Great Texts of the Bible
The Resurrection and the Life
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.—John 11:25-26.
In order to appreciate the significance of these words, “I am the resurrection, and the life,” let us look at the conditions under which they were spoken.
The revelation was granted to Martha, the bereaved sister, whose cheerful round of domestic activities was suddenly arrested and her heart torn open to its depths—depths hitherto perhaps unsounded—by the thunder-stroke of death. Our Lord uttered His greatest sayings often to very commonplace people. He spoke to Martha not as He might have spoken in an hour of serene communion with some elect and lofty spirit, but as to any of ourselves, to our common human heart chastened by bereavement, awed and awakened by the visitation of death.
Martha’s grief was intensified by the fact that Lazarus was cut off in the midst of his days, his task unfinished, his goal unreached. Of all the perplexing problems of the grave this seemed one of the hardest. Why did it claim the man who had just come to the perfection of his powers and was abler than ever he was to perform his task? It was lonely to be without her brother, it was chilling to think of his loneliness; but these griefs came home with double poignancy when she thought that he had not lived out half his days, and might still have been with them.
Once more, it seemed an accident that he died. To Martha it seemed cruel—so often He was with them—that Jesus should not be there when He was most needed. Oh, why did it happen that the Lord was not there? It might so easily have been otherwise; and the thought added to her grief.
But at last word was brought of a Visitor welcome above all others; Jesus who had been so strangely long in coming was in Bethany at last. Martha met Him with a cry that was half faith and half despair—“Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” and she was answered by the quiet words, “Thy brother shall rise again.” I think her heart must have been for the moment chilled. Was the Master then going to offer the mere conventional consolation that every visitor of these past days had offered, until she was more than weary of it? “I know,” she said—and you can hear an undertone of disappointment and rebellion in the words—“I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
She knew that her brother would rise again. But, like the Jews of her time, even like most Christians now, who inherit their resurrection doctrine more from the Jews than from Christ, Martha thought only of a grand and general resurrection-day far distant. Long ere that day she would be with her brother in the supposed place of expectant souls, waiting till the buried body should be raised and given back.
And then came the great words that have pealed through the ages, weighty with the Divine power which so soon sets its seal upon them, gentle with the human sympathy which meant them for healing to broken hearts: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.”
A double consciousness spoke in these words: Our Lord knew that He was standing near the grave of a dead disciple: He felt perhaps even more vividly that He was standing in the midst of a dead world. He spoke these words with reference to the occasion He was then dealing with; yet there was a larger meaning in them, and the meaning that was for the moment was only a fragment of their infinite truth.
We are arrested by—
I. The immediate Occasion of the Words.
II. Their eternal Application.
The Immediate Occasion
“I am the resurrection, and the life.”
1. The promise.—Martha had expressed her faith in the common doctrine of the resurrection at the last day. Christ neither denies it nor assents to it, but passes over it as if it had little power to assuage the actual suffering of death. If it be true, it is a far-off event, ages hence, at the last day; it hardly touches the present fact of death. It has nothing definite, immediate, or specially consolatory in its character, being simply an affirmation of future existence. So little power had it that Martha did not think of it till led to it by Christ’s question. She doubtless shared the vague belief of the Jews, that “her brother would ascend some time or other on angels’ wings into a place somewhere above the stars”; but how could that comfort her? She could not bridge the gulf of time and space between herself and that event. She could get from it no assurance that her brother would ever be known by her; that the ties sundered by death would ever be joined again. There her brother lay in the tomb, dead, fast passing to corruption, soon to become as the dust of the earth, and there he would lie for ages, dead. She herself would soon die and lie beside him, and sleep the long sleep of utter forgetfulness. What comfort is there here for yearning human love that longs for nearness and response?
Martha regarded the resurrection in the last day not necessarily as a spiritual fact or as one having a spiritual bearing, but as a mere matter of destiny like birth and death, a distant mysterious event. Christ draws it near, takes it out of time, vitalizes it, puts it into the category of faith, and connects it with Himself.
(1) “I am the resurrection, and the life.” For belief in some future great event, Jesus substitutes belief in His own person. It is as if He had said to Martha, “Your faith is not settled on its proper object; you are clinging to a doctrinal truth instead of leaning on a living person; you are thinking of an event, something in the distant future; you should think of me. I am the resurrection, and the life. It is not of the rising of the dead at the last day that you should think; that is indeed something to look forward to, but I am the resurrection in my own person; it is not apart from me.” Christ draws her eyes away from one reality to another and a greater—from the grim fact of death to the greater fact of His own person and power and love; He confronts her with this dilemma—she must pronounce either death or Himself to be the greater reality!
There is a wide difference between belief in a doctrine and trust in a person. We can believe a doctrine but we cannot trust it. We can grasp it with our minds, but it makes no appeal to our hearts; like Martha, we may believe in the resurrection without believing in Him who is the resurrection and the life. This is a mistake we often make. We believe in the abstract doctrine and forget the living Person. Half our Christian faith is assent to various propositions instead of trust in a personal Redeemer, who is Himself the substance and explanation of them all. “I,” said Jesus, “I am the resurrection, and the life.”1 [Note: D. Fairweather, Bound in the Spirit, 304.]
(2) “I am the resurrection, and the life.” In turning Martha’s attention to Himself, Jesus substitutes a present for a future object of trust, a living object for a dead. Martha can think only of that remote time when she and her brother will be reunited. Jesus says, I am the resurrection, and the life, here and now. In Me the dead live. It is not as if Lazarus had gone to nothingness. He has passed away indeed from you, but to Me he lives, for I am the life, and in Me the dead live.
The intention of our Lord was plainly to make an immediate comfort out of what is generally held to be a prospective joy. People commonly explain the passage still as belonging to a period which is yet to come. They understand it to mean that, when Christ shall appear again, there will be a resurrection, and that then the dead shall live. Doubtless this is in the words. But is this all? Is this the first and chief meaning? No, Christ was decidedly and definitely leading the woman’s mind away from what she felt would be to what then actually was. “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.”
A gentleman stepping into a poor woman’s house saw framed and glazed upon the wall a French note for a thousand francs. He said to the old folks, “How came you by this?” They informed him that a poor French soldier had been taken in by them and nursed until he died, and when he was dying he had given them that little picture as a memorial of him. They thought it such a pretty souvenir that they had framed it, and there it was adorning the cottage wall. They were greatly surprised when they were told that it was worth a sum which would be quite a little fortune for them if they would but turn it into money. They had done as Martha did when she took the words, “Thy brother shall rise again,” and put round about them this handsome frame, “in the resurrection at the last day.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
(3) “I am the resurrection, and the life.” In some of the Old Testament psalms this idea is brought out with wonderful clearness, and through what we must call sheer faith. The Old Testament saints knew nothing of Him who is the resurrection and the life, and the grave was to most of them only a place of gloom; but occasionally we come across a Psalm like the sixteenth, where the writer protests against the idea of death separating him from God. “Thou wilt not leave thy pious one to see the pit,” he says; “thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol.” He feels in his veins the new life God has given him, feels that he is in union with God, and that such a union must for ever abide uninterrupted even by death. So also taught Jesus. “I am the resurrection,” He said, “and the life.” He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live, because he who is united to Me, he in whom I live, can never in any sense die, for I am the life. That which we call death will be his lot; but life, true life, life which is union with God, life in which Christ lives, is independent of death.
Death had not sundered Lazarus from Jesus; through resurrection it had brought him nearer in reverential love. It had not divided him from his sisters; it had made the ties of affection more strong and holy than they had ever been before. It had not quenched one faculty of his being; for to him every power of sight, and speech, and hearing would be more sacred and noble than they were in his former life. In one word Christ showed this—that there was in him a life that rendered death only the gateway through which it rose into life more perfect, and holy, and free.
At an open-air service in Delhi, held in a Chamar’s (bootmaker’s) courtyard, another missionary and I had both spoken on faith as a condition of eternal life. When I had finished, a Chamar, who had been working away at his trade all the time, though evidently listening and thinking as well, remarked, “How do you make out that Christians do not die? Those about here do; and as far as I see, peoples of all religions die. Why, even Brahmans die.”
A student-evangelist was with us, and he gave this reply:—“Brother! (let Westerns note how friendly and familiar Eastern preachers are!) you know the Delhi Fort?”
Of course he did! Every Delhi man is proud of that most striking feature of his city, with its high walls of red sandstone glistening in the sun, and its magnificent towering gateways which lead into the city.
Said the preacher, “I want you to imagine for the moment that it has but one exit, the famous Lahore Gate.
In the old days, the great Emperor of India lived inside the Fort, in the Marble Palace, still to be seen, a palace of exquisite beauty and glittering splendour. When the Emperor came forth into the city, as for example he did every Friday to visit the Great Mosque for prayer, he came out at that Lahore Gate in all his glory, and crowds witnessed the Royal spectacle.
In the same Fort was the State Prison with its dungeons of horror, and in them lay the prisoners condemned to death, till the day of execution, when they too passed forth through that same Gate, and crowds witnessed their shame and despair.
This world in which we live is like that Fort, and for all of us there is the one exit, the Gate of Death.
They who accept Christ as their Saviour pass out as ‘Kings and Priests’ to glory and honour, and they who accept Him not, go forth to dishonour and death.”
“Bravo!” exclaimed the heathen listeners. “Well answered.”1 [Note: Stephen Sylvester Thomas.]
2. The fulfilment of the promise.—Nowhere do we so come to the limit and end of our power as at the door of a vault; nowhere is the weakness of man so keenly felt. There is the clay, but who shall find the spirit that dwelt in it? Jesus has no such sense of weakness. Believing in the fatherly and undying love of the Eternal God, He knows that death cannot harm, still less destroy, the children of God.
“God is not the God of dead beings but of living beings, for all live unto him.” All do not live to us; to us the dead are dead, but to God the dead are living; all live unto Him; as He sees men there are none dead. In proof of this, witness the resurrection of Lazarus. What was that miracle? Merely this: God making the dead, but really living, Lazarus visible to us. To Christ Himself Lazarus was alive; to his sisters he was dead. Christ comforted them by showing them he was alive. He called the soul back to the old frame it had worn and so made Lazarus visible again. He had not been dead. Jesus spoke to him. He had a secret of communication which we have not, and having the secret He called back the soul to the old body, that He might for ever prove to us that our beloved dead are in reality alive. We have but lost the means of communication. Christ asked Lazarus to come forth and show himself that we might be assured of this truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life.”1 [Note: D. Fairweather.]
When the chemist has produced in his laboratory a certain desired and attested scientific result, when he has mastered the secret of some new process in nature and exhibited the product in a single sample, the problem is solved, the result is guaranteed. He may now set up his factory and invest his capital, and invite the co-operation of wealth and labour, and build up a vast collective industry with full assurance of faith upon the evidence gathered from his crucible, upon the security afforded by the laws of nature that what they have once allowed and yielded, they will always yield to the action of the same cause; and there lies in his hand the power to do a million times what he has actually effected once. The raising of Lazarus was a prompt and a majestic verification on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ of His claim to be the destined Raiser of the dead, a pledge and earnest of all that was to follow.2 [Note: G. G. Findlay, The Things Above, 149.]
The Eternal Application
The miraculous resurrection of Lazarus was simply a symbol of a far more important truth than the mere restoration of an earthly life conveys. It was a visual illustration of a fact which is too inward and subtle to come under the eye of observers at all. If, as indeed we are bound to do, we strive to set before ourselves with vivid particularity the various emotions which are crowded into the narrative—the bitter regret for help unbrought, the sudden awakening of vague hope, the mysterious grief of the Lord Himself, the awful suspense before the opened grave—it must be that we may the better realize that Truth which calms and satisfies them all. The miracle is nothing more than a translation of an eternal lesson into an outward and intelligible form. The command of sovereign power, “Lazarus come forth,” is but one partial and transitory fulfilment of the absolute and unchanging gospel, “I am the resurrection, and the life.”
i. I am the Resurrection, and the Life
1. “I am the resurrection, and the life.”—“I am” in point of time, and also in respect of essential being.
(1) In point of time.—Christ does not think of immortality as we do. The thought of immortality is with Him involved in, and absorbed by, the idea of life. Life is a present thing and its continuance a matter of course. When life is full, and abundant, and glad, the present is enough, and past and future are unthought of. It is life, therefore, rather than immortality that Christ speaks of; a present not a future good; an expansion of the nature now, which necessarily carries with it the idea of permanence.
It is the devastating mistake of ages of imperfect faith that the emphasis and crisis of life is carried forward into the next world, robbing this of its dignity, disrobing this of its loftiest motives, cheapening by withholding from it its proper fruitions. There is no juster word used among men than “probation,” and none more perverted. Life is indeed probation, but the judgment that decides is in perpetual session; not for one moment is it adjourned; every hour it renders the awards that angels fulfil; daily and forever does the Christ of humanity judge according to the deeds done in this present life of humanity, and send to right or left hand destinies. There is no day of eternity more august than that which now is. There is nothing in the way of consequence to be awaited that is not now acting, no sweetness that may not now be tasted, no bitterness that is not now felt. What comes after will be but the increment of what now is, for even now we are in the eternal world. The Kingdom of heaven has come and is ever coming; its powers and processes, its rewards and punishments are to-day in full activity, mounting into ever higher expression, but never more real in one moment of time than in another.1 [Note: T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, 285.]
In deserts of the Holy Land I strayed,
Where Christ once lived, but seems to live no more,
On Lebanon my lonely home I made,
I heard the wind among the cedars roar,
And saw, far off, the Great Sea’s solemn shore:
“But ’tis a dreary wilderness,” I said,
Now the prophetic spirit hence has fled:
Then, from a convent in the vale, I heard,
Slow-chanted forth, the everlasting Word,
Saying “I am he that liveth, and was dead,
And lo! I am alive for evermore.”
Then forth upon my pilgrimage I fare,
Resolved to find and praise Him everywhere.1 [Note: J. Gostick.]
(2) In essence.—And so we come to the second chief thought suggested by the words: “I am.” The resurrection and the life are not simply through Christ but in Christ. “I am,” He said—not I promise, or I bring, or I accomplish—“I am the resurrection, and the life.” And when we fix our attention upon the words from this point of view, we see at once that they include deeper mysteries than we can at present fathom, that they open out glimpses of some more sublime form of being than we can at present apprehend, that they gather up in one final utterance to the world what had been said before darkly and partially of the union of the believer with his Lord and of the consequences which proceed from it. But though we can perhaps do no more, it is well that we should at least devoutly recognize that we do stand here in the face of a great mystery, which if indistinct from excess of glory, yet even now ennobles, consecrates, transfigures life; which does even now help us to feel where is the answer to difficulties which our own age has first been called to meet; which gives a vital reality to much of the language of Holy Scripture that we are tempted to treat as purely metaphorical.
Whenever the Lord says, “I am,” He speaks as ideal Man, as the Life, holding the power of Self-manifestation. What we see in Him is potentially in us, or we could not see it in Him. We may say we are what He is, because He is the representative of the true Man in every man. By His Incarnation this was brought into our consciousness. All are in Him by virtue of their Being, but He makes us aware of what we are. He who comes into this external relationship with us is He who is also the substance of our Being. He is the expression of the hidden Being of all, and the Promise also that each shall rise into the full consciousness of their Being, and be able to say, as did Jesus when on earth: “I and the Father are One Thing.”2 [Note: R. W. Corbet, Letters from a Mystic of the Present Day, 111.]
2. “I am the resurrection.”—Christ is the Resurrection inasmuch as He rose again from the dead, and, further, because He has the power to raise us up also.
(1) Christ Himself died and rose again. He alone is the true pattern of the resurrection, “the Firstborn,” as St. Paul and St. John style Him, “out of the dead.” In this highest sense He not only effects but He is the Resurrection. He was this inwardly, in His own spirit and consciousness. Jesus described Himself, while on earth in mortal flesh, as “the Son of man which is in heaven.” His eye pierced the veils of sense. The Father was in Him and He in the Father. But outwardly, as well as inwardly, Christ is the pattern of our risen life. Dying a little while after He uttered these words, Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples an embodied resurrection, as if made man over again and more worthily, Firstborn of the “sons of the resurrection.” He was the same, yet mysteriously and loftily transformed.
We all know the effects of the Renaissance upon the modern world. Renaissance is re-birth, regeneration, resurrection if you like. The intellectual forces of the Middle Ages had spent themselves; the greater part of Europe was lying in a sleep which might almost be described as death. But when Constantinople was captured by the Turks, many Greek scholars who had been working there had to flee to the shores of Italy, bringing with them Homer and Sophocles, Aristotle and Plato, the forgotten science and art and scholarship of the ancient world. And almost at the same time a new world of unexplored territory was revealed by explorers like Cabot and Columbus. And the result was the awakening of Europe from its death-like sleep, and the stirring of a new life that is not exhausted yet. These men, exiled scholars and brave explorers, were the Renaissance; they were the resurrection and the life of European learning, because it was through them and their labours that the quickening came. Now, what these men did intellectually for Europe at one period, Christ came to do morally and spiritually for the world for all time.1 [Note: J. M. E. Ross, The Self-Portraiture of Jesus, 133.]
(2) But Christ not only died and rose again; He has the power, in the fullest sense of the word, to make us do likewise. “Though he die,” He says, “yet shall he live.”
Did not Christ then really die, and do we not all die, even if we believe in Him? In one sense Christ did die. He suffered this housing of the soul to be torn away, the tabernacle to be taken down, but He will not call it death. It does not touch the life; that flows on, an unbroken current, and rises into greater fulness. And so Christ says that those who believe in Him, and die in this sense, do not really die; though dead, they live.
Physical death is not the termination of human life. The grim fact touches only the surface life, and has nothing to do with the essential, personal being. He that believes on Jesus, and he only, truly lives, and his union with Jesus secures his possession of that eternal life, which victoriously persists through the apparent, superficial change which men call death. Nothing dies but the death which surrounds the faithful soul. For it to die is to live more fully, more triumphantly, more blessedly. So though the act of physical death remains, its whole character is changed.
The grave of Albrecht Dürer, the great painter, is in the cemetery of his native city, Nuremberg. On his tombstone they have put the word Emigravit—he has emigrated.
I do hear
From the revolving year
A voice which cries:
Lo, how all dies! O seer,
And all things too arise:
All dies, and all is born;
But each resurgent morn, behold, more near the Perfect Morn.”1 [Note: Francis Thompson, “The Night of Forebeing.”]
3. I am the life.—There is more in our Lord’s words than a mere guarantee to His people of a life of some sort beyond the grave. To Christ and His Apostles, life is not a matter of mere duration; in their rich and inspiring conception the thought of quality is far more prominent than the thought of duration. God had created mankind for life—the life that is life indeed. But man had, in a most real sense, chosen death instead of life, and had made of his world a sepulchre. And now into this world of death there came this Saviour sent down from God, trampling death in all its forms under foot from the beginning of His victorious career.
It marked a new epoch in the faith in immortality when the Son of Man stood in the midst of men and said: “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” And did He not prove the mighty utterance? Whatever He touched received life. He touched dead eyes, and they saw. He touched dead ears, and they heard. He touched the fatal disease, and life sprang back into the distempered veins. He touched the dead body on the bier, and it awakened from the sleep of death. He went into the grave Himself, and with resurrection power left it empty on the third day.
ii. Whosoever liveth and believeth
Christ, being the life, promises that “whosoever liveth … shall never die.”
1. Whosoever liveth.—We must be alive in order to know what deathlessness is. We must begin to live as a soul, and not as an animal, if we want to be rid of the fear of death and the doubt of immortality. The way out of the doubts and fears which oppress us is not altogether by the gate of knowledge or of logic, but by the avenues of the spirit. To those who already share the Divine life the terrors of death are abolished. Its inevitable wrench to the spirit is mostly overcome, and its change no more than from life to life. If we are acquainted with our soul, if we have learned to live already with the immortal part of us, and to take pleasure in the things that minister to the life of that part of us, we shall not deem it such a lonesome, blank, and unbearable thing to go away with our own self, our real self, even out of this body into some other. But we must be something more than “dead in trespasses and sins,” something more than choked with “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” before this thought can be realized in us. He whose real life consists not “in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”; he whose spirit is sustained and fed by streams of love; he who lives in faith on all the Divine things; he who works out his faith in pure conduct, exalted aims, unselfish purposes, affectionate service to others,—that man does not die in death. Death only sets free for larger activity the soul which has already begun its undying developments.
To live is not to be gay or idle or restless. Frivolity, inactivity, and aimlessness seem equally remote from the true idea of living, I should say that we live only so far as we cultivate all our faculties, and improve all our advantages for God’s glory. The means of living will then be our own endowments, whether of talent or influence; the aim of living, the good of men; the motive of living, the love of God. I do not say that these ideas are to enter prominently into every detail of life, any more than that in every movement we must be distinctly conscious of the vital principle physically; but just as this must necessarily exist before we can take one step, so the whole groundwork of our inner life must be these feelings to which I have alluded.1 [Note: Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, i. 145.]
The Bishop of Caledonia had opened a Mission on the Skeena river, which he and his wife had carried on for a year. Then a Missionary and his wife were left in charge. And now let us hear the Bishop’s own words. He says—“They recoiled from the horrors of savage life, and to our great surprise, at the end of one year, suddenly appeared at my house on the coast en route to England. It was too late to find a clergyman to succeed him, and a long winter’s break would probably ruin the work and prospects. Before they had been in my house an hour, I had a volunteer. It was my wife. She said, ‘Let me go, I will hold it together until you find somebody else.’ ‘Do you mean it?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’ ‘Then wait till morning, and we will discuss it.’ Early in the morning, being pressed for an answer, I said ‘Yes.’
“It was difficult to get a crew to face a November ‘Skeena,’ which freezes in hummocks from end to end; but that same day, with a year’s provisions, we started.… It was a dismal journey for both of us, camping and sleeping on the snow being the least of the discomforts. At the end of fifteen days we arrived, and packed the provisions in the little log house. I offered my crew an extra pound a-piece if they would delay their return but a single day, but nothing would induce them to wait, lest the river would freeze. So I left her behind among Indians and miners, the only white woman within one hundred and seventy miles, and the first to ascend the river. The isolation was complete. Events forced me to visit England, but I had returned before she knew that I had left the diocese, and travelled fourteen thousand miles.… At the end of a year I had found an excellent man for the new Mission so that I was able to fetch away my wife. The miners said she was the best Missionary they ever had, and the Indians call her ‘Mother’ to this day. It was a hard time. Her entire household consisted of two Indian schoolboys.”
Foil’d by our fellow-men, depress’d, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And “Patience! in another life,” we say,
“The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne.”
And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world’s poor, routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail’d under the heat of this life’s day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?
No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg’d not in the earthly strife,
From strength to strength advancing—only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.1 [Note: Matthew Arnold.]
2. He shall never die.—The quality of this life has a direct bearing on its survival beyond the grave. When God so raises the soul of man to the level of His own holy and loving life, will He allow death to destroy His handiwork? Imagine an artist carving a statue. He has chosen rare and costly materials. He has provided delicate tools. He spends long years in bringing the work to perfection. Do you think that when his purpose is almost complete he will summon his servant and bid him break the work in pieces? Imagine a master training a servant. He is very thorough, very patient, very loving. He treats the servant as a son and not as a slave. And he is well repaid by the response the servant gives: the blunders are almost past; the faults are almost conquered; there is a co-operation of sympathy and of intelligence that is almost perfect. Do you think he will then cast his servant aside like some worn-out tool? Yet that is what happens if God trains the souls of men and bestows His best gifts upon them to make them His true children, and then refuses to dower them with immortality. Christ spends Himself, He gives Himself to raise men from spiritual death to spiritual life. Will He do the greater miracle and not do the less? Will He lose His own work when it is almost complete? It is unthinkable. There is deepest reason in His words, “Because I live, ye shall live also”; there is unanswerable logic in the contention that when Christ has made men sharers of His holiness, He will make them sharers of His immortality as well.
In Jesus Christ the believer has an enriched spiritual experience, a more intense consciousness of union with the Divine life. The sense of spiritual renewal in Christ is in many ways a new spiritual experience for the world. God has come nearer to men in the Son of Man. Already in union with Christ there is the experience of a spiritual resurrection, which must imply the fuller I resurrection of the complete life. For “if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” We already feel the life of Christ coursing even in our mortal body. It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us. We are conscious of having “risen with him,” and we know that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.
Be assured, come what come will,
What once lives never dies—what here attains
To a beginning, has no end, still gains
And never loses aught.1 [Note: Browning, Parleyings with Certain People.]
3. “He that believeth on me”—“Whosoever believeth on me.”—Christ asks us to believe in Him, but not without first giving us a proof of His belief in us. “I came that they may have life,” He said. That life was His life; He felt it in Himself, felt its infinity. And as He came, He saw the men that He was coming to; He saw all that was base about them, saw how superficial and how shallow they were. He saw them filled with sin through the love of sin, and yet He said, “I am coming to give Myself through the love of Me, to give them Myself deeper and deeper, little by little, until they shall have received Me perfectly.” Look what a faith in the possibilities of human nature the Incarnation implied! The faith of Christ in man—that is what is written in the Incarnation. The faith of Christ in us—that is what is written in the visit of Christ to us, when, coming and standing directly across our path of wickedness and death, He says to us calmly and surely, “I am come that you might have life, the life of holiness which is by love of Me.”
Such life, now abundant and evermore abiding, Christ affords to all who believe on Him. But how is it that believing on Christ thus puts us beyond the reach and power of death? The entire truth that Christ had in mind was this: that faith in Himself, by its own law, works away from death towards life. For Christ is life; to believe on a person is to become like that person, or one with him. Hence, to believe on Christ the Life is to become a sharer with Him in whatever He is, therefore in His life. We are told that Christ could not be holden of death; faith in Him works towards the same freedom.
The assimilating power of faith, that is, the power of faith to make those who believe like that in which they believe, is a recognized principle. The whole nature follows the faith, and gravitates towards its object. A moulding process goes on; faith is the workman and the object of faith is the pattern. Starting within, down amongst the desires and affections, it works outward, till the external man becomes in form, feature, and expression like the absorbing object. We meet men every day in whose faces we see avarice, lust, or conceit, as plainly as if it were imprinted on their foreheads. They have so long thought and felt under the power of these qualities that they are made over into their image. A man who worships money comes to wear the likeness of a money-worshipper down to the tips of his fingers; his eyes and nose and the very posture of his figure bear witness to the transforming power of faith. The Hindu who worships Brahma sleeping on the stars in immovable calm gets to wear a fixed expression. The mediæval saints who spent days and nights in contemplation of the crucifix, came to show the very lineaments of the man of sorrows, as art had depicted them, and sometimes, it is said, the very marks of His torture in their own bodies. It is a principle wonderful in its method and power. We are all passing into the likeness of that in which we believe. There is no need that men should be labelled, or that they should make confession with their lips. Very early the faith hangs out a label, and soon the whole man becomes a confession of its truth. You have but to look, and you will see here a voluptuary, there a sluggard; here a miser, there a scholar; here a bigot, there a sceptic; here a thinker, there a fool; here a cruel, unjust man, there one kind, generous, true; here one base throughout, there one radiant with purity. It is wonderful, this power of faith, first moulding, then revealing. It is the power of love directed by will, which together makes up faith; and as it works out so it works within, shaping all things there in like manner. It is by this principle that Christ unites men to Himself.1 [Note: T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, 281.]
Therefore to whom turn I but to Thee, the ineffable Name?
Builder and maker, Thou, of houses not made with hands!
What, have fear of change from Thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that Thy power can fill the heart that Thy power expands?
There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good, shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.2 [Note: Browning, Abt Vogler.]
The Resurrection and the Life
Adams (J. C.), The Leisure of God, 129.
Alford (H.), Quebec Chapel Sermons, i. 285.
Atwool (H. C.), At His Feet, 107.
Bickersteth (C.), The Gospel of Incarnate Love, 172.
Brookfield (W. H.), Sermons, 117.
Brooks (P.), The More Abundant Life, 36.
Campbell (R. J.), The Song of Ages, 239.
Dawson (W. J.), The Evangelistic Note, 273.
Drummond (R. J.), Faith’s Perplexities, 195.
Fairweather (D.), Bound in the Spirit, 295.
Findlay (G.), The Things Above, 141.
Horton (R. F.), The Teaching of Jesus, 267.
Hull (E. L.), Sermons at King’s Lynn, i. 1.
Ingram (A. F. W.), The Gospel in Action, 232.
Learmount (J.), Thirty Chats with Young Folks, 22.
Little (W. J. K.), Labour and Sorrow, 158.
McClelland (T. C.), The Mind of Christ, 133.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Esther, Job, etc., 43.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: John ix.–xiv., 81.
Manning (H. E.), Sermons, iv. 342, 356.
Munger (T. T.), The Freedom of Faith, 273.
New (C.), Sermons in Hastings, 169.
Ritchie (D. L.), Peace the Umpire, 54.
Ross (J. M. E.), The Self-Portraiture of Jesus, 123.
Snell (B. J.), Sermons on Immortality, 56.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxvi. (1880) No. 1568; xxx. (1884) No. 1799.
Thomas (J.), The Mysteries of Grace, 243.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons in Christ Church, Brighton, ii. 106.
Westcott (B. F.), The Revelation of the Father, 91.
Whiton (J. M.), Beyond the Shadow, 31.
Williams (T. Ll.), “Thy Kingdom Come,” 59.
Christian World Pulpit, xliii. 72 (Pierson); lxvii. 377 (Ingram).
Church of England Pulpit, xlv. 205, xlix. 15 (Headley); lvii. 210 (Hitchcock).
Clergyman’s Magazine, 3rd Ser., xiii. 291.
The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings
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