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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
John 11

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-24

34 The term "gods" is translated "judges" in Exo_21:6 ; Exo_22:8-9 , where it refers to men. But our Lord does not appeal to this, but to Psa_82:6 where the context clearly excludes men. The mighty spiritual powers of the past who overrule the affairs of mankind are called sons by God Himself. Even Satan is called a son of God ( Job_1:6 ). He is called the god of this eon ( 2Co_4:4 ). Now if God said to these subjectors, "Gods are you," notwithstanding the fact that they failed to right the wrongs of earth, how much rather shall He have called Him God Who shall dispossess them? To Him God says ( Psa_82:8 ): Rise, O God! Judge the earth, For Thou shalt be allotted all nations.

He had been undoing the deeds of these sons of God and doing all that was foretold of Him before their very eyes. And yet they thought they were not blind!

1 The rousing of Lazarus from among the dead is the seventh and last sign in John's account. Each succeeding sign finds the nation on a lower level. At the marriage feast of Cana they lacked the joy and gladness of the kingdom; the infirm man at Bethesda's pool lacked power; the disciples on the sea, tossed by the tempest, lacked peace; the blind man lacked sight; but Lazarus lacked life. The apostasy of the nation had developed to such a degree that death was the fittest symbol to describe them. This is the condition of Israel in the latter days, as the prophet Ezekiel saw them in the valley of dry bones ( Eze_37:3 ). The question is asked, "Shall these bones live?" And the bones are roused from death, and enter the land of Israel.

4 The cause of Lazarus' infirmity was not sin, as in the case of the man at Bethesda. It was the necessary prelude to the manifestation of His glory. Indeed, the Lord deliberately delayed His departure in order that he should die. So He deals with Israel. Their great cry is "Till when ?" ( Isa_6:11 ). Their restoration to life is postponed until they are beyond all hope, until their resurrection, spiritually as well as physically, is manifestly the work of the Lord.

9 The day, in the East, begins with sunrise and ends with sunset. It is always divided into twelve hours. In summer these are longer than in winter. As the sun is nearly always shining anyone can tell the time of day by merely glancing at his shadow.

11 Repose is the favorite figure of death in the Scriptures. Only four times is it used of the actual repose of sleep ( Mat_27:52 ; Mat_28:13 ; Luk_22:45 ; Act_12:6 ). Fourteen times is it found in its figurative sense ( Joh_11:11-12 ; Act_7:60 ; Act_13:36 ; 1Co_7:39 ; 1Co_11:30 ; 1Co_15:6 ; 1Co_15:18 ; 1Co_15:20 ; 1Co_15:51 ; 1Th_4:13-15 ; 2Pe_3:4 ). It is used of both believers and unbelievers ( 1Co_7:39 ). It likens death to that beneficial aspect of sleep which restores us to physical vigor and vitality. Death itself is an enemy, so we must look to the resurrection as the true inspiration for this figure. This is beautifully pictured in the case of Lazarus. Had he actually found repose in sleep he would doubtless have recovered. But his death amounted to no more than this after the Lord has restored his life by resurrection. Of his experience in death we are told nothing, for this figure precludes the thought. Normal sleep is itself without sensation, and "the repose of sleep" is unbroken oblivion until the awakening.

15 We know that the Lord was fond of Lazarus (3). How strange, then, to hear Him say "Lazarus died. And I am rejoicing . . ."! We might have said, "I am sorrowing ." It is our privilege, also, to look about us on all the distress and disaster and death and rejoice, not in the calamities themselves, but in the glory which will accrue to God when He deals with them. It is only as we see God's beneficent purpose in our trials that we can really endure them with joyfulness.

17 The four days may suggest the time during which the nation lies lifeless, before the resurrection of the day of the Lord. First they were under the law, and this dealt out death. Then came the personal ministry of Messiah which showed them to be but a corrupt corpse.

The rejection of the apostolic testimony in the Acts leaves them still worse. They become most offensive in the day of wrath.

Verses 25-48

25 The striking phrase "and the Life" is the clue to the great truth here unfolded by our Lord. To His assertion that "Your brother will be rising" Martha assents, for she knew that all would rise "at the last day". But this falls far short of the truth. There are two resurrections. One He called "the resurrection of life:' the other "the resurrection of judgment" ( Joh_5:29 ). As resurrection necessarily implies life, it will be seen that the word "life" is used in an intensified sense. The "resurrection of life" imparts eonian life, while the resurrection of judgment leads to eonian death. Our Lord is seeking to comfort Martha by that best of all consolations, the vivification of all His own at His presence, long before "the last day:' at the very commencement of the millennial eon. Seventy-five days after His glorious epiphany He will rouse the saints in Israel and commence their righteous reign over the earth. "Happy and holy is he who is having part in the former resurrection: over these the second death has no jurisdiction, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will be reigning with Him the thousand years" ( Rev_20:6 ). The saints of this present economy of transcendent grace will be given life even before this, as explained in 1Th_4:13-18 ; 1Co_15:51-55 ; Eph_1:12 ; Php_3:20 . The presence, or parousia , of Christ spreads over a period of time, in which all His own are called out of death to eonian life. Only three resurrections lead to immortality. First, that of Christ Himself, second, that at

His future "presence" including those who are His, and, lastly, all mankind, at the consummation, when all will be made alive ( 1Co_15:22-28 ). This great truth is the only real comfort in the presence of bereavement. Christ never stood in the presence of death without vanquishing it. He is the Life! Since this life beyond the reach of death is imparted only on these three occasions, it follows that every other resurrection is not a "resurrection of life". Those raised in the past and those at the great white throne are still subject to death. They are not made immortal until the consummation, when death is abolished, and life is the portion of all.

35 What tender compassion His tears reveal! He could deliberately remain away so that Lazarus should die and by his death prepare for the revelation of God's glory in his resurrection. He could comfort the sisters with the great truth that He is the Life. But with Him truth was not the stern, heartless dogma that overrides all natural feelings and condemns all sorrow as unbelief. His heart was moved with pity and compassion and He stops to mingle His tears with theirs ere He wipes them away by His marvelous miracle. So we, too, are not charged by the apostle to refrain from all sorrow as sinful, but not to sorrow as others who have no blessed expectation to anticipate ( 1Th_4:13 ). We have here a touching example of the experience recorded by the apostle Paul: ''as sorrowing, yet ever rejoicing" ( 2Co_6:10 ). Or, in our Lord's case, we should reverse it, for He rejoiced first of all, yet felt for His friends who had not His faith. It is a mistake to suppose that confidence in the ultimate benefits of sorrow will put us out of sympathy with it. It is intended to stir our emotions. It is designed to touch us to tears. Otherwise, it would fail to accomplish the object for which it exists. Our sorrows and heartaches are none the less real because we know their glorious outcome. All their ultimate value lies in their contrast with the tearless felicity for which they are a preparation.

39 Of the three who were raised from the dead by our Lord, Jairus' daughter had scarcely started to go to corruption ( Mar_5:35-42 ) , the widow of Nain's son was on the way to his burial ( Luk_7:11-16 ), but Lazarus had been dead long enough to be offensive to smell and to sight. No wonder Martha objected. Who wishes to see the gruesome spectacle of a corrupting corpse? How their hearts must have marveled at His words "you should be seeing the glory of God." The glory of God in such ghastly association! Yet such is the only place its full effulgence can be manifested. This is one of many examples which are given us in the Scriptures, which illustrate the essential and beneficial function of evil in the universe. It reveals God. All those deepest and most precious excellences which spring from love would be buried within His breast, unknown and unappreciated, if evil did not force it to the front. If Lazarus had not died, we would not have known of Christ's compassion and His tears. Even Mary had not learned this lesson yet, though she had sat at His feet and listened to His teachings. His heart was most touched by her complaint "Lord, if Thou wert here, my brother would not have died!" Did she know that He had delayed His coming? It is the great problem that baffles men today put into a simple simile. Why does God allow evil? Why does He not hasten to remove it? All that is needed is His presence. But He delays. His delay confirms the great truth that evil as well as good is from Him ( Isa_45:7 ). It is the necessary foil for the display of His glory. It is the essential ingredient of future bliss. Good cannot be known and appreciated except in the presence of evil. It needs a dead, loathsome, fetid corpse to flash forth the effulgent love of God.

Verses 49-57

49 The high priest's prophecy is another clear indication of the overruling and sovereign power of God. His enemies fulfill His will even when they are most opposed to His plans and purpose, as they see it. The very arrogance of the chief priest reacts on himself. Not only the Sanhedrin, whom he accused of crass ignorance, but he also was unaware of the great truth which his lips uttered. How pitiable is man's "free will" in the hands of such a God! Man is utterly at the mercy of his heredity and environment, and these are beyond his control. God alone decides the factors of which our lives are composed and hence He is the final Arbiter of our deeds and destiny. Once we know Him we would not have it otherwise.

53 How vivid are the contrasts in this account! Christ has proclaimed Himself as the Life, both by word and by deed. From that day, then, they plan that they may kill Him. They deliberately decide to murder the One Who not only has life in Himself, but Who is to give life to all mankind !

55 "The Lord's Passover" ( Exo_12:27 ) has become "the Passover of the Jews"! The Lamb was not there.

1-8 Compare Mat_26:6-13 ; Mar_14:3-9 .

1 We are now treated to a beautifully symbolic picture of the three-fold phase of resurrection life. The saints shall serve Him as Martha did. They shall share with Him, as Lazarus. They shall worship Him, like Mary. In these degenerate days we have forgotten that there is need of one thing, and that is not service or sacrifice, but of sitting at the feet of our Lord and hearing His Word. Service has its place, but it is not, as Martha thought, the great need. God can get servants. He has many much more powerful than we are. He can make the very elements do His bidding. He is looking for worship, and true worship comes only from the heart attuned to His grace. Martha served, as she always did, though she had learned not to be worried by its details. Mary no longer sits at His feet but worships there, and "wastes" a woman's prized possession on them, and wipes them with a woman's glory. It is the most exalted act of any of His disciples. Like us, they were usually after blessing for themselves , instead of seeking to give Him what His heart craves. It is not what we get but what we give to God that fulfils the purpose for which He formed and favored us. Let us become so enamored of His excellencies that we, too, shall waste our most precious possessions in worship at His feet. Nothing is too good for Him! Nothing is lost that serves to express our adoration, nothing is wasted that conveys our love. But worshipful response is impossible apart from the preparation of heart which comes only to those who search the treasures of His Word. The discoveries of His wisdom and grace alone can constrain the heart to the impulsive and uncalculated displays of lavish affection which are His delight. One heart, responding to His love, is better than all the service and ceremony of a myriad of slaves driven by fear or favor.

3 The term "ointment" is now used especially for fatty or fixed oils, of heavy consistency, but the perfumes used in the Orient are essential oils, or attars. This seems the only satisfactory English term for the precious perfume used by Mary.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 11". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/john-11.html. 1968.
 
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