"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:" John 11:25
The story of the raising of Lazarus is among the most well-known narratives recorded in the Bible. Although Lazarus’ resurrection is a central point in this story, it is not the singular focus. In fact, the raising of Lazarus is secondary to the main message of the passage. John’s stated purpose in writing his gospel was to show that Jesus was God. Consequently, Lazarus’ death was the means by which God would bring glory to His Son and show the world who he really was. The chapter opens with the statement that Lazarus was sick and that his sisters had sent word of his condition to Jesus. Notice Jesus’ response, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” (v. 4).
While we often focus on the crisis, Jesus sees this as an opportunity to reveal the glory of the Father. His intentional delay in coming to Bethany was designed to bring the disciples to a new dimension of faith (v. 15). After Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus arrives and is met first by Martha and then by Mary, who both make the same accusation, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died (vv. 21, 32 NIV). Martha, however, interjects a seed of hope, saying that she believes that God will do whatever Jesus asks of him. When Jesus assures her that her brother will live again, Martha assumes that he is speaking of the end times. Jesus’ response draws us to the main point of John’s narrative.
Martha was looking for a specific time for her brother's resurrection. However, Jesus declares that the resurrection is not an event but rather, a quality of life that is only experienced in him. He said that he is both the resurrection and the life (v, 25, emphasis mine). As God, Christ is life. It is not a quality he possesses; it is his essential nature. When God breathed into Adam, he breathed into him the breath of life. Scripture affirms that Jesus is the source of life (c.f. John 1:4; 1 John 5:11-12; John 3:16). Through faith in him, all who believe have eternal life. Jesus wanted Martha to know that Lazarus' death was not the end, but the beginning of a greater revelation of who Jesus is.
Martha is often characterized as being less spiritual than Mary. While Mary sat at Jesus' feet, Martha was preoccupied with the details of being a hostess (John 10”38-42). Yet, Jesus chose to reveal this deepest revelation of himself to Martha. With her practical outlook. Martha assumed that now that Lazarus was dead, her only hope of seeing him was in the general resurrection. Martha had two false assumptions. First, she thought that Jesus had to be physically present to keep her brother alive. Second, she assumed that since Lazarus was dead, there was nothing that Jesus could do now.
Jesus quickly showed her that her practical mindset was blinding her to spiritual truth. Martha thought she had to wait until the future resurrection before she could see her brother again. Jesus told her that he was the living embodiment of her future hope. Notice that Jesus did not say, “I am able to raise Lazarus”, but he said that He was the resurrection. Similarly, he says to us today that he is the living realization of our hope. The Resurrection is not an event, it is a person. The living Christ in me is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Later, he would say to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God? (v. 40). This statement follows his astonishing revelation; the seventh of the seven “I am” statements that revealed the truth of Jesus’s identity: that he was indeed God in the flesh, the giver and sustainer of life.
The vicissitudes of life can sometimes cause us to lose hope. During these times of uncertainty, fear, and unrest, it is important for believers to keep our focus on Christ. We all have a Lazarus that we cast into Jesus’s face. If not our words, our attitudes echo those of Martha and Mary, "If you had been here, things would be different." Jesus wants to assure us that he is here, and things are different. In the presence of life, death has no power. When Jesus spoke, death had to release its hold on Lazarus. It does not matter how long you have been in a situation, believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Nothing is beyond his power. Do not allow your circumstances to cause you to stop believing in the power of the
resurrection. Stop waiting for a future event, believe that Jesus is, right now, everything that you are hoping or waiting for.