Yet death is not for ever. The separation of body and soul is only for a time. A few days after death had visited the family home to remove Lazarus, One stronger than death stood outside Bethany and told Martha, the sister of the deceased: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). David Brown brings out the implication of this statement: “The whole power to impart, maintain and restore life resides in Me”. And he adds, “What higher claim to supreme divinity than this grand saying can be conceived?”
As the life-restoring, divine Saviour, Christ went on: “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”. Then Jesus asked her, “Believest thou this?” Martha had no doubt about the final resurrection; she was sure that her brother would rise at the end of the world. But Jesus had specifically assured her: “Thy brother shall rise again”. In the light of all He had told her, she was no doubt intended by this statement to understand that He was, “even now”, to bring Lazarus back to life.
Martha had no doubt that Christ’s power was sufficient: “I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee”. Yet she clearly could not bring herself to go beyond the expectation of a final resurrection for her brother: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day”. But very soon the Saviour was to show her, and all who were gathered that day in their home in Bethany, that He was indeed the resurrection and the life, by bringing Lazarus back to life. Need anyone doubt that this same power is sufficient to bring out of their graves, on the last day, all who have ever lived? He Himself declared of the call He will make at His second coming: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28f). The power that will accompany His voice will be such that all who have died will come alive again, and make their way to the judgement seat. His raising again of Lazarus should be sure evidence to us that the final resurrection will take place just as He has foretold it will. And even more sure is the evidence provided by Christ’s own rising from the dead, when He showed that He had power to take His own life again.
Clearly, natural death reigns everywhere, but evidences of spiritual death likewise are everywhere to be seen: in the crime and violence, unbelief and false religion, which are so prominent throughout the world. In the face of it all, we might very easily despair of ever seeing any improvement in the situation. Yet, if we feel a tendency to despair, let us remember Him who is the resurrection and the life, whose life-giving power is unlimited. He is indeed able to give life to the spiritually dead. Just before speaking of the final resurrection, He Himself declared: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”. When He speaks into the souls of sinners, His words carry power with them. There is a spiritual resurrection. Souls come alive which till then were in a state of spiritual death – their understandings could not receive the truth; their wills were opposed to the commands of God, including the call of the gospel; and they had no love to their Creator.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you,” Christ went on, with that note of absolute certainty which accompanied His most emphatic sayings, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” Even then the hour had come, for by the voice of the Son of God in our nature, the spiritually dead had been brought to life. In Sychar, for instance, the woman whom Jesus met at the well had been drawn onwards by His words until she saw that she was a sinner. And, by a further word of self-revelation, she arose from the state of spiritual death. He told her, “I that speak unto thee am He” – the Messiah who was to come into the world to save sinners. She believed in Him, for she was at that moment made spiritually alive. She was one of those for whom He was to die. It is because He died that sinners receive spiritual life – and eternal life also. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Christ’s work of bringing sinners spiritually alive was only beginning. As He spoke, the hour was yet to come when the Holy Spirit would be poured out. When that took place on the Day of Pentecost, 3000 souls heard the voice of the Son of God, speaking through His disciples; they had a spiritual resurrection. That evening, how joyfully the followers of Christ could look back on what they had just seen of Christ as the resurrection and the life! Their sorrow had indeed been turned into joy. The sorrow of seven weeks before, when they were overwhelmed by the loss of their Master at the hands of wicked men, had been dissipated when He rose from the dead. But throughout the succeeding days they might have meditated on the evidences of spiritual death so clearly around them: the formalism of the Pharisees, the scepticism of the Sadducees, and the rejection of the Messiah which was well-nigh universal among the Jews. The disciples had no power to go out and bring sinners to life. But when Christ came by the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and showed Himself to be the resurrection and the life, sinners in their multitudes were made spiritually alive.
Today the Church is weak, while Satan and his forces are strong. He does all in His power to maintain the current situation, in which spiritual death shows itself everywhere. We live in a thoroughly godless climate. In the UK in particular, serious reference to the Most High is almost unheard of in politics and the media, yet nightly doses of filth are being broadcast to homes throughout the land. This is a professedly Christian country, yet public religion is now almost always of a multi-faith character, so that the unique authority of God is denied, although He has made it plain that He cannot share His glory with another.
Yet He who is the resurrection and the life still dwells in His Church. He allows Satan and his followers to have great power. But again and again, even in this dark day, Christ shows Himself to be the life-giving Saviour, when, by His Word and Spirit, He raises sinners from a state of spiritual death. Satan has only as much power as is allowed to him. He cannot resist effectively when Christ comes to give life to a sinner for whom He has died. Nor will Satan be able to resist effectively when Christ comes to revive His Church and to make the kingdoms of the world His own.
Let us all ask ourselves if we have Martha’s faith; do we believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world”? And let the people of God ask themselves if they have sufficient faith to believe in His boundless power, to draw sinners to Himself – no matter how far gone in sin – and to believe in His power to deal with crime and violence, unbelief and false religion, in that most fundamental way of drawing multitudes to Himself “even now”. In our unbelief – whether total or otherwise – let us go to Him to ask for grace and more grace, for He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”. His capacity to give life where it is not, and to strengthen the faith of His people, is absolutely unlimited. He is indeed the resurrection and the life – now and for evermore.