The Presence and the Present of the Resurrection

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”  (John 11:21-27)

“Martha placed the resurrection at the last day; she changed it into a matter of the most distant future, and without immediate interest.  So she thought that Lazarus had been forever lost from her sight, but the Lord directed Martha’s thoughts to the present, and especially to His own presence.  In the person of the Lord Martha had the whole amazing fact of the resurrection and life.  Therefore, her confidence in the dogma of the future resurrection had to be replaced with confidence in Christ, who was even then present.  The meaning of the revelation which He made to Martha is as follows:  Do not dream of an unending age of silence, lethargy, isolation, inserted between the present and the last day, but learn that through me the resurrection is transferred from the future to the present; through me, life continues.  Beyond the tomb there is no lethargy, silence darkness, or unconsciousness, but life in me.  The resurrection and the life is stored up, like a treasure, in me.   . . . So now to Martha,  who was longing for her brother, whom death had snatched away, and whose resurrection she imagined to be in the unfathomable depths of the ages, He answers: “I am the resurrection.”  In Christ the resurrection exists both potentially and actually, and in Him we find everything which the deepest needs of our existence require in this life, and in the life after death.

I am the life.” I am the fountain of life.  In spite of the fact that Lazarus died and his body had already begun to decay inside the tomb – in spite of that – he was living, because his soul had been joined to the Fountain of life, to Christ; by faith and love, he had already been resurrected to new life; he had become a partaker of undying life.  It follows that the resurrection and the life of Lazarus as with everyone who believes in Christ, is the present one in Christ.  Through birth, parents transmit life to their children, but life which is temporary, corruptible, and sinful.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” the Lord said to Nicodemus (John 3:6).  But the life which Christ transmits to those who have been born again through Him, is another.  He transmits the life which is similar to His, not corruptible and sinful, but foreign to sin, immune to death, and thus eternal.  “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).  It follows that he who has Christ in his heart, possesses the true life; he possesses it now, a present possession and not a future gift.”

(Archimandrite Seraphim Papakostas, FOR THE HOURS OF PAIN, pp 95-97)