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Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ Raising Lazarus
Below is an Analysis of the first ten verses of John 11:0 .
1. Lazarus and his sisters, verses 1, 2.
2. Their appeal to the Lord, verse 3.
3. God’s design in Lazarus’ sickness, verse 4.
4. The delay of love, verses 5, 6.
5. Christ testing His disciples, verse 7.
6. The disciples’ trepidation, verse 8.
7. The Lord re-assuring the disciples, verses 9, 10.
Before taking up the details of the passage which is to be before us a few words need to be said concerning the principle design and character of John 11:0 and 12. In the preceding chapters we have witnessed the increasing enmity of Christ’s enemies, an enmity which culminated in His crucifixion. But before God suffered His beloved Son to be put to death, He gave a most blessed and unmistakable witness to His glory. "We have seen, all through John, that no power of Satan could hinder the manifestation of the Person of Christ. He met with incessant opposition and undying hatred, the result, however, being that glory succeeds glory in manifestation, and God was fully revealed in Jesus. That was His purpose, and who could hinder its accomplishment? ‘Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?’ Man’s rage against Christ, only served as an occasion for the manifestation of His glory. Here in John 11:0 the Son of God is glorified, the glory of God answering to the rejection of the Person of Christ in the preceding chapters" (R. Evans: Notes & Meditations on John’s Gospel).
It is indeed a striking fact, and one to which we have not seen attention called, that the previous chapters show us Christ rejected in a threefold way, and then God answering by glorifying Christ in a threefold way. In verse 16 we read, "Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day": this was because of His works. In John 8:58 we are told, "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am"; and immediately following, it is recorded, "Then took they up stones to cast at him"; this was because of His words. While in John 10:30 the Lord affirmed, "I and my Father are one," which is at once followed by, "Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him": this was on account of the claim which He had made concerning His person.
The threefold witness which God caused to be borne to the glory of Christ in John 11:0 and 12 corresponds exactly with the threefold rejection above, though they are met in their inverse order. In John 10:31 it was Christ in His absolute Deity, as God the Son, who was rejected. Here in John 11:0 His Divine glory shines forth most manifestly in the raising of Lazarus. In John 8:0 He was rejected because He declared "Before Abraham was, I am." There it was more in His Messianic character that He was despised. Corresponding to this, in John 12:12-15 we find Him in full Messianic glory entering Jerusalem as "King of Israel." In John 5:0 Christ is seen more in His mediatorial character, in incarnation as "the Son of man" note verse 27. Corresponding to this we find in the third section of John 12:0 the Gentiles seeking the Lord Jesus, and to them He answered: "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified" (John 12:23 )!
Man had fully manifested himself. The Light had shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. The deep guilt of men had been demonstrated by their refusing the sent One from the Father, and their deadness in trespasses and sins had been evidenced by the absence of the slightest response to the eternal Word then tabernacling in their midst. They had seen and hated both Him and His Father (John 15:24 ). The end of Christ’s public ministry was, therefore, well-nigh reached. But before He goes to the Cross, God gave a final testimony to the glory of His beloved. Beautiful is it to behold the Father so jealously guarding the honor of His Son in this threefold way ere He left the stage of public action. And solemn was it for Israel to be shown so plainly and so fully WHO it was they had rejected and were about to crucify.
The darker the night, the more manifest the light which illumines it. The more the depravity and enmity of Israel were exhibited, the brighter the testimony which God caused to be borne to the glory of His Son. The end was almost reached, therefore did the Lord now perform His mightiest work of all save only the laying down of His own life, which was the wonder of all wonders. Six miracles (or as John terms them, "signs") had already been wrought by Him, but at Bethany He does that which displayed His Divine power in a superlative way. Previously we have seen Him turning water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, restoring the impotent man, multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on the sea, giving sight to the blind man; but here he raises the dead, yea, brings back to life one who had lain in the grave four days. Fitting climax was this, and most suitably is it the seventh "sign" in this Gospel.
It is true that Christ had raised the dead before, but even here the climax is again to be seen. Mark records the raising of Jairus’ daughter, but she had only just died. Luke tells of the raising of the widow’s son of Nain, but he had not been buried. But here, in the case of Lazarus, not only had the dead man been placed in the sepulcher, but corruption had already begun to consume the body. Supremely true was it of the just One (Acts 3:14 ) that His path was as the shining light, which shone "more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18 ).
The same climactic order is to be seen in connection with the state of the natural man which John’s "signs" typically portray. "They have no wine" (John 2:3 ), tells us that the sinner is a total stranger to Divine joy (Judges 9:13 ). "Sick" (John 4:46 ), announces the condition of the sinner’s soul, for sin is a disease which has robbed man of his original health. The "impotent man" (John 5:7 ), shows us that the poor sinner is "without strength" (Romans 5:6 ), completely helpless, unable to do a thing to better his condition. The multitude without any food of their own (John 6:5 ), witnesses to the fact that man is destitute of that which imparts strength. The disciples on the storm-tossed sea (John 6:18 ), before the Savior came to them, pictures the dangerous position which the sinner occupies already on the "broad road" which leadeth to destruction. The man blind from his birth (John 9:1 ), demonstrates the fact that the sinner is altogether incapable of perceiving either his own wretchedness and danger, or the One who alone can deliver him. But in John 11:0 we have that which is much more solemn and awful. Here we learn that the natural man is spiritually dead, "dead in trespasses and sins." Lower than this we cannot go. Anything more hopeless cannot be portrayed. In the presence of death, the wisest, the richest, the most mighty among men have to confess their utter helplessness. This, this is what is set before us in John 11:0 . Most suitable background for Christ to display Himself as "the resurrection and the life." And most striking is this climax of the "signs" recorded in the fourth Gospel, displaying both the power of Christ and the condition of the natural man.
"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" (John 11:1 ). The object of our Lord’s resurrection-power is first presented to our notice. His name was Lazarus. At once our minds revert back to Luke 16:0 , where another "Lazarus" is seen. But how striking the contrast, a contrast most evidently designed by the Holy Spirit. There are only two mentioned in the New Testament which bear this name. Here again the ‘law of comparison and contrast’ helps us. The Lazarus of Luke 16:0 was a beggar, whereas everything goes to show that the Lazarus of John 11:0 (cf. John 12:2 , John 12:3 ) was a man of means. The Lazarus of Luke 16:0 was uncared for, for we read of how the dogs came and licked his sores; but the one in John 11:0 enjoyed the loving ministrations of his sisters. The Lazarus of Luke 16:0 was dependent upon the "crumbs" which fell from another’s table; whereas in John 12:0 , after his resurrection, the Lazarus of Bethany is seen at "the table" where the Lord Jesus was. The one in Luke 16:0 died and remained in the grave, the one in John 11:0 was brought again from the dead.
The Holy Spirit has been careful to identify the Lazarus of John 11:0 as belonging to Bethany a word that seems to have a double meaning: "House of Figs," and "House of Affliction." It was the "town" (more accurately "village") of Mary and her sister Martha. Though not mentioned previously by John, this is not the first reference to these sisters in the Gospel records. They are brought before us at the close of Luke 10:0 , and what is there recorded about them sheds not a little light upon some of the details of John 11:0 .
Martha was evidently the senior, for we are told "Martha received him into her house" (Luke 10:38 ). This is most blessed. There were very few homes which were opened to the Lord Jesus. He was "despised and rejected of men." Men hid as it were their faces from Him and "esteemed him not." Not only was He unappreciated and unwelcome, but He was "hated." But here was one who had "received him," first into her heart, and then into her home. So far so good. Of her sister, it is said, "And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word" (Luke 10:39 ). It is indeed striking to note that each time Mary is mentioned in the Gospel, she is seen at the feet of Christ. She had the deeper apprehension of the glory of His person. She was the one who enjoyed the most intimacy with Him. Her’s was the keener spiritual discernment. We shall yet see how this is strongly confirmed in John 11:0 and 12.
Next we are told, "But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me" (Luke 10:40 ). The word "cumbered" means "weighted down." She was burdened by her "much serving." Alas, how many there are like her among the Lord’s people to-day. It is largely due to the over-emphasis which has been placed upon "Christian service" much of which is, we fear, but the feverish energy of the flesh. It is not that service is wrong, but it becomes a snare and an evil if it be allowed to crowd out worship and the cultivation of one’s own spiritual life: note the order in 1 Timothy 4:16 , "Take heed unto thyself, and to thy teaching."
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:41 ). This is very solemn. The Lord did not commend Martha for her "much serving." Instead, He reproved her. He tells her she was distracted and worried because she had given her attention to "many things." She was attempting more than God had called her to do. This is very evident from the previous verse. Martha felt that her load was too heavy to carry alone, hence her "bid her therefore that she help me." Sure sign was this that she had run without being sent. When any Christian feels as Martha here felt, he may know that he has undertaken to do more than the Lord has appointed.
"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42 ). Though the Lord reproved Martha, He commended Mary. The "one thing needful" is "that good part" which Mary had chosen, and that is to receive from Christ. Mary sat at His feet "and heard his word." She was conscious of her deep need, and came to Him to be ministered unto. Later, we shall see how she ministered unto Christ, and ministered so as to receive His hearty commendation. But the great lesson for us here is, that we must first be ministered unto before we are qualified to minister unto others. We must be receivers, before we can give out. The vessel must be filled, before it can overflow. The difference then between Martha and Mary is this: the one ministered unto Christ, the other received from Him, and of the latter He declared, she "hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." This brief examination of Luke 10:0 , with the information it gives about the characters of the two sisters of Lazarus will enable us to understand the better their respective actions and words in John 11:0 .
"It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick" (John 11:2 ). This explains why Mary is mentioned first in the previous verse the only time that she is. The commentators have indulged in a variety of conjectures, but the reason is very obvious. John’s Gospel was written years after the first three, one evidence of which is supplied in the verses before us. The opening verse of our chapter clearly supposes that the reader is acquainted with the contents of the earlier Gospels. Bethany was "the town (village) of Mary and her sister Martha." This Luke 10:38 had already intimated. But in addition, both Matthew and Mark record how that Mary had "anointed" the Lord with her costly ointment in the house of Simon the leper who also resided in Bethany. It is true her name is not given either by Matthew or Mark,  but it is very clear that her name must have been known, for how else could the Lord’s word have been carried out: "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her" (Mark 14:9 ). It is this which explains why Mary is mentioned first in John 11:1 she was the better known!
It was at Bethany that Lazarus lived with his sisters. Bethany was but a village, yet had it been marked out in the eternal counsels of God as the place which was to witness the greatest and most public miraculous attestation of the Deity of Christ. "Let it be noted that the presence of God’s elect children is the one thing which makes towns and countries famous in God’s sight. The village of Martha and Mary is noticed, while Memphis and Thebes are not named in the New Testament. A cottage where there is grace, is more pleasant in God’s sight than a palace where there is none." (Bishop Ryle). It was at Bethany there was to be given the final and most conclusive proof that He who was on the point of surrendering Himself to death and the grave was none other than the resurrection and the life. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18 ), the headquarters of Judaism, so that the news of the raising of Lazarus would soon be common knowledge throughout all Judea.
"Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3 ). This must not be regarded as a protest; it was not that Martha and Mary were complaining against Christ because He suffered one whom He loved to fall sick. Instead, it was simply an appeal to the heart of One in whom they had implicit confidence. The more closely this brief message from the sisters is scrutinized, the more will their becoming modesty be apparent. Instead of prescribing to Christ what should be done in their brother’s case, they simply acquainted Him with his desperate condition. They did not request Him to hasten at once to Bethany, nor did they ask Him to heal their brother by a word from a distance, as once He had restored to health the nobleman’s son (John 4:0 ). Instead, they left it for Him to decide what should be done.
"Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." Each word in this touching message of Martha and Mary is worthy of separate consideration. "Lord" was the language of believers, for no unbeliever ever so addressed the despised Nazarene. "Lord" acknowledged His Deity, owned His authority, and expressed their humility. "Lord, behold": this is a word which arrests attention, focalizes interest, and expressed their earnestness. "He whom thou lovest." This is highly commendable. They did not say, "he who loves thee." Christ’s fathomless love for us, and not our feeble love for Him, is what we ever need to keep steadily before our hearts. Our love varies; His knows no change. It is indeed striking to note the way in which the sisters refer to Lazarus. They did not blame him! They did not even say, "our brother," or "thy disciple," but simply "he whom thou lovest is sick." They knew that nothing is so quick in discernment as love; hence their appeal to the omniscient love of Christ. "He whom thou lovest is sick." There are two principle words in the Greek to express sickness: the one referring to the disease itself, the other pointing to its effects weakness, exhaustion. It is the latter that was used here. As applied to individual cases in the N.T. the word here used implies deathly-sick note its force in Acts 9:37 and Philippians 2:26 , Philippians 2:27 . In John 5:3 and 7 it is rendered "impotent." It is not at all likely that Martha and Mary would have sent to Christ from such a distance had not their brother’s life been in danger. The force, then, of their message was, "He whom thou lovest is sinking."
The verse now before us plainly teaches that sickness in a believer is by no means incompatible with the Lord’s love for such an one. There are some who teach that sickness in a saint is a sure evidence of the Lord’s displeasure. The case of Lazarus ought forever to silence such an error. Even the chosen friends of Christ sicken and die. How utterly incompetent then are we to estimate God’s love for us by our temporal condition or circumstances! "No man knoweth either love or hatted by all that is before them" (Ecclesiastes 9:1 ). What then is the practical lesson for us in this? Surely this: "Therefore judge nothing before the time" (1 Corinthians 4:5 ). The Lord loves Christians as truly when they are sick as when they are well.
It is blessed to mark how Martha and Mary acted in the hour of their need. They sought the Lord, and unburdened their hearts to Him. Do we always act thus? It is written, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalms 46:1 ); yet, to our shame, how little we know Him as such. When the people murmured against Moses, we are told that, "he cried unto the Lord" (Exodus 15:25 ). When Hezekiah received the threatening letter from Rabshakeh, he "spread it before the Lord" (Isaiah 37:14 ). When John the Baptist was beheaded his disciples "went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:12 ). What examples for us! We have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. No, He is full of compassion, for when on earth He, too, was" acquainted with grief." He sympathizes deeply with His suffering people, and invites them to pour out the anguish of their hearts before Him. What a blessed proof of this we find in John 20:0 . When He met the tearful Mary on the morn of His resurrection, He asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" (John 20:15 ). Why ask here such a question? Did He not know the cause of her sorrowing? Certainly He did. Was it a reproach? We do not deem it such. Was it not rather because He wanted her to unburden her heart before Him! "Cast thy burden upon the Lord" is ever His word. This is what Martha and Mary were doing. The Lord grant that every tried and troubled reader of these lines may go and do likewise.
The action of these sisters and the wording of their appeal afford us a striking example of how we should present our petitions to the Lord. Much of the present-day teaching on the subject of prayer is grossly dishonoring to God. The Most High is not our servant to be brought into subjection to our will. Prayer was never designed to place us on the Throne, but to bring us to our knees before it. It is not for the creature to dictate to the Creator. It/s the happy privilege of the Christian to make known His requests with thanksgiving. But, "requests" are not commands. Petitioning is a very different matter from commanding. Yet we have heard men and women talk to God not only as if they were His equals, but as though they had the right to order Him about. Coming to the Throne of Grace with "boldness" does not mean with impious impudence. The Greek word signifies "freedom of speech." It means that we may tell out our hearts as God’s children, never forgetting though, that He is our Father.
The sisters of Lazarus acquainted the Lord with the desperate condition of their brother, appealed to His love, and then left the case in His hands, to be dealt with as He saw best. They were not so irreverent as to tell Him what to do. In this they have left all praying souls a worthy example which we do well to follow. "Commit thy way unto the Lord": that is our responsibility. "Trust also in him"; that is our happy privilege. "Trust also in him," not dictate to Him, and not demand from Him. People talk of "claiming" from God. But grace cannot be "claimed," and all is of grace. The very "throne" we approach is one of grace. How utterly incongruous then to talk of "claiming" anything from the Sitter on such a throne. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." But it must ever be kept in mind that He will "bring it to pass" in His own sovereign way and in His own appointed time. And oftentimes, usually so in fact, His way and time will be different from ours. He brought it to pass for Martha and Mary, though not in the time and way they probably expected. The Apostle Paul longed to preach the Gospel in Rome, but how slow he was in realizing his desire and in what an altogether unlooked-for manner went he there!
"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God" (John 11:4 ). We take it that this was our Lord’s answer to the messenger, rather than a private word to His disciples, though probably it was spoken in their hearing. And what a mysterious answer it was! How strangely worded! How cryptic! What did He mean? One thing was evident on its surface: Martha and Mary were given the assurance that both the sickness of Lazarus and its issue were perfectly known to Christ how appropriately was the record of this reserved for John’s Gospel; how perfectly in accord with the whole tenor of it!
"This sickness is not unto death." This declaration is similar in kind to what was before us in John 9:3 , "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" compare our comments thereon. The sickness of Lazarus was "not unto death" in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, unto abiding death death would not be the final end of this "sickness." But why not have told the exercised sisters plainly that their brother would die, and that He would raise him from the dead? Ah! that is not God’s way; He would keep faith in exercise, have patience developed, and so order things that we are constantly driven to our knees! The Lord said sufficient On this occasion to encourage hope in Martha and Mary, but not enough to make them leave off seeking God’s help! Bishop Ryle has pointed out how that we encounter the same principle and difficulty in connection with much of unfulfilled prophecy: "There is sufficient for faith to rest upon and to enkindle hope, but sufficient also to make us cry unto God for light"!
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God." What a word was this! How far, we wonder, had those two sisters entered into such a thought concerning the sickness of their brother. But now they were to learn that it was Divinely ordained, and from the sequel we are shown that Lazarus’ sickness, his death, the absence of Christ from Bethany, and the blessed issue, were all arranged by Him who doeth all things well. Let us learn from this that God has a purpose in connection with every detail of our lives. Many are the scriptures which show this. The case of the man born blind provides a parallel to the sickness and death of Lazarus. When the disciples asked why he had been born blind, the Savior answered, "That the works of God should be manifest in him." This should teach us to look behind the outward sorrows and trials of life to the Divine purpose in sending them.
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4 ). How this shows that the glory of God is one with the glory of the Son! The two are inseparable. This comes out plainly, again, if we compare John 2:11 with John 11:40 . In the former we are told, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth his glory." In the latter we find Him saying to Martha, as He was on the point of raising Lazarus, "Said I not unto thee, that. if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God." The same truth is taught once more in John 14:13 , "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." What then is the lesson for us? This: "All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (John 5:23 ).
"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5 ). Here the order of their names is reversed from what we have in verse 1. Martha is now mentioned first. Various conjectures have been made as to why this is. To us it appears the more natural to mention Mary first at the beginning of the narrative, for she would be the better known to the readers of the Gospel records. In John 11:5 , and so afterwards, it was suitable to name Martha first, seeing that she was the senior. But in addition to this, may it not be the Holy Spirit’s design to show us that each sister was equally dear to the Savior! It is true that Mary chose the better part, whilst Martha struggled with the needless unrest of her well-meaning mind. But though these sisters were of such widely dissimilar types, yet were they one in Christ! Diverse in disposition they might be, yet were they both loved with the same eternal, unchanging love!
"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." A precious thought will be lost here unless we mark carefully the exact place in the narrative that this statement occupies. It is recorded not at the beginning of the chapter, but immediately before what we read of in verse 6, where we are told that the Lord Jesus "abode two days still in the place where he was." Such a delay, under such circumstances, strikes us as strange. But, as we shall see, the delay only brought out the perfections of Christ His absolute submission to the Father’s will. In addition to that, it is beautiful to behold that His delay was also in full keeping with His love for Martha and Mary. Among other things, Christ designed to strengthen the faith of these sisters by suffering it to endure the bitterness of death, in order to heighten its subsequent joy. "His love wittingly delays that it may more gloriously console them after their sufferings" (Stier). Let us learn from this that when God makes us wait, it is the sign that He purposes to bless, but in His own way usually a way so different from what we desire and expect. What a word is that in Isaiah 30:18 , "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him"!
"When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was" (John 11:6 ). The Lord knows best at what time to relieve His suffering people. There was no coldness in His affection for those tried sisters (as the sequel clearly shows), but the right moment for Him to act had not then come. Things were allowed to become more grievous: the sick one died, and still the Master tarried. Things had to get worse at Bethany before He intervened. Ofttimes God brings man to the end of himself before He comes to his relief. There is much truth in the old proverb that "Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity." Frequently is this the Lord’s way; but how trying to flesh and blood! How often we ask, with the disciples, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" But how awful to question the tender compassion of such a One! And how foolish was the question of these disciples: how could they "perish" with Christ on board! What cause we have to hang our heads in shame! "When circumstances look dark, our hearts begin to question the love of the One who permits such to befall us. Oh, let me press upon you this important truth: the dealings of the Father’s hand must ever be looked at in the light of the Father’s heart. Grasp this. Never try to interpret love by its manifestations. How often our Father sends chastisement, sorrow, bereavement, pressure! How well He could take me out of it all in a moment He has the power, but He leaves me there. Oh, may He help us to rest patiently in Himself at such times, not trying to read His love by circumstances, but them, whatever they may be, through the love of His heart. This gives wondrous strength knowing that loving heart, and not questioning the dealings of His hand" (C.H.M.).
But why did Christ abide two days still in the same place where He was? To test the faith of the sisters, to develop their patience, to heighten their joy in the happy sequel. All true; but there was a much deeper reason than those. Christ had taken upon Him the form of a servant, and in perfect submission to the Father He awaits His orders from Him. Said He, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38 ). Most beautifully was this demonstrated here. Not even His love for Martha and Mary would move Him to act before the Father’s time had come. Blessedly does this show us the anti-typical fulfillment of one detail in a most wondrous type found in Leviticus 2:0 . The meal offering plainly foreshadowed the incarnate Son of God. It displays the perfections of His Divine-human person. Two things were rigidly excluded from this offering: "No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the Lord, shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the Lord made by fire" (Leviticus 2:11 ). The leaven is the emblem of evil. "Honey" stands for the sweetness of natural affections, what men term "the milk of human kindness." And how strikingly this comes out here.
How differently Christ acted from what you and I most probably would have done! If we had received a message that a loved one was desperately sick, would we not have hastened to his side without delay? And why would we? Because we sought God’s glory? or because our natural affections impelled us? Ah! in this, as in everything, we behold the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus. The Father’s glory was ever dearest to the heart of the Son. Here then is the force of the "therefore." "When therefore he heard that he is sick, then indeed he remained in which he was place two days" (Bagster’s Interlinear-literal translation). The "therefore" and the "indeed" look back to verse 4 "this sickness... is for the glory of God." And how what we read of in the intervening verse serves to emphasize this Christ’s love for His own never interfered with His dependence on the Father. His first recorded utterance exhibited the same principle: to Mary and Joseph He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" The Father’s claims were ever supreme.
"Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again" (John 11:7 ). Notice the manner in which the Lord expressed Himself. He did not say, Let us go to Lazarus, or to Bethany. Why not? We believe the key to the Lord’s thought here lies in the word "again": note the disciples’ use of the same word in the following verse. The Lord was trying the disciples: "Let us go into Judea again." If we refer back to the closing verses of John 10:0 the force of this will be more evident. In John 10:39 we read that His enemies in Judea "sought again to take him." Judea, then, was now the place of opposition and danger. When, then, the Lord said, "Let us go into Judea again," it was obviously a word of testing. And how this illustrates a common principle in the Lord’s way of dealing with us! It is not the smooth and easy-going path which He selects for us. When we are led by Him it is usually into the place of testing and trial, the place which the flesh ever shrinks from.
"His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?" (John 11:8 ). The Greek is more definite and specific than the A.V. rendering here. What the disciples said was, "Master, the Jews just now sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?" The attempt of His enemies to stone Christ was still present before the eyes of the disciples, though they had now been some little time at Bethabara. The disciples could see neither the need nor the prudence of such a step. How strange the Lord’s ways seem to His shortsighted people; how incapable is our natural intelligence to understand them! And how this manifests the folly of believers being guided by what men term "common sense." How much all of us need to heed constantly that word, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5 , Proverbs 3:6 ). God often leads His own into places which are puzzling and perplexing and where we are quite unable to perceive His purpose and object. How often are the servants of Christ today called upon to fill positions from which they naturally shrink, and which they would never have chosen for themselves. Let us ever remember that the One who is our Lord and Master knows infinitely better than we the best road for us to travel.
"Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world" (John 11:9 ). This verse has proved a puzzle to many, yet we believe its meaning can be definitely fixed. The first thing to bear in mind is that the Lord Jesus here was answering the timidity and unbelief of the disciples. They were apprehensive: to return to Judea, they supposed, was to invite certain death (cf. John 11:16 ). Christ’s immediate design, then, was to rebuke their fears. "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" That is, Has not the "day" a definitely allotted time? The span of the day is measured, and expires not before the number of hours by which it is measured have completed their course. The night comes not until the clock has ticked off each of the hours assigned to the day. The application of this well-known fact to the Lord’s situation at that time is obvious.
A work had been given Him to do by the Father (Luke 2:49 ), and that work He would finish (John 17:4 ), and it was impossible that His enemies should take His life before its completion. In John 10:39 we are told that His enemies "sought again to take him," but "he went forth out of their hand" not simply "escaped" as in the A.V. What the Lord here assures His disciples, is, that His death could not take place before the time appointed by the Father. The Lord had expressly affirmed the same thing on a previous occasion: "The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence; for Herod will kill thee." And what was His reply? This, "Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected" (Luke 13:32 )! "As a traveler has twelve hours for his day’s journey, so also to Me there is a space of time appointed for My business" (Hess). What we have here in John 11:9 is parallel to His statement in John 9:4 "I must work the works of him that. sent me, while it is day" "must" because the Father had decreed that He should!
This word of Christ to His disciples had more than a local significance: it enunciated a principle of general application. There is no need for us to enlarge upon it here, for we have already treated of it in our remarks upon John 7:30 . God has allotted to each man a time to do his life’s work, and no calamity, no so-called accident can shorten it. Can man make the sun set one hour earlier? Neither can he shorten by an hour his life’s day.
In the second part of the ninth verse the Lord announced another reason why it was impossible for men to shorten His life: "If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world." To walk in the day is to walk in the light of the sun, and such an one stumbleth not, for he is able to see the obstacles in his way and so circumvent them. Spiritually, this means, It is impossible that one should fall who is walking with God. To "walk in the day" signifies to walk in the presence of Him who is Light (1 John 1:5 ), to walk in communion with Him, to walk in obedience to His will. None such can stumble, for His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It is beautiful to see the application of this to the Lord Jesus in the present instance. When He got word that Lazarus was sick, He did not start at once for Bethany. Instead, He tarried where He was till the Father’s time for Him to go had come. He waited for the "light" to guide Him a true Israelite watching for the moving of the Cloud! Christ ever walked in the full light of God’s known will. How impossible then for Him to "stumble."
"But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him" (John 11:10 ). Very solemn and searching is this in its immediate application to the disciples. It was a warning against their refusing to accompany Him. Christ was the true Light, and if they continued not with Him they would be in the dark, and then "stumbling" was inevitable. The thought here is different from what we get at the close of John 9:4 . There Christ speaks of a "night" in which no man could "work"; here of a "night" in which no believer should "walk." The great lesson for us in these two verses is this, No fear of danger (or unpleasant consequences) must deter us from doing our duty. If the will of God clearly points in a certain direction our responsibility is to move in that direction unhesitatingly, and we may go with the double assurance that no power of the Enemy can shorten our life till the Divinely appointed task is done, and that such light will be vouchsafed us that no difficulties in the way will make us "stumble." What shall we say to such a blessed assurance? What but the words of the apostle Jude, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen" (verses 24, 25).
The following questions are designed to help the interested student for our next lesson:
1. Death is likened to "sleeping," verse 11: what thoughts are suggested by this figure?
2. Why did the disciples misunderstand Christ, verse 13?
3. Why was Christ "glad" for the disciples sake, verse 15?
4. What is signified by the "four days," verse 17?
5. Why are we told of the nearness of Jerusalem to Bethany, verse 18?
6. Why "resurrection" before "life" in verse 25?
7. What is the force of "shall never die," verse 26?
 It is characteristic of John to give us her name, for he presents Christ as God manifest in the flesh, therefore everything comes out into the light: cf. the fact that John alone tells us the name of the priest's servant, whose ear the Saviour healed (John 18:10 ).
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ Raising Lazarus (Continued)
The following is a suggested Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:-
1. Christ announces Lazarus' death, but the disciples misunderstand Him, verses 11-13.
2. Christ rejoices for their sake that He had been absent from Bethany, verses 14, 15.
3. Thomas' melancholy devotion, verse 16.
4. Lazarus in the grave four days already, verse 17.
5. The nearness of Jerusalem to Bethany, verse 18.
6. Many Jews come to comfort the sisters, verse 19.
7. The conversation between Christ and Martha, verses 20-27.
In the previous lesson we have seen how the Lord Jesus received a touching message that Lazarus was dying; in the passage now before us we behold Him making for Bethany, Lazarus having died and been buried in the interval. The central thing in John 11:0 is Christ made known as the resurrection and the life, and everything in it only serves to bring out by way of contrast the blessedness of this revelation. Resurrection can be displayed only where death has come in, and what is so much emphasized here is the desolation which death brings and man's helplessness in the presence of it. First, Lazarus himself is dead; then Thomas speaks of the disciples accompanying the Lord to Bethany that they may die with Him (John 11:16 ); then Martha comes before us; and though in the presence of Christ, she could think only of the death of her brother (John 11:21 ); it was the same with Mary (John 11:32 ); finally, the Jews who had come to comfort the bereaved sisters are seen "weeping" (John 11:33 ), and even as the Lord stands before the grave, they have no thought that He was about to release the tomb's victim (John 11:37 ). What a background was all this for Christ to display His wondrous glory!
It is not difficult for us to discern here behind the dark shadows that which is far more solemn and tragic. Physical death is but the figure, as well as the effect, of another death infinitely more dreadful. The natural man is dead in trespasses and sins. The wages of sin is death, and when the first man sinned he received those fearful wages. In the day that Adam ate of the forbidden fruit he died, died spiritually, as a penal infliction. And Adam died spiritually not only as a private individual, but as the head and public representative of his race. Just as the severing of the trunk of a tree from its roots, means (in a short time) the death of each of its boughs, twigs and leaves, so the fall of Adam dragged down with him every member of the human race. It is for this reason that every one born into this world enters it "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18 ).
Yes, the natural man, the world over, is spiritually dead. He is alive worldwards, selfwards, sinwards, but dead Godwards. It is not that there is a spark of life within which by careful cultivation or religious exercises may be fanned into a flame; he is completely devoid of Divine life. He needs to be born again; an altogether new life, than the one he possesses by nature, must be imparted to him, if ever he is to enter the kingdom of God. The sinner's condition is far, far worse than he has any idea of, or than the great majority of the doctors of divinity suppose. Of what use is a "remedy" to one who is dead? and yet the thoughts of very few rise any higher when they think and talk of the Gospel. Of what use is it to reason and argue with a corpse? and yet that is precisely what the sinner is from the standpoint of God. "Then, why preach the Word to sinners at all, if they are incapable of hearing it?" is the question which will naturally occur to the reader. Sad, sad indeed that such a question is asked at this late day-sad, because of the God-dishonoring ignorance which it displays.
No intelligent servant of God preaches the Word because he imagines that the will and mind of the sinner is capable of responding to it, any more than when God commanded Ezekiel to "Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord" (Ezekiel 37:4 ), he supposed the objects of his message were capable of responding. "Well, why preach at all?" First, because God has commanded us to do so, and who are we to call into question His wisdom? Second, because the very words we are commanded to preach, "they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63 ). The Word we are to "hold forth" is "the word of life" (Philippians 2:16 ). The new birth is "not of blood (by natural descent), nor of the will of the flesh (his own volition), nor of the will of man (the preacher's persuasion), but OF GOD" (John 1:13 ), and the seed which God uses to produce the new birth is His own Word (James 1:18 ).
Now this is what is so strikingly and so perfectly illustrated here in John 11:0 . Lazarus was dead, and that he had died was unmistakably evidenced by the fact that his body was already corrupting. In like manner, the spiritual death of the natural man is plainly manifested by the corruptions of his heart and life. In the opening paragraph we have sought to bring out how that which is emphasized here in John 11:0 is the utter helplessness of man in the presence of death. And this is what the servant of God needs to lay hold of in its spiritual application. If it was only a matter of stupidity in the sinner, we might overcome that by clearly reasoned statements of the truth. If it was simply a stubborn will that stood in the way of the sinner's salvation, we could depend upon our powers of persuasion. If it was merely that the sinner's soul was sick, we could induce him to accept some "remedy." But in the presence of death we are impotent.
"All of this sounds very discouraging," says the reader. So much the better if it results in bringing us upon our faces before God. Nothing is more healthful than to be emptied of self-sufficiency. The sooner we reach this place the better. "For we," said Paul, "have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3 ). The quicker we are made to realize our own helplessness, the more likely are we to seek help from God. The sooner we recognize that "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63 ), the readier shall we be to cry unto God for His all-sufficient grace. It is not until we cease to depend upon ourselves that we begin to depend upon God. "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 ), and this, be it remembered, was said by Christ in answer to the disciples' query, "Who then can be saved?"
Here, then, is where light breaks in. Here is where the "glory of God" (John 11:4 ) shines forth. Man may be helpless before death, not so God. Lazarus could not raise himself, nor could his beloved sisters and sorrowing friends bring him back from the grave. Ah! but He who is, Himself, "the resurrection and the life" comes on the scene, and all is altered. And what does He do? Why, He did that which must have seemed surpassingly strange to all who beheld Him. He cried to the dead man, "Come forth." But what was the use of doing that? Had Lazarus the power in himself to come forth? Most certainly not-had Mary or Martha, or any of the apostles cried, "Lazarus, come forth" that would have been unmistakably evidenced. No man's voice is able to pierce the depths of the tomb. But it was One who was more than man, who now spake, and He said, "Come forth" not because Lazarus was capable of doing so, but because it was life-giving Voice which spake. The same omnipotent lips which called a world into existence by the mere fiat of His mouth, now commanded the grave to give up its victim. It was the Word of power which penetrated the dark portals of that sepulcher. And here, dear reader, is the comforting, inspiring, and satisfying truth for the Christian worker. We are sent forth to preach the Word to lost and dead sinners, because, under the sovereign application of the Holy Spirit, that Word is "the word of life." Our duty is to cry unto God daily and mightily that He may be pleased to make it such to some, at least, of those to whom we speak.
Before we come to the actual raising of Lazarus, our chapter records many interesting and instructive details which serve to heighten the beauty of its central feature. The Lord Jesus was in no hurry; with perfect composure He moved along in Divine dignity and yet human compassion to the grief-stricken home at Bethany. At every point two things are prominent: the imperfections of man and the perfections of Christ.
"These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth" (John 11:11 ). The "these things" are the declaration that the sickness of Lazarus was for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby (John 11:4 ); His expressed intention of returning to Judea (John 11:7 ); and His avowed assurance that there could be no "stumbling" seeing that He ever walked in the unclouded light of the Father's countenance (John 11:9 ). In these three things we learn the great principles which regulated the life of Christ-lowliness, dependence, obedience. He now announced that Lazarus was no longer in the land of the living, referring to his death under the figure of "sleep." The figure is a very beautiful one, and a number of most blessed thoughts are suggested by it. It is a figure frequently employed in the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments: in the former it is applied to saved and unsaved: but in the N.T. it is used only of the Lord's people.  In the N.T. it occurs in such well-known passages as 1 Corinthians 15:20 , 1 Corinthians 15:51 : "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept... Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed"; and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 , 1 Thessalonians 5:10 : "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him . . . Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." Below we give some of the leading thoughts suggested by this figure:-
First, sleep is perfectly harmless. In sleep there is nothing to fear, but, much to be thankful for. It is a friend and not a foe. So, for the Christian, is it with death. Said David, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." Such ought to be the triumphant language of every child of God. The "sting" has gone from death (1 Corinthians 15:56 , 1 Corinthians 15:57 ), and has no more power to hurt one of Christ's redeemed, than a hornet has after its sting has been extracted.
Second, sleep comes as a welcome relief after the sorrows and toils of the day. As the wise man declared, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" (Ecclesiastes 5:12 ). Death, for the believer, is simply the portal through which he passes from this scene of sin and turmoil to the paradise of bliss. As 1 Corinthians 3:22 tells us, "death" is ours. Sleep is a merciful provision, not appreciated nearly as much as it should be. The writer learned this lesson some years ago when he witnessed a close friend, who was suffering severely, seeking sleep in vain for over a week. Equally merciful is death for one who is prepared. Try to imagine David still alive on earth after three thousand years! Such a protracted existence in this world of sin and suffering would probably have driven him hopelessly crazy long ago. How thankful we ought to be that we have not the longevity of the antediluvians!
Third, in sleep we lie down to rise again. It is of but brief duration; a few hours snatched from our working time, then to awaken and rise to a new day. In like manner, death is but a sleep and resurrection, an awakening. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2 ). On the glorious resurrection morn the dead in Christ shall be awakened, to sleep no more, but live forever throughout the perfect Day of God.
Fourth, sleep is a time of rest. The work of the day is exchanged for sweet repose. This is what death means for the Christian: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors" (Revelation 14:13 ). This applies only to the "intermediate state," between death and resurrection. When we receive our glorified bodies there will be new ministries for us to engage in, for it is written, "His servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3 ).
Fifth, sleep shuts out the sorrows of life. In sleep we are mercifully unconscious of the things which exercise us throughout the day. The repose of night affords us welcome relief from that which troubles us by day. It is so in death. Not that the believer is unconscious, but that those in paradise know nothing of the tears which are shed on earth. Scripture seems to indicate that there is one exception in their knowledge of what is transpiring down here: the salvation of sinners is heralded on high (Luke 15:7 , Luke 15:10 ).
Sixth, one reason perhaps why death is likened to a sleep is to emphasize the ease with which the Lord will quicken us. To raise the dead (impossible as it appears to the skeptic) will be simpler to Him than arousing a sleeper. It is a singular thing that nothing so quickly awakens one as being addressed by the voice. So we are told "the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice" (John 5:28 ).
Seventh, sleep is a time when the body is fitted for the duties of the morrow. When the awakened sleeper arises he is refreshed and invigorated, and ready for what lies before him. In like manner, the resurrected believer will be endued with a new power. The limitations of his mortal body will no longer exist. That which was sown in weakness shall be raised in power.
But O how vastly different is it for one who dies in his sins. The very reverse of what we have said above will be his portion. Instead of death delivering him from the sorrows of this life, it shall but introduce him to that fearful place whose air is filled with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is true that sinners too shall be raised from the dead, but it will be unto "the resurrection of damnation." It will be in order to receive bodies in which they will suffer still more acutely the eternal torments of the lake of fire. To all such, death will be far worse than the most frightful nightmare. And O unsaved reader, there is but a step between thee and death. Your life hangs by a slender thread, which may snap at any moment. Be warned then, ere it is too late. Flee, even now, from the wrath to come. Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, for there is no hope beyond the grave.
"After that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep" (John 11:11 ). What marvelous condescension was it for the Lord of glory to call a poor worm of the earth His "friend"! But note He said, "Our friend." This, we believe, was a word of rebuke to His fearful and distrustful disciples; Our friend-yours, as well as Mine. He has also shown you kindness. You have professed to love him; will you now leave him to languish! His sisters are sorrowing, will you ignore them in their extremity! That is why He here says "I go"-contrast the "us" in verses 7 and 15. Our friend-I go. I to whom the danger is greatest. I am ready to go. It was both a rebuke and an appeal. He had told them that the sickness of Lazarus was in order that the Son of God might be glorified thereby (John 11:4 ), would they be indifferent as to how that glory would be displayed!
"I go that I may awaken"-go, even though to His own death. He "pleased not himself." Thoughts of His own personal safety would no more retard Him than He had allowed personal affection to hasten Him. What is before Him was the Father's glory, and no considerations of personal consequences would keep Him from being about His Father's business. The moment had come for the Father's glory to shine forth through the Son: therefore, His "I go," sharply contrasted from the "he abode two days still" of John 11:6 . He was going to awaken Lazarus: "None can awaken Lazarus out of this sleep, but He who made Lazarus. Every mouse or gnat can raise us from that other sleep; none but an omnipotent power from this." (R. Hall).
"Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep" (John 11:12 , John 11:13 ). It is clear from their language that the disciples had not understood the Lord: they supposed He meant that Lazarus was recovering. Yet, the figure He had used was not obscure; it was one which the Old Testament scriptures should have made them thoroughly familiar with. Why then, had they failed to perceive His meaning? The answer is not hard to find. They were still timid and hesitant of returning to Judea. But why should that have clouded their minds? Because they were occupied with temporal circumstances. It was "stoning" they were concerned about, the stoning of their beloved Lord-though if He was stoned, there was not much likelihood that they would escape. And when our thoughts are centered upon temporal things, or when selfish motives control us, our spiritual vision is eclipsed. It is only as our eye is single (to God's glory) that our whole body is full of light. "Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead" (John 11:14 ). What a proof was this of the omniscience of Christ. He knew that Lazarus was already dead, though the disciples supposed he was recovering from his sickness. No second message had come from Bethany to announce the decease of the brother of Martha and Mary. And none was needed. Though in the form of a servant, in the likeness of man, Christ was none other than the Mighty God, and clear proof of this did He here furnish. How blessed to know that our Savior is none other than Immanuel!
"And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him" (John 11:15 ). But why should Christ be glad for the disciples' sake that He was absent from Bethany at the time Lazarus was sinking? Because the disciples would now be able to witness a higher manifestation of His glory, than what they otherwise would had He been present while Lazarus was sick. But what difference would His presence there have made? This: it is impossible to escape the inference that had the Lord Jesus been there, Lazarus had not died-impossible not only because His words to the disciples plainly implied it, but also because of what other scriptures teach us on that point. The implication is plain: what the Lord unmistakably signified here was that it was inconsistent with His presence that one should die in it. It is a most striking thing that there is no trace of any one having died in the presence of the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15 ). And furthermore, the Gospel records show that whenever Christ came into the presence of death, death at once fled before Him! As to the non-possibility of any one dying in the presence of Christ, we have an illustration in connection with what took place in Gethsemane. When the officers came to arrest the Savior, Peter drew his sword and smote the high priest's servant, with the obvious intention of slaying him. But in vain. Instead of cleaving his head asunder he simply severed an ear! More striking still is the case of the two thieves who were crucified with Him: They died after He had given up His spirit! As to death fleeing at the approach of Christ we have a most remarkable example in the case of the widow's son of Nain. Here it was different than in the instances of Jairus' daughter and the brother of Martha and Mary. Each of these had appealed to Him but here it was otherwise. A man was about to be buried, and as the funeral cortege was on the way to the cemetery, the Lord Jesus approached, and touching the bier He said to the young man, "Arise," and at once "the dead sat up, and began to speak" (Luke 7:14 , Luke 7:15 )!
"And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe" (John 11:15 ). How perfect are the ways of God! If Martha and Mary had had their wish granted, not only would they (and Lazarus too) have been denied a far greater blessing, but the disciples would have missed that which must have strengthened their faith. And too, Christ would have been deprived of this opportunity which allowed Him to give the mightiest display of His power that He ever made prior to His own death; and the whole Church as well would have been the loser! How this should show us both the wisdom and goodness of God in thwarting our wishes, in order that His own infinitely better will may be done.
This verse also teaches a most important lesson as to how the Lord develops faith in His own. The hearts of the disciples were instructed and illuminated gradually. There was no sudden and violent action made upon them. They did not attain to their measure of grace all at once. Their eyes were slowly opened to perceive who and what Christ was; it was by repeated manifestations of Divine power and human compassion that they came to recognize in Him a Messiah of a far higher order than what they had been taught to expect. John 2:11 illustrates the same principle: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." And God deals with us in the same way. There is, in the development of our faith, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Compare the development of Abraham's faith through the increasingly severe trials through which God caused him to pass.
"Nevertheless let us go unto him" (John 11:15 ). Lazarus was dead, and yet the Lord speaks of going to him. "O love, stronger than death! The grave cannot separate Christ and His friends. Other friends accompany us to the brink of the grave, and then they leave us. 'Neither life nor death can separate from the love of Christ'" (Burkitt). Lazarus could not come to Christ, but Christ would go to him.
"Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16 ). No wonder that he said this to his fellow-disciples rather than to the Lord. Very melancholy was his utterance. Thomas was a man who looked on the dark side of things. Lazarus is dead, Christ is going to die, let us go and die too! And this, after the Lord had said, "I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep" (John 11:11 )! How difficult is it for man to enter into the thoughts of God! Christ was going to Bethany to give life. Thomas speaks only of dying. Evident is it that he had quite failed to understand what Christ had said in John 11:9 . How much of unbelief there is even in a believer! And yet we must not overlook the spirit of devotion which Thomas' words breathed: Thomas had rather die than be separated from the Savior; Though he was lacking in intelligence, he was deeply attached to the person of the Lord Jesus.
"Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16 ). "This was the language of a despairing and despondent mind, which could see nothing but dark clouds in the picture. The very man who afterwards could not believe that his Master had risen again, and thought the news too good to be true, is just the one of the twelve who thinks that if they go back to Judea they must all die! Things such as these are deeply instructive, and are doubtless recorded for our learning. They show us that the grace of God in conversion does not so re-mold a man as to leave no trace of his natural bent of character. The sanguine do not altogether cease to be sanguine, nor the desponding to be despondent, when they pass from death to life, and become true Christians. This shows us that we must make large allowances for natural temperament in forming our estimate of individual Christians. We must not expect all God's children to be exactly one and the same. Each tree in a forest has its own peculiarities of shape and growth, and yet all at a distance look one mass of leaf and verdure. Each member of Christ's body has his own distinct bias, and yet all in the main are led by one Spirit and love one Lord. The two sisters Martha and Mary, the apostles Peter and John and Thomas, were certainly very unlike one another in many respects. But they all had one point in common: they loved Christ and were His friends" (Bishop Ryle).
"Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already" (John 11:17 ). Christ did not correct the error of Thomas, but calmly left the truth to do, in due time, its own work. The reference here to the "four days" makes it evident that in John 11:0 we have something more than a typical picture of the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel. From a doctrinal viewpoint, the condition of Lazarus in the grave accurately portrayed the state of the natural man dead in trespasses and sins, a mass of corruption. It is true that Lazarus was a Jew, but "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man" (Proverbs 27:19 ). The third chapter of Romans shows plainly that the state of Israel was also the state of the Gentiles. The "day" here, as usually in this Gospel, signifies (in its deeper meaning) a thousand years. "Four days," had man been in the place of death-alienation from God-for there were exactly four thousand years from the fall of Adam to the coming of Christ. God allowed the awful state of man to be completely manifested before He sent Christ to this earth.
"Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already." Note that this verse does not say "When Jesus came to Bethany, he found that Lazarus had lain in the grave four days already," but instead, "When Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already." The Holy Spirit had a reason for putting it so indefinitely, and that reason we have sought to show above. When "Jesus came" to this earth, "he," fallen man, had been "in the grave"-the place of death-"four days already"-four thousand years. O the minute and marvelous accuracy of Scripture!
"Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off" (John 11:18 ). There seems to be a double reason why this topographical reference is made here. First, it explains why the "many Jews" had come to Bethany to comfort Martha and Mary (John 11:19 ). Second, it shows how very near to Jerusalem the raising of Lazarus occurred. It was less than two miles from the headquarters of Judaism, within walking distance, almost within sight of the Temple. All room for excuse was thereby removed for any ignorance in the leaders of the nation as to the identity of the person of Christ. His last and greatest "sign" was given before many eye-witnesses almost at the very doors of the Sanhedrin. Thus in this seemingly unimportant detail the Holy Spirit has emphasized the deep guilt of those who were most responsible for rejecting Christ.
"And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother" (John 11:19 ). And poor comforters they must have made. They are in view again in John 11:37 . When they witnessed the tears of the Lord Jesus by the grave-side of Lazarus, they said, "Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" While no doubt they looked upon Christ as a miracle-worker, it is clear they had no apprehension of the glory of His person-"this man" shows that. Furthermore, it never seems to have entered their minds that He was capable of raising the dead. How then could they "comfort" the sorrowing sisters? It is impossible for an unbeliever to minister real comfort to a child of God. God alone can bind up the brokenhearted. Only the Divine Comforter can speak peace to the troubled soul, and not knowing Him, an unsaved person is incapable of pointing another to the one Source of consolation and rest.
"And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother." Mark here the over-ruling wisdom of God. By waiting four days before raising Lazarus, a much greater number witnessed his resurrection, and thus the miracle of Christ was more decisively authenticated, for it would be given greater publicity. The Hand which controls all things so shaped events that it was impossible for the Sanhedrin to discredit this last great "sign" of Israel's Messiah. Here then was a further reason for the "therefore" in John 11:6 . God not only has a good reason for each of His delays, but generally a manifold reason. Many various ends are accomplished by each of His actions. Not only wicked but utterly senseless are our criticisms of His ways.
"Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him" (John 11:20 ). This action was thoroughly characteristic of Martha. Even though the Lord Jesus was not yet come into the village (John 11:30 ), she advances to meet Him. The verses that follow show us something of the condition of her mind at this time. "But Mary sat still in the house." "It is impossible not to see the characteristic temperament of each sister coming out here. Martha-active, stirring, busy, demonstrative-cannot wait, but runs impulsively to meet Jesus. Mary-quiet, gentle, pensive, meditative, meek-sits passively at home" (Bishop Ryle). What marks of truth are these minor details! How evident that the same One who inspired Luke 10:0 moved John to record these little marks of character here!
"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21 ). There are some who think that Martha spoke in a spirit of petulancy, that she was reproaching the Lord for not having responded more promptly to the message sent Him while He was in Bethabara. But we think this is a mistake. Bather do we regard Martha's words as a sorrowful lament, the telling out the grief of her heart. Martha's words show plainly what had been uppermost in the minds of the sisters during those trying four days-note that Mary says almost the same thing when she met Christ (John 11:32 ). There was a strange mingling of the natural and the spiritual, of faith and unbelief in this statement of Martha's. She had confidence in Christ, yet she limited His power. She believed that her brother had not died, no matter how low he were, had Christ only been present; yet the thought never seems to have entered her mind that He was able to raise Lazarus now that he was dead. "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" would well have suited her condition at that time. And how often it is appropriate for us! Alas, that it should be so. The Christian is a strange paradox; a dual personality indeed.
"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." That which is reprehensible in this utterance of Martha is that she was making distance a limitation of Christ's power. And have not we often been guilty of the same thing? Have not we often envied those who were in Palestine during the time that the Word tabernacled among men? But now, alas, He is absent; and Heaven seems so far away! But it is not: it was not too far distant for Stephen to see right into it! But suppose it were; what then? Do we not have the precious promise of the Savior, "LO, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age"! But, says the reader, Christ is bodily absent. True, and that was what had exercised Martha. Yet it ought not; had not the Lord healed both the centurion's servant and the nobleman's son at a distance by His word! He had; but memory failed Martha in the hour of trial and suffering. Alas, that this is so often the case with us.
"But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee" (John 11:22 ). It is this additional word which indicates that there was a different meaning in Martha's words of John 11:21 from Mary's in John 11:32 . Surely Martha must have said what she did here without any deliberation. With characteristic impulsiveness she most probably uttered the first thoughts which came into her mind. And yet we can hardly conceive of one making such a statement if she knew Christ as God the Son. The word she used for "ask God"' indicates that she did not recognize that Christ was the One in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. In New Testament Greek there are two words for "ask." The first, "aiteo," signifies a familiar asking. The second, "eroteo," means a supplicatory petitioning. The one is suited to express the favor asked of the Creator by the creature, the other for a son's asking of the Father. The former is never used of Christ with the Father except here on the lips of Martha! It was a dragging down of Christ to the level of the prophets. It was the inevitable outcome of having sat so little at His feet listening to His words.
"Jesus said unto her, Thy brother shall rise again" (John 11:23 ). These were the first words of the Lord Jesus now that He had arrived at the confines of Bethany. He was about to give "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3 ); but not yet did He specifically announce His gracious purpose. Instead, He first gave the broad and general promise, "Thy brother shall rise again," without announcing when or how. It is the Lord's way to draw out by degrees His grace in the hearts of His own. He said enough to encourage hope and strengthen faith, but not sufficient to exclude exercise of heart. Light is given us upon the great mysteries of life gradually. "Here a little and there a little." Faith has to be disciplined, and knowledge is imparted only as the heart is able to receive it. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12 ) still holds good. Unto the Corinthians Paul had to say, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able" (1 Corinthians 3:1 , 1 Corinthians 3:2 ). Alas that we are so dull and make such slow progress in the things of God.
"Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11:24 ). Martha supposed that He was gently setting aside her implied request that He would "ask of God," and that He was pointing her forward to a future and far-distant hope. Poor Martha! As yet she had learned little from the Lord Jesus. She had nothing better than the common hope of Jews-the resurrection of the dead "at the last day." Does not this suggest another reason why the Holy Spirit tells us in John 11:18 that "Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem"-less than two miles away. Martha was still under the influence of Judaism! But these words of hers also contain a warning for us. Martha, like the woman at the well, understood not the nearness of the benefit. In each case, half despondingly, they put it into the future. To the Samaritan woman Christ said, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." To this she replied, "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things." To Martha He had said, "Thy brother shall rise again," and she replied: "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Each had only the vague, inoperative idea of a future and final good; whereas He spoke to each of a present blessing. It is easier to believe things which are in the far off (which occasion us no exercise of heart!) than it is to appropriate now that which ministers comfort and strength for the present trial. It makes less demand upon faith to believe that in a future day we shall receive glorified bodies, than to rest now on the heartening assurance that, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength."
"Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25 ). This was like what the Lord said to the woman at the well. When she had, by her word, postponed the blessing, He answered at once, "I am that speaketh unto you"; so now He says to Martha, "I am the resurrection, and the life." Here is something of vital importance for our souls. It is not simply that He corrected the vision of these women by turning them from the distant future to the immediate present, but that He fixes their eyes upon Himself! It is not future events but the Person of the Lord, ever present with us, that we need most to be occupied with. Strength, blessing, comfort, are imparted just so far as we are taken up with Christ Himself.
"I am the resurrection, and the life." "See how the Lord proceeds to instruct and to elevate her mind; how graciously He bears with her passing fretfulness; how tenderly He touches the still open wounds; how He leads her from grieving over her brother to believe yet more fully in her Savior; how He raises her from dwelling on Lazarus dead, to repose implicitly in Him who is the Lord of life; how He diverts her from thinking only of a remote and general resurrection to confide in Him who is even at this present, the Resurrection and the Life" (Dr. G. Brown). So too does He remove our ignorance, help our unbelief, and bear with our peevishness. Wondrous condescension, matchless patience, fathomless grace! And how the realization of these should humble us, and cause us to blush for very shame! "Lord, increase our faith" in Thyself.
"I am the resurrection, and the life." This is what He is, in His own peerless Person. What He would here press upon Martha was that all power resided in Himself. Soon she would witness a display of this, but in the meantime the Lord would occupy her with what, or rather who He was in Himself. Blessed, thrice blessed is it for the soul to lay hold of this sustaining and satisfying truth. Infinitely better is it for us to be occupied with the Giver than His gifts.
But why this order: the resurrection and the life? For at least a threefold reason. First, this is the doctrinal order. In spiritual experience Christ is to us the resurrection before He is the life. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins, in the grave of guilt, separated from God. He has his dwelling "among the tombs" (Mark 5:3 ). His first need is to be brought out of this awful place, and this occurs at his regeneration. The new birth is a passing from death unto life (John 5:24 ); it is the being brought on to resurrection ground. The same double thought of leaving the place of death and receiving resurrection life is found again in verse 25: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." Lazarus in the grave, raised to life by the word of Christ, gives us a perfect illustration of God's mighty work of grace in the hearts of His elect.
Second, This was the dispensational order. The Old Testament saints were all in the grave when He who is "The Life" came down to this earth. Therefore it is in resurrection power that they will know the Christ of God. But believers in Palestine at the time when the eternal Word tabernacled among men knew Him as the Living One, God manifest in the flesh. And yet it was not until after the Cross that they knew Him as such in the fullest sense of the word. It was not until the day of His own resurrection that He breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22 ). It is the life of a risen and never-dying Savior which the believer now has as an inalienable and-eternal possession. Christ is the resurrection because He is the life, and He is the Life because He is the Resurrection.
Third, This will be the prophetic order. When the Lord Jesus leaves His Father's throne and descends into the air, His people will be found in two great companies; by far the greater part will be (as to their bodies) asleep in the grave; the others will be alive on the earth. But "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The living saints will need to be "changed," just as much as the sleeping saints will need raising. Therefore to the one Christ will be the resurrection, to the other the life. The two companies of believers are clearly distinguished in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 , "The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." The "changing" of the living believers is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:51 . It is to this "change" of believers who have not entered the grave that Romans 8:11 refers: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (give life to) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Marvellously full were these words of Christ, "I am the resurrection and the life."
"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25 ). This was brought in to show that what Christ had just spoken of was elective and not common to all men as such. He was referring to something peculiar to His own: "he that believeth" limits the first part of the verse to God's elect. The resurrection of unbelievers, not to "life" but to the second death, where, however they shall exist in conscious torment forever and ever, is mentioned in other scriptures such as Daniel 12:2 ; John 5:29 ; Revelation 20:0 , etc.
"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The Greek here is very explicit and impressive. The verb, "though he were dead," is in the past tense, and with it is coupled a present participle, "yet shall he live," i.e. continue to live; but this, be it noted, is predicated of one who believes. How this word of Christ tells of the indestructibility of faith-its ever-living, never-dying character! Primarily, this was a message of comfort to Martha; it went beyond what He had said to her in John 11:23 . First He said, "Thy brother shall rise again"; next He directed attention to Himself as "the resurrection and the life"; now He intimates that though Lazarus had died, yet, because he was a believer, he should live. "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19 ) we regard as a parallel promise.
"And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:26 ). At the close of the previous verse Christ had referred to physical resurrection, bodily life; here, He speaks of death in its ultimate sense. Revelation 20:6 repeats the same blessed truth: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power." At the close of the previous verse the Lord Jesus had spoken of believers who had fallen asleep-they shall live. But here He speaks of living believers-they shall never die. The Lord had made the same assertion on a previous occasion: "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death."
"Believest thou this?" (John 11:26 ). Every Divine communication challenges the heart to which it is made. We understand Christ's "this" to include all that He had said in John 11:25 , John 11:26 . "Believest thou this?" Have you really laid hold of it? How little we grasp that which has been presented to us. How little we enter into what we believe in a half-hearted and general way! The sequel (John 11:39 ) clearly shows that Martha had not really "believed" what Christ here said to her-a most searching warning for us. Much of what we thought we held is found to have made no impression upon us when the hour of testing comes.
"She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world" (John 11:27 ). Most of the commentators are quite astray here. They look upon this utterance of Martha's as an evidence that the mists of doubt had now disappeared and that at last her faith had come out into the full sunlight. But what we read of in John 11:39 clearly refutes such a view, and what is before us here must be interpreted in harmony with her final words at the grave itself. How then are we to understand her utterance in John 11:27 ? Pressed as she was by the searching question in the previous verse, it seems to us that she fell back on a general answer, which affirmed her belief that the Lord Jesus was the promised Messiah. Having confessed Him as such, she at once went her way. She felt there was a depth to the Lord's words which she was quite incapable of fathoming. And here we must stop.
Let the interested reader ponder the following questions to prepare him for the next lesson:-
1. Why did Martha leave Christ and seek out her sister, verse 28?
2. What does verse 30 reveal to us about Christ?
3. Why did Jesus weep, verse 35?
4. What is the meaning of the "therefore," verse 38?
5. Why were they bidden to remove the stone, verse 39?
6. What is the spiritual significance of verse 44?
 The only apparent exception is the case of Jairus' daughter.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ Raising Lazarus (Concluded)
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:-
1. Mary goes to meet Jesus, verses 28-30, 32.
2. The Jews follow her, verse 31.
3. Jesus groaning and weeping, verses 33-35.
4. The comments of the Jews, verses 36-38.
5. Martha's unbelief and Christ's rebuke, verses 39, 40.
6. Jesus praying and praising, verses 41, 42.
7. The raising of Lazarus, verses 43, 44.
The central design of John's Gospel is to present Christ to us as the Eternal Word become flesh, the Lord of glory in the likeness of men. Two things are made prominent throughout: His Divine dignity and His human perfections. Wonderfully perfect is the blending of these in the God-man: everything is there in Him to draw out our hearts in adoring love and reverent worship. Here we are shown His mighty power, and also His blessed tenderness. Here we behold not only His absolute authority, but also His entire dependency. It is not only that we gaze upon one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, come down from heaven to earth, but also on One who entered fully into the conditions and circumstances of men, sin only excepted. Strikingly do these two lines of truth meet in John 11:0 . The very chapter which chronicles His mightiest "sign" reveals the principles by which He walked-submission, dependence, obedience. Side by side with the record of His omnipotent voice calling the dead to life again, do we read of Him groaning and weeping. Absolutely unique is this wondrous Person.
The blending of Christ's Divine glories and human perfections meet us at every turn in this fourth Gospel. If John is the only one of the four Evangelists who enters into the pre-incarnate dignities of Christ, showing Him to us as the One who subsisted in the beginning, both being with God, and God Himself: the Creator of all things; if John is the only one who contemplates Him as the great "I am," equal with the Father; he also brings before us details concerning His humanity which are not to be met with in the Synoptists. John is the only one who tells us of Christ being "wearied with his journey" (John 4:6 ), groaning as He beheld the tears of His own, and thirsting as He hung upon the Cross. Christ became Man in the fullest sense of the word, and nowhere do we behold His human sympathies and perfections more blessedly displayed than in this very Gospel which portrays Him as God manifest in flesh.
It is in John's Gospel, pre-eminently, that we see the antitype of the veil, which speaks so plainly of the Son of God incarnate. "And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work" (Exodus 26:31 ). This order "blue, purple and scarlet" is repeated over twenty times in Exodus, and is never varied. The blue and scarlet are never placed in juxtaposition in any of the fabrics of the tabernacle. This of itself is sufficient to show that the Holy Spirit intimates there is an important truth here in connection with the person of Christ. The "blue" is the color of heaven, and speaks of Christ as the Son of God. The "scarlet" is both the color of sacrifice and human glory. The "purple" is a color produced by the mixing together of blue and scarlet. Without the purple, the blue and the scarlet would have presented too vivid a contrast to the eye; the purple coming in between them shaded off the one extreme from the other.
Now the antitype of these colors is found in the incarnate Christ. He was both God and man, and yet these two vastly dissimilar natures unite in one perfect Person. The "purple," then, coming in between the "blue" and the "scarlet" tells of the perfect blending or union of His two natures. The great marvel (as well as mystery) of His unique person is that in Him were combined all the fulness of the Godhead with all the sinless feelings and affections of man. And it is just this which is so beautifully brought out in John's Gospel, and nowhere more strikingly than in John 11:0 . When the sisters sent to Christ telling Him that their brother was sinking, instead of hastening at once to him, He remained two days where He was. Did this show that He was devoid of human feelings? No; His purpose was to manifest the Divine glory. But mark the sequel. When He arrives at Bethany, His heart is profoundly moved as He beholds the sorrowing sisters. And who but the God-man would have shed tears by the grave of Lazarus when He was on the very point of restoring the dead to life! Each of the three colors of the veil are clearly seen. The "blue" in the Divine power which raised the dead; the "scarlet" in the groans and tears. Now behold the "purple." When Lazarus came forth from the sepulcher he was still bound with the grave-clothes. The spectators were so amazed, so awed, so bewildered, they made no effort to remove them. "Loose him" were the words which proceeded from Christ. And who but the God-man would have been occupied with such a detail? We witness the same thing again at the Cross; "It is finished" exhibits the "blue"; "I thirst," the "scarlet"; and the "purple" is evidenced in His tender thought for His widowed mother, commending her to His beloved John!
In our previous lessons upon the first sections of John 11:0 we have seen the Lord at Bethabara with His disciples, and then on the confines of Bethany, whither Martha, Unbidden, with characteristic impatience rushed to meet Him. We sought to weigh her utterances as she gave expression to the first thoughts that entered her mind. We saw how that the responses made by Christ were quite beyond her depth, and how that in answer to His searching "Believest thou this?" she replied, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ the Son of God, which should come into the world." Immediately following this we read, "And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee" (John 11:28 ).
In her impulsive hurry to meet the Lord (John 11:20 ) Martha, for the time, forgot all about her sister; but now she goes to call Mary. There is nothing in the narrative to show that Christ had asked for Mary-if He had, John would surely have told us so. Was it then a fabrication on Martha's part? We do not so regard it: rather do we think she concluded that the profound words of Christ were more suited to her sister than herself. When Christ said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die," she felt that Mary must hear this; she will be able to understand.
"And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee" (John 11:28 ). The cryptic utterances of Christ Martha considered as a "call" for the more spiritual Mary. What a tribute this was to the discernment of the one whom she had formerly criticized! She called her "secretly" so as not to attract the attention of the many Jews who were with her in the house (John 11:19 ). These Jews had come from Jerusalem and Martha knew that most of the people there were antagonistic to the Savior. "Christianity doth not bid us abate anything of our wariness and honest policy, yea, it requires us to have no less the wisdom of the serpent as the harmlessness of the dove" (R. Hall). And, too, she probably felt that it was more fitting that Mary should enjoy an interview with Christ in undisturbed privacy. Mark that Martha terms Christ "Master" (the Teacher), not "Lord?'
"As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him" (John 11:29 ). With characteristic quietness and calm Mary had remained seated in the house, but now she hears that the One at whose feet she had loved to sit, was here at hand, she rises and goes forth to meet Him at once, "quickly." The knowledge that He was "calling" her lent wings to her feet. She needed not to tarry and inquire who was meant by "the Master"-she had none other, and that one word was sufficient to identify the One who was the Fairest among ten thousand to her soul.
"Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him" (John 11:30 ). Very striking indeed is this. He was still in the same place where Martha had talked with Him. In the interval she had returned to Bethany, entered the house and spoken to her sister, and Mary had herself traveled the same distance to meet Him in whom her soul delighted. And when she completed the journey-how long a one it was we do not know-she found her Beloved awaiting her. How this brings out the calmness of Christ: there was no undue haste to perform the miracle! And how blessedly it illustrates the fact that He never hides Himself from a seeking soul. He would not disappoint this one who so valued His presence. If she "arose quickly" to go to Him, He waited patiently for her arrival!
"The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out followed, her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there" (John 11:31 ). This too is striking. Man proposes but God disposes. Martha's secrecy came to nothing. God had purposed that the last great "sign" of Israel's Messiah should be given before many eye-witnesses. The Jews followed Mary because they supposed she had gone to the grave to weep in private, but He who doeth all things according to the counsel of His own will, drew them there, that the miracle of the raising of Lazarus should be done in public. Doubtless their intention was to "comfort" her, and for their kindliness God would not let them be the losers. Has He not said, "whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42 )? Beautifully was that verified on this occasion.
The Jews who had journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethany had felt for Martha and Mary in their heavy bereavement, and came to offer what comfort they could. By so doing they reaped a rich and unexpected reward. They beheld the greatest miracle which Christ ever wrought, and as the result many believed on Him (John 11:45 ). "We need not doubt that these things were written for our learning. To show sympathy and kindness to the sorrowful is good for our souls. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, to weep with them that weep, to try and bear one another's burdens and lighten one another's cares,-all of this will make no atonement for sin and will not take us to Heaven. Yet it is healthy employment for our hearts, and employment which we ought not to despise. Few persons are aware that one secret of being miserable is to live only for ourselves, and one secret of being happy is to try to make others happy. In an age of peculiar selfishness and self-indulgence it would be well that we took this to heart" (Bishop Ryle). It is significant that these Jews did not leave the house when Martha left it!
"Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:32 ). This was the language of perplexity and grief. Like Martha, Mary was thinking of what might have happened. How often we look back on the past with an "if" in our minds! How often in our sore trials we lash ourselves with an "if." And small comfort does it bring! How often we complain "it might have been" (Mark 14:5 ). As Whittier says, "Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" Only too often these words express the inveterate sadness of one who is swallowed up with sorrow. Ofttimes it issues from forgetfulness of the Lord: He permitted it, so it must be for the best. It may not appear so to our dim vision; but so it is. It was so with Martha and Mary, as they were soon to behold.
"Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." While this was the language of grief and perplexity, it certainly was not a reproachful murmur, as her casting herself at the feet of Christ clearly shows. Nor does Mary here add an apologetic reflection as had her sister (John 11:22 ). Her words had quite a different meaning from the very similar language of Martha. We say very similar, for their utterances were not identical, as a reference to the Greek will show. They each used the same words, but the order of them varied, and in this may be seen what was uppermost in each of their minds. The A.V. gives a literal rendering of the original language of Martha (John 11:21 ); but what Mary said was, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, had not died my brother." That which was uppermost in the thoughts of Martha, was her brother's death; that which was discerned by Mary was that none could die in the presence of Christ. Her words then were an expression of worship, as the casting of herself at Christ's feet was an act of adoring homage.
"Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet." This was ever her place. It is beautiful to observe that each time the New Testament presents Mary to us, she is seen "at the feet of Jesus"-expressive of her worshipful spirit. But there is no mere repetition. In Luke 10:0 , at Christ's feet she owned Him as Prophet, hearing His word (verse 39). Here in John 11:0 she approaches Christ as Priest-that great High Priest that can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," who shares our sorrows, and ministers grace in every time of need. In John 12:3 Mary, at His feet acknowledged Him as "King"-this will appear if we compare Matthew 26:7 , from which we learn that she also anointed "the head" of the rejected King of the Jews!
"When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled" (John 11:33 ). The Greek word here for "groaned" is expressive of deep feeling, sometimes of sorrow, more often of indignation. In this instance the Holy Spirit has recorded the cause of Christ's groaning-it was the sight of Mary and her comforters weeping. He was here in the midst of a groaning creation, which sighed and travailed over that which sin had brought in. And this He felt acutely. The original suggests that He was distressed to the extremest degree: moved to a holy indignation and sorrow at the terrific brood which sin had borne. Agitated by a righteous detestation of what evil had wrought in the world. "And was troubled" is, more literally, "he troubled himself"; He caused Himself to be troubled by what made others weep and wail. And how this "groaning" and "troubling of himself" brings out the perfections of the incarnate Son! He would not raise Lazarus until He had entered in spirit into the solemnity of the awfulnes of death. Mark 8:12 intimates that the miracles which He performed cost Him something. Plainer still is the testimony of Matthew 8:17 : "himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses"-He felt the burden of sickness before He removed it.
"And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see" (John 11:34 ). What a mark of genuineness is this line in the picture! Who that was inventing a fictitious story would have introduced such a detail in a scene like this! But how thoroughly in keeping with everything else which the Gospels record about Christ. There was no ostentation about Him. He never used His Omniscience for the mere sake of display. He wished to be invited to the sepulcher.
"Jesus wept" (John 11:35 ). The shortest verse in the Bible, yet what volumes it contains. The Son of God weeping, and weeping on the very eve of raising the dead man! Who can fathom it? Three times in the New Testament we read of the Lord Jesus weeping: here, over Jerusalem, (Luke 19:41 ), and in Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7 ). Each time His tears were connected with the effects or consequences of sin. By the grave-side of Lazarus these tears expressed the fulness of the grief which His heart felt. They manifested the perfectness of His love and the strength of His sympathy. He was the Man of sorrows and "acquainted with grief." Yet, here too was more than an expression of human sympathy. Here were souls upon which rested the weight of the dark shadow of death, and they were souls which He loved, and He felt it.
"Jesus wept": "The consciousness that He carried resurrection-virtue in Him, and was about to fill the house at Bethany with the joy of restored life, did not stay the current of natural affections. 'Jesus wept.' His heart was still alive to the sorrow, as to the degradation of death. His calmness throughout this exquisite scene was not indifference, but elevation. His soul was in the sunshine of those deathless regions which lay far away and beyond the tomb of Lazarus, but He could visit that valley of tears, and weep with those that wept" (J. G. Bellett).
"Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him!" (John 11:36 ). How these tears demonstrated "the profound sympathy of the heart of Jesus with us in all the sorrows and trials through which we pass. Had those sisters for a moment questioned the love of Jesus for them and His sympathy with them in their sorrow, how they would be rebuked by these groans and tears! 'Jesus wept.' What tender sympathy and grace! And He is the same today. It is true the surroundings are different, but His heart is the same: 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.' He 'wept.' How we see the reality of His human nature! Yes; it was a perfect human heart. He wept for the sorrow and desolation which sin has brought into the world; and He entered into it as no other could. Oh! what groans and tears! How they tell out the heart of our precious Lord Jesus! He truly loved these tried ones, and they proved it. So shall we if we rest in the same tender, gracious, sympathizing Lord" (C.H.M.).
"And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" (John 11:37 ). This sounds very much like the language of men determined to believe nothing good of our Lord, insistent on picking a hole or finding a fault, if possible, in any thing that He did. Their words have a sarcastic ring about them. Some have wondered why these carping critics did not mention the raising of Jairus' daughter or the widow's son. But it should be remembered that both of these miracles had been performed in Galilee. Moreover, the healing of the blind man in Jerusalem was much more recent. It is clear that they had no thought of help being available now that Lazarus was dead, and so they openly reproach Christ for allowing him to die. And men in their petulance and unbelief, especially at funerals, still ask much the same questions: 'Why should the Almighty have permitted this?' They forget that "He giveth not account of any of his matters" (Job 33:13 ). "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7 ) is sufficient for faith.
"Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it" (John 11:38 ). This time, as the "therefore" indicates, the groaning was occasioned by the carping unbelief of those mentioned in the previous verse. Here it was a matter of Christ "enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself" (Hebrews 12:3 ). It shows how He felt the antagonism of those who knew Him not. It was not as a stoic that He passed through these scenes. Everything that was contrary to His holy nature, moved Him deeply. How blessed it is for us to remember this as we, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, "groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23 ). How comforting to know that our Redeemer felt the same thing which the new nature within us feels; only felt it a thousand times more acutely. Not for nothing was He termed "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3 ). In us there is ever a conflict; one nature feeding on, the other repelled by, the things of this world. But with the Holy One of God there was nothing to neutralize, nothing to modify, the anguish which His spirit felt from His daily contact with evil and corruption. As Hebrews tells us, "He suffered being tempted." It is true there was nothing in Him to which Satan could appeal, and therefore there was no possibility of Him yielding. But nevertheless the temptation was a fearful reality. His holy nature recoiled from the very presence of the Evil One, as His "get thee hence, Satan" plainly intimates. His spotless purity was sickened by the vile solicitations of the tempter. Yes, He suffered to a degree we do not and cannot. Suffered not only from the temptation of Satan, but from the evil which surrounded Him on every side. The "groaning" which the Holy Spirit has here recorded gives us a glimpse of what must have gone on constantly in the spirit of that blessed One so deeply "acquainted with grief."
"Jesus said, Take ye away the stone" (John 11:39 ). "What majestic composure in the midst of this mighty emotion!" (Stier). Though weeping outwardly and groaning inwardly, the Lord Jesus was complete master of Himself. He acts and speaks with quiet dignity. The miracles of God avoid with the supremest propriety all that is superfluous. So often in the mighty works of God we may observe, an economy of Divine power. What man could do, he is required to do. We have little use for the hackneyed saying that "God helps those who help themselves," for God very often helps those who are unable to help themselves. Yet, on the other hand, it remains true that it is not God's general way to do for us what we are responsible and capable of doing for ourselves. God is pleased to bless our use of the means which are at hand. If I am a farmer, I shall harvest no crops unless I plow and sow and care for my fields. Just as in the first miracle of this Gospel Christ ordered men to fill the jars with water, so here He ordered men to roll away the stone.
"Jesus said, Take ye away the stone." There is another lesson for us to learn here. He might have commanded the stone to roll itself away, or He might have bidden Lazarus to come forth through the impediment of the stone. Instead, He bade the bystanders remove it. Christ modestly avoided all pomp and parade and mingled the utmost simplicity with the most amazing displays of power. What an example He thus set us to avoid all ostentation!
"Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days" (John 11:39 ). What a characteristic word was this from one who was "careful about many things," ever anxious about circumstances. Did Martha suppose that Christ only desired to view the body? It would seem so. And yet how sad is the unbelief which her utterance expressed. Lazarus' own sister would put an obstacle in the way of the manifestation of Christ's glow! She supposed it was useless to remove the stone. How solemnly this warns us that natural affections can never rise to the thoughts of God, and that only too frequently we are opposed to His workings even where it is for the blessing of those whom we love most tenderly! How often has a husband, a wife, a parent, sought to resist the Word or providences of God, as they were operating in or on the object of their affection! Let us take to heart this lamentable resistance of Martha.
"Jesus said unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40 ). There is considerable difference of opinion as to what our Lord referred to when He declared, "Said I not unto thee?" etc. Many suppose He was reminding her of some word of His spoken just before, when she had met Him alone, and which is not recorded in the context. This is mere supposition, and an unlikely one at that. It seems more natural to regard it as pointing back to the answer Christ had sent her from Bethabara: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby" (John 11:4 ). Others think it was as though He said, "Martha, thou art forgetting the great doctrines of faith which I have ever taught thee. How often you have heard Me say, All things are possible to him that believeth." There may be a measure of truth in this as well.
"Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" Profound word was this. "The glory of God"! That which rejoices the soul when seen and known; that, without which we must forever remain unsatisfied and unblest; that, in comparison with which all sights are as nothing,-is "the glory of God." This was what Moses prayed to see: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory" (Exodus 33:18 ). The glory of God is the revelation of His excellencies, the visible display of His invisible perfections. It was the glory of God which Christ came here to make manifest, for He is the outshining of God's glory (Hebrews 1:3 ). But the one special point to which our Lord here referred, was His own glory as the Bringer of life out of death. It was this which He came to reveal, both in His own person, by dying and rising again, and in the works of His hands-here in the raising of Lazarus. To remove the wages of death, to undo the work which sin had wrought, to conquer him that had the power of death, to swallow up death in victory-this was indeed a special manifestation of glory.
"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6 ). Now it is unbelief which hinders our seeing the glory of God. It is not our unworthiness, our ignorance, nor our feebleness, that stand in the way, but our unbelief, for there is far more of unbelief than faith in us, as well as in Martha. Those searching words, "Said I not unto thee" apply to writer and reader. He was reminding Martha of a word given her before, but which had not been "mixed with faith." Alas, how often His words to us have fallen on unresponsive hearts. Mark the order of the two verbs here: "Believe" comes before "see," and compare our remarks on John 6:69 .
"Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid" (John 11:41 ). As pointed out previously, two things stand out conspicuously all through this chapter: the glory of Christ and the failure of men; His perfections and their imperfections confront us at every, point. Christ had bidden the bystanders "Take ye away the stone"-doubtless a heavy one (cf. Matthew 27:60 ) which would require several men to move. But they had not responded. They paused to listen to Martha's objection. It was not until He had replied to her, not until He had spoken of the glory of God being seen, that they obeyed. "Then they took away the stone." How slow is man to obey the Word of God! What trifles are allowed to hinder!
"And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me" (John 11:41 ). Very beautiful is this. It manifested Christ as the dependent One. Perfectly did He fulfill Proverbs 3:5 , Proverbs 3:6 : "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him." But more: it was the Son giving the Father the honor for the miracle which was about to be performed. He directed attention away from Himself to One in heaven. Well might He say, "learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29 ). And too, there is another thing here. In view of His words in the next verse it seems clear that He also lifted up His eyes for the sake of those standing around. His miracles had been blasphemously attributed to Satan and Hell; He would here show the true Source from which they proceeded-"Jesus lifted up his eyes." Note also His, "Father, I thank thee." He began with this. Christ has left us a perfect example, not only of prayerfulness but of thankfulness as well. We are always more ready to ask than thank: but see Philippians 4:6 .
"And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." "We now reach a point of thrilling and breathless interest. The stone had been removed from the mouth of the cave. Our Lord stands before the open grave, and the crowd stands around, awaiting anxiously to see what would happen next. Nothing appears from the tomb. There is no sign of life at present; but while all are eagerly looking and listening, our Lord addresses His Father in Heaven in a most solemn manner, lifting up His eyes, and speaking audibly to Him in the hearing of all the crowd. The reason He explains in the next verse. Now, for the last time, about to work His mightiest miracle, He once more makes a public declaration that He did nothing separate from His Father in heaven, and that in this and all His work there is a mysterious and intimate union between Himself and the Father" (Bishop Ryle).
"And I knew that thou hearest me always" (John 11:42 ). What perfect confidence in the Father had this One here in servant form! And what was the ground of His confidence? Has He not Himself told us in John 8:29 ?-"He that sent me is with me; the Father hath not left me alone; For I do always those things that please him"! The Lord Jesus never had a thought which was out of harmony with the Father's will, and never did a thing which in the slightest degree deviated from His Father's word. He always did those things which pleased Him (Psalms 16:8 ); therefore did the Father always hear Him. What light this throws on our un-answered prayers! There is an intimate relation between our conduct and the response which we receive to our supplications: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18 ). Equally clear is the New Testament. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1 John 3:22 ). Very searching is this. It is not what men term "legalism" but the Father maintaining the demands of holiness. For God to answer the prayers of one who had no concern for His glory and no respect to His commandments, would be to place a premium upon sin.
"And I knew that thou hearest me always." Very, very blessed is this. Unspeakable comfort does it minister to the heart that rests upon it. Christ did not cease to pray when He left this earth: He still prays, prays for us, His people: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25 ). How much we owe to His intercession eternity will reveal-far, far more than we now realize. Read through John 17:0 and note the different things He has asked (and possibly, still asks) the Father for us. He asks that His joy may be fulfilled in us (verse 13), that we may be kept from evil in the world (verse 15), that we may be sanctified through the truth John 4:17 ), that we may be one (21), that we may be made perfect in one (verse 23), that we may be with Him where He is (verse 24), that we may behold His glory (verse 24). None of these things are yet ours in their fulness; but how unspeakably blessed to know that the time is coming when all of them will be! The Father hears Christ "always," therefore these things must be made good to us?
"But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 11:43 ). How this reminds us of Elijah on mount Carmel! "Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God" (1 Kings 18:36 , 1 Kings 18:37 )! This scripture supplies the key to the meaning of the Lord's words beside the tomb of Lazarus. Like Elijah's, Christ's mission was unto Israel, and like Elijah, He here prayed that God would authenticate His mission. If the Father had not sent Him, He would not have heard Him in anything; the Father hearing Him here at the graveside of Lazarus was therefore a clear proof and full evidence of His Divine mission.
"And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43 ). This "loud voice" was also for the people's sake, that all might hear. Lazarus was addressed personally for, as it has been well remarked, had Christ simply cried "come forth" Hades would have been emptied and every tenant of the grave would have been raised from the dead. We have here, in miniature, what will take place on the resurrection morn. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout... and the dead in Christ shall rise" (1 Thessalonians 4:16 , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). So, too, will it be when the wicked dead shall be resurrected: "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice" (John 5:28 ). It is striking to note that Christ here did nothing except to say, "Lazarus, come forth." It was the last great public witness to Christ as the incarnate Word. And, too, it perfectly illustrated the means which God employs in regeneration. Men are raised spiritually, pass from death unto life, by means of the written Word, and by that alone. Providences, personal testimonies, loss of loved ones, deeply as these sometimes may stir the natural man, they never "quicken" a soul into newness of life. We are born again, "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word o/ God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23 ).
"Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth" (John 11:44 ). At the sound of that Voice the king of terrors at once yielded up his lawful captive, and the insatiable grave gave up its prey. Captivity was led captive and Christ stood forth as the Conqueror of sin, death and Satan. There it was demonstrated that He who was in the form of a Servant, nevertheless, held in His own hand "the keys of death and hades." Here was public proof that the Lord Jesus had absolute power over the material world and over the realm of spirits. At His bidding a soul that had left its earthly tenement was called back from the unseen to dwell once more in the body. What a demonstration was this that He who could work such astounding miracles must be none other than one "who is over all, God blessed for ever" (Romans 9:5 ). Thank God for an all-mighty Savior. How can any sheep of His ever perish when held in such a hand!
"And he that was dead came forth" (John 11:44 ). "This shows us what the energy, the utmost energy, of evil can do over those who are the beloved of the Lord; but it also shows us how the Lord Jesus sets it altogether aside in the energy and in the strength of His own power. We have here the full result of Satan's power, and the perfect triumphing of the Lord over that power. Death is the result of the power of Satan. By bringing in sin, he brought in death: 'the wages of sin'; this is the utmost of Satan's power. He brought in this at the commencement, he brought it in by deceit; for 'he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth.' Such has he been ever since; he is called the old Serpent and the Deceiver; and having deceived, he became the murderer of the first Adam, and in one sense, of the last Adam. He was and is a liar; that is his character, as exactly opposed to Christ, who is the truth. In like manner all the variations of his character are set in opposition to that of Christ. He is the destroyer, and Christ is the Giver of life; He is the accuser of the brethren, and Christ the Mediator for them; Christ the Truth of God, and Satan the father of lies. In this character he is first brought before us. By misrepresenting the truth and character of God, he became the murderer of the souls of men, and brought in death-this was his power. Christ came to destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil. The Son of God came to destroy the works of the Devil by bringing souls from the power of Satan to the power of the living God. This is what is so strikingly illustrated here in John 11:0 " (Mr. J. N. Darby).
There are two ways in which the Lord Jesus has become the resurrection and the life of His people: First, in purchasing their redemption from the wages of sin, by paying Himself the full price which Divine justice demanded for their trangressions. This He did by His own voluntary and vicarious sufferings; being made a curse for us. Second, by making us one with Himself who is the very life of all being: "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17 ). It was this He prayed for in John 17:0 : "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (verse 21). This is made good by the Holy Spirit: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17 ). The believer is "in Christ" not only by the eternal choice of the Father (Ephesians 1:4 ), not only by His being constituted our federal Head (1 Corinthians 15:22 ), but also by vital union. In this double way then is Christ unto us "the resurrection and the life," and thus has He completely triumphed over him (the Devil) who had (no longer "has") the power of death. A most striking figure of this was Lazarus. Dead, in the grave, his body already gone to corruption. At the almighty word of Christ "he that was dead came forth." The children of God are the children of the resurrection. Where Christ is made the life of the soul, there is the certainty of a resurrection to life eternal in Christ's life: when His life is communicated to us, we have that within us over which the power of Satan is unable to prevail. Dimly, but beautifully, was this foreshadowed of old in the case of Job. Afflict him Satan might, destroy his possessions he was permitted to do, but touch his life he could not!
The picture presented here in John 11:0 is Divinely perfect. It was during the bodily absence of Christ from Bethany that death exercised its power over Lazarus. It is so with us now. What we have in John 11:0 is not merely an individual, but a family-a family beloved of the Lord. How clearly this prefigured the family of God now upon earth! While Christ was bodily absent, the power of death was felt, and sorrow and grief came in. But tears gave place to rejoicing. After abiding "two days" where He was, Christ came to that afflicted family, and His very presence manifested the power of life. So, when Christ returns for His people, it will be in this same twofold character: as the Resurrection and the Life. Then will He put away not only the grief of His people, but that which has caused it. In the interval, His "tears" (before He raised Lazarus) assure us of His deep sympathy!
"And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin" (John 11:44 ). This line in the picture in nowise mars its accuracy, rather does it intensify it. Whether we view the raising of Lazarus as a figure of the regeneration of a sinner, or the glorification of the believer, the "graveclothes" here and the removal of them, are equally significant. When a sinner is born again, God's work of grace in his soul is not perfected, rather has it just commenced. The old nature still remains and the marks of the grave are still upon him. There is much to impede the movements of the "new man," much from which he needs to be "loosed," and which his spiritual resurrection did not of itself effect. The language of such a soul was expressed by the apostle Paul when he said, "to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not... For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:18 , Romans 7:22 , Romans 7:23 ). It was so here with Lazarus when the Lord called him from the tomb; he did not leave the hampering graveclothes behind him, but came forth "bound hand and foot."
"Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go" (John 11:44 ). How this brings out the moral glory of Christ. The fact that He had to ask the bystanders to liberate the risen man shows that the spectators were all overcome with amazement and awe. The Lord alone remained serene and collected. That the Lord invited them to "loose him" (rather than, by a miracle, cause the clothes to fall from him) points a beautiful lesson. In gracious condescension the Lord of glory links human instruments with Himself in the work which He is now doing in the world. Again and again is this seen in John's Gospel. He used the servants at the wedding-feast, when He turned the water into wine. He fed the hungry multitude through the hands of His disciples. He bade the spectators of this last public miracle roll the stone away from the grave; and now He asks them to free Lazarus from the graveclothes. And this is still His blessed way. He alone can speak the word which quickens dead sinners; but tie permits us to carry that word to them. What an inestimable privilege-an honor not given even to the angels! O that we might esteem it more highly. There is no higher privilege this side of Heaven than for us to be used of the Lord in rolling away gravestones and removing graveclothes.
"Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." But there is a yet deeper and even more blessed truth taught us here. In its ultimate application the raising of Lazarus points, as we have seen, to the full manifestation of Christ as the resurrection and the life at the time when He returns to His sorrowing "family." Then will God's wondrous work of sovereign grace be perfected. No longer shall we be left in a groaning creation, but removed to His own place on high. No longer shall we be imprisoned in these tabernacles of clay, for we shall be "delivered from the bondage of corruption" and enter into "the glorious liberty of the children of God." No more shall our face be "bound about with a napkin," which now causes us to see "through a glass darkly," but in that glad day we shall see "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12 ). Then shall this corruptible put on incorruption and mortality shall be "swallowed up of life" (2 Corinthians 5:4 ). It is of this that the "Loose him" speaks. No more shall we wear the habiliments of death, but then shall we rejoice in that One who has forever set us free that we might walk with Him in newness of life. Then, ah, then, shall we obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
"Loose him." This was to satisfy the onlookers that they had not been deceived by any optical delusion. With their own hands they were permitted to handle his body. It is very striking to observe that in this final "sign" of Christ, conclusive evidence was offered to three of their senses-nostrils, eyes, and hands: the "stink" must have been apparent when the stone was removed from the cave; they saw Lazarus come forth a living man; they were suffered to trench and handle him. All possible deception was therefore out of question.
"And let him go." The spectators were not allowed to satisfy an idle curiosity. Lazarus was to retire to the privacy of home. Those who had witnessed the miracle of his resurrection, were not suffered to pry into the secrets of the grave or ask him curious questions. "Let him go" was the authoritative word of Christ, and there the curtain falls. And fitly so. When the Lord Jesus leaves His Father's throne on high and descends into the air, we too shall go-go from these scenes of sin and suffering, go to be "forever with the Lord." Glorious prospect! Blessed climax! Blissful goal! May our eyes be steadily fixed upon it, running with perseverance the race set before us, looking off unto Him who "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2 ).
The following questions are to prepare the student for the closing section of John 11:-
1. How explain the different actions of the spectators, verses 45, 46?
2. What important truth is illustrated in verse 50?
3. What is meant by "this spake he not of himself," verse 51?
4. What do verses 51, 52 teach about the Atonement?
5. "Gather together" in one what, verse 52?
6. Why did Jesus "walk no more openly among the Jews," verse 54?
7. What is meant by "to purify themselves," verse 55?
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ Feared by the Sanhedrin
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The effects of Christ’s great miracle, verses 45, 46.
2. The Council and their predicament, verses 47, 48.
3. Caiaphas and his counsel: verses 49, 50.
4. The Holy Spirit’s interpretation, verses 51, 52.
5. The Council’s decision and Christ’s response, verses 53, 54.
6. The Feast of the Passover and the purification of the Jews, verses 55, 56.
7. The commandment of the Council, verse 57.
In the closing section of John 11:0 we are shown the effects of the awe-inspiring miracle recorded in the earlier part of the chapter. And we are at once struck with what is here omitted. The Holy Spirit has told us of the varying impressions made upon the "many Jews" who witnessed the raising of Lazarus, but nothing whatever is said of the feelings of either Lazarus or his sisters! Several reasons may be suggested for this. In the first place, the Bible is not written to satisfy an idle curiosity. It would not have suited the ways of God for us to know now what was retained by the memory of Lazarus as he returned from the Unseen to this world. It is not God who moves Spiritualists to pry into that which lies behind the veil. In the second place, there is a beautiful delicacy in concealing from us the emotions of Martha and Mary. We are not allowed to obtrude into the privacy of their home after their loved one had been restored to them! In the third place, may we not reverently say, the joy of the sisters was too great for utterance. An impostor inventing this story would have made this item very prominent, supposing that it would furnish a suitable and appropriate climax to the narrative. But the spiritual mind discerns that its very omission is an evidence of the Divine perfections of this inspired record.
"Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him" (John 11:45 ). Though John says nothing about the effects which the raising of Lazarus had upon any of the members of the Bethany family, it is striking to observe how the Holy Spirit here adheres to His unity of purpose. All through this Gospel He has shown us the growing enmity of the "Jews," an enmity which was now so swiftly to culminate in the crucifixion of the Lord of glory. So now, without stopping to draw any moral from the great "sign" which the Messiah had just given, without so much as making a single comment upon it He at once tells us how it was regarded by the Jews! They, as ever, were divided about the Lord Jesus (cf. John 7:43 ; John 9:16 ; John 10:19 ). A goodly number of those who had witnessed the coming forth of Lazarus from the tomb "believed on him." Without attempting to analyze their faith, this we may safely say: their enmity was subdued, their hostility was discarded, temporarily at least.
"Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." "It is remarkable that our Evangelist speaks of them as those who had come to Mary. Their regard for her led them to have regard to Him whom she so deeply loved. Perhaps too they had conversed with her about Him, and she had borne testimony unto Him, and impressed them favorably concerning Him, and prepared them for their faith in Him" (Dr. John Brown). The wording of this 45th verse is most significant. It does not say, "Then many of the Jews came to Mary, who, seeing the things which Jesus did, believed on ram, but "Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." The two things are linked together the coming to Mary and the seeing the things which He did as explaining why they "believed on him." It reminds us of what we read of in John 4:39 , John 4:41 , John 4:42 : "And many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did . . . And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world."
"But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done" (John 11:46 ). "But": ominous word is this. Solemn is the contrast now presented. Some of those who had witnessed the miracle went at once to the Pharisees and told them of what Christ had done. Most probably they were their spies. Their motive in reporting to these inveterate enemies of our Lord cannot be misunderstood; they went not to modify but to inflame their wrath. What an example of incorrigible hardness of heart! Alas, what is man! Even miracles were to some "a savor of death unto death"!
"Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council" (John 11:47 ). The "chief priests" were, in all probability, Sadducees; we know that the high priest was, see Acts 5:17 . The "Pharisees" were their theological opponents. These two rival sects hated each other most bitterly, yet, in this evil work of persecuting the Lord Jesus, they buried their differences, and eagerly joined together in the common crime. The same thing is witnessed in connection with Herod and Pilate: "And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves" (Luke 23:11 , Luke 23:12 )! Each of these cases was a fulfillment of the prophecy which the Holy Spirit had given through David long before: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Christ" (Psalms 2:2 ).
"Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles" (John 11:47 ). The "council" was deeply stirred by the evidence before them. Jesus had clearly demonstrated that he was the Christ, and they ought forthwith to have acknowledged Him. Instead of doing so they chided themselves for their delay at not having apprehended and silenced Him before. "What do we?" they asked. Why are we so dilatory? On a previous occasion, these same men had sent officers to arrest Christ (John 7:32 ), but instead of doing so they returned to their masters saying, "Never man spake like this man," and then, in the providence of God, Nicodemus objected, "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:51 ), and this broke up their conference. But now things had come to a head. They did know what He was doing. "For this man doeth many miracles." This they could not deny. Very solemn was it. They owned the genuineness of His miracles, yet were their consciences unmoved. How this exposes the uselessness of much that is being done today. Some think they have accomplished much if they demonstrate to the intellect the truth of Christ’s miracles. We often wonder if such men really believe in the total depravity of human nature. Souls are not brought into the presence of God, or saved, by such means. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Nothing but omnipotent and sovereign grace is of any avail for those who are lost. And the only thing God uses to quicken the dead is His own Word. One who has really passed from death unto life has no need for so-called "Christian Evidences" to buttress his faith: one who is yet dead in trespasses and sins has no capacity of heart to appreciate them. Preach the Word, not argue and reason about the miracles of the Bible, is our business!
"If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him" (John 11:48 ). How these words reveal the awful enmity of their hearts: no matter what others did, they were determined not to believe. In our first chapter on John 11:0 we called attention to the link between this chapter and Luke 16:0 . In each instance there was a "Lazarus." The very name, then, of the one whom Christ had just raised at Bethany, should have served to remind them of His warning words at the close of Luke 16:0 . Well did Christ say of them, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (verse 31). What a proof that witnessing miracles will not bring dead sinners to the feet of Christ! "We must never wonder if we see abounding unbelief in our own times, and around our own homes. It may seem at first inexplicable to us, how men cannot see the truth which seems so clear to ourselves, and do not receive the Gospel which appears so worthy of acceptation. But the plain truth is, that man’s unbelief is a far more deeply-seated disease than is generally reckoned. It is proof against the logic of facts, against reasoning, against moral suasion. Nothing can melt it down but the grace of God. If we ourselves believe, we can never be too thankful. But we must never count it a strange thing, if we see many of our fellow men as hardened and unbelieving as the Jews" (Bishop Ryle).
"If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation" (John 11:48 ). It was only to be expected that the resurrection of Lazarus would raise a wave of popular excitement. Any stir among the common people the leaders considered would be dangerous, especially at passover time, then nigh at hand, when Jerusalem would be filled with crowds of Israelites, ready to take fire from any spark which might fall among them (cf. John 12:12 , John 12:13 ). The Council therefore deemed it wisest to concert measures at once for repressing the nascent enthusiasm. Something must be done, but what they hardly knew. They feared that a disturbance would bring Rome’s heavy hand down upon them and lead to the loss of what national life still remained to them. But their fears were not from any concern which they had for God’s glory, nor were they even moved by patriotic instinct. It was sordid self-interest. "They will take away our place," the temple (Greek "topos" used in Acts 6:13 , Acts 6:14 ; Acts 21:28 , Acts 21:29 , where, plainly, the temple is in view), which was the center and source of all their influence and prover. They claimed for themselves what belonged to God. The holy things were, in their eyes, their special property.
Palestine had been annexed as a province to the Roman Empire, and as was customary with that people, they allowed those whom they conquered a considerable measure of self-government. The Jews were permitted to continue the temple services and to hold their ecclesiastical court. It was those who were in position of power who here took the lead against Christ. They imagined that if they continued to leave Him alone, His following would increase, and the people set Him up as their King. It mattered not that He had taught, "My kingdom is not of this world" (18.36); it mattered not that He retired when the people had desired to take Him by force and make Him their King (John 6:15 ). Enough that they supposed His claims threatened to interfere with their schemes of worldly prosperity and self-aggrandizement.
It is indeed striking to see the utter blindness of these men. They imagined that if they stopped short the career of Christ they would protect themselves from the Romans. But the very things they feared came to pass. They crucified Christ. And what was the sequel? Less than forty years afterward the Roman army did come, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple and carried away the whole nation into captivity. A thoughtful writer has remarked on this point: "The well-read Christian need hardly be reminded of many like things in the history of Christ’s Church. The Roman emperors persecuted the Christians in the first three centuries, and thought it a positive duty not to let them alone. But the more they persecuted them the more they increased. The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church. So, too, the English Papists, in the days of Queen Mary persecuted the Protestants and thought that truth was in danger if they left them alone. But the more they burned our forefathers, the more they confirmed men’s minds in steadfast attachment to the doctrines of the Reformation. In short, the words of the second Psalm are continually verified in this world. The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel against the Lord. But ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.’ God can make the designs of His enemies work together for the good of His people, and cause the wrath of men to praise Him. In days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy, believers may rest patiently in the Lord. The very things that at one time seem likely to hurt them, shall prove in the end to be for their gain."
"And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (John 11:49 , John 11:50 ). The Council was puzzled. They saw in Christ, as they thought, a menace to their interests, but what course to follow they scarcely knew. Lip to this point they had simply asked one another questions. Impatient at the vacillations of the priests and Pharisees, the high priest brusquely and contemptuously swept aside their deliberations with, "Ye know nothing at all." "The one point to keep before us is our own interests. Let that be clearly understood. When we once ask, What is expedient for us, there can be no doubt about the answer. This Man must die! Never mind about His miracles, or His teachings, or the beauty of His character, His life is a perpetual danger to our prerogatives. I vote for death." As John 11:53 shows us, the evil motion of Caiaphas was carried. The Council regarded it as a brilliant solution to their difficulty. "If this popular Nazarene be slain not only will suspicion be removed from us, but our loyalty to the Roman Empire will be unmistakably established. The execution of Jesus will not only show that we have no intention of revolting, but rather will the slaying of this Man, who is seeking to establish an independent kingdom, plainly evidence our desire and purpose to remain the faithful subjects of Caesar. Thus our watchful zeal for the integrity of the Empire will not only establish confidence but win the applause of the jealous power of Rome? Caiaphas spoke as an unscrupulous politician who sacrifices righteousness and truth for party interests. So too in accepting his policy, the Council persuaded themselves that political prudence required the carrying out of his counsel rather than that the Romans should be provoked.
"Our place" was what they considered. It was precisely what the Lord had foretold: "But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours" (Luke 20:14 ). Favor from Caesar rather than from God, was what their hearts desired. "Unlike Abraham they took riches from the king of Sodom instead of blessings from the hands of Melchizedek. They chose the patronage of Rome rather than know the resurrection-power of the Son of God" (Mr. Bellett). Solemn warning is this for us to be governed by higher principles than "expediency."
"And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (John 11:51 ). "There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand" (Proverbs 19:21 ). Strikingly was this illustrated here. Caiaphas was actuated by political expediency: the Lord Jesus was to be a State victim. Little did he know of the deep meaning of the words that he uttered, "It is expedient that one man die for the people": little did he realize that he had been moved of God to utter a prophecy to the honor of Him whom he despised. What we have in this verse and in the one following is the Holy Spirit’s parenthetical explanation and amplification upon this saying of the high priest’s. Altogether unconscious of the fact, Caiaphas had "prophesied," and as 2 Peter 1:20 , 2 Peter 1:21 tells us, "No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation i.e. human origination, for the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man." The instance before us is closely parallel with the case of Balaam in the O.T., who also "prophesied" against his will.
The subject is indeed a profound one, and one which human wisdom has stumbled over in every age, nevertheless the teaching of Scripture is very clear upon the point: all things, in the final analysis, are of God. Nowhere is this more evident than in connection with the treatment which the Lord Jesus received at the hands of wicked men. Referring to this very decision of the Council (among other things) Acts 4:26-28 tells us, "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." It had been decreed in the eternal counsels of the Godhead that Christ should die, and die for Israel, and when Caiaphas advanced his proposal he was but a link in the chain which brought that decree to pass. This was not his intention, of course. His motive was evil only, and therein was he justly guilty. What we have here is the antitype of that which had been foreshadowed long centuries before. The brethren of Joseph by their cruel counsels thought to defeat the purpose of God, who had made it known that they should yet pay homage to their younger brother. Yet in delivering him up to the Ishmaelites, though their intention was evil only, nevertheless, they did but bring to pass the purpose of God. So Caiaphas fulfilled the very counsel of God concerning Christ, which he meant to bring to nothing, by prophesying that He should die for the people. Well may Christ have said to Caiaphas, as Joseph had said to his brethren, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Genesis 50:20 )!
"And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (John 11:51 ). What light this throws on the nature of Christ’s death! It brings out its twofold aspect. From the human side it was a brutal murder for political ends: Caiaphas and the priests slaying Him to avoid an unpopular tumult that might threaten their prerogatives; Pilate consenting to His death to avoid the unpopularity which might follow a refusal. But from the Divine side, the death of Christ was a vicarious sacrifice for sinners. It was God making the wrath of man to praise Him. "The greatest crime ever done in the world is the greatest blessing ever given to the world. Man’s sin works out the loftiest Divine purpose, even as the coral insects blindly building up the reef that keeps back the waters or, as the sea in its wild, impotent rage, seeking to overwhelm the land, only throws upon the beach a barrier that confines its waves and curbs its fury" (Dr. MacLaren).
"And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52 ). As the previous verse gives us the Holy Spirit’s explanation of the words of Caiaphas, this one contains His amplification: as verse 51 informs us of the nature of Christ’s death, verse 52 tells us of the power and scope of it. The great Sacrifice was not offered to God at random. The redemption-price which was paid at the Cross was not offered without definite design. Christ died not simply to make salvation possible, but to make it certain. Nowhere in Scripture is there a more emphatic and explicit statement concerning the objects for which the Atonement was made. No excuse whatever is there for the vague (we should say, unscriptural) views, now so sadly prevalent in Christendom, concerning the ones for whom Christ died. To say that He died for the human race is not only to fly in the face of this plain scripture, but it is grossly dishonoring to the sacrifice of Christ. A large portion of the human race die un-saved, and if Christ died for them, then was His death largely in vain. This means that the greatest of all the works of God is comparatively a failure. How horrible! What a reflection upon the Divine character! Surely men do not stop to examine whither their premises lead them. But how blessed to turn away from man’s perversions to the Truth itself. Scripture tells us that Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." No sophistry can evade the fact that these words give positive assurance that every one for whom Christ died will, most certainly, be saved.
Christ died for sinners. But everything turns on the significance of the preposition. What is meant by "Christ died for sinners"? To answer that Christ died in order to make it possible for God to righteously receive sinners who come to Him through Christ, is only saying what many a Socinian has affirmed. The testing of a man’s orthodoxy on this vital truth of the Atonement requires something far more definite than this. The saving efficacy of the Atonement lies in the vicarious nature of Christ’s death, in His representing certain persons, in His bearing their sins, in His being made a curse for them, in His purchasing them, spirit and soul and body. It will not do to evade this by saying, "There is such a fulness in the satisfaction of Christ, as is sufficient for the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to believe in Him." Scripture always ascribes the salvation of a sinner, not to any abstract "sufficiency," but to the vicarious nature, the substitutional character of the death of Christ. The Atonement, therefore, is in no sense sufficient for a man, unless the Lord Jesus died for that man: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:9 , 1 Thessalonians 5:10 ). "If the nature of this ‘sufficiency’ for all men be sifted, it will appear to be nothing more than a conditional ‘sufficiency,’ such as the Arminians attribute to their universal redemption the condition is: were the whole world to believe on Him. The condition, however, is not so easily performed. Many professors speak of faith in Christ as comparatively an easy matter, as though it were within the sinner’s power; but the Scriptures teach a different thing. They represent men by nature as spiritually bound with chains, shut up in darkness, in a prison-house. So then all their boasted ‘sufficiency’ of the Atonement is only an empty offer of salvation on certain terms and conditions; and such an Atonement is much too weak to meet the desperate case of a lost sinner" (Wm. Rushton).
Whenever the Holy Scriptures speak of the sufficiency of redemption, they always place it in the certain efficacy of redemption. The Atonement of Christ is sufficient because it is absolutely efficacious, and because it effects the salvation of all for whom it was made. Its sufficiency lies not in affording man a possibility of salvation, but in accomplishing their salvation with invincible power. Hence the Word of God never represents the sufficency of the Atonement as wider than the design of the Atonement. How different is the salvation of God from the ideas now popularly entertained of it! "As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water" (Zechariah 9:11 ). Christ, by His death paid the ransom, and made sin’s captives His own. He has a legal right to all of the persons for whom He paid that ransom price, and therefore with God’s own right arm they are brought forth.
For whom did Christ die? "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" (Isaiah 53:8 ). "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21 ). "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28 ). "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11 ). "Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25 ). "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people" (Titus 2:14 ). "To make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17 ). Here are seven passages which gave a clear and simple answer to our question, and their testimony, both singly and collectively, declare plainly that the death of Christ was not an atonement for sin abstractedly, nor a mere expression of Divine displeasure against iniquity, nor an indefinite satisfaction of Divine justice, but instead, a ransom-price paid for the eternal redemption of a certain number of sinners, and a plenary satisfaction for their particular sins. It is the glory of redemption that it does not merely render God placable and man pardonable, but that it has reconciled sinners to God, put away their sins, and forever perfected His set-apart ones.
"He prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (verse 51). The nature of Christ’s death is here intimated in the word "for": it was in the stead of others. Christ died for "that nation," (i.e. that "holy nation," 1 Peter 2:9 ). Mark here the striking accuracy of Scripture. Caiaphas did not say that Christ should die for "this nation," (namely, the Jewish nation); but for "that nation." Isaiah 53:0 will be the confession of that "holy nation," as the beginning of Isaiah 54:0 plainly shows. Then shall it be said, "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified" (Isaiah 60:21 ).
"And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52 ). Here the Holy Spirit tells us that the scope of Christ’s death also includes God’s elect from among the Gentiles. As the Savior had announced on a former occasion, "I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd" (John 10:15 , John 10:16 ). Here then are the "other sheep," namely, God’s elect scattered throughout the world. They are here called "the children of God" because they were such in His eternal purpose. Just as Christ said "other sheep I have," and just as God said to the Apostle, "I have much people in this city" (Acts 18:10 ), so in the mind of God these were children, though "scattered abroad," when Christ died. There is a most striking correspond-ency between John 11:51 , John 11:52 and 1 John 2:2 : the one explains the other. Note carefully the threefold parallelism between them. Christ died with a definite end in view, and the Father had an express purpose before Him in giving up His Son to death. That end and that purpose was that "Israel" should be redeemed, and that "the children of God," scattered abroad, should be gathered together in one not "one body," for the Church is nowhere contemplated (corporeately) in John’s writings; but one family. It shall yet be fully demonstrated that Christ did not die in vain. The prayer of our great High Priest will be fully answered: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one" (John 17:20 ,John 17:21 ). Then shall He "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11 ).
"Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death" (John 11:53 ). What a fearful climax was this to all that had gone before! Again and again we have noted the incorrigible wickedness of the Jews. Not only was He not "received" by His own, but they cast Him out. Not only was He despised and rejected by men, but they thirsted for His blood. The religious head of the Nation, the high priest, moved for His death, and the Council passed and ratified his motion. Nothing now remained but the actual execution of their awful decision. Their only consideration now was how and when His death could best be accomplished without creating a tumult among the people. No doubt they concluded that the raising of Lazarus would result in a considerable increase in the number of the Lord’s followers, hence they deemed it wise to use caution in carrying out their murderous plan.
"Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews" (John 11:54 ). How quietly, with what an entire absence of parade, does the Holy Spirit introduce some of the most striking points in Scripture! How much there is in this word "therefore." It shows plainly that God would have us meditate on every jot and tittle of His matchless Word. The force of the "therefore" here is this: the Lord Jesus knew of the decision at which the Council had arrived. He knew they had decreed that He should die. It is another of the many inconspicuous proofs of His Deity, which are scattered throughout this Gospel. It witnessed to His omniscience. The Holy Spirit has shown us that He knew what took place in that Council, for He has recorded the very words that were uttered there. And now Christ shows us by His action here that He also knew. We may add that the word for "no more" signifies "not yet," or "no more at present"; "openly" signifies "publicly."
"Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples" (11:54). Though near at hand, His "hour" had not yet come: Christ therefore retired into a place about which nothing is now known, there to enjoy quiet fellowship with His disciples. "Like the former cases of retirement, this place is significant. Ephraim means ‘fruitlessness’: it is the name given to the tribes in apostasy, in the Prophets, forecasting thus what was in God’s heart about them, even though they were in rebellion and ruin. Can anything exceed the grace of God, or anything but man’s depravity and obduracy bring it into action and display, and be a fitting cause and occasion for all its riches and wonders! Ah they who have been met by God in that grace, are yet to meet Him in the glory of it, to know as all through the history of their sad failures they have been known. Thus we have in chapter ten the Church gathered to the Son of God, here (anticipatively) Israel; but He must die for this" (Malachi Taylor).
"And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves" (John 11:55 ). Here was man’s religiousness, punctilious about ceremonial ablutions, but with no heart for inward purity. The very ones who were so careful about ordinances, were, in a few days, willing to shed innocent blood! What a commentary upon human nature! According to the Mosaic law no Israelite who was ceremonially, defiled could keep the passover at the regular time, though he was allowed to keep it one month later (Numbers 9:10 , Numbers 9:11 ). It was to avoid this delay, that many Jews here came up to Jerusalem before the passover that they might be "purified," and hence entitled to keep it in the month Nisan.
"Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?" (John 11:56 ). Two things gave rise to this questioning among those who had come up to Jerusalem from all sections of Palestine. Each of the two previous years Christ had been present at the Feast. In John 2:13 we read, "And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." It was at this season the Lord had manifested Himself as the Vindicator of the honor of His Father’s House, and a deep impression had been made on those who had witnessed it. A year later, during the course of the Feast He had fed the hungry multitude on the Mount. This so stirred the people that they wanted, by force, to make Him their king (John 6:14 , John 6:15 ). But now the leaders of the natron were incensed against Him. They had decreed that Jesus must die, and their decree was now public knowledge. Hence the one topic of interest among the crowds of Jews in Jerusalem was, would this miracle worker who claimed to be not only the Messiah but the Son of God, enter the danger zone, or would He be afraid to expose Himself?
"Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man know where he were, he should show it that they might take him" (John 11:57 ). Behind the edict of the Council we may discover the enmity of the Serpent working against the woman’s Seed. This verse supplies the climax to the chapter, showing the full effect of the Divine testimony which had been borne in the raising of Lazarus. The resurrection-power of the Son of God had brought to a head the hatred of him who had the power of death. It is true that Christ had raised the dead on other occasions, but here He had given a public display of His mighty power on the very outskirts of Jerusalem, and this was an open affront to Satan and his earthly instruments. The glory of the Lord Jesus shone out so brightly that it seriously threatened the dominion of "the prince of this world," and consequently there was no longer a concealment of the resolution which he had moved the religious world to make Jesus must die. But how blessed to know that the very enmity of the Devil himself is overruled by God to the outworking of His eternal purpose!
1. In whose house was the "supper" made, verse 2?
Let the student give careful attention to the following questions on our next section, John 12:1-11
2. What do verses 2 and 3 hint at about the eternal state?
3. What is intimated by Mary wiping Christ’s feet with her "hair," verse 3?
4. What spiritual truth is suggested by the last clause of verse 3?
5. How many contrasts are there here between Mary and Judas?
6. What blessed truth is suggested by "Let her alone," verse 7?
7. Why were the "chief priests" so anxious to get rid of Lazarus, verse 10?
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 11". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent