Jesus was very close to the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus who lived as siblings in the village of Bethany – about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem.

John, in chapter 11 of his Gospel, tells the amazing story of the illness and death of Lazarus. Jesus was alerted to his illness but chose to remain in Galilee – Jesus telling his disciples that

“This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v4).

But, Lazarus DID die…didn’t he??

This is the story of Jesus travelling to Bethany with His disciples, meeting with Martha, and then Mary, going to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried for 4 days and crying out

                “Lazarus, come out” (v43)

…which caused Lazarus to walk out of the tomb – alive!

As well as reading this yourself in the Bible you can watch it at the following website:

Visual Gospel of John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5jYTK7QZO4&list=PLCpgggEg1JgogOpSQ795yBb5486QRlVFH&index=12&t=0s  from 0:00 – 8:00

The central, pivotal, point in the account is when Martha expresses her firm belief that if Jesus had been there in time then He would have healed Lazarus who would therefore not now be dead. It is now that Jesus makes the incredible claim:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v 25-26)

It is THIS claim that we shall be looking at now. Let us remember that His use of “I AM” is a claim to divinity in itself. In essence the claim that Jesus is making and asking Martha (and, therefore, all of us) to believe is this:

“I, God made flesh and living amongst you, am the One who raises all those who die back to life. I am the one who gives life in the first place and the One who gives life to you forevermore – if you believe in me and put your trust in me – do you believe this?”

So…DID Lazarus die? Well…physically, yes. His mortal body ceased to function – but because of His faith in Jesus, his spirit or soul or whatever you might want to call it, lived on – he did not die. And Jesus showed this by resurrecting his physical body – giving Lazarus his whole life on earth back again – to the absolute amazement of all who witnessed it (how amazing that after such a great miracle as raising the dead that some went to the priests who then sought to kill Jesus!- v 45-57).

So, let us break this statement of Jesus down to discover far more of what He meant when He said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v 25-26)

John, the apostle who wrote these words of Jesus down, believed it. Many years later he wrote in his first letter (epistle) chapter 5 and verses 11-12:

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life”

Do YOU believe this?

[NB: note in the context too WHO He was speaking to. In so many of His other “I AM” declarations Jesus is speaking to the “crowd”. Here, though, He is speaking to His intimates – to those who were following Him. He is giving them the hope and certainty that following Him would work out OK for them – would give them everything that they were hoping for – that through Him they would never “die” but would live forever in Glory – with Him. They were going to suffer – now – they were going to go through tough times – now – but through Him all will be OK]


The Greek word for “life” – “zoe” is used 36 times in the Gospel of John – more times than in the rest of the Gospels put together. Such a little word – yet such a big concept!

For the Christian life is far more than a mere physical condition but is…a person! And that person is Jesus. We say that we “come alive” when something moves us, inspires us or excites us. Jesus is that life.

“Life” can sometimes be so dull, so mundane, a mere existence without any joy or any hope – something that many people just endure and seek to end as soon as possible. The life that Jesus offers – life in and through Him – is abundant life (John 10: 10) – a life of purpose, and fulfilment, and hope – a life that begins now and is promised to last through eternity.

To a faithful Jew, like Martha, resurrection was a future hope – a statement of faith. Jesus did not say “there WILL be a resurrection” but that “I AM the resurrection”. He moved it from out of a statement of faith and into a person – Himself. Trust in Him and you WILL be resurrected. Jesus commanded Lazarus to come back to life. It is Jesus’ command that resurrects us to eternal life when we die. He IS the resurrection.

This is PROFOUNDLY significant! To the Jews of the “Old Covenant” resurrection was part of what could be called, a “bargain” – “if we live an obedient life to the Law, then we have kept to our side of the bargain and so You (God) must keep to Your side and resurrect us to eternal life”. What Jesus did was to base the “resurrection and the life” not on an agreement but on a RELATIONSHIP – a relationship with Him. If we are in relationship with Him then He becomes the resurrection and the life for us. Does this matter? Of course it does! If we base our hope on our obedience then we have no hope at all – for none of us is perfect, none of us can do what is right all the time – and how much of the Law do you have to fail in before you have failed too much for eternal life? When eternal life is based on a balance sheet of “right things done” against “wrong things done” then we are of all people to be pitied! Jesus helps us out so much here –we just have to truly believe in Him and have a true relationship with Him. Job done!

Resurrection is what leads to life. We were “dead” in our sins and Jesus, who died for our sins, has raised us to everlasting and abundant life. When the spirit leaves the body, the body is dead, but the spirit is lifted up to life everlasting – we are resurrected to full and abundant and eternal life! And this life shall not be mere existence, it shall be SUCH life!


Again we see that life – eternal life – is not a “statement of faith” or something that we attain through our own efforts of living in a certain way – following laid-down rules of “do this and you will live”. Our certainty of eternal life comes, rather, through a person – Jesus – and our relationship with that person – through “belief” in Him and all that means about knowing Him, loving Him, following Him and living for Him. All these things come later – life comes simply through “believing” in Him.

Yes, physically, we will all die (unless the LORD come again while we still live) – Hebrews 9: 27 tells us this. Death is a final catastrophe for the one who has not believed in Jesus. But, for the one who has put their faith in Him death is described by Jesus as “sleep” (John 11: 11) from which we shall awake in the loving arms of our Father in Heaven where we will live forever.

The apostle Paul called death the “last enemy “(1 Corinthians 15: 26) – but death is no longer our enemy for he (death) has been conquered by the One who is the “resurrection and the life”. Death is now only the enemy of the one who does not believe in Jesus – in whom life is personified. For us who do believe we are able to, like Paul, cry out:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15: 54-55)


Death, for the believer, is not the end, it is just the beginning of the greatest adventure besides which all the great adventures of this world pale into insignificance. C S Lewis, talking of the 4 children of the Narnia stories who have now died and gone to heaven, puts it like this (in a concluding passage of ”The Last Battle” that has moved me since I was a child):

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them….

“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.

And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.


The culmination of this incredible story comes when Jesus cries out in a loud voice:

‘Lazarus, come out!’ (John 11: 43)

As my dear friend Jim laughingly pointed out to me: “thank goodness He said ‘Lazarus’ – otherwise EVERYONE would have come out of the tombs!”.

This was the act that proved Jesus’ words – that He had power over death and could bring the dead back to life – PROOF that He was the “Resurrection and the Life”.

When Jesus resurrected Lazarus He said to those watching:

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (v 44)

Spiritual death speaks of sin and unbelief. But, when we receive the life that Jesus offers us then those old “clothes” of death are taken off us and replaced with a robe of righteousness (see Revelation 19: 6-8). There will be no “grave clothes” for the one who believes in Jesus as the “resurrection and the life”.

So, imagine now, and maybe even write down on little strips of paper or cloth, all the things that are the “grave clothes” of spiritual death. Write them down and then….throw them away! In their place, on a “robe of righteousness” (which may be a picture or just a piece of paper) write down all those things that come with eternal life – and keep this, and cherish this as the hope that is to come.

But remember- we don’t have to wait till we get to heaven to live the new life….iT BEGINS NOW!

Let us no longer have a “Martha mentality” where we have a statement of faith that “one day” we shall be resurrected from the dead and live forever in Heaven. Rather, let us have a “Jesus mentality” – He is the resurrection and the life…RIGHT NOW! When we look at Him, when we follow Him, when we live with Him, we have resurrection and life…RIGHT NOW!

Jesus said (cited in John 10: 10)

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”



There is an old saying that “it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know that counts”.

It is said that in the Foreign Office – particularly the diplomatic service – appointment is “jobs for the boys” – that “cousin George is a good egg and would do well in this role” outweighed the degrees that an unknown applicant was able to wield.

 Jesus’ declaration to Mary was astounding to the Jews. It was SUCH a claim!  Good Jews, like Martha, knew very well that there would be a resurrection of the dead. But, the Jews believed, and still believe to this day, that the destination of the soul after resurrection was determined by obedience to the Law. Jesus profoundly changed this view. He declared that resurrection to eternal life was not based on living by the Law but on relationship with Him.

We can NEVER be good enough to fulfil every word of the Law all the time. What a privilege it is to know that it is not what we do but who we know that gives us eternal life.

Jesus IS the Resurrection and the Life!



Taken from the Jewish site “Chabad.org”:

What is death? This is best answered with another question: What is life?

Life is the integration of soul and body—the self and its physical vehicle—into a single entity. Death is the dissolution of body and soul into two separate entities—a separation of the spiritual self from that which was once a vehicle to that self.

The self is the soul, not the body. The body will inevitably fail and disintegrate; the soul is eternal and indestructible. The stretch of physical time in which the soul resides within and acts through the body is just one phase—though a most important phase—of its existence, an existence which precedes physical life and extends beyond it. The soul of the person we knew and loved as a physical being on this earth continues to exist after his or her death, continues to be aware of that which transpires in our lives, and continues to be the recipient of our love and the positive actions we do on his or her behalf.

But also for the body, death is not the end. A fundamental principle of the Jewish faith is the belief in techiat ha-meitim, (“resurrection of the dead”)–that in the future, divinely-perfect “World to Come,” the soul will be restored to a rebuilt and revitalized body, sothat body and soul, once again fused together as a living being, should enjoy the fruits of what they accomplished together in toils and tribulations of our present-day existence.

So while the soul is the higher, more spiritual incarnation of the self, the body, too, must be accorded the ultimate respect and sanctity, as befits the vessel of the soul.

This understanding of death underlies the Jewish approach to death and mourning. All the laws, customs, beliefs and mystical motifs related to death—its prequel and sequel, the treatment of the deceased, the approach to mourning, and the ways in which the departed is memorialized—are driven by a series of dichotomies. To wit:

  • We do everything in our power to sustain life and avoid death; for each and every moment of life is sacred, as it houses the soul’s presence in our world, and constitutes an integral part of its divinely-ordained mission in life. On the other hand, the moment of death is accepted as the will of the True Judge, who alone knows when the soul’s mission in the physical world has been fulfilled.
  • We mourn the tragic eclipse of the deceased from the realm of our lives —while continuing to affirm the continuing trajectory of his/her own life.
  • We show profound respect for the body, the necessary and indispensable vehicle that enables all the souls’ accomplishments during life —while never allowing ourselves to imagine that the body we take leave of is actually the person we mourn.
  • We seek to create long-lasting memorials to the deceased —yet engage in practices that express the belief that the deceased is truly among us.

This seems VERY much like the Christian view….and this should NOT surprise us as Martha – a good Jewish woman – says the same in John 11: 24). What IS different, once Jesus comes, is that this resurrection and life is TOTALLY AND SOLELY through Him – not through living by the Law