John 11 – Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
A. The death of Lazarus.
1. (1-3) A request is brought to Jesus.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
a. Now a certain man was sick: This begins perhaps the most remarkable miracle Jesus performed. One might say that it is foolish to think one miracle is more difficult than another, but this seventh sign of John’s gospel is unique.
i. “There is no parallel whatever for the raising of a man who had been dead for four days and whose body had begun to putrefy.” (Barclay)
ii. “It is surprising that the other evangelists have omitted so remarkable an account as this is, in which some of the finest traits in our Lord’s character are exhibited. The conjecture of Grotius has a good deal of weight. He thinks that the other three evangelists wrote their histories during the life of Lazarus; and that they did not mention him for fear of exciting the malice of the Jews against him.” (Clarke)
iii. Morris suggested another reason the Synoptic Gospels did not include the account of the raising of Lazarus is that Peter was not present; in these months he was in Galilee while Jesus was in Perea and Bethany. Many think that the Synoptic Gospels are centered on Peter’s account of Jesus’ teaching and ministry.
iv. Lazarus of Bethany: “‘Lazarus,’ the Greek form of Eleazar = God is my Help.” (Dods)
b. Lazarus… Mary and her sister Martha: Jesus had a close relationship with this family. When Lazarus was sick it was natural for them to bring their need to Jesus. It was expected that if He miraculously met the needs of so many others, He would meet their need also.
c. Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick: Mary and Martha did not specifically ask Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. They felt they did not need to, that it was enough to simply tell Jesus what the problem was.
i. “The love of Jesus does not separate us from the common necessities and infirmities of human life. Men of God are still men.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4-6) Jesus responds with a delay.
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.
a. This sickness is not unto death: Lazarus was already dead when Jesus said this, but He knew the end result would be the glory of God, not death. Jesus also knew that the events recorded in this chapter would set the religious leaders in determination to kill Jesus. This meant the end result would be that the Son of God may be glorified in His death and resurrection.
i. “The only right understanding of this answer, and our Lord’s whole proceeding here is, — that He knew and foresaw all from the first.” (Alford)
ii. “We should have said that the sickness was unto death, but, ultimately, to the glory of God. But he who sees the end from the beginning streaks with a grandeur of style which could not be imitated by us. So the Lord speaks of things, not as they seem to be, nor even as they are in the present moment, but as they shall be in the long run.” (Spurgeon)
b. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus: John reminds us that Jesus did genuinely love these sisters and their brother. It was an important reminder, showing that a testing of their faith was not a denial of His love.
i. “The separate mention of the three persons is probably meant to put some stress on Jesus’ affection for each one individually. He did not simply love the family. He loved Martha and He loved Mary and He loved Lazarus.” (Morris)
ii. The individual love of Jesus towards these three is especially significant when we think of how they were different, both in their temperament and in their situations of life.
iii. “Thatdisciple whom Jesus loved is not at all backward to record that Jesus loved Lazarus too: there are no jealousies among those who are chosen by the Well-beloved.” (Spurgeon)
c. He stayed two more days: It seems strange that Jesus did not immediately act upon this great need. The delay was probably mystifying to the disciples and agonizing to Mary and Martha.
i. It is clear that Jesus prolonged the sorrow of Mary and Martha. These were two more days of agonized grief for them. Yet, “Sorrow is prolonged for the same reason as it was sent. It is of little use to send it for a little while.” (Maclaren)
ii. Jesus deliberately waited to bring Lazarus back from the dead until he had been in the tomb four days. “Lightfoot quotes a remarkable tradition of Ben Kaphra: ‘Grief reaches its height on the third day. For three days the spirit hovers about the tomb, if perchance it may return to the body. But when it sees the fashion of the countenance changed, it retires and abandons the body.’” (Dods)
iii. In John’s Gospel there are three times when someone dear to Jesus asked Him to do something (John 2:1-11 and 7:1-10)). In each of these three cases, Jesus responded in the same way.
· Jesus first refused to grant their request and then He fulfilled it after showing that He does things according to the timing and will of God, not man.
· Through His actions Jesus demonstrated that His delays were not denials. They would bring greater glory to God.
3. (7-10) Jesus courageously decides to go to Judea and Jerusalem.
Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
a. Let us go to Judea again: Jesus could have raised Lazarus from a distance. Because of the opposition from the religious leaders, Judea was a dangerous place for Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to go to Judea again – despite the warnings from His disciples.
b. Are there not twelve hours in the day? Jesus’ disciples were shocked that He would return to the region of Judea when He was a wanted man there. Jesus responded with by saying that He still had work to do. The twelve hours were a figurative way to speak of the time allotted by God the Father for the earthly work of Jesus.
i. There are many practical applications of this wise statement.
· Nothing can shorten our time.
· There is enough time for everything that needs to be done.
· We only have that time, so it must not be wasted.
ii. “Jesus is saying that a man must finish the day’s work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended.” (Barclay)
iii. “There are but twelve hours in the day, and it will be sunset before you dream of it. Get done what God has sent you here to do.” (Morrison)
c. If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble: During these hours no harm could come to Jesus and the disciples. They had to work before the night of Jesus’ passion.
i. “I have a fixed time during which to work, appointed me by my Father; during that time I feel no danger, I walk in His light, even as the traveller in the light of this world by day.” (Alford)
4. (11-15) Jesus tells them plainly of Lazarus’ death.
These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
a. Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up: Jesus used the familiar metaphor of sleep to describe the death of Lazarus. The figure of speech was especially meaningful because Jesus would soon wake him up – bring Lazarus back from death.
i. Jesus said of Jarius’ daughter that she was asleep (Matthew 9:24). At the end of Stephen’s martyrdom we are told that he fell asleep (Acts 7:60).
b. Lazarus is dead. And I am glad: Jesus could be glad, even in the death of a dear friend, because He was certain of the outcome. We see at the end of the events of this chapter that grief was comforted, life was restored, many more believed, and the necessary death of Jesus was set in motion. All of these were reasons to be glad.
i. “So we may learn that He often permits us to pass into profounder darkness, and deeper mysteries of pain, in order that we may prove more perfectly His power.” (Morgan)
ii. Nevertheless let us go to him: “Our Lord probably left Bethabara the day, or the day after, Lazarus died. He came to Bethany three days after; and it appears that Lazarus had been buried about four days, and consequently that he had been put in the grave the day or day after he died.” (Clarke)
5. (16) Thomas’ bold faith.
Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
a. Thomas, who is called the Twin: Church tradition says that Thomas was called the Twin because he looked like Jesus, putting him at special risk. If any among the disciples of Jesus were potential targets of persecution it would be the one who looked like Jesus.
i. All Jews in those days had two names – one a Hebrew name by which a man was known in his own circle, the other a Greek name by which he was known in a wider circle. Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin.” (Barclay)
b. Let us also go, that we may die with Him: Thomas was willing to go with Jesus even if it meant dying with Him. He made this commitment without much understanding of a promise of resurrection.
i. “Thomas utters a cry of loyal despair.” (Tasker)
ii. “He is the pessimist among the disciples, and now take the gloomy, and, as it is proved, the correct view of the result of this return to Judaea, but his affectionate loyalty forbids the thought of allowing Jesus to go alone.” (Dods)
B. Jesus meets with Martha and Mary.
1. (17-22) Martha greets Jesus as He comes to Bethany.
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
a. He had already been in the tomb four days: Jesus waited four days because He knew the Jewish superstition of that day that said a soul stayed near the grave for three days, hoping to return to the body. Therefore, it was accepted that after four days there was absolutely no hope of resuscitation.
b. Many of the Jews had joined the women around Mary and Martha: This was a large crowd, still present four days after Lazarus was buried. It was considered an important obligation to join with those who mourned the death of a near relative.
i. “A procession composed of relatives, friends, and sometimes hired mourners accompanied a body to the grave; and mourning usually lasted for several days afterward.” (Tenney)
ii. Mary was sitting in the house: “It is likely that by this circumstance the evangelist intended to convey the idea of her sorrow and distress; because anciently afflicted persons were accustomed to put themselves in this posture, as expressive of their distress; their grief having rendered them as it were immovable.” (Clarke)
c. Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died: Martha honestly stated her disappointment in Jesus’ late arrival. She believed that Jesus was able to heal her brother while he was sick yet still alive. It’s possible that she didn’t even consider that Jesus was able to raise Lazarus from the dead now.
i. “Death was no stronger in His presence than disease, but these did not realize this. They would think of Death as the unconquerable. With disease men may grapple, and fight, and often overcome. But in the presence of death they are helpless.” (Morgan)
d. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You: Martha was not confident that Jesus would raise her brother. Instead, she said that she would still trust Jesus despite this disappointment. This was a remarkable demonstration of faith, one that should be taken as an example.
i. “Some prayers would be all the better if they were shorter — all the better if they did not so much declare our own will as declare our confidence in the good will of Christ. I like the omissions of Martha’s and Mary’s prayer.” (Spurgeon)
ii. There can be great power in “even now” prayers.
· Your loved one can be as dead and smelly as Lazarus – do you believe Jesus for them, even now?
· You own situation can be as far gone as Lazarus was – do you believe Jesus for yourself, even now?
2. (23-27) I am the resurrection and the life.
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 may die, he shall 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, who is to come into the world.”
a. Your brother will rise again: Martha understood that her brother Lazarus would rise again with all the righteous on the last day. She did not even consider that Jesus might immediately bring Lazarus from the dead.
i. We may comfort a grieving person by saying, “You will see him again.” We sincerely mean it and sincerely mean the comfort, but we don’t mean “You will see him again right now.” Jesus meant that Lazarus would rise againright now.
ii. “That resurrection in the last day shall be only by my Power, and therefore I can raise now as well.” (Alford)
iii. I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day: “Thanks to the influence of the Pharisees and those who followed their line, this was now the general belief among Jews, in spite of the Sadducean resistance to it.” (Bruce)
iv. “It is clear that she derived very little consolation from the fact of a distant and general resurrection: she needed resurrection and life to come nearer home, and to become more a present fact to her.” (Spurgeon)
b. I am the resurrection and the life: Jesus did not claim to have resurrection and life, or understand secrets about resurrection and life. Instead Jesus dramatically said that He isthe resurrection and the life. To know Jesus is to know resurrection and life; to have Jesus is to have resurrection and life.
i. “She looked upon the resurrection and the life as things that were to be in some dim and misty future. ‘No,’ says Christ, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Not only do I get these things by prayer from God, but I am these things.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Apart from Him there was neither resurrection nor life.” (Dods)
iii. “Thou sayest that thy brother shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day; but by whom shall he arise if not by ME, who am the author of the resurrection, and the source of life? And is it not as easy for me to raise him now as to raise him then?” (Clarke)
c. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live: Jesus boldly challenged Martha to trust that He was the source of eternal life. Jesus presented Himself as the champion over death. While humanity in general fears death, the Christian can only fear dying. The believer will never die, but simply make an instant transition from an old life to a new life.
i. “Those that believe in Jesus Christ appear to die, but yet they live. They are not in the grave, they are for everwith the Lord. They are not unconscious they are with their Lord in Paradise. Death cannot kill a believer, it can only usher him into a freer form of life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Jesus does not of course man that the believer will not die physically. Lazarus was dead even then, and millions of Jesus’ followers have died since. But He means that he will not die in the sense in which death has eternal significance.” (Morris)
iii. “Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace: to the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors: death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “In the primitive Church, when they repeated that article of the creed, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the flesh,’ they would point to their bodies and say, etiam hujus carnis, even of this very flesh.” (Trapp)
v. Jesus made an enormous claim: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. Only God could say such things in truth.
d. Do you believe this? Jesus challenged Martha not to debate or intellectual assent, but to belief. She must believe Jesus was who He said He was and that He could do what He said He could do.
i. “He saith not, Understandest thou this?” (Trapp)
ii. “Does that mean that He would not raise her brother unless she believed? No; for He had determined to ‘awake him out of sleep’ before He left Perea.” (Maclaren)
e. Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world: Martha answered correctly. Jesus was and is indeed the Messiah (the Christ). Jesus was and is God in human form among us (the Son of God).
i. I believe: “Here ‘I’ is emphatic. Whatever may be the case with others she has put her trust in Jesus.” (Morris)
ii. Boice called these words of Martha faith’s foothold – they were a sure support from which she could climb higher.
3. (28-32) Mary’s regret.
And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
a. She went her way and secretly called Mary her sister: We aren’t told exactly why Martha did this secretly. It’s fair to guess that she did it to help Mary have a few uninterrupted moments with Jesus before the crowd of other mourners surrounded them.
i. The Teacher has come: “She speaks of Jesus as ‘The Teacher’ and the article is probably important. Among His followers Jesus was designated primarily by His teaching activities. But He is recognized as incomparable. He is ‘the Teacher’.” (Morris)
ii. The Teacher: “It is important to notice this use of the term by a woman. The Rabbis refused to instruct women, but Jesus took a very different view.” (Morris)
iii. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him: “Martha told Mary that Jesus was asking for her. To Mary, this was equivalent to a command to come. Mary wasted no time in going to Jesus.” (Tenne)
b. Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died: Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha has already spoken to Jesus regarding the death of Lazarus, then Mary spoke. Her words are remarkably similar to what Martha told Jesus (John 11:21).
i. “It is likely that they had said this to each other several times since Lazarus died.” (Bruce)
c. My brother would not have died: This is one of the places in the Bible where we wish we could hear the tone of voice and see the expressions on the face. This could have been a noble statement of faith, saying that if Jesus was there they have no doubt at all that He would have healed Lazarus. On the other hand, it could also be seen as a criticism of what seemed to be the tardiness of Jesus.
C. Lazarus is raised.
1. (33-38) A deeply moved Jesus comes to the tomb.
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
a. When Jesus saw her weeping: The grief and tears of Mary and Martha moved Jesus. God sees the tears of the grief stricken and is moved with compassion.
· God sees our tears.
· God is touched by our tears.
· God remembers our tears.
· God acts to dry our tears.
b. And the Jews who came with her weeping: The Jews of that time and place were not reserved in their expressions of sorrow or grief.
i. “We must remember that this would be no gentle shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking, for it was the Jewish point of view that the more unrestrained the weeping, the honour it paid to the dead.” (Barclay)
ii. Jesus saw her weeping… Jesus wept: There is an important contrast between the tears of Mary and the tears of Jesus. Weeping (the word used for Mary in John 11:33) is a word that describes loud wailing. Wept (the word to describe Jesus’ expression of grief in John 11:35) is another word that indicates a quiet weeping. Jesus was greatly moved, but not out of control.
iii. Morris on Jesus wept: “That used here (and here only in the New Testament) points rather to a quiet weeping. Jesus did not wail loudly but He was deeply grieved.”
c. He groaned in the spirit and was troubled: Coming to the scene of Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus intensely groaned in the spirit. In the ancient Greek, this phrase literally means, to snort like a horse – implying anger and indignation.
i. “The verb rendered ‘groaned’ is an unusual one. It signifies a loud inarticulate noise, and its proper use appears to be for the snorting of horses. When used of men it usually denotes anger.” (Morris)
ii. According to Trench, the sense of was troubled is “‘And troubled Himself.’ The phrase is remarkable: deliberately summoned up in Himself the feelings of indignation at the havoc wrought by the evil one, and of tenderness for the mourners.”
iii. “In ordinary classical Greek the usual usage of embrimasthai is of a horse snorting. Here it must mean that such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from his heart.” (Barclay)
iv. It means that Jesus wasn’t so much sad at the scene surrounding the tomb of Lazarus. It’s more accurate to say that Jesus was angry. Jesus was angry and troubled at the destruction and power of the great enemy of humanity: death. Jesus would soon break the dominating power of death.
v. “Christ does not come to the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but like a wrestler preparing for the contest. Therefore no wonder that He groans again, for the violent tyranny of death which He had to overcome stands before His eyes.” (Calvin)
d. Jesus wept: Jesus shared in the grief of those who mourn. Yet unlike any other, God the Son was able to do something about their grief. Jesus allowed this sympathetic passion to uniquely do for Lazarus what He will one day do for all the righteous dead.
i. Jesus wept: There are many aspects to these two words.
· Jesus was truly a man.
· There may be no sin or shame in tears.
· Jesus was acquainted with grief.
· Jesus was not ashamed of His humanity.
· Jesus identified with others in their sorrow.
· Jesus loves people.
ii. “Jesus had humanity in its perfection, and humanity unadulterated is generous and sympathetic.” (Clarke) “He suffered all the innocent infirmities of our nature.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Jesus dignified the tears of others in the Bible who wept, and all who weep.
· Abraham wept when he buried Sarah.
· Jacob wept when he wrestled the Angel.
· David and Jonathan wept together.
· Hezekiah wept over his sickness.
· Josiah wept over the sin of his nation.
· Jeremiah was the weeping prophet.
iv. “Sometimes we are told that if we really believed that our friends would rise again, and that they are safe and happy even now, we could not weep. Why not? Jesus did. There cannot be any error in following where Jesus leads the way.” (Spurgeon)
v. Barclay explains that to the mind of the ancient Greek the primary characteristic of God was apatheia: the total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever. The Greeks believed in an isolated, passionless, and compassionless God. That isn’t the God of the Bible. That isn’t the God who is really there.
vi. Again groaning in Himself: “The repetition of ‘deeply moved’ (embrimomenos), the present participle of the verb, shows that Jesus was still under the same emotional tension that his first contact with the mourners had aroused.” (Tenney)
vii. See how He loved him! “And when we see him pouring out his blood and life upon the cross for mankind, we may with exultation and joy cry out, Behold how he hath loved US!” (Clarke)
e. And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” These seem to be words of genuine sorrow and sympathy. They thought it truly sad that even Jesus, in all His greatness, could do nothing for Lazarus at this point.
i. “There is no reason for thinking of the words as spoken in mockery.” (Morris)
ii. Yet, these words were not helpful to anyone. Spurgeon noted that all this “what if” talking is vain, of no use. “Perhaps the bitterest griefs that men know come not from facts, but from things which might have been, as they imagine; that is to say, they dig wells of supposition, and drink the brackish waters of regret.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Suppose that Jesus is willing to open the eyes of the blind, and does open them; is he therefore bound to raise this particular dead man? If he does not see fit to do so, does that prove that he has not the power? If he lets Lazarus die, is it proven therefore that he could not have saved his life? May there not be some other reason? Does Omnipotence always exert its power? Does it ever exert all its power?” (Spurgeon)
2. (39-40) Jesus commands the stone to be removed.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
a. Take away the stone: Everybody thought this was a strange thing for Jesus to ask. After all, Martha knew Lord, by this time he stinketh (King James Version). People probably thought that Jesus was so taken with grief that He wanted one last look at His dear friend Lazarus.
b. By this time there is a stench: In any case, the condition of the body was an irrefutable confirmation of Lazarus’ death.
i. “The Greek word ozw signifies simply to smell, whether the scent be good or bad; but the circumstances of the case sufficiently show that the latter is its meaning here.” (Clarke)
c. If you would believe you would see the glory of God: Jesus was fully capable of this miracle without the faith of Martha or Mary. But if they would not believe, then they would never see the glory of God. They could see the end result and be happy in that, but they would miss the glory of working together with God in the fulfillment of His plan.
3. (41-42) Jesus prays at the tomb of Lazarus.
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
a. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying: This was a definite and remarkable step of faith. Jesus compelled Martha and Mary to act on their faith and they did by obeying Jesus and His unusual request.
i. We see that Jesus dealt with Martha according to steps deliberately intended to stretch and build her faith.
· Jesus gave her a promise.
· Jesus drew attention to Himself.
· Jesus called upon her to confess her faith.
· Jesus called her to act on her faith.
b. Jesus lifted up His eyes and said: Jesus likely had the traditional posture of prayer – hands raised, eyes open upwards as if looking towards heaven.
c. Father, I thank You that You have heard Me: Jesus was confident in His relationship with God the Father. The public nature of the prayer was for the sake of Mary, Martha, and the people who are standing by. The power of the prayer was rooted in the private prayer times of Jesus.
i. “No pomp of incantation, no wrestling in prayer even; but simple words of thanksgiving, as if Lazarus had already returned.” (Dods)
ii. “During His humiliation on earth, these acts of power were done by Him, not by that glory of His own which He had laid aside, but by the mighty working of the Father in Him, and in answer to His prayer.” (Alford)
4. (43-44) Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
a. He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” Jesus simply called Lazarus out of the tomb. Others whom God used to raise dead bodies in the Scriptures often used far more elaborate procedures
i. Cried with a loud voice: “Means with John the loud decisive tone of authority.” (Trench)
ii. “The loud voice was not, of course, because a loud voice was needed to make the dead hear. Probably it was in part at least, so that the crowd could know that this was no work of magic, but the very power of God. Wizards mutter their incantations and spells (cf. Isaiah 8:19). Not so the Son of God.” (Morris)
iii. “Jesus had said on a previous occasion that a time would come when all who were in their graves would hear his voice (John 5:28). This occasion was a single demonstration of that authority.” (Tenney)
b. Lazarus, come forth! Jesus spoke to a dead body as if Lazarus were alive because He is God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (Romans 4:17).
i. “The words spoken were brief, direct, and imperative and can be paraphrased, ‘Lazarus! This way out!’ as if Jesus were directing someone lost in a gloomy dungeon.” (Tenney)
ii. “If this voice of Christ had been directed to all the dead, they had presently risen.” (Trapp)
c. And he who had died came out: Jesus fought death at Lazarus’ tomb, and plundered the grave. Jesus told death the He would soon completely conquer it completely.
d. His face was wrapped with a cloth: Lazarus was not resurrected, but resuscitated. He arose bound in grave-clothes, for he would need them again; Jesus left His grave-clothes behind in His tomb, never again having need of them.
i. “How he moved I do not know. Some of the old writers thought that he glided, as it were, through the air, and that this was part of the miracle. I think he may have been so bound that though he could not freely walk yet he could shuffle along like a man in a sack.” (Spurgeon)
e. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go”: Jesus did not miraculously remove the grave-clothes from Lazarus, but He asked attendants to do so. Jesus did what only God could do, and then He looked for man’s cooperation for the completion of Lazarus’ deliverance.
i. “The man was wholly raised, but not wholly freed. See, here is a living man in the garments of death!” (Spurgeon)
ii. “What a man can do for himself God will not do for him, and what Christian people can do for sinners they must not expect the Lord to do, they must work themselves according to the ability God has given them up to the point of possibility, and then they may look for divine interposition.” (Spurgeon)
D. Two reactions.
1. (45) The reaction of faith: many of the Jews… believed in Him.
Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.
a. Many of the Jews who had come to Mary: Those who came to join in the sorrow of the grieving sisters did not expect that their reason for grief would be taken away.
b. Had seen the things Jesus did, believe in him: This was undeniably an impressive work of God, and for many it helped them put their trust in who Jesus said He was by seeing what He did.
2. (46-48) The worry of the religious leaders.
But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
a. But some of them went away to the Pharisees: John continues his persistent theme – that the words and works of Jesus divide humanity between those who believe and those who reject. There were some who saw both the power and sympathy of Jesus yet responded by working against Him.
i. “Astonishing! Some that had seen even this miracle steeled their hearts against it; and not only so, but conspired the destruction of this most humane, amiable, and glorious Saviour!” (Clarke)
ii. Spurgeon called the reporting of this to the Pharisees, “some of the meanest conduct that has ever been recorded in human history.”
iii. Gathered a council: Though unofficial, “It was a meeting of the Sanhedrin. John’s authority for the account of what passed here would be Joseph of Arimathaea or Nicodemus or some other member of the Sanhedrin who later became a Christian.” (Trench)
b. For this Man works many signs: The religious leaders privately admitted that Jesus performed signs that authenticated His claim to be Messiah and God. As Jesus claimed, His works did bear witness of Him (John 10:25).
i. Their opposition changed. First they opposed Jesus because they weren’t convinced He was the Messiah. Now they opposed Jesus because they were convinced that He was the Messiah. They admitted the miracles, but look how they treated the Miracle-worker:
· They denied Him.
· The opposed Him.
· They were afraid of His influence over the people.
c. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him: The religious leaders knew the logical response to the witness of the works of Jesus was to believe in Him. They feared more and more would do so.
i. There is a wonderful thought suggested by this phrase, if we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him – simply that left alone, Jesus shows forth His glory.
ii. However, in the sense that the Pharisees meant this, they were wrong. “Historically, and in the sovereign will of God, it is just because the Pharisees did not let Christ alone that we believe and worship Him.” (Morrison)
d. The Romans will come and take away both our place and nation: As Jesus attracted more and more followers, the religious leaders feared that the Romans would regard it as a significant threat. Wanting especially to keep their power and prestige, they wondered how to deal with the problem of Jesus.
i. Most commentators believe that our place refers to the temple. The religious leaders had made such an idol of the temple that they were willing to kill Jesus to preserve it.
ii. “‘Our place’ which, they feared, would be taken away was the temple (‘this holy place’ of Acts 6:13f.; 21:28).” (Bruce)
iii. It is telling that the religious leaders thought of the temple as our place, as if it belonged to them. Many church leaders today do the same, truly thinking of the church as our church instead of really understanding that it belongs to Jesus.
iv. In tragic fact, this rejection of Jesus resulted in the political ruin and ultimate destruction of the nation. “By the time this Gospel was written, the catastrophe which they dreaded had taken place, but not because of the presence and activity of Jesus.” (Bruce)
3. (49-52) The counsel of Caiaphas.
And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
a. It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish: Caiaphas thought logically but nor morally. It was logical that one man should die for the people, but it was not moral to reject the Messiah and seek the death of an innocent Man.
i. Being high priest that year: “He was High Priest during the whole Procuratorship of Pontius Pilate, eleven years. In the words that year, there is no intimation conveyed that the High Priesthood was changed every year, which it was not, but we must understand the words as directing attention to ‘that (remarkable) year’.” (Alford)
ii. You know nothing at all: “According to Josephus, Sadducees had a reputation for rudeness, even among one another.” (Bruce)
iii. Nor do you consider: “A word used of reckoning up accounts and the like. He is saying that they cannot even calculate, cannot even work it out that such and such a course of action is the expedient one.” (Morris)
b. He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation: Caiaphas gave an unconscious and involuntary prophecy. John was careful to give the credit to the office, not to the man (being high priest that year he prophesied).
i. “He is urging them to put Jesus to death: but the form of words he uses is unconsciously prophetic.” (Trench)
ii. “Wholesome sugar may be found in a poisoned cane, a precious stone in a toad’s head, a flaming torch in a blind man’s hand.” (Trapp)
c. Also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad: John explained that the unconscious prophecy of Caiaphas was greater than he could have ever imagined. The death of Jesus would also gather together in one the sheep of another fold Jesus had previously spoken of (John 10:16).
i. “Caiaphas’s words are not big enough. John has a world-wide vision.” (Morris)
4. (53-54) The plot to put Jesus to death
Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.
a. Then from that day on they plotted to put Him to death: Before it was mostly lesser religious officials who wanted Jesus dead. At this point the men with real political power decided to murder Jesus. The time was now short until the death of Jesus.
i. Maclaren expressed the thinking of the council: “Never mind about His miracles, or His teaching, or the beauty of His character. His life is a perpetual danger to our prerogatives. I vote for death!”
ii. “This last sign raised the opposition of His foes to definite activity.” (Morgan)
b. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews: Again, Jesus did not do this out of fear, but because His hour had not yet come (as in John 7:30). The hour had not yet come, but it was soon to come.
i. A city called Ephraim: This was north of Jerusalem, close to Samaria. “This city Ephraim is the Ephrain of 2 Chronicles 13:19 = the Ophrah of Joshua 18:23: it had repeatedly changed hands, between Benjamin and Ephraim, in the old wars.” (Trench)
5. (55-57) Looking for Jesus at the Passover feast.
And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast?” Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
a. Before the Passover, to purify themselves: This means that it was the last few days before the coming Passover – at which Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, condemned, and crucified.
i. “Some purifications required a week, others consisted only of shaving the head and washing the clothes.” (Dods)
ii. That He will not come to the feast? “The second of their questions seems to show that they expected as answer ‘No’…They considered it unlikely that in view of circumstances He would be so foolhardy as to put in an appearance.” (Morris)
b. Both the chief priests at the Pharisees had given a command: Most of the chief priests were Sadducees and normally uncooperative with the Pharisees. They found common cause in their opposition to Jesus.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission