Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.…
1. The terms are not synonymous. When Christ says "I am the Life," He claims an attribute of God. None but God is "the Life," and can impart it. "I am the Resurrection" implies that He can keep life when given, and restore it after it is lost. These powers measure the difference between the finite and the infinite. Of the myriad of insects that flutter in the sunshine, or that the microscope reveals in a drop of water, where is the man that with all his art can create so much as one? Much more hopeless to work in the atmosphere of the grave.
2. Note that Christ does not say "I produce," or "I confer." The text is a member of a magnificent series of "I am's," and the quality claimed is not anything that can be separated from Christ; it is not what He has, but what He is. The sun does not need to go anywhere for light, nor the ocean for water. "As the Father hath life in Himself," etc.
I. Christ as THE RESURRECTION, or the restorer of lost life of every kind, not merely of the body.
1. Of the life forfeited by transgression. "The wages of sin is death."(1) It is a dismal thing to know this. It is as if a person, feeling breathless at times, were on describing his symptoms to be told by a physician that he was suffering from heart disease.
(2) It is more terrible to know that it ought to be so, that he deserves
2. Can anything be more bitter than when through meanness a man deserves the social reproach he gets? Yes; the consciousness of loathsomeness in the sight of God.
(3) But the "gift of God is eternal life," etc. United to Christ by faith we get the blessing as He bore the curse. You may say that such deliverance is only partial, that it is a worse thing to deserve death than to suffer it. A substitute may deliver us from death, but not from the disgrace of having deserved it. Granted; but God will never remind the pardoned sinner of his sin, and it will not diminish the cordiality of his reception in heaven. He will be covered with Christ's righteousness.
2. Of a life of purity, order, and holy beauty. Can it be necessary to prove that such a resurrection is needed? May we not find in a little child something to condemn us? And the first effect of our receiving Christ is to become as little children, having their purity without their weakness, their simplicity without their ignorance, their trust without their forgetfulness. Or have you not been shamed in reading the life of some saintly man or woman. We cannot of ourselves soar to these heights; but Jesus, the fountain of goodness, has come to restore this life too. But why confine ourselves to human excellence? To know what it is to live study the life of Jesus. "Fairer than the children of men." This life may be ours. "I live, yet not I," etc. "When Christ who is our life," etc.
3. Of holy fellowship with God. We have left our Father's house and lost all liking for it. But there can be no happiness for us in the "far off" country. This life is not to be regained by thinking reverently of God, or poring over other men's love to Him in hope of getting into the same current. In welcoming Christ, and in that only, can I say, "O Lord, Thou art my God."
II. Christ as THE LIFE. It is His office to continue what He restores, "Whosoever liveth," etc.
1. If Jesus simply gave you life, and then left you to sink or swim, there can be no doubt what the issue would be. "The life that we now live in the flesh" must be "by the faith of the Son of God."
2. He will watch and guard your faith, as He did Simon's, that it fail not.
3. Beyond the grave the gift assumes a new character of glory, worthy of Him from whom it comes. The soul is made perfect in holiness, and the body will be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body. It is no longer a struggling but a steady life, like that of a plant which has at last found its proper soil and congenial atmosphere. When you think of eternal life think of —
(1) The home of the soul and body.
(2) The intellect ever advancing in clearness and mastery.
(3) The emotions now in perfect order, growing perpetually in strength and sensibility.
(4) A love forever deepening its roots and enlarging its compass.
(5) The best fellowships yielding forever new harvests of enjoyment. Think of all this. And you have but the dimmest shadow of what "eye hath not seen," etc.
III. IF ALL THIS BE TRUE, IS IT NOT STRANGE THAT CHRIST IS NOT MORE WIDELY WELCOMED? What do men prize so much as life? "All that a man hath," etc. But for what life? For his animal life — the mere link between body and soul? What a strange thing that the higher you go in the scale of life the less do men care for it! And when you reach the highest life the indifference becomes aversion. "Ye will not come unto Me," etc.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.