We may think of resurrection as merely raising our bodies from the dead, returning those chemicals and particles that once made up our body to formulate a new body. Or, like Martha, we might think of the resurrection as a great moment in future history when God will raise the dead from their graves. We may fall into the trap of wrapping ourselves around the axle of end-time events and sequences and even the date for the end of the world. But Jesus’ answer to His grieving loved one was none of these. And His answer to us in our grief, of whatever kind, is no different than His answer to Martha. His answer immediately breaks through our darkness by revealing Himself as the resurrection and the life.
You may remember those times as a child when your only comfort in trouble was your mother’s arms and words. I remember when our own children were babies. If the doctor had to perform a painful procedure on them, he would always be sure to have my wife press our little baby close to her bosom and speak her tender, comforting words. I remember a time the doctor had to snip the skin under my infant son’s tongue without anesthesia. As soon as the cut was made, my wife pressed her baby son’s face into her bosom and the voice that my son loved most spoke tenderly to him. Though my son was in pain, he found comfort at his mother’s breast and by his mother's voice. It was her touch and voice alone that comforted him.
Now, these words of Jesus are that medicine to our souls (Isa. 66:13). Our comfort is found in them because with them He presses our greatest need into His own bosom. We need Him! We are dead in sins (Eph. 2:4). “I am the resurrection and the life.” Our trials overwhelm us (2 Cor. 1:9-10; 4:7-12). “I am the resurrection and the life.” The world mocks the weakness of Gospel preaching and the weakness of the preacher (2 Cor. 13:4). “I am the resurrection and the life.” The body is dead because of sin (Rom. 8:10). “I am the resurrection and the life.” We have no spiritual light (Isa. 50:11; John 1:4; 8:12). “I am the resurrection and the life.” Faith shrinks through coldness of heart (Isa. 45:22; John 3:14-15). “I am the resurrection and the life.” No matter what the malady, no matter how great the grief, no matter how great the enemy, no matter how hopeless our case, no matter how weak our hearts and minds and bodies, no matter how strong the sin, to every trouble of soul the words from the God of all comfort come streaming from the river that flows from His throne to point us to Christ alone (Rev. 22:1), “I am the resurrection and the life.”
We may think, “I seem so dead; I need life.” Or, “I don’t know if God will accept me because I am so sinful, so full of unbelief; I need assurance.” Or, “I am confused about so many doctrines; I need to understand the truth.” Or, “I am so ignorant; I need wisdom.” Or, “I am so sinful, in myself; I need cleansing from sin, holiness and righteousness.” To these and so many other things that we lack, the Lord Jesus answers with Himself. “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.” “Of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (holiness) and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Our lack becomes the need for which the Spirit of God gives us faith to fill ourselves from Christ, in fellowship and communion with Him in all that He is to our souls (John 6:56). Every trouble (2 Cor. 1:9), our warfare with sin (Rom. 7:24-25; Gal. 5:17), even the failure of life itself (2 Cor. 4:7-12), all serve to lift up and magnify the Lord Jesus Christ to the eyes of our God-given faith in His person, in His relations to us, and in His saving work for us. He is the brightness of God's glory (Heb. 1:3). In Him dwelleth the fulness of all that God is (Col. 2:9-10). In the Gospel, by faith, we find that all that God is, He is to us in Christ, and we are complete in Him.
The apostle Paul found this to be his own experience, as all of Christ’s people learn in their own trials. “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). He delivered us from so great a death. He is now delivering us from death. And we trust Him and are confident that He will yet deliver us.
Jesus' answer to Martha revealed Himself in His person and saving work as the resurrection from death to life in Him. Death is the result of sin. Therefore, to be the resurrection and life to us, He must take our sins away. And this He did in His own person. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). (Notice the “anaphoric” use of the successive personal pronouns in this verse. This is a grammatical tool used for emphasis. There is a triple emphasis on Christ: who, His, own self!)
With Jesus’ answer to Martha now in our heart, we change the form of our question from “What is life?” to “Who is life?” We no longer ask, “When is the end of the world,” but “Who is coming?” No longer, “When is the resurrection?” but “Who is the resurrection?” No longer with Pilate, “What is truth?” but “Who is truth?” We no longer seek to find righteousness in ourselves but look for it in our Savior alone (Ps. 68:20; Isa. 45:22). We no longer seek how we can be acceptable to God in ourselves, but cry with Paul to “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness” (Php. 3:9; Jer. 23:5-6)! “In whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily, and ye are complete in Him” (Col. 2:9-10).
Knowing that Christ is our life (Col. 3:4), that He is our Captain and Victor over sin and death, we cannot fail because our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). “Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof…” (Ps. 46:2-3), we will not fear. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
Moses, speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps. 90:1-2). As long as God has had an elect people, we have belonged to Christ and been holy and blameless in Him (Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:4). As long as God’s Son was His chosen One, the Lord’s Christ, He has been our Savior, King, High Priest and Prophet (Ps. 89:19). As long as He has been our Husband, we have been His Church. As long as Christ has loved His Bride, she has been one with Him. As long as He loved her, He gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 13:8). As long as He has been our Redeemer, we have been His ransomed redeemed (1 Pet. 1:18-20; Acts 20:28). As long as He has been our Surety, He stood up for us, interposed Himself for us, and answered all charges against us to our Judge (Gen. 43:9; 44:32-34; Heb. 7:22; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 8:34). We know that we were eternally one with Christ for several reasons. First, because Jesus Christ was set up from everlasting as the Wisdom of God and His delight was then with His people, His inheritance (Prov. 8:22-31; Deut. 32:9; Eph. 1:18). And we know this because He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). If He was slain, He must have offered Himself. If He offered Himself, He must have been our High Priest by God's oath (Heb. 7; Ps. 110). If He gave Himself for us, He must have bore our sins in His own body on the tree in God’s eternal counsels and purpose. If He so gave Himself for us, He must have loved us with a love of delight from eternity and before our conversion. If His blood is the blood of the everlasting covenant, then He is our everlasting covenant Husband and we are His Bride; He our eternal representative Head, we His seed; He our eternal Surety, we those for whom He stood and pleaded Himself; He our eternal Redeemer, we His eternally redeemed; He Jehovah our salvation, we His people whom He saved from our sins (Isa. 12:1-3; Matt. 1:21). All that He is to us, He has been from eternity and will be for everlasting ages (Eph. 1:4-6; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:1-2). If He is the same yesterday, today and forever, if He is eternal and cannot change, if He is the Alpha and Omega, then all that He is to God and all that He loved and hated, all that He is to His people, all that He purposed to do, He was and is and loved and hated and purposed and did from eternity.
Oh, dear trembling, faltering, frail believer, grieving over your sin and shame and your sense of deadness in yourself, look again to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5). Look to the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 3:15; Isa. 45:22; Heb. 12:2)! Look to Him bearing our sins on that cursed tree. Look to Him rising triumphant over sin and death. Look to Him who is in Himself the resurrection and the life! And so looking, find your all in Him. If resurrection is life from the dead, if the dead contribute nothing and the One who is the resurrection and the life performs and gives all that He requires, and if He has overcome sin and death in His own self, then your lack is but the evidence of your need and the occasion of your fellowship in His body and blood by faith (John 6:54,56). If you believe Him, if you find and take from Him, by faith in His Gospel (Isa. 55:1-3; Rev. 22:17), to be the One who glorified God (Heb. 1:3), the One who provided all that God requires of you, the One in whom is found all of your soul's need, then you have fellowship with the Son of God. He is in you by His Spirit, and you are in Him by eternal union; you partake of Him by faith (John 17:21-23). Take His body broken for you. Eat Him by faith. Take His blood shed for you. Drink Him by faith. He is the resurrection and the life. In doing so, you have communion with Him and He with you. “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isa. 26:19; Rom. 6:10-11; 7:4; Gal. 2:20).