no doubt as with the man born blind, “that the works of God might be manifest in him” (John 9:3).
Knowing in His spirit that Lazarus was now dead, Jesus explained His delay in terms of the benefit which would accrue to His disciples from what was about to happen (John 11:14-15). The Lord announced His intention to go to him now, when humanly speaking it was too late to do anything. The disciples may have doubted the wisdom of this because of the close proximity of Bethany to Jerusalem (John 11:8; John 11:18), but Thomas for one demonstrated a commitment to the Lord which professed to be willing to face death with Him if need be (John 11:16).
By the time Jesus got to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days (John 11:17). The professional mourners were in attendance at the home of Martha and Mary (John 11:19). Ever the practical hostess (Luke 10:38), Martha went out to meet Jesus (John 11:20).
Martha’s outlook oscillates between bewilderment and faith (John 11:21-22): the bereaved sister cannot decide whether to rebuke the Lord for not being there sooner, or to express relief that at least He is here now. Surely Jesus could have cured His friend before it came to this? Yet even now, is there not something He might yet do?
The conversation turns to resurrection (John 11:23-24). Lazarus is going to rise again on the last day, but not just on the last day. In the fifth significant “I am” saying of John’s Gospel, Jesus pronounces Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26).
For the Christian “resurrection” is not restricted to the future: even our regeneration is viewed in terms of resurrection (John 5:24-25). Though we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), Jesus gives us life in all its abundance: a fullness of life just now, and eternal life beginning from now (John 10:10). When we begin to believe we have already commenced our “eternal” life.
This is not to deny the resurrection of the last day (John 11:24): in fact our present victorious life is explained in terms of that event (John 5:28-29). The righteous do die, but they have a hope which reaches beyond death. Neither should we mourn as the world mourns, who do not share in that hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Martha’s creed was perhaps not yet ready to embrace all the possibilities of a present resurrection. She did, however, acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the anointed one); the Son of God that was to come into the world (John 11:27). Martha went to get Mary whom she said Jesus was calling (John 11:28).
Hearing of His call Mary ran to Jesus, prostrated herself at His feet, and wept in bewilderment at what had taken place (John 11:29; John 11:32). Jesus became vexed in His spirit, a champion fired up for the fight to the death against death’s hold upon mankind (John 11:33). It is as if the Passion had already begun.