"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

This statement by Jesus has been taken out of context and largely misinterpreted by many sectarian teachers.

Jesus’ statement follows one of Jesus’ students, Martha, saying the following:
"I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24)
This followed Jesus saying:
"Your brother will rise again." (John 11:23)
We can see by the other statements regarding this event that both Martha and her sister Mary (who had also rubbed Jesus' feet with scented oil) were devoted students of Jesus, as was their brother, Lazarus, whose body lay dead two miles away in Bethany.

First we should consider Martha’s statement. Martha, a student of Jesus, was reflecting on an accepted principle among Jesus' students as she discussed resurrection. The “last day,” translated from the Greek phrase ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳἡ, does not refer to some end-of-the-world scenario thousands of years later. It refers to the last day of our physical body.

The last day is the time of death. Martha understood from Jesus’ teachings that the spirit-person within will rise out of the body at the time of death. This is taken from the Greek word ἀνίστημι (anistēmi), which means “to cause to rise up, raise up” or “raise up from laying down” or “to raise up from the dead” according to Thayer's Greek lexicon.

Mary also understood that a person will leave the body after death, and will hopefully rise and return to the spiritual dimension - which Jesus previously referred to as the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).

But then Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.” What did he mean by that?

Let’s consider this carefully. Who did Jesus say he was? Jesus had previously described himself clearly:
“For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” (John 5:36)
If the Supreme Being has sent Jesus, then that makes Jesus God’s messenger, and thus God's representative. Just consider what this means in terms of the authority of Jesus. He is representing God’s authority.

Let’s compare this to, say, the ambassador of a country living in a foreign country. When the ambassador goes to the prime minister of the other country and makes an official statement on behalf of their government, this statement carries the weight of the ambassador's government and president behind it. While the ambassador is himself or herself not the president, nor the entire government, the ambassador represents them. Therefore, such an ambassador could say something like “I am empowered by the government,” or something to that extent, and be absolutely correct, because he/she represents their government.

Jesus was trying to convey the same type of message to Martha. He was stating that because he was representing the Supreme Being, he provides a doorway back to God and His kingdom.

Then Jesus says he is the “life.” What does this mean? Jesus also described life indirectly when he told a prospective student to:
“Let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matt. 8:22)
In both this case and in the statement above, Jesus is describing “life” as loving, serving and pleasing God. Doing God’s will out of love is Jesus’ purpose and mission. This is truly “life” in Jesus' teachings. The “dead” people who were burying a dead relative were dead because they were not loving and serving God with their lives. Rather, they were focused on the temporary things of the physical world. They are focused upon things that die.

Jesus confirms these definitions as he says “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Actually, this has been misunderstood and misused by ecclesiastical professional sectarian teachers, who teach that this means all we need to do is believe that Jesus died for our sins and we are saved.

The word “believes” here comes from the Greek word πιστεύω (pisteuō), which means: “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in,” according to the lexicon.

This means that Jesus was talking about trust here. He was asking them to trust what he was teaching them. He was asking them to trust his God-given authority to save them with those teachings. Since Jesus was standing in front of them, there was no need for them to believe he existed. And they had seen his miracles so they didn't need to believe he performed miracles. And since he had yet to be crucified when he made that statement, he certainly was not talking about his dying for anyone’s sins.

Rather, Jesus’ statement was quite simple. He was indicating to Martha and her sister Mary that if they trusted his teachings and followed his instructions, they would return to God and His kingdom. They would have life after the death of their own physical bodies.

And what was Jesus’ most important teaching and instruction?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)

(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)