Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
John 11

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-54



Harmony, pages 126-127 and John 11:1-54.

In the preceding chapter we considered, in group, the greatest of the parables; in this chapter we consider the greatest miracle wrought by our Lord. The following are the several Greek terms employed by our four historians to describe or define miracles, particularly these four:

Ergon – work, meaning the deed itself. Dunamis – power, expressing the supernatural energy by which the deed was wrought. Teras – miracle, expressing the effect or wonder in the witnesses of the deed. Semeion – sign, expressing the purpose of the deed.

Several times in the New Testament three of these terms occur in the same connection: "Wonders, signs, powers," (Acts 2:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4). There is a propriety of miracles. To illustrate what I mean by "propriety" I recall substantially from memory a saying of Horace, found in his Ars Poetica, somewhat to this effect: "Never, in your story, introduce a god unless there is a necessity for a god; and when introduced let his words and deeds be worthy of a god." These words of a heathen not only express a high idea of literary taste, but embody a principle by which many spurious and silly miracles, both ancient and modern, may be exposed. We may not, with materialists and atheists, carry this principle so far as to reject whatever may not be accounted for naturally, and thus altogether deny the supernatural. In the creation, providence, and history of this world many occasions have arisen to justify the intervention of God, and on all these occasions, the speech and deeds, whether mediate or immediate, have been worthy of God.

It is well to note just here, that no one of the four historians, nor all of them together, claim to record all the miracles wrought by our Lord, but each one only so many as comport with the special plan of his own story. On this point, at the close of his Gospel, John says, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). And with special reference to miracles he had just said, "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). Indeed, apart from his miraculous appearances after his resurrection, John is led of the Spirit to select and record only seven miracles. Let the reader prepare a citation from the Harmony, of John’s seven recorded miracles in the order of their occurrence.

Among the miracles recorded, restoration to life, after death, quite naturally excited the most wonder in the minds of the witnesses; they were truly terata, wonders. Only three instances of these restorations are specially recorded, and yet the three represent every grade of restoration: the raising of the little daughter of Jairus, who had just died; the raising of the widow’s son at Nain, who had been dead longer and was being borne to the tomb; the raising of Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days. While the evidences and signs of death increased with each new case, yet all were equally dead, and the restoration of the little girl to life, from whose cheek the flush of life had scarcely faded, called for the exercise of omnipotent power as much as the restoration of Lazarus, of whom his sister said, "By this time he stinketh." All these were erga, by the same dunamis, yet the last was the most wonderful of the terata, and the most significant of the semeion class.

The reader would do well to read Spurgeon’s great sermon on "The Spiritual Resurrection," based on the analogue of these three graded physical restorations, and he should also note that neither these New Testament restorations to life, nor those recorded in the Old Testament, contradict the scripture that Jesus was, in his resurrection, "the first fruits of them that slept," since they were not glorified, but died again, but he was glorified, raised to die no more. I mean by not being glorified in their case, that mortality did not put on immortality, nor corruption) incorruption, nor did their natural bodies become spiritual bodies.

We call this the greatest miracle wrought by Jesus, not because it was greater as a deed, nor greater in its power, but greater as a wonder and a sign.

This miracle is connected with the history of one of the most remarkable families in the New Testament history. We know nothing of Jairus, nothing of the widow of Nain, and but little of the family life of many other beneficiaries of Christ’s supernatural power. Here all is different. By a very few words here and there in the Gospels we are able to see into the very heart of the little family at Bethany. We know Martha, Mary, and Lazarus as we know our nearest neighbors in their home life. To bring out the word painting power of these few and brief references, let the reader look up and note all these references, in the order of their occurrence in the Harmony, and read an account of the Bethany family in art, citing the great paintings and by whom.

Biblical critics who deny the intervention of the supernatural, have based an objection against the credibility of John’s account of the raising of Lazarus on the silence of Matthew, Mark, and Luke concerning so marvelous an event. They argue that three out of four authors of the memoirs or life of a distinguished personage could not naturally omit reference to so stupendous a fact; that an author of Washington’s life might as well omit any reference to the battle of Yorktown. Quite true, they would not naturally omit such reference. But what about supernatural omission? The strongest proof of their inspiration lies as much in the fact of what they omit as in what they record. Here are four historians of one life. Each author from his own independent viewpoint, and according to an evident plan, writes an account, recording this and omitting that, and yet preserving unity of plan that gives a perfect individual portrait of a life. When you arrange the four stories into a harmony, the united story also forms a natural guidance in the selection and omission of matter, otherwise the narratives of the four would not fit into each other with such exactness as to form a combination evidencing as much plan, unity, and perfection as any one of the parts.

John’s account of this miracle makes plain a divine prearrangement of all the facts with a view to a definite end, the glorification of our Lord. This central event becomes, from foreordination, a stupendous wonder and sign, upon which pivot all the subsequent events of his life, including the fact that it shall bring to a head the long developing malice of his enemies, and instrumentally bring about the tragedy of the cross, the triumph of his own resurrection, glorification, and enthronement, and the consequent salvation of men. The sickness of Lazarus was providential as much as it was natural. It was not intended to be "unto death," i.e., unto final death. The restoration to life was predetermined. And it was deliberately delayed to invest it with every circumstance of publicity, of wonder, of solemnity, of nearness to Jerusalem, of the presence of such witnesses, friendly and hostile, and of demonstration of power, so that it would be impossible to ignore it, and so that it would force alignment for or against him and draw an impassable line of cleavage between the corrigible and incorrigible, while at the same time exposing the utter malice of his enemies. From this time on the battle will be fast and furious. Colossal events, at double-quick, will converge to the great crisis. The next time he approaches Jerusalem will be the last time. The appendices to Greenleaf’s Testimony of the Evangelists appears first – the work of a learned Jewish rabbi attempting to prove from the Gospels themselves that Jesus was legally condemned and executed, and, therefore, his people were innocent of judicial murder; and, second, a reply to the rabbi by Dr. Dupin, a distinguished French lawyer. Both of them lay stress on the raising of Lazarus as the pivotal deed of our Lord, which occasioned the high court of the Jews to determine on his death.

As the text of the familiar story is before us we will consider only such details as need some explanation beyond what has been set forth in the introductory remarks:

1. "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." – This message of the sisters to our Lord in Perea is an exquisite gem in brevity, simplicity, pathos, and delicacy. They ask nothing in words, but the message suggests a prayer, "Lord help us."

2. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby." – The apostle John seems, more than others, to recognize the higher purpose of miracles. His comment on the first miracle is: "This beginning of his signs did Jesus at Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory" (John 2:11). So presently he will say to Martha at the tomb: "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" Spurgeon has a great sermon on "The Voices from the Most Excellent Glory," in which the Father attests the Son:

(a) At his baptism when he prayed for the Spirit (Luke 3:22).

(b) At his transfiguration (Luke 9:35).

(c) On the occasion when the Greeks sought to see him (John 12:20-30).

On all these occasions the Father’s voice responded to his prayer. As in this case the raising of Lazarus for his glory was in answer to his prayer (John 11:41-42) and as later in his greatest prayer (John 17:5).

As a pastor visiting the afflicted who were either attributing their troubles to the cruelty and injustice of God, or to his punitive judgments on account of special sins, how often have I expounded this passage: "This sickness is not unto death but to the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby." It was not the anger of God nor any absence of his love, that brought this trial on the beloved Bethany family. In like manner we may judiciously use these other scriptures: "Neither did this man sin, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (John 9:3). "Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, think ye that they were offenders above all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay" (Luke 13:4).

3. "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" – How clearly this passage teaches that a man cannot die until his work is done, nor malice strike the beloved of God until he permits! It is a statement of the doctrine of predestination, and surely the men of this spirit have been the world conquerors. The Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, Cromwell’s Ironsides, the Scotch-Irish of Londonderry, swarming into Pennsylvania, down the Shenandoah into Virginia and on into the mountains of the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, sending out great spirits here and there like Andrew Jackson and Stonewall Jackson, together with the Baptist hosts of Texas, who have helped much to make this Texas a commonwealth of perfect portrait of a life, the writers supporting and supplementing each other to a degree inexplicable in any natural way and demonstrating that each of the four was led by super God – these all illustrate the meaning of the passage. I deny not that the Arminians, particularly the Methodists, have achieved great things in evangelism, but this they did not by "falling from grace," but by "the perseverance of the saints" and their doctrine of the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. "Let us also go, that we may die with him." – Thomas, the twin, was indeed slow to believe, a doubter, a man inquiring after explanations, somewhat pessimistic withal, but he had more pluck and staying power than some faster and impulsive men.

5. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." – The words of both sisters show both had unfaith. "If thou hadst been here," as if Jesus had to be physically present to know and to do! So the nobleman at Capernaum: "Sir, come down ere my child die" (John 4:49). Not so the centurion of the same city: "Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say unto this one, go, and he goeth; and to another, come, and he cometh; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it" (Luke 7:6-8). The limitations are not in the Lord, but in ourselves. One man will say, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," questioning the Lord’s willingness, but not doubting his ability. Another says, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us," questioning his ability, but not his willingness. No wonder to this last Jesus said, "If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth." The "if" was on the man, not on our Lord.

But we are not yet through with Martha’s faith, now great, now small: "Even now I know that, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee." This seems to mean, that though Lazarus is dead, Jesus, through prayer, can bring him back to life. But does it? If so, why does the Lord continue to probe her heart with questions, and why does she protest against his command to remove the stone closing the tomb? "Lord, by this time the body decayeth," so as to provoke the gentle rebuke of Jesus: "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" Martha believed indeed that Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection at the last day, and that Jesus was the Messiah that should come into the world, but did she believe his positive assertion, in any present sense, "He that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live again?" And especially may we question her faith in, and the realization of that stupendous affirmation, that ringing declaration of the Lord’s present and eternal sovereignty over life and death, that supreme claim of divinity that he was the eternal source and fountain-head of all life: "I am the resurrection and the life." As in the beginning of his Gospel, John had said, "In him was life." As he is Lord of the sabbath day so he is Lord of life and death. Paul grandly puts the thought: "Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." "I am the resurrection" now or hereafter; "I am the life," physical and eternal. "In him," as the source, in all potentiality, "was life." But what inhered, because of his divine nature, was unrecognized by men, until brought to light in the gospel.

6. Another declaration of our Lord in this connection staggers faith: "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?" What does it mean? Perhaps some may say, "It means the same as he that believeth on me hath eternal life," referring to spiritual life, which is about the same as our doctrine of final perseverance, or, rather, preservation of the saints; in other words, shall not die the second and eternal death. The doctrine is sound enough, but would Martha have staggered at that? She has already avowed her faith in the final salvation of Lazarus. The question therefore recurs: What does it mean? Does it mean that if one’s faith were strong enough he might be translated without death, as was the case of Enoch and Elijah, and as will be the case of the living saints at the final advent of our Lord? These rare cases meet all the conditions of "shall never die," but can these three exceptional instances square with the broadness of "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me"! Then, does it mean that the "sting of death" is removed from every believer? That seems hardly large enough to meet the case. "The sting of death is sin," and Martha would not have doubted so obvious a truth as the remission of sin to a believer. Doubtless, then, the reader says, "Let the author himself tell us the meaning." The author, then, disavowing dogmatism, will tell what, in his opinion, it most probably means. It cannot mean that every believer will escape dissolution of soul and body. We know it cannot mean that. And yet it must mean something true of every believer (the whosoever requires that) which yet is very hard to believe. What I think it means can best be set forth by reference to an Old Testament type and to an incident which came under my own observation. When Israel went on a pilgrimage from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land, the last barrier to cross was the river Jordan, which in that sense was typical of Death, the last barrier between us and the Promised Land. A reference to this typical character of death appears in the hymn:

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, And cast a wishful eye To Canaan’s fair and happy land, Where my possessions lie.

Could I but climb where Moses stood, And view the landscape o’er, Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood, Would fright me from the shore.

Now, it is the purpose of the New Testament gospel light to give every believer in this world to see a vision of the world to come, surpassing that secured by the vantage ground of Moses on Nebo. To these people Jordan was a formidable and dreadful barrier that well might fill them with forebodings. It was at the flood – no bridge, no ferry, naturally impassable. Yet when they reached its brink, God divided the flood and they passed over dry-shod. Their task was po more than they had often accomplished, going down one hill and climbing another. In other words, they crossed the channel, but there was no river there.

The incident further illustrating the probable meaning is this: In my early ministry, 1869, I was holding a great meeting under a brush arbor by the roadside. One day, when about half way through the sermon, I observed a ramshackle sort of a mover’s wagon stop in the road) and through a rent in the dirty wagon sheet, there looked out at me the most hungry eyed, emaciated, woebegone, cadaverous face of extreme poverty and suffering I ever saw. Quick as lightning came the impression to stop my sermon to the crowd and go out and preach present and eternal salvation to the one sick and despairing man. I yielded at once to the impression, walked down the aisle, put one foot on the wagon wheel and, with all my soul, lifted up Christ as a present and everlasting Saviour to that poor dying man. In one moment he accepted the Lord as his Redeemer and from the wagon was received into the church. He was so weak that he had to be baptized sitting in a chair. A few days later I found him dying on the Brazos in an old Negro cabin, with dirt floor and straw bed. He was already cold to his elbows and knees. I leaned over him and said, "Brother Bryan, you have come to the river. But in the name of Jesus I assure you that in the crossing you’ll find no river and no darkness. And now, when you reach it, if God permit you, give us a token that what I say is true." He merely nodded his head and seemed to die. We thought him dead. But when I reached over to put my finger on an eye to close it, he shivered, gasped, raised his head and said, in jerking words, "Brother Carroll – no – river – all bright," and died. He found no darkness and the channel was empty.

So awful are the seeming sufferings of the body, the crumbling tenant house, when the soul is evicted, we find it hard to believe that every Christian finds no real death, no darkness, only an empty channel all ablaze with the light of the pillar of fire. We can easily believe that this is so with some bright cases, but how many of us believe that "Whosoever liveth and believeth shall never die"?

7. "The Master is here and calleth thee." – I heard, if not a great, yet, a most moving sermon on this text by the noted evangelist, A. B. Earle. He applied it this way: Every revival is a coming of the Lord to the community. When it is known that he is present, some, like Martha, rise up immediately and go forth to meet him; others, like Mary, "still sit at the house," intending to do nothing, to whom he sends his preemptory message: "The Master is here and calleth thee." Then all the Marthas who heard that sermon went out after the Marys and delivered the message. There was a crowd of Christians to hear the next sermon.

8. He groaned in the spirit . . . again groaning in himself." – In the margin we find probably a better translation (John 11:33; John 11:38) of the words rendered "groaned," "groaning." That rendering is, "He was moved with indignation to himself." To justify preference for the marginal rendering we must find in each connection something to call forth indignation on such a solemn occasion. The cause for his first indignation was his seeing in sharp contrast, Mary’s sincere weeping, and the shallow, perfunctory, hired, hypocritical weeping of the Jews. The cause of the second indignation was the sceptical insinuation of some of the Jews who said, "Could not this man who opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die!" He felt the antagonism and malice of their presence. He knew that part of the Jews present would not believe though one rose from the dead, and that it would only inflame their hate. They were the men who went away and reported to the Pharisees what Jesus had done.

9. "Jesus wept." – This shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35) expresses the humanity, tenderness and sympathy of our Lord. He was touched with a sense of all our infirmities. It has been, by some, regarded as unmanly to weep. But this standard of manliness is false. The sufferings, the sorrows, and sins of the world call for tears. Earth’s greatest men have manifested their sympathy, or penitence, or earnestness with tears.

Thomas Moore in the "Peri and Paradise" story of Lalla Rookh makes the tear of the penitent more potent in opening the gate of paradise than the last drop of a patriot’s blood, or the last sigh of human love. The psalmist declares: He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him. – Psalms 126:6

The great prophet, Jeremiah, cried, "Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." Macauley, in his Battle of lvry, thus speaks of Henry of Navarre: He looked upon the foeman and his glance was stern and high; He looked upon his comrades and a tear was in his eye.

So Jesus is here indignant at the simulated grief of his foes, and tender toward Mary. Paul, "even weeping," warned against the enemies of the cross, and day and night for three years, testified, in tears, to the Ephesians of the grace of God. Elsewhere it is said concerning our Lord that in the days of his flesh he cried unto God with strong crying and tears and was heard in that he feared. And his lament over Jerusalem is more touching and pathetic than David’s lament over Absalom:

Did Christ o’er sinners weep And shall our cheeks be dry? Let floods of penitential grief Burst forth from every eye.

He wept that we might weep; Each sin demands a tear; In heaven alone no sin is found And there’s no weeping there

10. "Take ye away the stone – loose him and let him go" Men could not raise the dead; Christ did that. But men could remove the stone from the mouth of the tomb that the Lord might say, "Lazarus, come forth." And when the dead was raised men could loose him and let him go. They could loose him from the grave clothes which bound him hand and foot. What men can do the Lord commands them to do. Two of the most impressive sermons I ever heard on "Human Instrumentality" were, first, from Dr. Burleson at the beginning of a meeting on, "Take ye away the stone," the theme, "What men should do that God might make the dead alive." The other, at the close of the meeting, by Jesse Thomas, "Loose him and let him go." The theme of the last was, "Men may be made alive by the power of God and yet remain bound in grave clothes, unless intelligent friends loose them from the difficulties that prevent them; though living they are kept from the activities of life."

Two classes of unbelieving Jews witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus: one class, open to conviction, and these believed and were saved; the other class, too blind to see and too full of hate to be melted. These carry the astonishing news to Jerusalem. The tidings led to a session of the Sanhedrin. No one dared to deny the fact. They openly confessed it. They feared that all men would believe on such overwhelming evidence of divine and benevolent power. Something decisive must now be done, or they would lose "their place." But in hypocrisy they attribute their malice to concern for the nation. The high priest in that dreadful years was Caiaphas, and he justified the decision to put Jesus to death on the ground of political expediency: "It is expedient for you that one should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."

Concerning this remarkable session of the Sanhedrin, two special things need to be said:

1. I agree with the rabbi and dissent from Mr. Dupin in believing that this was a legal meeting of the Sanhedrin, but dissent from the former and agree with the latter that it did not order the arrest of Jesus, on the alleged ground of political expediency, but resolved to kill him really from malice and selfishness. Their determination to put him to death, and the alleged ground of it, was in his absence; preceded any form of investigation or trial, confessed the miraculous facts which excited their hate, and so this fixed determination of the supreme court of their nation, contrary to their own law, was but the source from which flowed all their subsequent illegal, malicious proceedings culminating in his judicial murder. There remained only to devise means of executing their judicial and official purpose, and of rendering him odious to the people, and for espionage and suborning testimony, and such other arrangements as would render their wicked deeds plausible and safe to themselves. Jesus himself, a short time after, showed them plainly, in the parable of the wicked husbandman, their malicious, murderous purpose, and thereby only increased the hate and deepened the purpose.

2. A comment of John on the words of Caiaphas is indeed remarkable: "This he said not of himself: ’but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that he might gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad." Truly, it was "making the wrath of man to praise him" when Caiaphas, meaning evil, should be unwittingly constrained to utter such a glorious and far-reaching truth. The man in his freedom proposed, but God in his sovereignty disposed. As Joseph’s brethren meant evil in selling him, but God meant good in sending him into Egypt, or as Peter later puts it: "Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay"; so, whenever God wills it, a wicked man may unconsciously prophesy. Whether this prophecy was at that time a function of the office of high priest, is an interpretation I shall not now consider. But I do say that the raising of Lazarus was the greatest and most consequential of all the miracles personally wrought by our Lord.


1. What was the greatest miracle wrought by our Lord?

2. What are the four Greek words used to define miracles, what are their English equivalents and what do they severally express?

3. In what four New Testament passages do we find three of these words used in the same connection and what are the three words?

4. What is the propriety of miracles? Illustrate.

5. What danger pointed out in connection with this illustration?

6. What is the plan of the four historians relative to the miracles they record and what is the double testimony of John on this point?

7. What seven miracles recorded by John and what is the Harmony page and scripture of each?

8. What class of Christ’s miracles naturally excited the most wonder in the minds of the witnesses, what three of these recorded, and how do they represent every grade of restoration?

9. What sermon commended on these three miracles? Show how they do not contradict the scripture that Jesus was in his resurrection "the first fruits of them that slept."

10. In what respect was the raising of Lazarus the greatest miracle of our Lord?

11. Give the references in the order of their occurrence in the Harmony, to the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; give also an account of this family in art, citing the great paintings and by whom.

12. What objection urged against the credibility of John’s Gospel based on the silence of the synoptic Gospels concerning this marvelous events, and what the reply?

13. Show how, by foreordination, the raising of Lazarus becomes the pivot of all the subsequent events of our Lord’s life.

14. What does the message of the sisters, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick," suggest?

15. How does John, more than others, seem to recognize the higher purpose of miracles (John 11:4; John 2:11), what sermon commended on this thought, and what the application of John 11:4 by the author?

16. What is the teaching of "are there not twelve hours in the day"? Illustrate.

17. What trait of Thomas here revealed?

18. What does the statement by both sisters, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," show?

19. What other instances of a similar nature referred to and what instances in contrast?

20. What did Martha mean by "Even now I know that, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee"?

21. What is the meaning of "whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die"?

22. What is the application of "The Master is here and calleth thee"?

23. What is the meaning of "He groaned in the spirit . . . again groaning in himself," and what in the context to justify the meaning in each case?

24. What does "Jesus wept" express, is it unmanly to weep, what of Thomas Moore’s testimony, the psalmist’s testimony, Jeremiah’s testimony, Macaulay’s testimony, Paul’s testimony, and what other illustrations from the life of our Lord?

25. What is the meaning and application of each of these expressions, "Take ye away the stone" and "Loose him and let him go"?

26. What two classes of Jews witnessed the raising of Lazarus, what did the second class do and the results?

27. What two special things concerning the meeting of the Sanhedrin discussed by the author?



Harmony, pages 140-146 and Matthew 21:1-22; Mark 11:1-18; Luke 19:29-48; John 11:55-12:50.

We now come to the seventh part of the Harmony, devoted to the transaction of one week. The record extends from page 140 to page 217 of the Harmony. It is very thrilling. There is no halt; one event chases another. It is as living a narrative for rapidity of action as can be found in any language, and from now on to the conclusion of the Harmony we have before us the greatest studies to which the mind of man was ever directed. On page 140 there is a paragraph from John. That paragraph of just a few lines tells everything that is recorded about two of the days of the week, Friday and Saturday. Friday he gets to Bethany; Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, he remains there; there is nothing recorded about it at all. So that from the bottom of page 140 to the part that commences with the appearances, we have just six days. Now, as that one paragraph in John tells about what took place Friday and Saturday, so we have what happened on Sunday pages 140-143; what happened on Monday, pages 144-146; and what happened on Tuesday, pages 146-148, and so on. But we will have to do our hardest studying when we come to what happened on Tuesday. Just now, however, we are to consider what happened on Friday. The events that happened on Friday were that Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, and on that very day in Jerusalem there was an intense curiosity as to whether Jesus would come to this feast. The resurrection of Lazarus had made a profound impression. It stirred the people; it stirred the enemies of Jesus, and there was an increased curiosity in the city about his coming. About that time the common people found out that he was already within two miles of Jerusalem, at Bethany, there on Friday, and so a great many of them go out that afternoon to Bethany, just a two-mile walk, with a double purpose in view: First, to see Jesus; and, second, to look in the face of a man who had been raised from the dead after he had been dead four days. When the Pharisees saw that great throng leaving Jerusalem that Friday afternoon to go two miles out to Bethany, and learning that one of the motives that prompted them to go was to see Lazarus, then they counseled together to put Lazarus to death as well as Jesus. They were afraid for the people to go out and see Lazarus. They were afraid that the multitudes, through this miracle of the raising of Lazarus and their personal knowledge of the fact that Lazarus was raised, would turn from them.

Saturday, which was the Jewish sabbath, he remained quietly in Bethany. Now we notice what took place on Sunday. That is the first time that Sunday is brought into prominence as the first day of the week. On the first day of the week Jesus is proclaimed King; on the first day of the week Jesus rises from the dead; on the first day of the week he makes his appearance after rising from the dead; on the first day of the week he pours out the Holy Spirit upon his church. From now on Sunday will be prominent. That is what is called Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday occupies a conspicuous place in ecclesiastical calendars. The world is full of literature on Palm Sunday. The Romanists and Episcopalians have a special service on every Palm Sunday, and on the following Sunday, which is Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. On one he was proclaimed King; on the other he was raised from the dead, and crowned King in heaven.

Now, my own calculation commences with the commandment in Ezra 7:13, which was 457 B.C., and adding 483 years it brings us to the baptism of Jesus Christ when he was publicly acknowledged from heaven and the Spirit of God descended upon him.

The procession was twofold. First, his disciples and the Bethany people, including the Jews, that had come to him the Friday previous, and then a multitude, when he was on the march to Jerusalem, came out and joined him. It was an immense procession. They knew that Zechariah had prophesied that when their King came he would come that way. They knew from the prophets just what they should say in acclamation: "Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" and they gathered the branches and leaves of the palm trees and spread them down before him. Some spread their clothes down for him to ride on, and the whole multitude shouted and sang as they moved, and one thousand pieces of artillery thundering at one time on Jerusalem could not have shocked and startled his enemies like seeing that throng. The event was a vivid fulfilment of Scripture and identified the Messiah, The demonstration terrified his enemies. Some of the multitudes were not participating in either the praise or throwing down branches for him to ride on, and they said, "Master, rebuke thy disciples. They are applying to you the words that belong to the Messiah. Rebuke them." He replied, "If these shall hold their peace, the stones shall cry out." Why? Because this is the day that marks the winding up of the probation of the Jewish people, and if nobody should cry out, "Hosanna to the Son of David," then the rocks their lasting silence should break and cry out, "Hosanna to the Son of David."

It is characteristic of children to be intensely interested in parades and processions. When a circus comes, we see the little children running to where they can see it, and when it passes them, they cut around another corner and wait for it to pass again. So these children cut around and got into the Temple, as that was Jesus’ objective point. And as he approaches the Temple they take up the song, "Hosanna to the Son of David," and the Pharisees speak again: "Hearest thou what these children are saying? Ought you to suffer that? Why even the little children are hailing you as the Messiah!" Jesus whirled upon them and said, "Yea, did ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? Have you never read that?"

The next section commences on page 144 of the Harmony, and is the beginning of what took place on Monday. We will consider the sections separately and in order.

THE FIG TREE CURSED (Mark 11:12-14 and Mark 11:20-25; Matthew 21:18-22)

It has already been a subject of remark that nearly all of our Lord’s miracles were miracles of mercy, and that only two were punitive – the cursing of the fig tree and the permitted destruction of the swine in the sea. This cursing of the fig tree, in fact, must be compared with the parable of the barren fig tree on page 118 of the Harmony given in Luke 13:6-9. It may be well in this connection to repeat the very words of that parable: "He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit thereon, and found none. And he said unto the vinedresser, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground? And he answering saith unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit thenceforth, well; and if not, thou shalt cut it down."

The parable represents the Holy City, Jerusalem. For three years he had been preaching to them concerning the kingdom of God. They had borne no fruit and a sentence is pronounced: "Why doth it also cumber the ground? Cut it down." The husbandman or dresser of the vineyard pleads for one more year, the part of the year yet remaining of the ministry of our Lord. How often has the parable been the theme of a sermon or of an admonition!

In our old family Testament on the margin in the handwriting of my father are these words: "Lord, spare him another year." This was written concerning my oldest brother, and on the other margin in my mother’s handwriting years afterward are these words: "He now bears fruit."

It is the mission of a fig tree to bear fruit. If it does not bear fruit it has failed of the object of its being. It is characteristic of the fig tree that it puts out its fruit before it puts on its leaves, hence to see leaves on a fig tree justifies an expectation of fruit. Jesus leaving Bethany walking toward Jerusalem, not yet having had the breakfast or first meal of the Jews and being hungry, sees a fig tree covered with leaves. He goes to it to find fruit, and finding none, pronounces a curse upon it that withers it instantly to its taproot. The action is symbolic. It represents the cursing and destruction of Jerusalem, a total and overwhelming destruction, a destruction that was so unnecessary if only their eyes had been opened to the things which made for their peace. How well Luke has expressed the thought: "When he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day," that is, the great Palm Sunday, the day when he came as King, so vividly foretold by the prophets, "If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. . . . Thine enemies shall cast up a bank about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, . . . and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19:41-44).

An infidel has said that it was not the season for figs, and according to the text itself, the curse was unjustifiable but the meaning here is that it was the full season for figs; the tree is not cursed for failing to bear fruit out of season, but having failed in season it now creates an expectation of fruit by putting forth its leaves. In nearly all books upon the Holy Land we find the fact stated that in some places of the country some fig trees bear fruit earlier than others and often some in the same garden, one tree being in a sunny spot sheltered from cold winds, bears a week or two ahead of other trees, and the putting forth of the leaf is the sign that the fruit is there.

This section is intensely interesting, not merely on account of the historical incident, but on account of the great group of mighty lessons developed from it. Certain Greeks of those that went up to worship at the feast came to Philip and said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." I suppose many preachers, as well as myself, have preached from that text, "Sir, we would see Jesus!" and maybe got more out of the text than those Greeks meant. I suppose those Greeks were Jewish proselytes, as the Ethiopian eunuch was a proselyte, that is, they had adopted the Jewish religion, and coming up to the annual feast were concerned to see the new great expounder of their adopted religion. When informed of their desire to see him, our Lord makes this strange reply, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified." What is its relevancy to the request of the Greeks that they should see him? Apparently this: if the Gentiles, already knocking at the gate of grace which they could not possess until the time of the Jews be fulfilled, then does not their coming prove that the hour approaches for Christ to die and for all Gentiles to share in his salvation? Hence he says, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified." But how is he to be glorified? He explains: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit." The sense of the passage seems to be this: "The Gentiles are coming. In their salvation I will be glorified. I cannot get to that glory except through my cross." His disciples all the time misconceived the nature of his kingdom: "Far be it from thee, Lord, to suffer death," and "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus rebukes them by teaching first, his death: "I can attain no glory nor bear fruit until I die." Then he announces the general principle: "He that loveth his life loses it; he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If a man profess to love me, let him follow me; if when to follow me means to die with me, come to my cross. Men cannot be my disciples except they take up the cross and follow me." We must die to our sins, by the withering work of the Holy Spirit, before we can bear the fruit of joy in our regeneration. That was the astounding thing the prophet spoke concerning John the Baptist. This man comes to bring the news of salvation, and what shall he say? And the voice said, "Say that all flesh is grass and the grass withereth and its flower fadeth." In other words, as Christ died before he was glorified, there must be the withering work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to precede the saving work.

He now turns from the special application of his words to the coming of the Greeks, to the general principles involved in his death. "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?" This death ahead of him was not a painted death. It was not merely a physical death. It was a spiritual death; it was a penal death. The baptism of suffering was not a mere sprinkling of sorrow, but it was an overwhelming flood. Wave after wave must roll over him.

A few aspersed drops on the brow can never represent the overwhelming sorrows of Christ when deep uttered its voice to deep at the noise of its water-spouts. He continues: "Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?" In view of its sorrow shall he ask God to avert it? It was for this cause he came into the world and shall he offer prayer to defeat the object of his mission? Later on when we see him in the garden of Gethsemane and the awful horrors of Calvary are already felt in apprehension, we indeed hear him pray: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." That seems to mean, "If men can be saved without my death; if thy omniscience can discern some other plan; if thy omnipotence can bring about any other way of salvation, then let this cup pass from my lips." But if there is no other way and no other plan for the salvation of man, then he offers to drink the cup according to the will of God. It seems to me that this is the most convincing proof in the world that there can be no salvation apart from salvation in Christ.

Having thus stated the only method of his glorification and the horror of that method, he now prays: "Father, glorify thy name," and the silence of heaven is broken by a voice from the most excellent glory, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." This is the third time that a voice of attestation has come from the highest heaven – once at his baptism when the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; once at his transfiguration, when the Father again said, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye him," and now, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." This brings us to a climax. The thought has been continually mounting upward as if climbing from one peak of a range to another still higher, until at last the foot is planted upon the crest of the loftiest summit.

The coming of the Greeks suggested the thought. He sees the coming of the Gentile world. The desire of the Greeks, "Sir, we would see Jesus!" he interprets as coming from the lips of all nations. In their voice he hears the Roman and the Briton and every nation and tribe and tongue saying, "Sir, we would see Jesus." It is no Jewish crisis of which he speaks when he says, "Now is the crisis of this world." In employing the English word "crisis," I simply Anglicize the Greek term. The world has had but two crises: The first man when he stood before the tree of death and yielded to the temptation of his wife – that was the first crisis. In him the race fell. In that fall Satan usurped the sovereignty of this world. He has been the prince of this world ever since, and now the Second Adam has come. Satan was foiled in his first temptation of our Lord immediately after his baptism. But he only left him for a season. He is back again. The conflict between the Prince of life and the prince of death has been raging for three and a half years. The death grapple comes on the cross. There the serpent will bruise the heel of the Messiah and there the Messiah will crush the serpent’s head. So when this temptation comes to him to shun the horrors of his sacrificial, penal, and substitutionary death, it is again and for the last time the crisis, not of the Jews alone, but of the whole world. This Second Adam, this messianic Prince, who, before his incarnation, created the world for his own glory and from whom it had been snatched by the wiles of Satan in the fall of the first Adam, shall regenerate this world. The material earth itself shall be purified by fire. All its land and sea, its mountains and valleys, its sky and its earth, shall be redeemed.

The strong man armed has kept his goods in peace, but he shall be bound hand and foot, stripped of his armor and expelled from the house which he has defiled.

The crisis consists in this: That the prince of this world – the usurping prince – shall be cast out, and now on the last mountaintop the cross is erected as the supreme climax and his words ring out, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself." By being lifted up he signifies the manner of his death on the cross. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life." That lifting up occurred nearly two thousand years ago. We may well ask, "Has it lost its attractive power? Can it now draw men?" Paul said to the Galatians long after the crucifixion of Christ, "Before whose eyes Christ was openly get forth crucified." On the cross he was lifted up in fact, but in the gospel he is lifted up as a proclamation of that fact.

Every time the preacher sets forth from the pulpit Christ crucified as the hope of glory, he is lifted up. Every time a man, claiming to be a preacher, substitutes for the cross some inferior theme, he is guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ. The cross is Time’s masterpiece and Eternity’s glory. And whoever in simple, childlike faith will lift up Jesus crucified will find that it draws more than any sensational advertisement, pays better than the hired singing of theatrical choirs, pays better than philosophical, economic, or ethical discussion, and ultimately not only all redeemed will be drawn to that cross, but all the lost will be compelled to bow the knee, and every tongue in the last judgment shall confess his name, and even from the horrors of hell in that day of revelation of the righteous judgment of God shall say, "Thy judgment is just."

I mean to say that everybody that ever lived upon this earth and every angel who has ministered, and every fallen demon who has sought to mar and obstruct the kingdom of God, shall at the last acknowledge the wisdom and glory of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ – some in their salvation and others in their punishment.

They, blind as moles, replied: "We have heard out of the law that the Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou the Son of man must be lifted up?" The lifting up is the means of his abiding forever. Again they say, "Who is this Son of man?" Had they never read Daniel? Does not that great prophet fix the title of the Messiah as the "Son of man," and does not Christ accept the title? Did they not recall how that prophet said that he saw one like unto the Son of man, brought to the Ancient of Days and thousands and thousands and ten thousand times ten thousands ministered unto him, and that there was given him a kingdom that should never end? In that way shall he abide forever.

Isaiah, seven hundred years before, had foreseen their rejection and the triumph of the cross in that great Isaiah 53, commencing: "Lord, who hath believed our report and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Men saw no beauty in him that they should desire him. To them he seemed to be afflicted and smitten of God. They did not understand that by his stripes we are to be healed, and that God was to put on him the iniquity of us all, and that be must pour out his soul unto death, and that when he poured out his soul unto death then he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.

We have seen all of the final struggle pivoting on the raising of Lazarus. That event led the Sanhedrin to its final determination to put the Christ to death. Then we have seen him coming according to the Scriptures on that great Palm Sunday, and their rebuking of his disciples and of the little children because they cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"


1. What division of the Harmony does this study embrace and what can you say of the narrative?

2. Which one of the historians gives an account of our Lord’s actions on Friday and Saturday of his last week, and what were they?

3. What particular interest upon the part of the common people were manifested, what the actions of the chief priests and why?

4. What did Christ do on Sunday and what other great events in the scripture marking the first day of the week?

5. What is this Sunday called by Romanists and Episcopalians, what other Sunday is of importance with them, and what do you think of such celebrations?

6. From what date does the author calculate Palm Sunday and how?

7. Who constituted the procession into Jerusalem, what prophet had foretold this event, how did the procession demonstrate its joy, and what the effect on Jerusalem?

8. What request came from some of the multitude and why, what Christ’s answer and its signification?

9. What interest manifested on this occasion by the children, who objected and what Christ’s reply?

10. What two of our Lord’s miracles only were punitive?

11. What parable must be considered in connection with this cursing of the fig tree, what does the parable represent, what the three years, what the extra year begged for it by the husbandman, and what touching incident in the author’s family in this connection to illustrate?

12. What is the mission of a fig tree, what is its characteristic, justifies what expectation, what is the application, and how does Luke express Jerusalem’s great responsibility in this matter?

13. What infidel objection, and what is the reply?

14. Why is the incident of the coming of the Greeks intensely interesting, who were these Greeks, why their interest to see Jesus, when thus informed what was Jesus’ reply, what its relevancy to this coming of the Greeks, how was he to be glorified, what misapprehension by the disciples, what general principle announced. What its application?

15. What was the nature of the death that he was to die?

16. Did Christ try to escape death for the salvation of the world, what was the meaning of the prayer in Gethsemane, what great proof that there can be no salvation apart from salvation in Christ?

17. What was his prayer on this occasion, what was the Father’s response, what three voices from the Most Excellent Glory, and how do they express a climax?

18. What did Jesus hear in the voice of these Greeks, what thought did it suggest to him, how many and what crises of the world, how is this a crisis of the world, what the parallels between the two crises, what to be the outcome of the last, what part has the preacher in the result, and what theme suggested for the preacher?

19. What was the reply of the multitude, what prophecies show their blindness?

20. Show the connection of these events with the raising of Lazarus.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 11". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/john-11.html.
Ads FreeProfile