Jesus, the great life-giver
May 20 — John 11:17-28; May 27 — John 14:1-14By Ted Grimsrud
John 11 gives us great drama. Jesus shows his life-giving power when he brings his friend Lazarus back from the dead, an act leading directly to the plan to kill Jesus.
The meaning of these events is given by Jesus with one of his several “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. These provide us with a rich set of metaphors illumining Jesus’ identity: “bread of life” (6:35), “living bread” (6:51), “light of the world” (8:12), “the gate for the sheep” (10:7, 9), “the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “the way, and the truth and the life” (14:6) and “the true vine” (15:1).
And here in 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus thus clarifies the meaning of the assertion near the beginning of John’s Gospel: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:18).
The story immediately helps us to understand what Jesus means by “resurrection and the life” when, first, Jesus shows his power over death in bringing Lazarus back to life after he had been dead four days (11:39). Then, confirming that “the world knew him not” (1:10), the religious leaders plot to end Jesus’ life (11:45-54).
These two events, seen together, help assure the reader that, again echoing the Gospel’s prologue, “the darkness did not overcome [the light]” (1:5). Jesus’ raising of Lazarus illustrates that even though the powers of evil will do him in, God’s love will have the final say.
Jesus’ challenge to Martha: “Do you believe this?” (in other words, Do you believe that the power of God’s love prevails over the powers of darkness?) stands as a challenge to all of this Gospel’s readers.
Beginning with John 14, Jesus provides a sense of the significance of his departure and guidance for how his followers might maintain his witness.
He exhorts them to remain strong in the face of his departure, even as events may seem overwhelmingly grim. This exhortation follows Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial (13:38) — an example of how not to respond to the traumas to come.
When Jesus promises room in his “Father’s house” (14:2) he’s not so much referring to a future in heaven. Rather he means a present “dwelling” with God and the Son. This dwelling produces faithful witness to life over death — even in the face of the violence of the religious and political leaders.
With another profound “I am” statement, Jesus asserts: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6). These three images — way, truth, life — summarize Jesus’ ministry.
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