Sunday Morning Greek Blog

July 5, 2011

“I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25)

The next two weeks will be busier than usual for me, as I have my three kids for their opportunity to live with me. I am glad they are here, and I look forward to our time together. It took a 19-hour round trip to get them here, and we all slept in Sunday (they more than I), but it was worth it to be able to attend the evening service at StoneBridge Christian Church with them, then head out to my aunt and uncle’s cabin near Fremont to watch some professional and not-so-amateur fireworks displays. As my daughter said in her Facebook post, “‎1 good thing about driving at night on 4th of july weekend is never ending fireworks!:)\n”

I have made my way through Stephen’s “fatal” testimony in Acts 7 in my reading schedule, and his summary of Israel’s history has many mnemonic elements to it, almost as if Stephen had developed a primitive version of the popular “Walk Thru the Bible” events, where you learn motions to go along with the biblical story. Key words are repeated two or three times in each section, and a few inclusios stick out as well.

However, before I am too far removed from John’s Gospel, I want to tackle one of the two remaining “I am” statements I have not yet covered. “I am the resurrection and the life” (Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή egō eimi hē anastasis kai hē zōē, John 11:25) is almost certainly the heart of John’s Gospel. It is the middle chapter of the book for starters. It is also the “I am” statement that is most closely associated with the historical event that prompted the statement, at least in terms of proximity in the biblical text. Finally, it is the one that reveals the power Jesus has over death and that looks forward to his own victory over death.

Once again, we should not be surprised that John has brought us to the point where this statement becomes significant. To keep it simple, a search of the phrase “eternal life” (ζωὴ αἰώνιός zōē aiōnios, usually used in accusative ζωὴν αἰώνιόν zōēn aiōnion) in the TNIV reveals 43 occurrences. John uses the phrase 17 times in his Gospel, more than twice that of the Synoptic authors combined. If 1 John is figured into the picture, John has over half the occurrences of the phrase in his writings. John had used the phrase 13 times up through chapter 10, but not at all in chapter 11 where we find our text.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the primary use of the phrase is in the three parallel passages where Jesus is asked what must be done to inherit eternal life. But John doesn’t record anyone asking that question. John (or Jesus’ words in John) is always forthright about declaring eternal life. In fact, three of the passages that have figured prominently in this discussion of the “I am” statements contain teaching about eternal life (John 4—woman at the well; John 6—”I am the bread of life”; John 10—”I am the door of the sheep”/”I am the good shepherd”; John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” should also be included, because the last part is a restatement of 11:25).

Eternal life does not mean life forever on this earth in our current bodies. Eventually, the earth would run out of room to hold everyone. Death is in the offing for all of us; but if we are Christ followers, we also know death is not the end. The NT writers use several words for “resurrection” (noun) or “raise up (to life),” but the main ones are the noun ἀνάστασις (anastasis, the word found in Jesus’ “I am” statement) and the verbs ἐγείρω (egeirō) and ἀνίστημι (anistēmi). The verb ἐγείρω is by far the most popular of the two; John uses it 13 times as opposed to 8 times for ἀνίστημι. (Note: Because both the nouns and the verbs can refer to “standing up from being seated” or “rising up from a reclined position” as well as “rising from the dead,” I used Logos Bible Software to search for the Louw & Nida semantic domain numbers for each word when they specifically refer to “rising from the dead”; if you use a regular concordance to look these up, make sure you note the distinctions in usage.)

In the immediate context of the passage at hand (John 11:23–25), we find five occurrences of words that mean “come back to life.” Martha believes in the resurrection in the last day, but she also seems to hold out some hope that Jesus could restore Lazarus to them even at that time, even after he has been dead four days. Broadening the context, these resurrection words appear three times in John 6:39–40. But the occurrences that should make us sit up and take notice is that in John 2:20–22, where right from the start, Jesus predicts his own resurrection. John even points out in vs. 22 that the disciples remembered Jesus had said that after he rose from the dead (see John 20:9). Putting it all together, the resurrection and eternal life permeate John’s Gospel, while in the Synoptic Gospels, such discussion is limited to a few pericopes, the most significant being the Sadducees discussion with Jesus about marriage and the resurrection and Jesus’ own repeated predictions of his resurrection.

John develops this concept more completely than the other Gospel writers, especially by providing a living, breathing example, Lazarus, of someone raised from the dead other than Jesus. Matthew does mention the “sleeping saints” who came out of their tombs that resurrection weekend (27:51–53), but we’re never really told if that was an enduring earthly resurrection as we are with Lazarus (John 12:1, 9, 17). This is not to say John’s Gospel is better than the Synoptic Gospels. But it does reveal that John was not so much into telling a chronological story like the Synoptic authors; his focus is theology, or more specifically, Christology and eschatology. (I suppose technically I could use the words “anastasiology” [ἀνάστασις] and “zoology” [ζωή], but the first one’s not in the dictionary [which has never stopped me before!], and the second one is used primarily of nonhuman living beings.)

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul develops even further the theology and centrality of the resurrection. I think it is safe to assume he had been influenced by John on this point. On the one hand, Paul says that it is futile to be a Christ follower if Jesus has not been raised from the dead. On the other hand, he talks about the spiritual realities of the resurrection: it’s not the earthly resurrection that Lazarus experienced. It is a transformation of our mortal bodies into an immortal substance that can never die. That is the substance of our “eternal life.”

Peace!

Scott Stocking

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7 Comments »

  1. […] John 11:25 […]

    Pingback by The “I Am” Statements of Jesus « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — November 8, 2011 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  2. Again, thank you.

    Comment by Steven Doroff — January 3, 2012 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

  3. […] John 11:25: I Am the Resurrection and the Life […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  4. […] John 11:25: I Am the Resurrection and the Life […]

    Pingback by “I Am the True Vine” (John 15:1) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  5. […] John 11:25: I Am the Resurrection and the Life […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Door of the Sheep”; “I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:7, 11) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  6. […] “I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25) […]

    Pingback by The Passion Week of Christ « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — March 11, 2012 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

  7. […] in the Gospel of John. Three of them are relevant here: “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus came to bring life to a world that […]

    Pingback by Scandalous Living « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — June 24, 2012 @ 6:04 pm | Reply


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