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Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 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. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 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. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, 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. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 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. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 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. 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. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 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? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
The main theme of this eleventh chapter is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In Romans 1:4 we are told that our Lord Jesus Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead.” That is the way the sentence reads in our Authorized Version. Greek scholars have pointed out the fact that the word for “dead” there is actually in the plural. We might think that the passage simply meant that the Lord was declared to be the Son with power by His own resurrection from the dead. But the passage might better be translated “through the resurrection of dead persons.” That includes, of course, His own triumph over death, but it takes in also those other raisings from the dead of which we read in the Gospels. Three times our Lord exerted this marvelous resurrection power, and the three cases are all different and each, I think, very significant.
In the first instance we have the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue at Capernaum. That was a little child who had died. The Lord Jesus went into the room where she lay, and He said to her so tenderly, “Little one, arise,” and she arose (see Mark 5:41). He awakened her from the sleep of death. That may suggest our Lord’s gracious way of dealing with children who are dead in trespasses and sins, and who need to hear His voice as truly as older ones today.
And then we have the instance of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. The Lord Jesus and His apostles were approaching the village when out came that sad funeral group bearing the dead body of this young man, and his poor mother following. The Lord Jesus stopped that funeral procession, touched the bier, and said to the young man, “I say unto thee, Arise” (Luke 7:14). We read that “he that was dead sat up… And [Jesus] delivered him to his mother” (v. 15). That again, I think, has a spiritual lesson. Many a young man, dead in trespasses and sins, or possibly a young woman, is causing grief to a godly father and mother. Oh, how that mother and father are yearning for the time when the hand of Jesus will be placed upon those dear ones, raising them to life everlasting! Mr. Moody once said, “It is a peculiar thing, you cannot get any instruction in the Bible as to how to conduct a funeral, for Jesus broke up every funeral He ever attended by raising the dead.”
Now the third instance is that which is before us, the raising of Lazarus. Here may I say we have a picture of one who has spent years in sin, and is utterly corrupt and beyond all human hope. Yet Jesus came and raised Lazarus from the dead after four days had gone by. Let us consider this passage somewhat carefully.
We are told, “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha” (John 11:1). That is interesting, is it not? I am sure there were a great many other people living in Bethany. But to the Lord who looked down upon that city, to God Himself, it was the town of Mary and Martha. What does that mean? There were two devoted hearts there, and that meant more to God than all the other people who lived in that village. I wonder about your community. Are you so devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, so living for the glory of God, that He thinks of your community as the particular place where you live? Does He pass by the rich and great, the powerful and noted, from a worldly standpoint, and say of you, “That is one of My friends, who loves Me,” and, therefore, thinks of it as your town or your locality?
I think that this is most significant. “Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick” (vv. 1-2). And so the sisters, when they saw their brother drooping and dying, sent a message to the Lord Jesus, who was some distance away. He was at Bethabara, near to what is now called Allenby’s Bridge. Ordinarily, it would have taken two full days to come from there to Bethany, or perhaps three days if walking and two if riding.
And so they sent a message. And how brief it was: “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (v. 3). They felt that was enough. They knew He loved Lazarus. They knew their brother was very dear to His heart, and they felt sure that if Jesus understood that he was ill He would come immediately and cure the disease and save the life of His friend.
But singularly enough, He said when He heard it, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (v. 4). That is, death is not going to claim and keep this man at the present time, but God is going to be glorified in some wondrous way in his particular case. So there was no hurry on the part of Jesus. That is so trying for us who profess faith in Him. When we come presenting some problem we hope that He will intervene immediately and answer our prayer in the way we would like to have Him do it without any delay. But often He seems to wait so long and apparently appears to be so indifferent. He is never indifferent; He is always interested. And we may be sure of this: if He permits delay in the answer to prayer, it is because there is some plan that He desires to work out in connection with that answer. It should be ours to wait in faith for Him to act. You know Scripture speaks of waiting on God and waiting for God. It is a wonderful thing to learn to wait on God. We may come to Him in every time of difficulty and perplexity in accordance with His Word, which says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6-7). “My soul,” says David, “wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.”
But then it requires even more faith to wait for God. After you have presented your petition to God, just leave everything in His hands, assured that in His own good time, He will act in the way that is best.
These sisters, I fancy, watched for the Lord every moment after they thought the message had had time to reach Him, but hour after hour went by, even day after day, and still Jesus did not come. And then Lazarus passed away. They must have said, “How strange it is! Not a word from Jesus, not a message of any kind! And He is not here, and He could easily have hindered all this, but He has not come.” Did it mean He was not interested, that He did not love Lazarus, and was not concerned about their breaking hearts? Not at all. But they were going to learn lessons that they would never have learned in any other way.
We are told that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (vv. 5-7). He had been bitterly persecuted in Judea, and the disciples would rather have had Him turn His face northward and go back where the people heard Him gladly. When He spoke of returning to Judea, they said, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (v. 8). But “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. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (vv. 9-10).
He meant this, “I know what My path should be. The Father has made it perfectly clear to Me where I should go, and in returning to Judea I am walking in the light that shines upon My steps.” Then He adds, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (v. 11). After all, this is what death is for the believer. It is just a sleep. “Oh,” you say, “the entire man, spirit, soul, and body?” Oh, no, but the sleep of the poor, tired body. The spirit and soul, which are never separated in life or death, the unseen man is absent from the body and present with the Lord. But alas, in the case of the unsaved, when the body dies, the spirit goes out to meet God in judgment for the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But for the believer death is a sleep, the sleep of the body until the hour of the resurrection.
So Jesus says, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well” (vv. 11-12). They thought He meant physical sleep and so He had to meet them on their own ground. In the next verse we read, “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (vv. 14-15). They were to learn a wonderful lesson from all this. This thing was to be a great blessing to them. It was to be a means of establishing their faith in a way which the healing of Lazarus could not have done.
“Nevertheless let us go unto him.” And then Thomas speaks up. We call him “doubting Thomas” sometimes, and yet I do not know that he always deserved to be so spoken of. “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus” (v. 16a). Didymus means “twin.” I wonder who the other twin was. Perhaps if you look into the mirror you will see the other one. Thomas, the twin, said “unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16b). As much as to say, “Well, we cannot save His life even if we want to, so let us stand by Him. We will go down and die with Him.” Thomas was loyal to his Master, even when he could not understand.
So Jesus came with the disciples and when they came near Bethany they found that Lazarus had been in the grave four days already. “And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (vv. 19-21). Was she really blaming the Lord Jesus for her brother’s death? It at least implies the question, “Why did You not come when we first sent for You? Then we would not be mourning for our brother.” “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (v. 22). I think she meant that they would be able to receive strength in their hour of trial. But Jesus said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again” (v. 23). And Martha said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). And that is what many people think, that in the last day saved and unsaved will all be raised.
But Jesus had a sweeter message than that for her. He said unto her, “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. Believest thou this?” (vv. 25-26).
What is He telling her? Oh, He is telling her, “You do not have to wait until the resurrection on the last day. I Myself am the Resurrection and the Life, and when I come into the scene, death is at an end.” And He adds, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” When will that be? At His own return from heaven, when He shall descend with a shout and empty all the graves where lie the Christian dead. “[Whosoever] believeth in he, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Then He looks on to the time when those who have never died at all, but will be living on the earth when He returns, will be changed without dying and says, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” What a wonderful revelation! And then He puts the question, “Believest thou this?”
I think she was a bit puzzled. She said, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (v. 27). And therefore, of course, she implies, “Whatever You say must be true.” Whether she could understand it or not, it must be true, for it came from the One she recognized as the Son of God.
She went and called her sister. Mary met with them outside the town. The Jews saw her leave and said, “She goeth unto the grave to weep there” (v. 31). But, no, on the way out she met Jesus, and she said to Him also what Martha had said. But I wonder if there was not a different tone than what Martha had used. “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 32). Jesus looked upon her in her grief, and His heart went out to her. The Jews who had followed behind were weeping, and Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled. He was a real man. It was not merely Deity inhabiting a human body, but He had a true human spirit and soul as well as a human body. And so He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
And He said, “Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see” (v. 34).
And now we have the shortest verse in our English Bible. Literally translated it is “Jesus shed tears” (v. 35). Tears, as He contemplated the awful ravages that death had wrought because of sin. “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 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? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it” (vv. 36-38). It was a singular thing. I always thought of it as a cave in the side of the hill, as in the case of the tomb where our Lord Jesus Christ was buried, until I was in Bethany and saw a similar tomb. You went down into the cave and a stone lay over it. And thus it was here. The stone lay over the tomb.
“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (v. 39). Her faith did not rise to the glorious thing that was about to take place. “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (v. 40). Faith triumphs over all conditions, depending upon the living God.
“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me” (v. 41). What sweet communion this, between the Father and the Son! “And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (v. 42). He prayed in this way that they might be edified by His prayer, that they might believe. “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth!” (v. 43). Oh, that voice of power some day will be heard, and all the dead in Christ will come forth. That day in Bethany He singled out one person. If He had left out the word Lazarus He would have emptied the whole cemetery! But He said, “Lazarus, come forth! And he that was dead came forth” (v. 43-44a). And it says he was “bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin” (v. 44b). That was the way the Jews buried their dead. They wrapped them completely in linen cloths.
“Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (v. 44c). There is a lesson here too-life first, and then liberty. All who hear the voice of Christ have life- “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (3:36). But many a believer does not yet know liberty. Many are still bound by the grave clothes of tradition, or misunderstanding, or unbelief. Oh, how wonderful when Jesus says, “Loose him and let him go.” “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:32).
So Lazarus was raised and loosed. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (vv. 45-46). It would almost seem that they were His enemies, and that they reported these things, seeking to stir up the Pharisees against Him.
Satan is the one who has the power of death, and by sin came death. Jesus is the One who has power to deliver from sin and from death itself. I wonder if we have all trusted Him. He is declared to be the Son of God with power by resurrection of dead persons. He is still the same, and He delights to impart life to all who hear His voice.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 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. 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. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. 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. And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. 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? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.
We have considered the raising up of Lazarus, that greatest of all our Lord’s signs and miracles, indicating His power over death, proving that He was indeed the Messiah who was to come into the world not only to deliver Israel but to be a means of blessing to all nations and the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham.
One would have thought that surely so marvelous a sign would have spoken to the hearts of even the worst enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ, proving to them that this Man who was going about among them in so lowly a way, doing such wondrous works of mercy, was truly Immanuel. But no, if men’s consciences are not awakened, if men are determined to resist the truth, miracles will not win them to Christ.
Do you remember the story that Jesus told concerning the rich man? We read that he died and went to hell, and in hell he lifted up his eyes-that man who had enjoyed every privilege and opportunity on earth, but who had only lived to gratify his own desires-and began to pray for his five brethren. What a family: six brothers, one in hell and five on the way! And he cried and prayed to Abraham, whom he could see in Paradise, and said, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). When told that was impossible, he said, “I pray thee then, send him to my five brethren that they come not to this place of torment” (see vv. 27-28). And Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them” (v. 29). That is, they have the Word of God, the Old Testament. Let them read and believe their Bibles. But the rich man replied, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, [then would they] repent” (v. 30). But the answer came back with crushing force: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (v. 31).
What a solemn truth we have unfolded here! If men are determined to take their own way, if they will not bow to the testimony of the Word of God, then signs and wonders will never reach their hardened hearts and bring them to repentance. These scribes and Pharisees had set themselves against the Word of God. They had rejected every message, and the raising of Lazarus only stirred them up to make them feel they were likely to lose their hold on the people. They foresaw a possible uprising among the populace to make Jesus King, and the result would be the sending of the Roman legions to enforce Caesar’s will upon them at the point of the sword.
They said, “Now, what are we going to do about it?” You would have thought they would have said something like this: “We must turn to God and confess our sins and face our iniquity. We must get right with God. The resurrection power of Jesus proves that He is one with the Father.” But no, they said, “This thing is likely to draw men after Him. We must take an active stand against this man and His miracles.”
“For this Man doeth many miracles” (John 11:47). They had already dared to tell the crowd that He did the miracles by the power of Beelzebub, thus blaspheming against the Holy Spirit who was working through Him. Now they said, “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him” (v. 48). Just think of it! They were afraid to have people believe in Jesus.
I invited a lady sometime ago to a gospel meeting. She said, “I am afraid to go for fear I will be converted.” Afraid! Afraid that one might get right with God! I remember a gentleman well up in business circles out on the West Coast. I said to his wife one day, “I have not seen your husband for quite a while. Has he lost his interest?” She said, “Well, he is afraid to come. For when he comes and hears the Word, it takes him nearly two weeks to get over it.” How we ought to cherish the least evidence that the Spirit of God is speaking to any of us! There are people in this world today, I am afraid, who have heard the last message from the Word of God they will ever hear. It is a solemn thing when God ceases to speak to a soul.
But these Pharisees were determined to have their own way and to reject Christ. They said, “We must break His influence over the people. Otherwise the Romans will destroy our city and nation.” And notice this, the very thing they dreaded was the thing that happened. But it happened, not because the people believed on Jesus, but because they refused His grace. They spurned Him when presented as the Prince of Peace. When Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your King?” they said, “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15). What happened? Jesus was crucified, rejected of men, died there on Calvary’s cross for a world’s redemption.
But what about the nation? Not long after the Romans did indeed come and take away their place and scattered them throughout the world. And all the suffering and the sorrows they have gone through have been the sad result of their not knowing the day of their visitation.
So the very thing that these Pharisees thought they would avoid by rejecting Jesus was the thing that came upon them because they refused Him. So shortsighted are men, so unable to see into the future, that they spurn the testimony that God Himself has given.
As they were debating this thing, one of them took the leadership-Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year. That in itself indicates the objection of the people to the Roman authority. According to God’s original institution, when a son of Aaron was inducted into the office of high priest he remained in it until his death. But the nation had fallen so low that the Romans sold the office of high priest from year to year to the highest bidder. At this particular time Caiaphas was high priest. There were several other men who had been high priests but had been set to one side.
So now Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said unto them, “Ye know nothing at all” (v. 49). That is a good way, somebody has said, when you want to shut out any argument. Just begin, “You know nothing at all. You don’t know what you are talking about.” You cannot reason with folks like that. They know it all, and they won’t admit for a moment that you have any information which might be of any value to them. I think Job’s friends were something like that. You recall he answered them on one occasion, “Ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (Job 12:2). That is, “You think no one knows anything but you.”
That was the stand Caiaphas took: “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” (v. 49-50). And in this you hear the voice of a contemptible, dastardly politician. He knew that Jesus was innocent of the charges that were being brought against Him. He should have been the deliverer of the innocent, but he, for policy’s sake, was against Jesus. He reasoned, “We must get Him out of the way or we shall suffer, so the best thing is to get rid of Him. Bring false charges, if need be, in order that the nation may be saved.” It was dastardly advice. Yet the marvelous thing is that God was behind it all, and overruled it to work out His own plan. We do not for one moment condone the speech of Caiaphas, but, on the other hand, we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit here to tell us that he was saying more than he really knew. The reason he spoke as he did was because of selfishness, but that which he thereby proposed, in a higher sense than he could ever understand, was to work out the purpose of God in the redemption not only of Israel but of a needy world.
We read here, “This spake he not of himself” (v. 51a). That is, he thought he was giving them advice of a political nature, but the Spirit of God was overruling and controlling him beyond his own thought. To think the Spirit of God could use a wicked man like that! In the case of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, we have three chapters in the book of Numbers containing some of the most glorious prophecies in the Bible, which came from his unhallowed lips. God was overruling for blessing.
So God was overruling here, and He used a bad man, a time-serving politician, to utter a tremendous truth. “This spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (v. 51). He did not know it, but the Spirit of God was speaking through those unclean lips. “He prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation,” though not in the sense that he meant. He meant that the death of this innocent man would be used to save the nation from the Romans. It did not do that, for the Jews were carried away in due time. But the prophecy was true in the sense that He was to become the great sin offering, taking the blame for that nations guilt upon Himself, that load of sin, and bearing it before God and enduring the judgment that sin deserved. This was what Isaiah saw when, looking down through the ages with the eyes of faith, he said, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:5).
“One man should die for the people.” Here was the great Kinsman-Redeemer who looked upon His own nation, sold under sin, and said, “I will pay the price in My own precious blood,” and so He gave Himself a ransom for all. But His death was not only for that nation. We read: “That Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that… he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (vv. 51b-52). That is, the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary was not to be simply for the nation of Israel. It was for that nation. He did come to bear the sins and guilt of that nation; He did come to redeem His own people. But He also said, “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 10:16). Those “other sheep” are the Gentiles, the nations outside of Israel, the nations which at that time did not have any written revelation from God. They had no Bible, no prophets, and no teachers. They had the testimony of creation and had turned away from that. Because of this God had given them up to all kinds of sin and uncleanness, yet His heart went out to them. He had settled it that His blessed Son would give Himself a ransom for all. Oh, the amazing grace, that God should send Jesus and that Jesus should gladly come to die for a guilty world. We read, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners [and the apostle Paul could add]; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). We sing today,
Saved by the blood of the crucified One,
Ransomed from sin and a new life begun;
Sing praise to the Father, and praise to the Son,
I’m saved by the blood of the crucified One.
We dare to say that there is no sinner in all the world today so vile and guilty. But if he will come in the merit of that sacrifice on the cross, God will receive him to Himself, freely forgive him, and give him a new life. Am I addressing anyone who has not realized that He died to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”? Wherever you are today, if you are bowed down beneath the sense of your sin and guilt, if your conscience is accusing you before a holy God and you are saying, “Oh, that I knew how I might make my peace with God, how I might get right with Him,” you do not have to make peace with Him yourself. Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross. Come to Him with a broken and a contrite heart. Confess your iniquity and trust Him as your Savior. You may know His redeeming grace today. You may come just as you are.
But notice further, in connection with the account of this effort to railroad the Son of God to a felon’s death on the part of men who knew Him to be innocent, we read, “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:53). There was no softening of the heart nor any sense of their own wickedness. Sin is such a hardening thing. We are warned against the danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The only way to deal with sin is to face it honestly before God, who alone can give salvation from its power through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Following this, we are told that “Jesus…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” (v. 54). The hour had not yet come that He was to be delivered up to death, so He labored on, ministering in another district.
And we are told the Jews’ Passover was at hand. That is a strange expression as we noticed before-the Jews’ Passover. It was originally a feast of the Lord, but they were going on with the outward observances while rejecting the Christ of whom the feast spoke. I think we see something like this at the present time. I am afraid that there are thousands of people who are very punctilious about church membership and attendance on divine service, who lay great stress on Christian ordinances such as the sacred ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and yet are in their hearts rejecting the Savior of whom these things speak. God, who looks down upon them, sees them as empty rites and ceremonies that men in the flesh are carrying out and that avail them nothing because they are refusing the Lord Jesus Christ.
Think of the solemnity, for instance, of observing the Lord’s Supper and taking the bread and wine that speak of a crucified Savior while rejecting that Savior, refusing to trust Him, spurning His grace, eating and drinking judgment to one’s own soul, not discerning the Lord’s body. Let us be honest and face things as they actually are before Him.
The Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand. Many went out of the country up to Jerusalem to purify themselves. These were country people, not the people of the city who had rejected Him, and it is of some of these we read, “The common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37).
And as they came to keep the feast of the Passover, they wondered, “Shall we get an opportunity to see Him?” They were anxious to see Him and listen to His teaching. They sought for Him and spoke among themselves: “What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?” (John 11:56). Oh, yes, He would be there. In a little while they would see Him, but alas, all His wondrous grace would not change the attitude of the leaders.
We read, “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him” (v. 57). What for? That they might test His claims and face things honestly before God and decide whether this was really the Messiah or not? Oh, no, not that. They gave “commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him” and arrest Him, and thus bring about His death. How little they realized that one was yet to come forward who would betray Him to them, and that one numbered among His own!
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 11". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12