What Did Jesus Mean by ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’?

As believers in Christ, we rejoice in the gift of eternal life and resurrection that can only come from Jesus Christ. What beautiful words to hear and to understand from our precious Savior, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

View of the three crosses from the empty tomb

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:23-27).

The death and resurrection of Lazarus is a well-known account found only in the Gospel of John. When reading this account, we find that it contains the fifth “I am” proclamation from Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Though many a message has been formulated surrounding this passage of Scripture, the resurrection of Lazarus helps us to see the glorious promise and fulfillment of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of the resurrection of believers in Christ, and the promise of eternal life for those who believe in Him.

Sickness Not Ending in Death

At the beginning of John 11, we see that Jesus is sent word by the sisters of Lazarus that he is ill. However, Jesus responds in two ways to this news. Upon hearing this news, He proclaims that Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death.

Rather, it will glorify God, and the Son of God will be glorified by it (John 11:4). He is also not hasty in his departure to Lazarus, choosing to stay two days longer where He is.

This decision to remain longer essentially honored the Jewish tradition of the soul and a dead individual, as the cultural belief was that the soul hovered over the body for 72 hours before finally departing.

By the time Jesus arrives to see Lazarus, he has been dead for four days. His perceived delay is no delay at all. He is removing any doubt from the people’s reasoning that He is the One who holds the power of resurrection and life.

Upon Jesus’ arrival at Bethany, Martha goes to see Him, and in their exchange, Martha acknowledges that Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection on the last day (John 11:24).

This profession would have been based on the Old Testament understanding found in Job 19:25-27, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

However, in the words of one author, “Martha believed that the resurrection was an event. Jesus showed her (and us) that the Resurrection is a Person.”

It is in Jesus’ response to Martha that we see His proclamation, “I am the resurrection and the life”, and we see a call to faith.

He makes a distinction between Lazarus who has died and Martha who is alive by saying, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV).

The response of Martha is beautiful as she confesses her faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah who has come into the world. 

Lazarus Comes Forth

Following Jesus’ interaction with Martha followed by her sister, Mary, Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus and orders the stone to be removed.

Jesus reminds Martha again of the call to faith and the glory of God to be on display, which would ultimately culminate in his resurrection from the dead.

After obeying His instruction, Jesus prays aloud to the Father, and He cries with a loud voice for Lazarus to come forth. Lazarus indeed comes forth out of the tomb alive, and because of this, many of the Jews believe in Him while others choose to simply tell the Pharisees what had occurred.

It is sad for those who merely reported the resurrection to the Pharisees that they could not see the truth. Raising Lazarus from the dead glorified God and pointed them back to Jesus Christ as the One with power over death and the grave.

Lazarus’ resurrection demonstrated that Jesus Christ was the Source of resurrection and eternal life. As one author states, “He is the guarantor of our resurrection from the dead.”

Jesus showed the people then and He shows us now that death has no hold over Him. Resurrection and life go hand-in-hand. Without Jesus Christ, there is neither resurrection nor eternal life for the believer in Christ.

Without Jesus there at the time of Lazarus’ death, there was only an occupied grave and the stench of death. But through Christ Jesus, there was newness of life and the victorious promise of resurrection.

What Does This Mean for Us?

According to Brian Brodersen, “In the original order of things, spiritual life (which came through the sin of Adam) led ultimately to physical death. In the new order of things, spiritual life (which comes through faith in Jesus Christ) will ultimately lead to physical life without the possibility of death.”

Because of Christ and His resurrection power, we are promised resurrection from the dead and given eternal life through faith in Him. This promise of eternal life and resurrection with Christ Jesus allows us not to fear death. 1 Corinthians 15:53-57 says,

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

As believers in Christ, we rejoice in the gift of eternal life and resurrection that can only come from Jesus Christ. What beautiful words to hear and to understand from our precious Savior, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

For further reading:

What Is the Significance of ‘Jesus Wept’ in the Face of Death?

What Are All of the ‘I AM’ Statements of Jesus?

What Can We Learn from Mary and Martha in the Bible?

Is ‘Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow’ in the Bible?

What Is More Important, the Death of Christ or His Resurrection?

Can Christians be Scared to Die?

Why Is it Important to Have an Eternal Mindset?

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C.com authorDawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram