Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25–26
Death comes to all of us. Young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, educated and ignorant, king and commoner. But it’s not something we should fear. In fact, Jesus wants us to live boldly for Him in the face of death.
When Jesus received a message that His friend Lazarus, who lived near Jerusalem, was sick and dying, He waited a couple days and then decided to go back to Judea. His disciples reminded Him that the Jews there wanted to kill Him, but Jesus essentially told them, “Don’t worry—it’s still day. I’ve got some time left.”
When Jesus and His disciples arrived in the village of Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Martha came to meet Jesus as He approached. “Lord,” she said, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Martha was disappointed. Jesus had come too late.
Jesus sought to reassure her. “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Martha believed in the resurrection, but at the moment she saw only the immediate circumstance. She replied, in essence, Lord, I know that he will rise again at the last day—but that doesn’t help me right now.
The I AM
Jesus responded to Martha with the most profound statement He ever uttered: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).
In this fifth “I am” statement, Jesus, adding to the name “I AM” (meaning, whatever man is in need of), told Martha that He is the victor over death. Jesus was addressing Martha’s immediate situation, but He was also promising that anyone who believes in Him will rise again at the last day (see Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19).
How do we understand this in light of Jesus’ next words to Martha: “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26)? For a believer in Jesus Christ, what we commonly call death is actually sleep. Our bodies go to sleep, but our spirits rise immediately to be with the Lord. The person who lives and believes in Jesus does not die.
But Martha and Mary’s hearts were broken. Mary came out to meet Jesus and said exactly what her sister had said moments earlier: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). When Jesus saw her weeping, He groaned in His spirit and began to weep.
Why did Jesus weep? He knew that Lazarus was only sleeping—and He was about to remedy that. The Lord was grieved because of the agony that people go through over death. At Lazarus’s tomb, Jesus stood face-to-face with the horrific consequences of man’s rebellion, and He was deeply troubled over it.
Jesus, groaning again, approached the cave in which Lazarus was buried. “Take away the stone” (John 11:39), He commanded.
Do You Believe?
Martha wasn’t so sure. “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39). Martha had told Jesus that she believed in the resurrection, but her belief was not perfect. It was like that of the man who had cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Jesus prayed aloud and then cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” (11:43). Lazarus, wrapped in strips of cloth, came out of the tomb.
A lot of us aren’t sure that we’ll be able to handle death. We’ll handle it. Spurgeon said it best: “We don’t have dying grace until it’s time to die.” We need to think about death in biblical terms: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). What Jesus said to Martha He says to us: “If you live and believe in Me, you will never die. Do you believe this?”
The early Christians were successful in getting the gospel to the world. How? One answer is that they were fearless. They weren’t afraid to die. Those who have made the greatest impact for the kingdom of God are those who have said, “If they kill me, it’s no problem because I’ll go to heaven.” Let’s take the Lord at His Word: “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
May we live fearlessly for Jesus until He comes!