Joh 11:1-46. Lazarus Raised
from the Dead—The Consequences of
1. of Bethany—at the east side of Mount
the town of Mary and her sister
Martha—thus distinguishing it from the other Bethany, "beyond
Jordan." (See on Joh 1:28; Joh 10:40).
2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with
ointment, &c.—This, though not recorded by our Evangelist
12:3, was so well known in
the teaching of all the churches, according to our Lord's prediction
26:13), that it is here
alluded to by anticipation, as the most natural way of identifying her;
and she is first named, though the younger, as the more distinguished
of the two. She "anointed THE Lord,"
says the Evangelist—led doubtless to the use of this term here,
as he was about to exhibit Him illustriously as the Lord of
3-5. his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, he
whom thou lovest is sick—a most womanly appeal, yet how
reverential, to the known affection of her Lord for the patient. (See
11:5, 11). "Those whom Christ
loves are no more exempt than others from their share of earthly
trouble and anguish: rather are they bound over to it more surely"
4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness
is not unto death—to result in death.
but for the glory of God, that the Son of God
may be glorified thereby—that is, by this glory of God. (See
Greek.) Remarkable language this, which from creature lips would
have been intolerable. It means that the glory of God manifested in the resurrection of dead Lazarus
would be shown to be the glory, personally and immediately, of
5. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and
Lazarus—what a picture!—one that in every age has
attracted the admiration of the whole Christian Church. No wonder that
those miserable skeptics who have carped at the ethical system of the
Gospel, as not embracing private friendships in the list of its
virtues, have been referred to the Saviour's peculiar regard for this
family as a triumphant refutation, if such were needed.
6. When he heard he was sick, he abode two days
still … where he was—at least twenty-five miles off.
Beyond all doubt this was just to let things come to their worst, in
order to display His glory. But how trying, meantime, to the faith of
his friends, and how unlike the way in which love to a dying friend
usually shows itself, on which it is plain that Mary reckoned. But the
ways of divine are not as the ways of human love. Often
they are the reverse. When His people are sick, in body or spirit; when
their case is waxing more and more desperate every day; when all hope
of recovery is about to expire—just then and therefore it is that
"He abides two days still in the same place where He is." Can
they still hope against hope? Often they do not; but "this is their
infirmity." For it is His chosen style of acting. We have been well
taught it, and should not now have the lesson to learn. From the
days of Moses was it given sublimely forth as the character of His
grandest interpositions, that "the Lord will judge His people and
repent Himself for His servants"—when He seeth that their
power is gone (De 32:36).
7-10. Let us go into Judea again—He was
now in Perea, "beyond Jordan."
8. His disciples say unto him, Master, the
Jews of late sought, &c.—literally, "were (just) now
seeking" "to stone thee" (Joh 10:31).
goest thou thither again?—to
certain death, as Joh 11:16
shows they thought.
9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in
the day?—(See on Joh 9:4). Our Lord's
day had now reached its eleventh hour, and having till now "walked in
the day," He would not mistime the remaining and more critical
part of His work, which would be as fatal, He says, as omitting it
altogether; for "if a man (so He speaks, putting Himself under
the same great law of duty as all other men—if a man) walk in the
night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him."
11-16. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that
I may wake him out of sleep—Illustrious title! "Our
friend Lazarus." To Abraham only is it accorded in the Old
Testament, and not till after his death, (2Ch 20:7; Isa
41:8), to which our attention
is called in the New Testament (Jas 2:23). When Jesus came in the flesh, His
forerunner applied this name, in a certain sense, to himself (Joh 3:29); and into the same fellowship the
Lord's chosen disciples are declared to have come (Joh 15:13-15). "The phrase here employed, "our
friend Lazarus," means more than "he whom Thou lovest" in Joh 11:3, for it implies that Christ's
affection was reciprocated by Lazarus" [Lampe]. Our Lord had been told only that Lazarus was
"sick." But the change which his two days' delay had produced is here
tenderly alluded to. Doubtless, His spirit was all the while with His
dying, and now dead "friend." The symbol of "sleep" for death is
common to all languages, and familiar to us in the Old Testament. In
the New Testament, however, a higher meaning is put into it, in
relation to believers in Jesus (see on 1Th
4:14), a sense hinted at, and clearly, in Ps 17:15 [Luthardt]; and the "awaking out of sleep" acquires a
corresponding sense far transcending bare resuscitation.
12. if he sleep, he shall do
well—literally, "be preserved"; that is, recover. "Why then
go to Judea?"
14. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is
dead—Says Bengel beautifully,
"Sleep is the death of the saints, in the language of heaven; but this
language the disciples here understood not; incomparable is the
generosity of the divine manner of discoursing, but such is the
slowness of men's apprehension that Scripture often has to descend to
the more miserable style of human discourse; compare Mt 16:11."
15. I am glad for your sakes I was not
there—This certainly implies that if He had been present,
Lazarus would not have died; not because He could not have resisted the
importunities of the sisters, but because, in presence of the personal
Life, death could not have reached His friend [Luthardt]. "It is beautifully congruous to the
divine decorum that in presence of the Prince of Life no one is ever
said to have died" [Bengel].
that ye may believe—This is added to
explain His "gladness" at not having been present. His friend's death,
as such, could not have been to Him "joyous"; the sequel shows it was
"grievous"; but for them it was safe (Php 3:1).
16. Thomas, … called Didymus—or
Let us also go, that we may die with
him—lovely spirit, though tinged with some sadness, such as
reappears at Joh 14:5,
showing the tendency of this disciple to take the dark view of
things. On a memorable occasion this tendency opened the door to
downright, though but momentary, unbelief (Joh 20:25). Here, however, though alleged by many
interpreters there is nothing of the sort. He perceives clearly how
this journey to Judea will end, as respects his Master, and not only
sees in it peril to themselves, as they all did, but feels as if he
could not and cared not to survive his Master's sacrifice to the fury
of His enemies. It was that kind of affection which, living only in the
light of its Object, cannot contemplate, or has no heart for life,
17-19. when Jesus came, he found that he had lain
in the grave four days—If he died on the day the tidings came
of his illness—and was, according to the Jewish custom, buried
the same day (see Jahn's
Archæology, and Joh 11:39; Ac 5:5, 6, 10)—and if Jesus, after two days'
further stay in Perea, set out on the day following for Bethany, some
ten hours' journey, that would make out the four days; the first and
last being incomplete [Meyer].
18. Bethany was nigh Jerusalem, about fifteen
furlongs—rather less than two miles; mentioned to explain the
visits of sympathy noticed in the following words, which the proximity
of the two places facilitated.
19. many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to
comfort them—Thus were provided, in a most natural way, so
many witnesses of the glorious miracle that was to follow, as to put
the fact beyond possible question.
20-22. Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was
coming, went and met him—true to the energy and
activity of her character, as seen in Lu 10:38-42. (See on Lu
but Mary sat … in the
house—equally true to her placid character. These
undesigned touches not only charmingly illustrate the minute
historic fidelity of both narratives, but their inner
21. Then said Martha … Lord, if thou hadst
been here, my brother had not died—As Mary afterwards said
the same thing (Joh 11:32),
it is plain they had made this very natural remark to each other,
perhaps many times during these four sad days, and not without having
their confidence in His love at times overclouded. Such trials of
faith, however, are not peculiar to them.
22. But I know that even now,
&c.—Energetic characters are usually sanguine, the rainbow of
hope peering through the drenching cloud.
whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give
it thee—that is "even to the restoration of my dead brother
to life," for that plainly is her meaning, as the sequel shows.
23-27. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall
rise again—purposely expressing Himself in general terms, to
draw her out.
24. Martha said, … I know that he shall rise
again … at the last day—"But are we never to see him in
life till then?"
25. Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the
life—"The whole power to restore, impart, and maintain
life, resides in Me." (See on Joh 1:4; Joh 5:21). What higher claim to supreme divinity than
this grand saying can be conceived?
he that believeth in me, though … dead
… shall he live—that is, The believer's death shall be
swallowed up in life, and his life shall never sink into death. As
death comes by sin, it is His to dissolve it; and as life flows through
His righteousness, it is His to communicate and eternally maintain it
5:21). The temporary
separation of soul and body is here regarded as not even interrupting,
much less impairing, the new and everlasting life imparted by Jesus to
His believing people.
Believest thou this?—Canst thou take
27. Yea, … I believe that thou art the
Christ, the Son of God, &c.—that is, And having
such faith in Thee, I can believe all which that comprehends.
While she had a glimmering perception that Resurrection, in every sense
of the word, belonged to the Messianic office and Sonship of Jesus, she
means, by this way of expressing herself, to cover much that she felt
her ignorance of—as no doubt belonging to Him.
28-32. The Master is come and calleth for
thee—The narrative does not give us this interesting detail,
but Martha's words do.
29. As soon as she heard that, she arose
quickly—affection for her Lord, assurance of His sympathy,
and His hope of interposition, putting a spring into her distressed
31. The Jews … followed her … to the
grave—Thus casually were provided witnesses of the
glorious miracle that followed, not prejudiced, certainly, in
favor of Him who wrought it.
to weep there—according to Jewish
practice, for some days after burial.
fell at his feet—more impassioned than
her sister, though her words were fewer. (See on Joh 11:21).
33-38. When Jesus … saw her weeping, and the
Jews … weeping … he groaned in the spirit—the
tears of Mary and her friends acting sympathetically upon Jesus, and
drawing forth His emotions. What a vivid and beautiful outcoming of His
"real" humanity! The word here rendered "groaned" does not mean
"sighed" or "grieved," but rather "powerfully checked his
emotion"—made a visible effort to restrain those tears which were
ready to gush from His eyes.
and was troubled—rather, "troubled
himself" (Margin); referring probably to this visible difficulty
of repressing His emotions.
34. Where have ye laid him? … Lord, come and
see—Perhaps it was to retain composure enough to ask this
question, and on receiving the answer to proceed with them to the spot,
that He checked Himself.
35. Jesus wept—This beautifully conveys
the sublime brevity of the two original words; else "shed tears"
might have better conveyed the difference between the word here used
and that twice employed in Joh 11:33,
and there properly rendered "weeping," denoting the loud wail for the
dead, while that of Jesus consisted of silent tears. Is it for
nothing that the Evangelist, some sixty years after it occurred,
holds up to all ages with such touching brevity the sublime spectacle
of the Son of God in tears? What a seal of His perfect oneness
with us in the most redeeming feature of our stricken humanity! But was
there nothing in those tears beyond sorrow for human suffering and
death? Could these effects move Him without suggesting the
cause? Who can doubt that in His ear every feature of the scene
proclaimed that stern law of the Kingdom, "The wages of sin is
death" (Ro 6:23), and
that this element in His visible emotion underlay all the rest?
36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved
him!—We thank you, O ye visitors from Jerusalem, for this
spontaneous testimony to the human tenderness of the Son of
37. And—rather, "But."
some … said, Could not this man, which
opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man should not have
died?—The former exclamation came from the better-feeling
portion of the spectators; this betokens a measure of suspicion. It
hardly goes the length of attesting the miracle on the blind man; but
"if (as everybody says) He did that, why could He not also have kept
Lazarus alive?" As to the restoration of the dead man to life, they
never so much as thought of it. But this disposition to dictate to
divine power, and almost to peril our confidence in it upon its doing
our bidding, is not confined to men of no faith.
38. Jesus again groaning in himself—that
is, as at Joh 11:33,
checked or repressed His rising feelings, in the former instance, of
sorrow, here of righteous indignation at their unreasonable unbelief;
3:5) [Webster and Wilkinson]. But here, too, struggling emotion was
deeper, now that His eye was about to rest on the spot where lay, in
the still horrors of death, His "friend."
a cave—the cavity, natural or
artificial, of a rock. This, with the number of condoling visitors from
Jerusalem, and the costly ointment with which Mary afterwards anointed
Jesus at Bethany, all go to show that the family was in good
39-44. Jesus said, Take ye away the
stone—spoken to the attendants of Martha and Mary; for it was
a work of no little labor [Grotius].
According to the Talmudists, it was forbidden to open a grave after the
stone was placed upon it. Besides other dangers, they were apprehensive
of legal impurity by contact with the dead. Hence they avoided coming
nearer a grave than four cubits [Maimonides in Lampe].
But He who touched the leper, and the bier of the widow of Nain's son,
rises here also above these Judaic memorials of evils, every one of
which He had come to roll away. Observe here what our Lord did
Himself, and what He made others do. As Elijah himself repaired the
altar on Carmel, arranged the wood, cut the victim, and placed the
pieces on the fuel, but made the by-standers fill the surrounding
trench with water, that no suspicion might arise of fire having been
secretly applied to the pile (1Ki 18:30-35); so our Lord would let the most
skeptical see that, without laying a hand on the stone that covered His
friend, He could recall him to life. But what could be done by human
hand He orders to be done, reserving only to Himself what transcended
the ability of all creatures.
Martha, the sister of … the
dead—and as such the proper guardian of the precious remains;
the relationship being here mentioned to account for her
venturing gently to remonstrate against their exposure, in a state of
decomposition, to eyes that had loved him so tenderly in life.
Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been
dead four days—(See on Joh 11:17). It
is wrong to suppose from this (as Lampe
and others do) that, like the by-standers, she had not thought of his
restoration to life. But the glimmerings of hope which she cherished
from the first (Joh 11:22),
and which had been brightened by what Jesus said to her (Joh 11:23-27), had suffered a momentary eclipse
on the proposal to expose the now sightless corpse. To such
fluctuations all real faith is subject in dark hours. (See, for
example, the case of Job).
40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee,
that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of
God?—He had not said those very words, but this was the scope
of all that He had uttered to her about His life-giving power (Joh 11:23,
25, 26); a gentle yet
emphatic and most instructive rebuke: "Why doth the restoration of
life, even to a decomposing corpse, seem hopeless in the presence of
the Resurrection and the Life? Hast thou yet to learn that 'if thou
canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth?'" (Mr 9:23).
41. Jesus lifted up his eyes—an
expression marking His calm solemnity. (Compare Joh 17:1).
Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard
me—rather, "heardest Me," referring to a specific prayer
offered by Him, probably on intelligence of the case reaching Him
11:3, 4); for His living and
loving oneness with the Father was maintained and manifested in the
flesh, not merely by the spontaneous and uninterrupted outgoing of Each
to Each in spirit, but by specific actings of faith and exercises of
prayer about each successive case as it emerged. He prayed (says Luthardt well) not for what He wanted, but for
the manifestation of what He had; and having the bright consciousness
of the answer in the felt liberty to ask it, and the assurance that it
was at hand, He gives thanks for this with a grand simplicity before
performing the act.
42. And—rather, "Yet."
I knew that thou hearest me always, but because
of the people that stand by I said it, that they might believe that
thou hast sent me—Instead of praying now, He simply gives
thanks for answer to prayer offered ere He left Perea, and adds that
His doing even this, in the audience of the people, was not from any
doubt of the prevalency of His prayers in any case, but to show the
people that He did nothing without His Father, but all by direct
communication with Him.
43, 44. and when he had thus spoken, he cried with
a loud voice—On one other occasion only did He this—on
the cross. His last utterance was a "loud cry" (Mt 27:50). "He shall not cry," said the prophet,
nor, in His ministry, did He. What a sublime contrast is this "loud
cry" to the magical "whisperings" and "mutterings" of which we read in
8:19; 29:4 (as Grotius remarks)! It is second only to the grandeur
of that voice which shall raise all the dead (Joh 5:28,
29; 1Th 4:16).
44. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him
go—Jesus will no more do this Himself than roll away the
stone. The one was the necessary preparation for resurrection,
the other the necessary sequel to it. The life-giving act alone He reserves to Himself. So
in the quickening of the dead to spiritual life, human
instrumentality is employed first to prepare the way, and then to turn
it to account.
45, 46. many … which … had seen
… believed … But some … went … to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done—the two classes which
continually reappear in the Gospel history; nor is there ever any great
work of God which does not produce both. "It is remarkable that on each
of the three occasions on which our Lord raised the dead, a large
number of persons was assembled. In two instances, the resurrection of
the widow's son and of Lazarus, these were all witnesses of the
miracle; in the third (of Jairus' daughter) they were necessarily
cognizant of it. Yet this important circumstance is in each case only
incidentally noticed by the historians, not put forward or appealed to
as a proof of their veracity. In regard to this miracle, we observe a
greater degree of preparation, both in the provident arrangement of
events, and in our Lord's actions and words than in any other. The
preceding miracle (cure of the man born blind) is distinguished from
all others by the open and formal investigation of its facts. And both
these miracles, the most public and best attested of all, are related
by John, who wrote long after the other Evangelists" [Webster and Wilkinson].
47-54. What do we? for this man doeth many
miracles—"While we trifle, 'this man,' by His 'many
miracles,' will carry all before Him; the popular enthusiasm will bring
on a revolution, which will precipitate the Romans upon us, and our all
will go down in one common ruin." What a testimony to the reality of
our Lord's miracles, and their resistless effect, from His bitterest
51. Caiaphas … prophesied that Jesus should
die for that nation—He meant nothing more than that the way
to prevent the apprehended ruin of the nation was to make a sacrifice
of the Disturber of their peace. But in giving utterance to this
suggestion of political expediency, he was so guided as to give forth a
divine prediction of deep significance; and God so ordered it that it
should come from the lips of the high priest for that memorable year,
the recognized head of God's visible people, whose ancient office,
symbolized by the Urim and Thummim, was to decide in the last resort,
all vital questions as the oracle of the divine will.
52. and not for that nation only,
&c.—These are the Evangelist's words, not Caiaphas'.
53. they took council together to put him to
death—Caiaphas but expressed what the party was secretly
wishing, but afraid to propose.
Jesus … walked no more openly among the
Jews—How could He, unless He had wished to die before His
near to the wilderness—of Judea.
a city called Ephraim—between
Jerusalem and Jericho.
55-57. passover … at hand … many went
… up … before the passover, to purify
themselves—from any legal uncleanness which would have
disqualified them from keeping the feast. This is mentioned to
introduce the graphic statement which follows.
56. sought they for Jesus, and spake among
themselves, as they stood in the temple—giving forth the
various conjectures and speculations about the probability of His
coming to the feast.
that he will not come—The form of this
question implies the opinion that He would come.
57. chief priests and the Pharisees had given a
commandment that if any knew where he were, he should show it, that
they might take him—This is mentioned to account for the
conjectures whether He would come, in spite of this determination to