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2 Christ Is the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life. (John 11.25)
John Chapter 11 reveals how the Lord Jesus gave life to one already dead-in other words, how He raised the dead. He was able to raise the dead and He caused a dead man to be resurrected, but instead of saying "I raise the dead" He said "I am the resurrection." Shortly after He said this, He did indeed raise the dead. Both Martha and Mary were present on that day. According to their sentiment, it seemed to them far more appropriate for the Lord Jesus to say, "Do not worry about your brother's death, for I can raise him up." We like to hear such words. What we admire and anticipate is that God will do more for us. Frequently our prayers and expectations before God are for the promise that the Lord will do thus and so for us. Yet the Lord especially wishes us to see that it is not what He can do but what He himself is, for His doing is based on His being.
Consider Martha. She believed in the Lord's power. She said to Him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." So also did Mary believe. But both failed to perceive that the Lord himself is the resurrection and the life. May we notice that all which God can do is included in what He is. People do not receive the power of God be-cause they do not know who He is. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him" (Heb. 11.6).
What the Lord Jesus wishes to tell us here is not that He is able to preserve one's life but that He himself is life; not that He can raise the dead, but that He himself is resurrection. Let us ask God to open our eyes to see who the Lord is. We must see that, before God, Christ is everything to us. With such understanding we will make real progress in spiritual matters. It is imperative for us to realise that with God there is no thing but Christ! Our real progress in spiritual matters depends on our grasping this spiritual reality-do we know God himself or know only the things which God has done?
The theme of John Chapter 11 is not on how the Lord Jesus raised up Lazarus but rather on how He himself was resurrection to Lazarus. Do we see the distinction here? The Lord is the resurrection. Because He was resurrection to Lazarus, Lazarus was resurrected. He had not given something called resurrection to Lazarus, He was himself resurrection to Lazarus. In other words, what the Lord did was only the external, but what He was himself was the substance. We do not suggest that the Lord Jesus had not raised up Lazarus; we simply maintain He was resurrection to him, and that therefore Lazarus was raised from the dead.
It is well for us to understand that all God's workings in Christ are embodied in this principle. Because the Lord is that thing in us, therefore we have such thing. First the being, then the having. Many Christians tend to talk about the Giver and His gifts separately. But one day we find out that the Giver is himself His gift. For God does not bring out many and various items to give to us in fragments; what He gives is Christ. It is well if one day our eyes are opened to recognise this-that all things are in Christ.
Here the Lord declares who He is. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life." Since He is the resurrection, it presents no problem whatever for Lazarus to be raised up. We believe the Lord did raise Lazarus from the dead, but the emphasis was on having the Lord himself. The resurrection of Lazarus is really not a tremendous phenomenon; but knowing the Lord Jesus as resurrection is a matter of great significance. Lots of people can believe the Lord Jesus as the life-giver, but to believe Him as life is quite another matter. He not only is the life-giver, He also is life. He is the life He gives as well as the giver of life. He is both the Lord of resurrection and the resurrection itself. As soon as we touch this, we instantly comprehend that whatever is in Christ is living. What God gives to men is Christ. We hope we may have at least a ray of light flash in upon us, causing us to realise that the Lord is all. "I am the resurrection and the life," declares our Lord. Resurrection and life include the whole Bible; knowing resurrection and life is therefore a big matter.
Christ Is Life
In the Garden of Eden God placed the man He had created. Two possibilities were open to this man: he might have life or he might die. If he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die; if he ate the fruit of the tree of life, he would have life. The man whom God created was indeed good, but there yet remained a deciding issue-that of life and death. At that time he was capable of thinking and of movement, but he did not have life. We do not mean to say that he was not alive, for judging by man's natural life he certainly was living. Genesis 2:7 already tells us that "man became a living soul." Nonetheless, judging by what is represented in the tree of life, he had no life. He possessed the power of thinking and feeling -these constituting the main functions of man's soul-yet he did not possess the life as symbolised by the tree of life. Here are we instructed that life is deeper than emotion and more profound than thought.
Everything in Christianity has its counterfeit- false repentance, false confession, false conversion, false zeal, false love, counterfeit works of the Holy Spirit, counterfeit gifts of the Holy Spirit, even counterfeit life. How many Christians regard good feeling as life! They esteem hot atmosphere and a loud voice as being full of life. They cannot distinguish between life and feeling, not recognising that the first is much deeper than the second. Another class of Christians will reckon noble thought, if not strong emotion, as life. If they find in a message many provocative thoughts, interesting words and commendable arguments, they deem it to be in life. But those who are experienced and who have learned will inform us that life is deeper than feeling or thought. Moreover, life is not action. Not because one is extremely lively, enthusiastic and active can he necessarily be termed to be in life. The person is indeed engaging in action, but this cannot be labelled life. Man in this instance is working instead of living out life.
Now we do not insinuate here that there is no thought, neither feeling nor action, in life; we simply would affirm that life is neither feeling nor thought nor action. You may hear the same good word, yet in one person you sense life while in the other, only thought. You may witness a stirred emotion in one person but meet life in another. Many brethren deem certain sensations in them as life, but those who have learned know better that this is just not so. Many regard certain thoughts within them to be life, but experienced believers will pronounce this as not life at all.
Two brothers may share the same view and give the same interpretation to the same passage of Scripture, yet to experienced Christians these two are different-the one has only thought while the other has life as well as thought. Indeed, it is possible to meet life together with thought-this is frequently true; yet only contacting thought is not contacting life. These are two entirely opposite things. There are so many who think that since they say similar words they are bound to be the same. But this is not true. It is possible for these words to be thought in one person and life in another. "I am the life," says the Lord. Life is therefore not any matter outside of Christ; it is Christ himself. If it is merely a thing it is dead. The life which many Christians talk about is but the thing they themselves produce.
How we truly need the mercy of the Lord in this respect. We know what thought is, what feeling is, and what activity is; yet we lack a clear appreciation of what life is. May we ask the Lord to show us what life really is. And one day when we are given such a revelation, we will naturally know what life is, and then we are able to touch the Lord.
Christ Is the Resurrection
Let us turn again to resurrection. That which has encountered death and survives is called resurrection. Whatever outlives death is resurrection. Death came to man after he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since then, man has been unable to endure death. All who have entered the grave never return. Once gone, they never come back. In the whole universe, among countless numbers of people, there has only been one who has gone into death and come out of it- and this one is our Lord. "I am . . . the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever-more" (Rev. 1.17,18).
The Lord is the Lord of resurrection. Resurrection speaks of what passes through death but is not held by death. The Bible uses the word "held" to describe the power of death. People enter into death and are not able to come out again because death holds tightly fast all who have entered. But death is not able to hold Christ. Hence this is called life, and it is also called resurrection. Resurrection is the life which was put to death and is alive forevermore. Our Lord Jesus is life because He was dead-having entered into hell, the deepest recess of the earth-yet is alive forevermore. Death has no power to hold Him in its grip. He comes out of death. And such a life as this is called resurrection. Hence a life which bears the marks of death and yet is alive is called resurrection.
Quite a few people are asking why it is recorded in John Chapter 20 that after the Lord Jesus was raised from among the dead He left the imprint of the nails .in His hands and that of the spear in His side for Thomas to touch and to probe? We know this is the meaning of resurrection. What the Lord intended to show Thomas was not that He had been wounded and had died but that He had been wounded and yet He is now alive. He bears in His body the imprint of death; nonetheless He is alive. This is called resurrection.
Such ought to be true in our case. We have in our lives many things which do not carry the imprint of death and therefore they cannot be labelled as resurrection. Only what bears the imprint of death and is alive is called resurrection. Do not imagine that it is well with you if you have eloquence, cleverness and ability. It is quite possible for you to have eloquence, cleverness and ability without the imprint of death. People may judge whether or not there is resurrection by noting if the imprint of death is upon our eloquence, cleverness and ability. A brother may have great talent and may be most capable; he seems to be very much alive. Yet there is no mark of death in his talent because he has such confidence in himself. He trusts that he never does wrong and is sure of success in whatever he undertakes. This person possesses immense self-confidence, self-reliance, -assurance and -strength, but he does not have the mark of death. We do not mean to say a resurrected person does not have power; what we are trying to affirm here is that in the power of a risen one there is the sign of death. He is able to work, but he dare not rely on himself. He can do many deeds yet he has lost that touch of self-assurance, and his own strength has turned into weakness. This we call resurrection.
In his letter to the church at Corinth Paul confesses the following: "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (l Cor. 2.3). These are words spoken by one who truly knows God. How tragic that there are so many strong and self-confident people among believers. But here is a man who acknowledges himself as being in weakness, in fear, and in trembling. There is the mark of death in his body.
Consequently resurrection and the cross are inseparable. The cross eliminates. Things which issue out of ourselves are unable to rise again once they have gone through the cross, for they are lost in death. Only what passes through death and survives, what has the sign of death upon it and lives, is resurrection. Resurrection presupposes a passing through death, and passing through death always eliminates something.
Brothers and sisters, if we really know what resurrection is we will know the cross as an eliminating power. When we pass through the cross we will be rid of many things. We will become a totally different person, because many things will have been stripped away from us. What has life about it may alone experience resurrection; without life in it
there is no possibility of resurrection. For example, we may cut a block of wood into pieces and bury them in the earth. After many days these will be completely decayed and become wholly useless. But if we cut a branch out of a tree and plant it in the earth we will find it budding after awhile. One will decay while the other will bud. All that is dead will eventually be corrupted; only what is living will be resurrected upon passing through death.
Hence the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is based on His life. Due to a deathless life in Him, He cannot be held by death. With such undying life in Him, He shrugs off death as He is put into it. Let us well recognise that when we pass through the cross experientially we will take many things into death without there being any chance of bringing them out. Only what is of God can be resurrected. In our encounter with the cross we are truly being subtracted. The cross is indeed a huge subtraction; it takes away many things.
Countless brothers and sisters frequently ask this question: How do I know I have died? How can I know that the cross has done its work in me? The answer is a simple one. If the Lord has worked in your life, you will lose many things. If you have remained intact since you were once saved-you being as rich and as full as before-then this plainly indicates that the cross has not worked in you. As the cross operates in life, you will notice what a big subtracting or cleansing work the Lord has accomplished in you. And as a consequence, what you were able to do before you are now no longer able; what you once were confident of, you presently are not so confident of; and what you originally had great courage in, you lately are hesitant about. Thus are the workings of the Lord proven. In case there is resurrection in your life, then many items must have been left behind in the grave, since things there cannot possibly survive death. Whatever is of Adam cannot live upon its going into death. But the life of the Lord is quite able to pass through death and come out again. This is resurrection.
Sometimes things lost in death are regained in Christ. It is like a branch which, when cut off from a tree, appears dead, but which, when planted in the earth, will once again grow. So by our saying that we have the imprint of death upon us, we do not wish to imply that henceforth we can neither speak nor work; it is only that we will not be so careless and self-reliant in both our speech and action. When a person is touched by God-being dealt with by the cross-he becomes weak and fearful and trembling, with the result that he dare not say "I can" or "I will do". He will still do his work, yet now with the fear of God in him. He will continue to walk, only now he walks after God, just as Abraham walked step by step after God. In his life today the mark of the cross is plainly noticeable. He has been pierced by God; he is no longer intact; he bears the impress of death. This is called resurrection.
Today God communes with man in the realm of resurrection, and this resurrection includes the cross.
Nothing can therefore be related to God without passing through death. All that is of the natural must go to death. God cannot and will not contact or communicate on resurrection ground with anyone who has yet to die and be resurrected. We must die and then be resurrected. The life we receive is resurrection life. Everything we learn which has any relation to God must be raised from the dead.
In spiritual matters, we are faced with one hard problem, which is, that people often serve God with natural things instead of resurrection things. Many have zeal, but few have resurrection zeal-a zeal which has gone through death and is resurrected. Lots of zeal characterises the first kind but not the second. We observe a number of brethren working diligently and able, nonetheless their diligence and ability are of the first kind-the natural-and not of the second, for they have not passed through death. We cannot account it resurrection if we live before God in the power of these natural elements.
Some will ask, What is the body of Christ? The body of Christ is where the resurrection of Christ is attested. In other words, whatever is not of resurrection has no part, not even the slightest part, in the body of Christ. The church is not the place where you bring in something of your cleverness and I bring in something of my tactfulness. The church is not built by your contributing a little bit of some natural thing and my contributing a little bit of some other natural thing. The church shuts all the natural out and accepts only the resurrected. Whenever the natural enters, the church loses its character. There can be no unresurrected element in the church.
Many brethren ask how the church can be one. We ought to realise how futile it is to achieve unity through the human way. God's children need to know the cross and to deal with the flesh and the natural in order to arrive at oneness. No method is effective unless people experience Calvary. No problem in the church is solved by human manoeuvre and ingenuity. The church allows neither the flesh nor the natural, for both will damage her. It is quite true that the church requires the contributions and ministries of men; nonetheless, there must be the imprint of death upon them. Usefulness accompanied by the mark of death is called resurrection. The Lord is himself resurrection, and He desires to have a resurrection church.
Should we wish to have such an experience, then we must look to God for His working in our lives. Perhaps we are quite familiar with many teachings, yet without our receiving a basic blow from the Lord we shall remain the same. Sometimes we slip and fall. We feel the pain, yes; yet it only lasts a few days or a few months. But had we been given God's basic blow and been sufficiently broken, we would not be pained for merely a few days or a few months, we would sustain that wound throughout our life. We would forever be crippled before God, and the mark of the cross would always be upon us.
Many years after Paul had seen the vision on the Damascus road, he testified, "Wherefore ... I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision" (Acts 26.19). If the Lord has mercy upon us and severely strikes us one day, our old selves shall never be able to rise up again: the wound will remain in us forever. Since it is still possible to touch, in the resurrected Christ, the wound of the nailprints in His hands and of the spear in His side, such wounding should never disappear in the lives of all who today know the Lord as resurrection. Experiencing this wound, we will never more dare to boast of ourselves and of our power. Once beaten by the Lord, we shall rise no more. May the marks of the cross be increasingly evident in our lives.
Pretension is useless here. For what is put on by oneself will soon be forgotten. But once the sacrifice is placed on the altar and slain, it never rises again. If we have ever suffered this basic stroke, we will realise how unable, finished, and nothing we are. This death mark in us testifies to our knowledge of resurrection. Knowing the cross is knowing resurrection. What is left after the cross is resurrection. Oh! How many are the things which shall never rise again but are forever gone once they have passed through the cross. Only what can endure the cross possesses spiritual value. Whatever enters the grave and remains is a dead thing; but whatever comes out on the other side of the grave, yet bears the mark of the cross, is resurrection.
Let us pray that we may truly know Christ to be our resurrection as well as our life. May the Lord eliminate many of our things from us. May He not only cause us to have more of His life but also less of ourselves. How often we live according to the natural, neither knowing God's discipline nor the cross. We need to ask the Lord to be merciful to us that the natural may gradually be decreased in us while the resurrected may be increasingly manifested. May life and resurrection be realities-not theories- to us. Whenever we put forth our hand, may He show us that there is no resurrection in it since all that it performs is only natural and fleshly. May He exposé our flesh by the light of resurrection. If we still cannot see, the Lord be merciful. Amen!