Having waited for several days after he’d heard of Lazarus’ sickness, Jesus made his way to Bethany. When he and the disciples reached the home of Martha and Mary, their brother Lazarus had already died. The detail that Lazarus’ body had been in the tomb for four days is important in that it establishes the indisputable fact of his death. Jesus had plans for Lazarus that were far greater than healing. The seventh of Jesus’ miraculous signs recorded by John will be his most remarkable.
As the public ministry of Jesus enters its final days, John offers greater insights into the Person and work of our Lord. Here Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is the fifth of Jesus’ I Am sayings in which he announces his Divinity. Jesus does not say that he merely provides for resurrection or is able grant life. The truth is much deeper. Jesus is resurrection and life. Apart from him there is no promise of resurrection and eternal life. This priority of focusing on the Person of Christ is demonstrated by the remarkably spare description of the miracle itself. The focus of the four Gospels is always on the meaning of the miracles rather than the miracles themselves, lest our faith be misplaced.
The raising of Lazarus points to that ultimate resurrection of all who believe (1 Corinthians 15:12ff). The life Jesus gives to all who believe is to be understood as something which transcends and overcomes death in this fallen world. In his dying and rising Jesus fundamentally transformed our relationship with death. While still any enemy, death ought not haunt us. We can face dying with the hope that puts death to shame. And Jesus gives this resurrection hope freely to all who believe. This is the gracious calculus of the gospel, that life eternal is given not to those who strive to be justified before God by their own efforts but to those who, realizing their own helplessness, turn in faith to the Savior: “I am the resurrection and the life. 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?” (vv. 25-26).