John 11:17-37: I Am the Resurrection and the Life
November 15, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Ezekiel 38-39, Job 14, John 11:17-37, 1 John 3:19-24
No doubt, one of the hardest things to believe and accept is that we rise again from the dead. After all, who has been through death and come back again to tell us? As the atheist Bertrand Russell famously said when he was asked what he believed would happen to him after he died: “When I die, I believe I rot.” We have seen dead bodies. We are aware of the process of decay. Surely, it is simplest to believe the (perhaps unpalatable) fact that when we die we rot? But what if someone came back from the grave?
And so we come to the extraordinary story of Lazarus. A man who died, was called back to life again by Jesus, only to die again before facing the coming final resurrection. In this context, Jesus first declares the beautiful words so often spoken at funerals: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (11:25).
Jesus does not say merely that he can raise people from the dead. Nor just that he has the power to perform a resurrection. He himself is the resurrection and is the life. The essential power of life—new life, bodily resurrection, eternal life—is all invested in, found in, centered in, Christ himself.
We will see this resurrection power at work soon enough in this story, but in the section we are looking at this morning, we meet first the very real pain and trauma of death. The shortest verse in the Bible summarizes it well: “Jesus wept” (11:35). If death so moved Jesus, the Jesus who was about to raise Lazarus again from the dead, it is appropriate for the followers of Jesus to mourn at the grave. Death is a wrong; it is not how things should be.
Humans find it very hard to believe that they will die—despite all the evidence pointing in that direction—because we humans were not originally made for death. Death therefore is something to weep about, to mourn over. But, as the Bible tells us, though we mourn, we do not mourn as the pagans, but rather we mourn with hope: for Jesus is the resurrection and the life. This truth changes everything. Now we have something to live for because what we are doing has a purpose beyond this life. If we have hope only for this life, we are to be more pitied than all men.
Christianity is not a great moral system if the resurrection it preaches is not true. If there is no resurrection, it would make far more sense to be a stoic or an epicurean. We should either find a way to put up with the pains of this world through stoical discipline, and so succeed and win the garlands of fame and wealth, or we should give ourselves unabashedly to epicurean pleasure, and so experience all the sensual delights that this world can offer—get all we can, while we can, for as long as we can.
But there is no point living as a Christian if the Christian hope dies with the Christian, for the Christian moral code is built upon one great claim: the resurrection of Christ. It is given to man once to die and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We live, not for this world, but for the next—and in living for the next world we are able to do more, enjoy more, and see more in this world as well.
Being heavenly minded does not make you of no earthly good; it is being earthly minded that makes you of no earthly good. The earthly minded will not invest in their children, in the future of society, in anything that goes beyond their immediate experience in the here and now. And by so doing they fail to experience what this world was truly designed to give them: joy in the maker of this world and the author of life eternal.
But the man or woman with eyes set on Christ, and a gaze on the eternal finishing line, runs and does not grow weary; hoping in the Lord, their strength is renewed and they soar up on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."