“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.” (John 11:25-26 NIV) John chapter 11 portrays Jesus as having power over death. My entire life changed when my beloved father passed away 23 years ago. Incredible grief consumed me. I remember the therapist suggesting visiting my father’s grave so I could find comfort and accept that he was gone forever. Unfortunately, that didn’t help at all.
Visiting my father’s grave only confirmed the fact that he was dead and I would never see him again. The emptiness in my heart from losing my father has taken many years to heal. Today, the Lord reminded me of John 11:25-26, “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.” I paused and reflected on this passage. Lord, help me understand what you are trying to teach me through this passage. How many times have I read this passage since I became a Christian? Like Martha, I knew that one day we would be resurrected on the last day. But what did Jesus exactly mean when He said, “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.” And then when He asked Martha to show him where Lazarus was buried. Martha responded, “By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (John 11:39 NIV) This is where I came to the realization that before the Lord Jesus came, we were all dead and buried due to our transgressions. We didn’t need someone to fix us; we needed someone to die for us and raise us, just like he did for Lazarus.
Jesus didn’t want to abandon us in the grave, where we would rot from the inside out. So what did He do? He came, died for us, and called us out from the grave. After the fall, God speaks to the Serpent (Satan), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15 NIV) With His foot planted on Satan’s head, Jesus loudly said, “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.” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Beloved, we were once dead, but now we are alive because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul said, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians. 2:4-6 NIV) So, while my father’s physical body may be dead, he is still alive in Christ. He was made alive with Christ when he accepted Jesus as his Savior. I no longer visit my father’s grave and mourn his death. Instead, I celebrate the fact that he is alive in Christ, and I will one day see him again. Lord Jesus, thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for overcoming death and rescuing me and my loved ones from the end. I was once dead in my transgressions, but because of your love and grace, I am now alive, and one day, I will return to you and live with you for all eternity. I love you, Lord Jesus
Jesus’ Resurrection Is God’s Seal of Approval on Jesus
The first theme is that Jesus’ resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus’ life, ministry, person, and divinity.
When Jesus died a criminal’s death on the hill of Golgotha outside of Jerusalem, hope died with him. His disciples and many others had come to believe in him as the Messiah. Some even believed he was the Son of God, that is, divine. Then the scourge tore into his back, merciless nails were pounded through his hands and feet, his body was jerked erect as the cross was pulled vertical and dropped into its hole in the parched earth. For six hours he hung there and finally died. His disciples took his body down and tenderly buried him.
But that day a glorious movement of the Kingdom of God was buried, too. Or so it seemed. Then Easter morning God raised him from the dead. It was as if God was attesting to the authenticity of his Son, validating his teachings, and saying in the most unmistakably graphic terms what he had said in words at Jesus’ Baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This was a strong element of early preaching in Jerusalem, which contrasted the Jews’ killing of Jesus with God’s raising him:
“God has raised this Jesus to life…. Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32, 36)
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead — whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:30-31)
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof1 of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
“[He] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4)
It is one thing for claims to be made about who Jesus was. But God set his own seal upon him at the resurrection validating those claims. After all, if God has raised him from the dead, who but a fool would try to prove that he is a mere man.
Jesus’ Resurrection Validates our Salvation
A related theme is more specific, that Jesus’ resurrection validates our own salvation. I’ve often pondered over a passage in Romans:
“He was delivered over to death for (dia) our sins and was raised to life for (dia) our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
A simplistic way to construe this is to assume that Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for our sins, while in a separate event Jesus’ resurrection took care of declaring us pardoned and blameless. The key word in this verse is the preposition dia, used in both clauses, which can mean either “because of” (retrospective) or “with a view to, to bring about” (prospective).2
But I don’t think Paul sees these as separate events, but both part of the whole, in a construction reminiscent of Hebrew synoptic parallelism or progressive parallelism that we often see in Hebrew poetry. What is sure is that the resurrection here validates our salvation and completes it. Indeed, without the resurrection, Jesus’ death would mean … only that he was dead. As Paul indicates in the strongest possible terms:
“13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)
It is because Christ has been raised from the dead that we have assurance or proof that God has completed our salvation. Because God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead, we know that his promises of forgiveness of sins are true, that we have been saved, rescued, delivered. Several times the resurrection is referred to as the basis of our confidence in salvation:
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34)
“Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21)
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14, 16)
Because he lives we have confidence that our salvation is not a pipe dream based on empty hopes, but a firm expectation based on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Jesus resurrection typifies our spiritual union with him
A third theme in the New Testament that expresses Jesus’ death and resurrection as a kind of analogy to our spiritual life. This gets a bit complex, so hang in here with me. Paul is arguing that we must stop living in sin:
“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united (sumphutos4) with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)
Here Paul sees the act of baptism as a type of Jesus’ own death and resurrection, and a vivid reminder of our union with him in both his death and resurrection.
Christ Death and burial Resurrection
Baptism Immersed in the water Brought out of the water
Believers United with him in his death Shall be united with him (in the future) in his resurrection
In Colossians we find a similar figure:
“… Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
As A.T. Robertson puts it, “Baptism is a picture of the past and of the present and a prophecy of the future, the matchless preacher of the new life in Christ.”5
Peter, too, carries on this theme of resurrection as a symbol of regeneration:
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….” (1 Peter 1:3)
In a number of passages, Paul speaks of being co-crucified with Christ and co-resurrected with Christ, beginning with the Romans 6 baptismal passage we just looked at, which continues:
“6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him…. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:6, 8, 11)
Elsewhere, Paul repeats this theme, with the same ethical imperative to live out our “new life” with integrity:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 5:20)
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
We also see Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent ascension to glory at the Father’s right hand as a type of our own spiritual life:
“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:19b-20)
“1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…. 4b But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus….” (Ephesians 2:1, 4b-6)
At Christ’s right hand we share his power and privileges in the spiritual world. Our being co-raised with Christ typifies the grace of God to us. This may be a spiritual expression, but if you have tasted of its reality, then you know something of the wonder of what Paul is expressing here