Tears. They filled Martha’s eyes as she spoke with the man before her. She respected him and was happy to see him, but couldn’t help but be slightly angry at him. He could have fixed things. He should have been there. She’d choked out some words of trust to him, but they were somewhat hollow.
Then he replied. And his reply turned her dejected expression to a puzzled one. He told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
If it’s not obvious now, I recount the funeral of Lazarus here, and the one who spoke those mystifying and powerful words is none other than Jesus Himself. When Lazarus died, Jesus told the mourning sisters that He was the resurrection and the life. And of course He followed this up by actually raising Lazarus from the dead. “What a magnificent miracle!” we think upon hearing the story.
In my own life, death has reared its ugly head twice in only a few weeks. First it claimed my grandfather, and now also my aunt. Both tragedies were on the same side of the family, so it’s been a traumatic season for the Smiths.
In the wake of both losses, I’ve been gripped by a particular thought, one which lies at the heart of our faith. Resurrection has been the hopeful theme. While the funeral preaching attempted to comfort us all with the thought of loved ones now in heaven, I found myself consoled, even excited, by the prospect of the coming resurrection. One day I could see life pulsing once again through the very same bodies which had just gone cold. Where there was now no breath, there will be breath again. And this will be no mere reanimation, with the new life just a return to the same frail bodily existence which ended, but a glorious restoring transformation. The physical, tangible matter I’ve seen, heard, and hugged will be back and better than ever before by the power of the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
Honestly, it saddens me how neglected this hope is. You could hear a hundred sermons even at funerals in most churches and never know that one of the basis tenants of our faith is the resurrection of the dead. Heaven is seen as our home and final destination, when Biblically and Christianly it is really our vacation home, a place to rest between death and new life. Yet Jesus died and then rose precisely so that we also could rise after death.
Let’s not forget this. The salvation we’ve been given is not just for our souls, but also our bodies. We will see those we love in Christ again, not just as ghosts but real, touchable people in a solid, tangible new creation. It’s exhilarating. And it is comfort. Death is not the last word. Life is. Because we are in Jesus, who says to us all in our grieving and sorrow, when tragedy strikes and relationships are cut off, just one glorious encouragement:
“I am the resurrection and the life.”