Jesus’ friend Lazarus had just died, and now Jesus is speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha. And there are some inescapable lessons to learn from this situation, and from Jesus’ response to it.
First, death is a reality. Death is the end of every person (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Death is not unexpected. The manner of it may be unknown, the timing of it may come as a surprise, but the fact of it is not. The fact is that death is eventually coming for us all, unless Jesus Christ returns before that time.
Yet in Jesus’ response we also learn this: Jesus is an even more foundational reality than death. Jesus existed before death ever entered the world, He conquered death through His own death and resurrection, and He will outlive, outlast death itself… by such a long stretch that in eternity death will be only a speck in the rear-view mirror.
At first glance, in John 11:21-27, the scene could be from almost any Christian funeral we might have attended ourselves. Verse 23 sounds very much like the kind of accurate, well-worn statement we might fall back on when we are trying to comfort a loved one and are not sure what else to say: “Your brother will rise again.”
And in verse 24 Martha replies with a good, faithful, orthodox confirmation that even in the face of death she has not lost her faith: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
But then verse 25 is where things suddenly get very unusual. Jesus moves Martha from a very general, correct affirmation of life-after-death, to the very specific and outrageous claim: “I AM the Resurrection, and the Life!”
It is as if death ran from Jesus like darkness flees from the presence of the sun. And Jesus insists that those believers in Christ like Lazarus who have already died with faith in Christ will yet live (John 11:25), and those who are living (speaking to Martha, and now to you today!) and believe in Jesus will never die (John 11:26). Verse 26 is actually a double negative in the original language: whoever is living and believes on me will never, never die.
Knowing Jesus is an even greater pursuit than avoiding death. In Jesus is life: essentially (because there is no life outside of Him), originally (because all life comes from Him), and terminally (because He is the end / object of life). Eternal life is knowing Jesus. Do you know Him? Are you pursuing Him?