Can we live forever? John 11: 1 – 44/Romans 8: 6 - 11

40 years after the pop group Abba broke up they are back on stage live at the Abba Arena in London but not as 70-somethings but as their youthful selves. It‘s a wonderful show and we were there on Friday night dancing and singing along with 3,000 Abba fans.

It’s all done, of course with the new digital technology that enables us to create virtual images that look and sound as if they are truly alive. So convincing that after a few seconds, you really believe that this is for real and you have somehow been transported back to your youthful self!

Eternal life and eternal youth have always been a dream that we have tried to realise and we continue to do so. The story of Lazarus’s resurrection gives us an insight into what eternal life might really mean not after death but before death. The story of Frida Kahlo tells us that even in life we can experience resurrection not once but three times.

At the age of 18 Frida was seriously injured in a bus accident by a metal bar that pierced her pelvis and broke her back. It was whilst miraculously recovering that she discovered her talent as an artist. Lying in bed with a mirror she repeatedly painted herself. 

After she had recovered she married the Mexican artist Diego Rivera and shortly afterward travelled with him to the USA. Here she was very much in the shadow of her famous husband. Tragedy was to strike again when she lost a child through miscarriage and suffered a period of depression but again illness and pain were to prove her strength. She began painting again and this time was recognised in her own right as an artist holding exhibitions in New York and Paris.

On her return to Mexico, her marriage to Rivera came to an end and the pain of her broken body became unbearable. She had to wear a metal corset to enable her to stand but eventually became bedridden. This, however, did not stop her from working and some of her most well-known works are from this period from 1934 – 49.

Frida died in 1954 aged 47 and was forgotten as an artist until the Feminist movement of the 1970s claimed her for their own. Since then her reputation and recognition have increased, indeed some speak of ‘Fridamania’. Annie our daughter is a devotee!

The story of Lazarus is, likewise, a story not of life after death but a story of life before death, a life that Jesus gives to us that lasts beyond death. We notice this in John’s account. Jesus speaks about life before death, rather than life after death. The focus of his ministry was health and wholeness, the complete healing of the body, mind, and spirit.

Notice that Jesus delays his journey to Bethany where Lazarus lies dying. It appears that death is not the issue here, 

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory” John 11: 4. 

Notice that Jesus' response to Martha when she rebukes him for not being present before his death is to talk about life, not death. The new life we know through Jesus Christ is a life that begins before death. 

 “I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live... and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” John 11: 25. 

The life that Jesus spoke about was a life before death, but what did he mean by that? His encounter with Mary suggests that the life he speaks about begins before death and survives the death of the body. It is a life that we can know as we put our trust in Jesus.

 “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11: 40. 

Irenaeus, one of the great theologians of the early church described the glory of God as “A Man fully alive” He rightly points out that Jesus refers here not to some future life but to the life of God in us now. It is this life that Lazarus receives.  In raising Lazarus to life Jesus makes clear that the life he now receives is about the quality of life as well as the security of life beyond death. 

We do not need then to dream of eternal life it is available to us now. We do not even need to imitate eternal youth for as Paul reminds us,

‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’

2 Corinthians 4:16

  The life eternal breaks in and takes over so that the glory of God can be demonstrated in our lives now. The most convincing evidence is the transformed lives of those who, like Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus when in the face of his death, continued to hold fast to the promise of life in Jesus Christ now. 


‘Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him’ John 11: 45.