The Fathers of the Church saw Jesus’ 120 disciples praying in the Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday in AD 30 as representing the “dry bones” or “corpses” of the Old Covenant people in Ezekiel’s vision. Under the Sinai Covenant, they did not possess the promises of resurrection, or eternal salvation, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They were reborn when God’s Spirit descended upon each disciple and breathed new life into them. Their rebirth through the action of God’s Spirit made them citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and candidates for citizenship in the Promised Land of Heaven. It is the Universal (Catholic) Church that will gather God’s children from the four corners of the earth and bring them to “new life” in Christ Jesus through the Sacrament of Baptism (Mk 16:15-16). The Church will also give her children the promise of the bodily resurrection Ezekiel saw in the Second Advent of Christ at the end of time. In that event, the dead will rise from their graves for the Final Judgment, and Jesus will claim His Bride, the Church. He will take her home to the Promised Land of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the wedding feast of the Lamb prefigured in every Eucharistic celebration (1 Thes 4:16; Rev 19:6-9; 20:11-15).
In verse 10, Paul wrote that even with Christ living within us, the body is dead, referring to our physical bodies (see Eph 2:1-6).The reality is that every day we are alive in our physical bodies is another step toward physical death. No matter what we “invest” in our earthly bodies, it is a short term investment. Because of the effects of sin, the human body is doomed to physical death and can become an instrument of spiritual death. Yet, through the regenerative waters of our baptism, we are alive in the spirit of Christ. He justifies (makes righteous in the sight of God) the believer, and we look forward to a final resurrection at the end of time when we will receive an imperishable body.
Jesus identifies Himself with the significant and symbolic words: I AM, ego ami, which reminds us of Yahweh’s revelation of Himself to Moses three times as I AM in Exodus 3:13-14.In John’s Gospel, Jesus will use these words twenty-six times and in seven different metaphors.
St. John will also record four “I AM” statements in which Jesus will not use a predicate nominative: John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19.
The significance of Jesus’ statement in light of Martha’s previous understanding is that the life that Jesus gives is a present reality and not just a future promise! There are two main ideas:
“I AM the resurrection” is a direct answer to Martha’s profession of faith in verse 24 and also tells her of the present realization of what she had only expected on “the last day.” Jesus is the resurrection in two senses. Not only will whoever believes in Him come to eternal life in the resurrection at the end of time, even though that person may suffer a physical death, but there is a gift of spiritual rebirth offered now in this life. The believer who is resurrected spiritually in Christ, although remaining “in the flesh” for a time, already lives by the Spirit, and when he dies physically, he will continue to live spiritually. It is for this reason that the Church speaks of two resurrections: one through baptism when we die to sin and arise to new life in Christ and the other at the end of time (see Rev 20:5-6; CCC 686; 990; 999-1004; 1015-17; 1214-15). It is why the Fathers of the Church had the saying: “Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.”
“and the Life” is a statement related to verse 26. The believer who is spiritually alive will never die spiritually. Whoever receives the gift of life through belief in Jesus will never die a spiritual death because his/her life is eternal. The “life” that Jesus speaks of comes from “above” and is begotten through God the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:3, 5). This new life conquers physical death as well as gives spiritual life. However, the supernatural gift is not just the “Life” that will begin beyond the grave. It is the supernatural life that sanctifying grace will bring to the Christian soul through the gift of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. It is the promise Jesus made to all believers in John 6:54-56 when He said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” The believer in Christ has triumphed over death forever, and this victory will be the sign of Lazarus’ resurrection.