Question: "What did Jesus mean when He said, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life' (John 11:25)?"
Answer: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25) is the fifth of the seven ”I am” statements of Jesus. Lazarus was dead. Earlier, Jesus had heard that His good friend was sick, but instead of going to visit Lazarus, Jesus “stayed where he was for two more days” (John 11:6). He explained to His puzzled disciples that the sickness was “for God’s glory, that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v. 4). After Lazarus died, Jesus began a journey to Bethany, Lazarus’s home. Significantly, when Jesus informed His disciples that Lazarus was dead, He simply said His friend was “asleep, but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11).
Outside Bethany, Lazarus’s sister Martha went out to meet Jesus. “If you had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died.” Such was her faith in Jesus’ power to heal. Jesus replied by assuring Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha responded again in faith: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” At this point, Jesus makes His fifth “I Am” statement in John’s gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and He follows it with a call to faith: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:21-24).
When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, it is impossible for death to defeat them (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).
The grieving Martha wished that Jesus had arrived earlier so He could have healed her brother. And when Jesus spoke of resurrection, Martha assumed He was speaking of “the resurrection at the last day.” In both statements, Martha reveals that she considered Time an insurmountable obstacle. In effect, Martha was saying, “It’s too late to help Lazarus (the time is past), so now we must wait (allow more time).”
Jesus shows that neither Death nor time is an obstacle to Him. Outside the tomb, “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43). It’s one thing to claim to be the resurrection and the life, but Jesus proved it by raising Lazarus, who was four days dead. Truly, with Christ, death is but “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Death has no dominion over Him who is Life itself, nor does death have dominion over those who are in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally.
Jesus’ statement that He is the resurrection and the life provides a godly perspective on several spiritual matters. Martha believed that the resurrection is an event; Jesus showed her (and us) that the resurrection is a Person. Martha’s knowledge of eternal life was an abstract idea; Jesus proved that knowledge of eternal life is a personal relationship. Martha thought victory over death was a future expectation; Jesus corrects her, showing that victory is a present reality.
After presenting Himself as the resurrection and the life, Jesus asks Martha an all-important question: “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). May Martha’s answer be ours as well: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world” (verse 27).