The Resurrection and the Life

John 11  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 4
Listen from:
(John 11.)
The Lord had been now rejected, both in His words and His works. In chap. viii. He convicts by His word. “Before Abraham was, I am.” There was in that the full manifestation of who He was; but they rejected it. In chap. 9., He shows His works; but this testimony is also rejected. And then He shows how all is in grace, and in chap. 10. speaks of gathering His sheep. When He said “I and my Father are one,” they took up stones again to stone Him; and then He goes again beyond Jordan, In chap. 11, in connection with the raising of Lazarus, He is spoken of as the Son of God; afterward, in chap. 12, as Son of David and Son of man.
What is here specially brought out is, Christ's exercising power—life-giving power. Not so much His holiness or His love; though they were there as perfect as ever, but not what He was specially manifesting. He has come where death was; and He was going to raise out of it, first, the soul and then the body. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” This brings out something of the character of Martha. Martha loved the Lord, and the Lord loved Martha. She received him into her house. He made His home there, as it were. There was confidence in His kindness, and that kind of care and interest between them, that directly Lazarus was sick, they sent to tell Win, taking it for granted, He would come, because of the intimacy they had. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” They were a believing family; and we find that, when people are believers, there are different characters. We see here what Christ delighted in—what fruit of the Spirit was acceptable to him. He said of Mary, “She hath chosen that good,” &c. God may make men as active as possible, like Paul or Boanerges, when He wants them; but communion is the most precious thing to Him. There is a difference between Peter and John. His heart rested with satisfaction on him who leaned on His bosom.
Christ had come into this world when moral death reigned, to bring in blessing from Himself. But here is a death which could come in and take a man out of the reach of the blessing of healing which He Himself came to give.
Death was a harbinger of judgment. No man could recover from it; no man could cure it; no man could escape from it. And they knew that it would carry on to judgment; for it brings with it the testimony of sin. God could kill and God could make alive. Nature always shrinks from death, because there is this consciousness of its being the effect of sin. Christ comes into this place of death; and the mere relieving man's misery down here, which He did, never could touch death. Man having now rejected Him, it was needful to show that, if man was a murderer, and would even put Him to death, He had a power which could deliver out of death. Death had lost its power in His presence who was come to bring in life. During all His course He had been ready to heal the sick with a word, and they expected He would do so with Lazarus. But now He would let the evil go to its fullest extent, that we might see His title to do it all away. The Lord, though He heard that he was sick, remained in the same place. When He was coming, He said, “Lazarus sleepeth.” The moment we see death coming to believers we can say, This is no judgment; “this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.” In connection with Christ, no evil can triumph; but even death can turn for the glory of God. And, mark, it was not for some vague good at a distance, but “that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.” The power of life has come into the very place of judgment. We have not to wait till we get to God, but God comes in delivering power to us who were “dead in trespasses and sins.”
Chap. 8. is the truth of God and the Son of God connected; “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” And, besides that, life came by the Son. He could have healed Lazarus and remained safe in Jerusalem: but now he does this miracle in the most public way. And He did this that all the purposes of man might be brought out. (Contrast the way in which He raised Jairus' daughter—in private.)
The foundation of the faith of God's people is in resurrection “for your sakes.” (Ver. 15.) They were to believe in Him, “the resurrection and the life.” “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The law was not truth. The law put man on his responsibility; but now man was taken up as dead already—this was truth. The law put a man on doing— “do and live.” It told him the rightness of what ought to be, but did not tell him what he really was. It answered the purpose for which it was sent; for it made the “offense to abound.” The law did not tell man what he is, nor what God is to man—love; but when I get the truth, it sets me free. While I am under a yoke, I am made to toil, toil, toil. The yoke draws me down, and I have no power under it. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” There is no deliverance in that; but if One comes in who says, You are a wretched sinner, dead in trespasses and sins; but I can deliver you by bringing in a righteousness of God—that sets me free in heart and conscience. I can stand in God's righteousness before a God of truth and love. “If ye continue in my words;” these words He addressed morally to all.
There is another thing. “The servant abideth not in the house forever, but comes in on the condition of conducting himself well in the house, and if not, to be turned out. “But the Son abideth ever.” We are made free, and may “go in and out and find pasture,” as children in the house. “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Christ is the proof of God's love—righteousness the proof of what Christ is. I have a place as a son, because of what Christ is as a Son. He came in the power of life; not dealing with man as he is, and trying to mend him; but giving life, thus treating him as dead. Martha said, “I know that he shall rise again,” &c. But Christ spoke, neither of the resurrection of believers, nor of the resurrection at the judgment. he would show her that death was nothing in His presence. “I am the resurrection and the life.” She said a true thing when she said, “He shall rise again at the last day.” But that did not touch Lazarus' case. If you have to be called up at the last day, you do not know but you may rise to be condemned then. Besides, his mere natural life would be subject to death again if he were raised up now, unless He who raised him were “the life” as well as “the resurrection.” He does not say, I am the life and the resurrection, but, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Death has come in; therefore He roust bring in resurrection first. He is the life-giving One, who has come in and destroyed the power of death. Death shall have no more dominion. Death had dominion over the first Adam; but the Second Adam gained dominion over death. And He hath quickened us together with Him, and has taken us out of that state, as having nothing whatever to do with it.
Lazarus remained over three days in the grave—thoroughly dead under the power of death. But Christ says, “I am the resurrection and the life;” not, I shall be. Therefore it is more than the mere fact that there will be a resurrection. “I am,” &c. “Though he were dead, yet shall he live.” “He that believeth on me shall never die.” This is a life nothing can touch. It is victory over sin, and over death, when they have done their worst.
The life in which the believer now lives is an entirely new thing: it is of God and from God. What Christ is I am; and by His power is an entire deliverance out of all connected with self. It makes free from sin. A man in jail is tried and put to death. There is no trial after that, no hope. So with the sinner. He is under sentence of the fire that is never quenched and the worm that never dieth—the worm the worst part. Nothing like the horror of being forever separated from God—everlasting destruction But when I believe in the Son, I am taken clean out of all this. Christ is my life as well as resurrection; and instead of there being a taint of sin, it is all holiness and love— “he shall never die. Believest thou this?” Here was present deliverance. But Martha did not understand it a bit. “Yea, Lord, I know,” &c., she said. She loved the Lord, and was going on nicely in many respects; but there was no entering into the mind of the Lord in her. Her mind was ill at ease in the company of Jesus; and if your affections do not reach after the things He has to tell you, you will find there is always an uneasiness when He does come and tell you His mind. There might not be more ignorance in Martha, and she had salvation as well as her sister; but it was understanding of His mind she lacked. She calls for Mary; Martha knew very well she would be up to the things He was talking about; but he had not said a word of Mary. The affections are not ready for Him to talk to us about Himself if we are thus cumbered. There was a link between the Lord and Mary that Martha knew nothing about.
Mary waits till she is called, though she heard He was come. We find afterward she is the one also who knew more than all the disciples what was going on; and the way in which Christ is rejected by all around, draws out her affections. She was not at the cross, and she was not at the tomb; she waits behind. Her heart, struck by the grace of God, answered rightly to all the circumstances, and she is approved and accepted of the Lord at all times. What was the secret of all this? She sat at His feet, and drank in from Him. She fed from what came out of His mouth. When I am quickened, Christ is my life. “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” Thus, I am first put among the quickened, then sympathy may be known and power exercised. Those living and believing in Him “never die.” If He finds us living when He comes, He will change us; if sleeping, He will raise us. See Martha, in Luke 10, where we see something hindered the growth of her soul; she was cumbered about much serving, and she is astonished the Lord lets her take all this trouble alone. When He was there, the service hindered her going to learn of Him—that is, the instruction. She was right in doing her duty; but the best way is to do things as well as we can, not to be careful. Care is not a virtue, though doing one's duty is right. Whatever is done should be done in service to the Lord. The Lord's heart was where Martha's was not—where Mary's was. Mary's heart was knit up in getting from Jesus what he had to give; she entered into what Christ came into the world for; and Martha knew that He wanted one to hear Him, who would hear His words, and she goes and tells Mary. She (Mary) did not serve for the Lord, but from the Lord. She felt the power of death, and so did Jesus; and when she weeps, He weeps, and His soul is drawn out in the exercise of power; to meet it, He asks, “where have they laid him?” He did not say this to Martha.
Jesus groaned in spirit. He saw the power of death over people who were not dead; they could put the gravestone, but they could only roll it away again; they could bury, but they could not raise. When He sees a spirit bowed down under a sense of this, He bows down Himself, (in grace,) entering into the shadow of it; He has sympathy with others. In Gethsemane He went through it Himself. “This is your hour and the power of darkness.”
He overcame. He did not turn Satan out a living man, but he broke the power of Satan. “Take ye away the stone.” (Ver. 39.) See poor Martha again, “Lord, by this time he stinketh.” “Did I not say, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” That is God's glory, then,—the power of life over death. “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” This grace of Christ has brought Him all the power of God to deliver out of it, for death has no title against