Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
John 11

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-44



John 11:1-44. “ And a certain one was sick: Lazarus, of Bethany, the village of Mary and Martha her sister.” John, who accompanied Jesus, very discreetly omits the name of the place where Jesus is at this time beyond the Jordan, in order to avoid the confusion superinduced by the reader confounding the two Bethanies. Lazarus was sick at Bethany, Judea, one and seven-eighths miles east of Jerusalem, and Jesus was preaching at Bethany, Perea, about fifty miles northeast. “ And Mary was the one anointing the Lord with myrrh and wiping His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.” This transaction is recorded in the twelfth chapter of this Gospel.

a. Then the sisters sent to Him, saying, Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.” The word for love is phileo, which means the love of friendship i. e., human love in contradistinction to agapao, Divine love. The unfallen humanity of Jesus is capable of a human love and tender affection infinitely more delicate and sensitive than any of us, hardened and darkened by the fall, can conceive. “ And Jesus, hearing, said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Even after the word came to Him, He declined to pronounce Lazarus dead, but said he was asleep. Of course, the death of Lazarus had taken place before the arrival of the messengers sent by the sisters, as we subsequently see, from the fact of the four days having elapsed at the time of His arrival.

These apparent disharmonies all clear away when we remember that Jesus declines to use the word “death,” but substitutes “sleep,” setting forth the significant fact that the body is immortal as the soul, which is true, when we consider the resurrection in its normal economy. “ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Here we have agapao, Divine love, thus disarming the infidel criticism that might wickedly be foisted on that statement, as there is nothing physical in the meaning of the word, but purely spiritual, and identical with the love which the Holy Ghost pours out in the heart in regeneration. (Romans 5:5.)

b. Therefore, when He heard that he is sick, then indeed He remained in the place in which He was two days.” This was the greatest miracle wrought by our Lord during His earthly ministry, from the fact that Lazarus had been dead four days, and consequently putrefaction had set up, and really made great progress in the work of dissolution. It seems that Jesus was determined that this miracle should be pre-eminently decisive and convicting to all who should hear of it. Consequently He remains there two days after He received the word. “ Then, after this, He says to His disciples, Let us go into Judea. Then His disciples say to Him, Master, just now the Jews were seeking to stone Thee, and do You again go thither?” They were all unutterably astonished when He spoke of returning to Judea, from which He had so recently fled for His life, as they were in the very act of stoning Him.

c. Jesus responded, Are there not twelve hours of the day?” The Jews counted from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. “ If any one may walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he sees the light of this world; but if any one may walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.” The simple meaning of this is, that they could not kill Him till His work was done. Yet we see how He fled from place to place, in order to prolong His life till He could finish His work, illustrating the fact that we, too, are immortal till our work is done, if we abide in God’s order; but if we recklessly disregard it, then we take our lives into our own hands. Hence there is no premium here offered to careless indifference. While Jesus was immortal till His work was done, He must utilize the providence of the Father in His behalf. In this passage, God’s providence is the day, and our own depreciative indifference the night. Hence, if you walk in the light, true to God’s Word, Spirit, and providence, you’ll never stumble nor fall.

d. He said these words, and after this He speaks to them, Lazarus, our friend, has gone to sleep; but I go that I may wake him up. Then the disciples said to him, Lord, if he is asleep, he will get well. But Jesus spoke concerning his death; but they thought that He is talking about the rest of sleep. Then Jesus said unto them boldly, Lazarus is dead; and I rejoice on your account that I was not there, in order that you may believe; but let us go to him.” We see that our Lord purposely delayed till Lazarus had been dead four days, in order that this miracle might be overwhelmingly convincing and demonstrative. He had raised the widow’s son at Nain when on the way to the tomb, having only been dead a few hours, as the Jews bury their dead immediately after expiration. He had also raised the daughter of Jairus, at Capernaum, who had been dead but a little while. Some might conclude that in these cases a spark of vitality lingered till He arrived and revived it. In the case of Lazarus, putrefaction and disintegration had made such progress that the miraculous feature of the transaction actually beggared all criticism, and silenced all possible cavil.

e. Then Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples, Let us go also, that we may die along with Him.” Some have thought that Thomas meant that they should die with Lazarus, which is utterly implausible and untenable. Thomas was peculiar in his make-up for taking the dark side of every question. This is the reason why he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead till the most thorough and indubitable evidence was furnished, after which he never again hesitated nor doubted. Notwithstanding his predilection to take the blue side of everything, he was one of the grandest men called to the apostolic office. In the distribution of the world, pursuant to the Gentile Commission (Matthew 28:19), he received India as his field of labor. Though his territory was so very large, and occupied by countless multitudes, he not only went to it and labored heroically, but he traveled through Ethiopia and Persia, preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ, and finally being cruelly martyred by the Brahmin priests in India, who interpenetrated his body with a cruel iron bar, as they sag, that his influence would utterly undermine and defeat their religion. In this case, when they had all remonstrated with Jesus not to go back to Judea, whence He had so recently fled from a cruel, stony massacre, and He persisting in His determination to go anyhow, Thomas, feeling now that He is going back to expose Himself to His enemies, they will kill Him to an absolute certainty. “ So now, brethren, let us all go back and die with Him.” Thomas was true as steel, and heroic enough to lay down his life with Jesus but his prevailing peculiarity to take the dark side of every problem here crops out.

f. Then Jesus, having come, found that he is in the tomb four days.” Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs. It is on the Jericho road, just beyond the summit of Olivet, on a southeastern slope. “ Many of the Jews had come to Mary and Martha, that they may comfort them concerning their brother.” The Jews mourn for the dead seven days. Consequently, Jesus arrived in the midst of the mourning. “ Then Martha, when she heard that Jesus comes, went to meet Him; but Mary was sitting in the house.” Jesus and His disciples arrived on the Jericho road. It is said that they had halted and were resting a little, and were enjoying a drink at Jeremiah’s Fountain in the suburbs. “ Then Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if Thou wast here, my brother had not died. And now I know that as many things as Thou may ask God for, God will give unto You. Jesus says to her, Your brother shall rise again. Martha says to Him, I know that He will rise in the resurrection in the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on Me, though he may die, shall live, and every one that liveth and believeth on Me can never die; do you believe this? She says to Him, Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who cometh into the world.” Our Savior’s responses to Martha are thrillingly consolatory. O the inestimable premium the Bible sets on faith in Jesus, reaching out, and not only appropriating eternal spiritual life, but that of this mortal, fleeting body, in the glorious resurrection, leaping from the dust, triumphant over death, hell, and the grave, invested with immortality, and dynamited with eternal life, soaring away to join the unfallen angels, explore celestial worlds, range the fenceless fields of glory, contemplate the ineffable beauty of the unfallen heavenly worlds, and magnify the glory of Omnipotence through the flight of eternal ages!

g. And saying this, she went away and called Mary: her sister, speaking secretly, The Teacher is come, and calls thee. When she heard it, she rises quickly, and comes to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village: but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews, who are with her in the house and comforting her, seeing Mary, that she arose up quickly and went out, followed her, thinking that she goes to the tomb to weep there.” On both of my tours in Jerusalem, I was frequently at Bethany, and visited the house of Mary and Martha, and entered the tomb of Lazarus; i. e., a stone tomb, excavated out of the rock, in the side of Mount Olivet, designated the Tomb of Lazarus. Of course, Mary did not receive the first news which reached Martha, or she would have gone with her to meet Jesus. Now, Martha, darting in stealthily, whispers to Mary the thrilling news that Jesus has come. During the four days, while the broken-hearted sisters mourned the death of their only brother, on whose faithful labor they depended for temporal support, having sent for Jesus, somehow they entertained a thrilling anticipation that He will come, and, in some mysterious way, a forlorn hope lingers with them that He will actually bring their brother back. Consequently when Mary, the more hopeful and trustful of the two, hears the glad nears of His arrival, instantly rising from her prostrate attitude of deepest grief, she runs away to meet Him, the Jewish mourners thinking that she had gone to the tomb to weep. As Jesus came from the direction of Jericho, the Tomb of Lazarus, shown to travelers as above mentioned, is in the same direction, corroborating the conclusion of the mourners that she had gone thither. “ Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was, seeing Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if Thou wast here, our brother had not died. Then Jesus, when He saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her weeping, groaned in spirit, and afflicted Himself, and said, Where have you placed him? They say to Him, Lord, come and see.” O how the hope of Mary leaps into reality when Jesus asked them to escort Him to the tomb! A strange sensation has swept over Bethany since He arrived a hall hour ago. All the people have heard it, and are on tiptoe with excitement and anticipation of something wonderful and extraordinary.

Now He starts away to the tomb, led by the two sisters on either side; meanwhile all the people are crowding along the streets and alleys from all parts of the village. The neighbors round are hearing of it. The news, on the wings of the wind, in some mysterious way has traveled out, and every one

the old, the young; the great, the small; the rich, the poor come pouring in, swelling the crowd into a multitude. A mysterious awe, a holy hush, is on the people; somehow the anticipation of a wonderful and extraordinary miracle has taken hold of them. The idea that a man, dead four days, is to be raised is unheard of in all the ages. “Jesus wept.” What vivid, beautiful, and sublime juxtaposition of the human and the Divine!

The more you get filled up with the sweet, perfect love of God, evil tempers having been consumed by the refining fires of the Holy Ghost, the more sympathetic you become. If you have a clean heart, and filled with the Holy Ghost, how quickly do your tears spontaneously pour out when you enter the house of mourning, and see the broken-hearted kindred and friends of the deceased weeping all around! Your sympathy is a good test of your religion. If your heart is clean, tender, and sweetened by the perfect love of God, the presence of sorrow and mourning will bring sympathetic tears in copious affusion quickly. This weeping of Jesus was pure, tender sympathy with Mary and Martha and the mourners, as Jesus well knew that He was going to raise him from the dead, and turn all this mourning into joy. How vividly do the two natures of Jesus mutually show up in this notable transaction! Here we see the tender, unfallen humanity of Jesus, weeping as if His heart were broken; meanwhile, His Divinity reveals creative omnipotence in the restoration of life and health to the putrescent corpse; meanwhile, He calls back the soul of Lazarus from Abraham’s bosom, again to inhabit his body. “ Then the Jews continued to say, Behold, how He loved him! And some of them said, Was not He who opened the eyes of the blind able to bring it to pass that this one may not die? Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, comes to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone was laid upon it.” Caves, in those days, and at the present in that country, are not only used as habitations for the living, but sepulchers for the dead as a rule, augmenting and modifying them artificially.

h. Jesus says, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him who is dead, says, Lord, already he smelleth; for he is dead four days.” This was about the first of April, when the weather is quite warm in Palestine. Consequently a young, fleshy man, like Lazarus, would mortify with great rapidity. “ Jesus says to her, Did I not say to thee, That if thou mayest believe, thou mayest see the glory of God?” This remark of Martha indicated the staggering of her faith; while we hear nothing of the kind from Mary, whose type of spirituality was that of sanctification, Martha being on the plane of justification. “ Then they took the stone away; Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. But I knew that Thou dost always hear Me; but on account of the multitude standing by, I spoke, in order that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” Jesus here prayed orally to His Father for the benefit of the multitude who stood by. We would all do well to follow His example. A prayer which people can hear is always more efficient with them than the inaudible cry of the heart to God. Hence, if you want your family, friends, and neighbors saved, be sure that you let them hear you pray for them. It is all right to pray for them in secret; but that is not enough. Be sure that, like Jesus, you lift up your voice, and let the people in your home Church and community hear you pray for them.

i. And speaking these words, He cried, with a great voice, Lazarus, come forth. The dead man came out, bound, as to his feet and hands, with grave- clothes, and his face was bound around with a napkin.” The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead is a grand and glorious symbolism of spiritual regeneration, in which the Omnipotent Savior calls the dead soul into life. Lazarus had once lived like the multitude moving upon the earth. Physical life had evanesced away, leaving him a corpse. Jesus put forth His creative fiat, by whose omnific sweep He tossed revolving worlds from the effulgent throne, giving each other its appointed track in the ethereal void, to go singing on its way forever, the very same power He brought into availability when He restored physical life to the dead body of Lazarus. We were all created in Adam, and had spiritual life before the fall. This life our wonderful Savior graciously restores in regeneration. Interceding priests may grant a thousand absolutions; clergymen may administer water baptism, eucharist, and other Church rites indefinitely till doomsday, unless Jesus speak, “Lazarus, come forth,” not a soul will ever be saved.

j. Jesus says to them, Loose him, and let him go.” This is a beautiful and vivid symbolism of entire sanctification. Lazarus was really raised from the dead; life and vigor again coursing through his veins and arteries; his heart having again wheeled into normal activity; his brain flashing out electrical thoughts, recognitions, apprehensions, and moving forward into all the complicated work or ratiocination; his limbs electrified with vitality; his nerves, like a grand galvanic battery, again charged with vital electricity, still his hands and feet were encumbered with the long, strong fabric of the winding-sheet, so he could neither move rapidly nor labor with much efficiency; meanwhile the napkin, bound round his face, rendered his utterances difficult and his speech broken. He was neither in fix to fight the devil, run for glory, witness for Jesus, sing the sweet songs of Zion, nor preach the everlasting gospel. Jesus says, “Loose him, and let him go.” Hence you see that our Savior wants all the people whom He raises from the dead loosed from all the chains, fetters, and grave-clothes; i.e., all the cumbersome habitude which characterized them before they were converted, when they sojourned in the land of death, and had the habits of the spiritually dead, Jesus wants all these swept away, and all the men, women, and children whom He has raised from the dead, disencumbered and turned loose, to fight the armies of the pandemonium, not only like soldiers, but heroes, brave enough to run through a troop or leap over a wall, swift as eagles and strong as lions, fearless of men and devils; so one shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. O how quickly could the Church bring the millennium, if loosed and let go! Our pulpits are filled with preachers, tied up with their grave-clothes, some of them even using tobacco, encouraging Church frolics, winking at theater-going, card- playing, dancing, etc.; meanwhile the pews are occupied by people decked off in the phantasmagoria of the world, thus invested in the grave-clothes.

O how few are free to talk for Jesus! Will you not go and take the napkin off their faces, and let their tongues loose, to speak like apostles, testify like martyrs, and shout like angels?

k. Then many of the Jews, who had come to Mary, and seeing those things which He did, believed on Him; and certain ones of them departed to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus did.” This stupendous miracle, unprecedented in the history of the world, sends an earthquake shock through all the multitude, so that the people fall in platoons on all sides, and with adoring wonder confess their faith in Jesus. This miracle shook all Jerusalem as fast as they could hear of it, and sent an electric shock throughout all Israel, confirming many whose faith had been much mixed with doubts, and arousing multitudes who had not hitherto believed to seriously and candidly investigate the matter, the result being a rolling tide of popular belief in His claims to the Christhood.

Verses 47-54


John 11:47-54 . Then the chief priests and Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin, and continued to say, What shall we do? because this man is performing many miracles.” If the leading ministers and Church authorities had not stood in the way of the people, Israel would have received Jesus unanimously, turned evangelists, and preached Him to the world, bringing on the millennium long ago. The truth of the matter is clear. The high priests, Pharisees, and Sanhedrin had so yielded to Satan and grieved the Holy Spirit as to superinduce the departure of the latter, and the actual, diabolical possession of the former, till they had crossed the dead-line and were unconvincible.

If we thus let Him alone, all will believe on Him.” What a frank confession of the truth, if they had not meddled with them and obstinately stood between the people and Jesus, they would all have believed on Him. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Jesus. The present holiness movement, like that of Luther, Wesley, and others, is Jesus again walking upon the earth in His spiritual manifestation, inviting the people to enter the kingdom of holiness, as He did in the days of His incarnation. If let alone, the Churches would en masse seek holiness, and inundate the world with salvation. The leading preachers are still in the way, as in the days of Christ.

The Romans will come, and take away both our place and nation.” Thirty- three years Judea had been a Roman province, every vestige of their former freedom swept away. They were looking for Christ, and all believed that He was to be the King of the Jews when He came; in which case they knew that mighty Rome would be arrayed against them, with her invincible armies, and their only chance to have their own king was to conquer the Romans, an utter impossibility, as they ruled the whole world in one vast, consolidated despotism. This prophecy actually did come true. Though they rejected Christ, they erelong revolted against the Romans, and fought for their independence till literally exterminated, with the exception of a few poor people, driven away to the ends of the earth; while the Romans not only destroyed Jerusalem, but desolated all Palestine. So the very calamities they here deprecate as an excuse for the rejection of Christ, actually overtook them.

And a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, You do not know nor consider that it is profitable to you that one man may die for the people, and not the whole nation perish.” This prophecy is literally true, and yet you see it was uttered by that wicked high priest, whom Satan had captured. The next verse explains it. “He spoke this, not from himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that He may gather together in one the children of God which had been scattered abroad.” The elect of God have been in all nations, in all ages, as will be revealed when the assembled universe shall stand before the Great White Throne. Before Jesus came on the earth in His Incarnate Personality and preached the gospel, the Holy Spirit revealed Jehovah i.e., God in Christ to the humble, sincere, true, and appreciative souls of every age and nation, who, in the absence of the written Word and a knowledge of the Incarnate Redeemer, walking in the light of nature, conscience, providence, and the Holy Spirit even the savage, in his primeval wilds, seeing God in the clouds and hearing Him in the winds,

“Whose soul proud science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk or milky-way,”

were accepted of God, like Cornelius, the heathen Roman centurion. The advent of Christ marked a signal epoch in the history of redemption, after which no soul who stubbornly rejects Him can be saved; meanwhile the Christhood of Jesus becomes the great dogma on which the visible Church is built in all the world. However differing in non-essential matters, she must be a unit on the Christhood of Jesus. (Matthew 16:18.) In this instance, we have a demonstrative proof that the gifts of the Spirit are not invariably limited to the sanctified nor to the regenerated, as here we have a demonstrative case, in which the gift of prophecy, pronounced by Paul the most important, is conferred on Caiaphas, for the moment, who at that time was leading the Council against Jesus, and ready to sign His death-warrant, which he did a few days afterward.

Therefore from that day they counseled in order that they may kill Him.” Ebouleusanto, “counseled,” is in the aorist tense, which means an instantaneous and complete performance, setting forth the fact that the Sanhedrin, on that occasion, passed a formal verdict condemning Him to death. So potent and overwhelming was the popular influence, superinduced by the resurrection of Lazarus, that they, after deliberate counsel and consideration, came to the conclusion that, despite all they could do, the people would rally and crown Him King, thus precipitating on them a war with the Romans, which could only end in their extermination. Consequently they concluded that it was better for one to die than that multitudes should perish, a verdict so common among the Orientals; meanwhile, the spirit of prophecy coming on Caiaphas, the high priest, in a thrilling proclamation of a clear Messianic prophecy setting forth the vicarious atonement. Thus we see a strange combination of concurrent events: the true prophecy of Caiaphas, inspired by the Holy Ghost, proclaiming the necessity for one to die for the people rather than that all perish, and at the same time the seventy sages constituting the Sanhedrin corroborating that prophecy from a purely selfish and secular consideration, illustrating how wonderfully “God makes the wrath of man to praise Him, and restrains the remainder of wrath;” i.e., when the wrath of man can no longer be made subservient to the glory of God, then He puts His hand on it and restrains it altogether. “ Therefore, Jesus no longer was walking about among the Jews, but departed thence into the country near the desert, into the city called Ephraim, and there abode with His disciples.” Ephraim here is identical with Ephron in O. T. After that condemnatory verdict of the Sanhedrin, immediately following the resurrection of Lazarus, finding it unsafe to abide among the Jews, He retired to this quiet, rural retreat on the border of the desert, known in the N. T. as “the wilderness of Judea.” I have journeyed through it four times.

Verses 55-57


John 11:55-57 ; John 12:1 ; John 12:9-11 . Jesus, having spent Saturday night at the house of Zaccheus, the following day travels to Bethany, twenty miles, all the way ascending the great mountains of Benjamin, on whose lofty summit is situated the Holy City, the joy of Israel and the magnetism of the whole world. It is now Sunday, preceding the Friday of His crucifixion. “And the Passover of the Jews was nigh, and many came up to Jerusalem from the country before the Passover, that they might purify themselves;” i. e., by conformity to the Levitical law, under which all who had come in contact with dead bodies, unclean animals, or Gentiles, should have some clean person sprinkle them with the water of purification. which was prepared by dropping some of the blood of a sacrificed red heifer in water, into which the hyssop was dipped, and this water of purification was sprinkled on the subject of ceremonial defilement. This was a prerequisite to their eating the Passover. Hence a great diversity of preparatory catharisms must be utilized, after their arrival at Jerusalem, before they can enjoy the Passover festival.

“Then they began to seek after Jesus, mad speak with one another, standing in the temple, What seems to you, that He may not come to the feast? The chief priests and Pharisees gave commandment that if any one Nay know where He is, he must divulge, in order that they may arrest Him.” When he came thither a dozen days previously and raised Lazarus from the dead, thus stirring the multitude to the very acme, the high priests and Pharisees had convened the Sanhedrin, and secured from them a condemnatory verdict against Him. As the period of His ministry had not yet expired, He went away beyond Jordan, and spent the time preaching the gospel, saving souls, healing the sick, and restoring sight to the blind. Now, that His enemies have secured this condemnatory verdict of the Sanhedrin, they are on the constant outlook for His arrival at Jerusalem, and determined to lay violent hands on Him. The more mighty works He did, the madder they got, as they had grieved the Holy Spirit away, and actually yielded to diabolical possession.

“Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came into Bethany, where Lazarus, who had died, was, whom He raised from the dead. Then a great multitude of the Jews found out that He is there, and came, not only on account of Jesus, but in order that they may see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.” You wonder that they did not come to Bethany to see Lazarus at an earlier date, as Jesus had raised him about two weeks ago. The explanation of that is easy: Lazarus had gone away with Jesus on His tour. Consequently they could not see him till he accompanied Him on His return.

“But the high priests passed a verdict that they would slay Lazarus, because through him many of the Jews were coming and believing on Jesus.” They had settled down in their policy to rule or ruin, having so given way to diabolical influence that reason no longer sat upon her throne in their refined and cultured intellects.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 11". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/john-11.html.
Ads FreeProfile