Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
John 11

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


Jesus raiseth Lazarus from the Dead. The Priests and Pharisees become more desperately enraged at Jesus. They gather a Council to deliberate on his Death.

Verses 1-16

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (2) (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) (3) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. (4) 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. (5) Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. (6) When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. (7) Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. (8) His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? (9) 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. (10) But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (11) 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. (12) Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. (13) Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. (14) Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. (15) And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. (16) Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Every incident in this wonderful relation ought to be regarded with peculiar notice, for the Evangelist hath been very particular in recording it. And very sure it is, that God the Holy Ghost meant it for a subject of great blessedness to the Church.

And here let us admire the emphasis with which it is said, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick! Reader! do not fail to remark, that Jesus hath those whom he loveth. And many such there are concerning whom the Lord might be told, and, I hope, is told, by faithful souls on occasion of the sickness and afflictions of themselves and brethren in Christ; Lord! such and such an one, whom thou lovest, is sick. And may we not very frequently hear Christ's answer by the ear of faith: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Revelation 3:19 ; Hebrews 12:5-11 .

The abode of our Lord two days after he had received tidings of the sickness of Lazarus, appears to have been blessedly designed for the greater manifestation of the miracle he intended. And Jesus speaking first of his sleep, then of his death, and of his going to raise him out of this sleep of death, all these are so many heightenings, in preparing the minds of his disciples for the miracle, as should be particularly noticed by us. His knowledge of his death, and his declaration that he would raise him again, are all so many collateral proofs of his Godhead. The affection of Thomas, in accompanying Christ to Bethany, and his invitation to his fellow disciples to the same, are sweet tokens of attachment to the person of Christ, although in a more memorable hour they all forsook him and fled. Mark 14:50 .

Verses 17-27

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. (18) Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off. (19) And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. (20) Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. (21) Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. (22) But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. (23) Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. (24) Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. (25) Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (27) She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

As Bethany was somewhat less than two miles from Jerusalem, it is somewhat wonderful that no tidings had reached the city of the death of Lazarus. But we see how this was overruled for the greater display of the foreknowledge of Jesus, and for the greater manifestation of his power in the miracle which afterwards followed, in Christ's raising him from the dead.

I pass by very many incidents which the Evangelist hath related, all of which are full of sweet instruction, but cannot be brought for remarks upon within the compass of a Poor Man's Commentary, in order to attend to such as are more immediately demanding our regard. But the conversation the Lord held with Martha is too big with importance to be hastily passed over, and I beg the Reader's indulgence in attending to a short view of it.

The faith which this woman had in Christ, seems to have been a general belief only that Jesus was the Messiah; and therefore from the miracle he had wrought, she had no question but that he could have prevented the death of her brother. But , in relation to any other views, in which Christ would manifest that character, Martha at this time had but little consciousness. However, it is our mercy, that her dullness gave occasion to the Lord to deliver himself in the manner he did, on the great subject of the resurrection; that, by putting it on its own proper basis, the Church, under the Holy Ghost's teaching, might have blessed scriptural proofs of the same. And by the miracle which followed Christ's discourse with Martha, in the Lord's giving such a palpable demonstration of its reality in the resurrection of Lazarus, there might be a foundation for faith to rest upon in the cordial belief of it.

And now let the Reader attend to the sublime words of the Lord Jesus Christ, which, as Christ, he uttered. And may God the Holy Ghost, the Glorifier of Jesus, give them a deep impression, both upon the Reader's heart and mine. Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. What words are these? What a palpable proof they carry with them of the Almightiness of the Speaker? Who, but the living and true God in Christ, could ever use such language? Who but He, who is one with the Father over all God, blessed forever, could prove the truth of it?

And what I beg the Reader more especially also to mark with me, in those unequalled words of Christ, is, that Jesus spake them in his glorious character of Mediator. Not as God only, for in that case, though it would be without doubt no less than the sovereign act of Him that alone can give life, to re-animate, by renewing life, yet Jesus, though raising the dead, could not in this case be said to be himself the Resurrection. Neither as man only, would the act, which is truly divine, have been possible. But, in the union of both, as God-Man-Mediator, Jesus himself, personally, and peculiarly, becomes the resurrection and the life, for it could belong to no other. Hence the Lord Jesus had before said to the Jews, Destroy this temple, (meaning his body,) and I (meaning his divine nature,) will raise it up. John 2:19 . See the Commentary on that passage, from John 2:18-22 . And thus Christ becomes the Resurrection and the Life to his redeemed, both in the spiritual resurrection of grace, from the death of the soul by sin, in the Adam-nature of a fallen state, and at the last day, from the natural resurrection of the body, become dead through sin, and sleeping in Jesus unto the consummation of all things. In both, Christ is the resurrection and the life, being the life-giving source in himself to all his members both in body and soul, communicating life, both spiritual and eternal, from Himself to them, for grace here, and glory hereafter.

As this view of the subject is on every account very highly interesting, I would request the Reader's attention to it yet somewhat more particularly.

That Christ is the Resurrection and the Life, spiritually considered, in relation to the first awakening from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, I can hardly suppose the Reader to be altogether unconscious. everyone that reads his Bible, must have been led to see, that in the Adam-nature in which the Church, as well as all the world is born, all are, in consequence, dead in trespasses and sins. And hence the word of God, when speaking of the Church's recovery from this spiritual death, speaks of it as a resurrection from the death of sin to a life of righteousness. And you (saith the Apostle,) hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in time past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others. Ephesians 2:2-3 . But that this spiritual life imparted to the Church, is the result of a grace-union with Christ, by virtue of a being in him, and with him, before all worlds; this is not so generally considered. And very certain it is, that Martha, the sister of Lazarus, with whom Christ was then conversing, had not at that time the smallest apprehension of it. But it is a great point for the Church of God to regard. For it is in consequence of this oneness between Christ and his people, before all worlds, that this recovery from the Adam fall is accomplished in all his members. Jesus is to them, spiritually considered, this resurrection and the life. He is their head, and they are his body. Hence, he himself is the life-giving source of their renewed life in him, and from him, by which they are united to himself, and because he lives, they live also. It is by virtue of this membership in Christ that they are awakened, regenerated, born again, arise from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, and are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Of such the Lord Jesus saith, with peculiar emphasis of expression, I am the resurrection and the life.

But we must not stop here. Jesus adds, He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die. Redeemed souls in Christ are subject to temporal death, as well as the graceless. They are appointed to taste the fruit of Adam's sin, though, from their union with Christ, they are delivered from the curse of it. And, in respect to those that live and believe in Christ, they who are so found when Christ shall come the second time, without sin unto salvation, Hebrews 9:28 shall not die even in body, but be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 . And those who die in body before, die only in body. Their spirits live with Christ to the great day. Luke 23:43 ; Hebrews 12:23 .

But, added to all these considerations, we must consider, according to scripture authority, the Lord Jesus as the resurrection and the life, to all the members of his mystical body, in a different point of view from that of the ungodly world, in the manner in which the bodies of his saints, which sleep in Jesus, will arise at the last day, from this communicating principle, as their resurrection and life. I beg the Reader for a few moments attention also under, this particular.

It is a solemn scripture, but most sure and certain. The hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth. They that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection, of damnation. John 5:28-29 . But here lies the essential difference in these characters. As the object and end for which they arise is totally different, so also will be the means and course of their resurrection. The sovereign voice of Almighty Jesus will rouse up dead sinners to the sentence of eternal judgment. At his command both earth and the sea shall give up their dead. But not so the dead in Christ will arise. They died in Jesus when they died. They were united to the Lord in death. And so shall they be in their resurrection. For so saith the scripture. If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit which dwelleth in you. Romans 8:11 . By virtue of their union with Him they arise. And hence, in this instance, as in the former, Christ is to them the Resurrection and the Life. I hope the Reader will at least enter into an apprehension of this subject; and if so, and the Lord be his teacher, he will have to enjoy numberless very sweet views of the Lord Jesus in this most blessed character, as he stands related to his people, the Resurrection and the Life.

Verses 28-37

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. (29) As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. (30) Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. (31) 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. (32) 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. (33) When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. (34) And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. (35) Jesus wept. (36) Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (37) 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?

Here are many interesting things said in these verses, which, had we room to enlarge upon, would afford ample subject for meditation. The call of Mary; the company of the Jews; their observations; and the affecting interview of Christ with the sisters, when Mary fell at his feet, with the reiterating what Martha had said before; these are all capable of calling forth much matter for improvement. But I pass the whole by, in order to direct the Reader to have his mind solely engaged in contemplating Christ. Every incident in this memorable event becomes tenfold interesting from its relation to Jesus. And it were to lose sight of the great object for which the Holy Ghost caused it to be recorded, to be looking to any other.

The tears of Jesus's open an endless subject for contemplation. I dare not, for sure I am I cannot, explain the wonderful circumstance in a thousandth part of it. Nevertheless, in a matter which interests the Church of God so highly, I must not be wholly silent. Jesus wept. Yes! Reader! it is our mercy that the Lord Jesus perfectly knew, and as truly felt the whole of what human nature is in all its parts, yet without sin. Had it been otherwise, he would have been man in appearance, and not in reality. Whereas, the Holy Ghost expressly saith, that in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18 .

Let us only attend for a few moments to the necessity of the measure, according to what the Holy Ghost here saith. It behoved him to be so. The original marriage and union between Christ and his Church made it so. For had the Son of God taken upon him the nature of angels, what union would our nature have had with him? But it is expressly said, that he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16 . It was essentially necessary also, that the Son of God should become man, not only to marry, and to take into union with himself his spouse the Church as one nature, but also for the purpose of redeeming that nature from the Adam-transgression into which that nature fell. The right of redemption was by the law belonging to the next of kin. Leviticus 25:25 . It could be redeemed by no other. Hence it behoved the Son of God, under both these grand and indispensible obligations, to take upon him our nature, and to be united to it. And this union was to be in all points. He was to be very and truly man, as he was very and truly God. All the sinless infirmities of our nature to know, and feel, in order that he might not only know them as God, but feel them as man. And it was by this very process alone, that he became fitted for our High Priest and Mediator. Most blessedly God the Holy Ghost bears testimony to this, when by his servant the Apostle, he saith, For every High Priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. Hebrews 5:1-2 .

Reader! pause over this blessed view of Jesus, for it is indeed most blessed. Thy God, thy Husband, thy Jesus, felt in his human nature, yet without sin, all that thou feels. He wept, groaned in spirit, knew sorrow, temptation, soul-agonies, hunger, thirst, weariness, affliction, persecution, and the long train of human evils which frail flesh is subject to, in this time-state of the Church. Before that holy portion of our nature which he took into union with the Godhead, should put on that glory which is the ultimate design for which he took it, it behoved him to be cloathed with all the sinless infirmities with which his Church is cloathed. And, oh! the unspeakable blessedness of thus viewing Christ, thus knowing him, and going to him, under all our exercises! When upon earth, behold how he entered into the feelings of his people; and how their sorrows called forth the groans of his heart! And now in heaven, the sweetest of all thoughts is , that his nature is not changed, but his feeling is the same. All the affections of tenderness in Jesus, in his human nature, however highly glorified that nature is, are as truly so now as when below. He that wept upon earth at the sorrows of his redeemed, hath the ever-lasting continuance of the same tender feelings for them now he is in heaven. Reader! let you and I never lose sight of it, but always seek for grace to keep in remembrance those sweet views of Jesus, as often as we read, Jesus wept!

Verses 38-44

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. (39) 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. (40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? (41) 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. (42) 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. (43) And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. (44) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

Reader! let you and I, by faith, take our stand also at the mouth of the cave. Never, surely, excepting in the instance of the triumphs of Jesus himself over death, at his own resurrection, was there such a marvellous work ever wrought upon earth! Oh! what an unanswerable testimony did it carry with it of Christ's power! And, oh! what a precious pledge it afforded of the great purpose of Christ's mission, in thus bringing life and immortality to light by his sovereignty and grace. And I beg the Reader to have a special regard to what Jesus said, when addressing his Father. Not to seek aid, for the Lord thanks his Father for having, in what was past, heard him. And every little in this miracle proved it to be solely his own. But it was wrought as God-Man; as the Resurrection and the Life. And it became a full confirmation of what the Lord Jesus had before said, that as the Father had life in himself, so had he given to the Son to have life in himself; and had given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man. John 5:26-27 . See the Commentary on those verses.

Verses 45-46

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. (46) But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Reader! be not in the least astonished at the different effects the sight of Lazarus coming forth from the grave wrought on the lookers-on. It must have been so then. It is so now. It will be at the great day of the universal resurrection of all men. The many which are here said to have believed, are like those in all ages of the Church which belong to Christ, concerning whom the Lord said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 . The some which went their way to the Pharisees, to seek accusation against Jesus, are the representatives of all those in every age of the Church, which belong not to Jesus, but of whom he saith, Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you! John 10:26 . And what will it be at the last day but the same? When the Infidel of every description and character shall see with open eye, and be then awfully convinced; it will be a conviction not to believe and be saved, but the forced conviction of believing and be lost. For so the Lord speaks, John 17:21-23 ; Revelation 1:7 .

Verses 47-57

Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. (48) 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. (49) And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, (50) Nor consider, that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (51) And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation: (52) And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one, the children of God that were scattered abroad. (53) Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (54) 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. (55) And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. (56) 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? (57) 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.

Everything here is very interesting, but I have already exceeded my limits, and therefore shall only detain the Reader with requesting his attention to what the Evangelist hath recorded, of the memorable prophecy of Caiaphas.

It is worthy the closest attention of the Reader, that the dying Patriarch Jacob should have left so memorable a prophecy, concerning the gathering of the people to Shiloh. Genesis 49:10 . And that here again, as if to remind the Church of God of it, after so many ages had run out, God the Holy Ghost, who taught the faithful Jacob to utter such a prophecy; should have put the fellow of it in the mouth of this infidel Caiaphas to the same amount. But what cannot the Lord accomplish? By friend, or foe, the Lord, will bring about his holy will, as best suits his sovereign purpose. Even the Wrath of man shall praise him. Psalms 76:10 . Reader! do not overlook the sweet feature in both prophecies. To Him (the Shiloh, said Jacob,) shall the gathering of the people be! He shall gather together in one, (the Evangelist explains was the burden of Caiaphas' prophecy) the children, of God that were scattered abroad. Yes! this is the first, and ultimate design of the whole Covenant of grace. Christ hath a people, his children; yea, the children of God, for God hath from all eternity given them to him. In this time-state, they were lost, were scattered abroad. My Sheep (saith the Lord by the spirit of prophecy,) wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill; yea my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them: Ezekiel 34:6 . But to Him, they must all be gathered. Not an hoof shall be left behind. Exodus 10:26 . In that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, they shall come which were ready to perish. Isaiah 27:13 ; John 6:37 .

But what a wonderful subject, that God the Holy Ghost should make use of such a monster of iniquity, to utter so blessed a prophecy. True indeed the man meant what he said, in a very different sense. Yes! But there is the blessedness of the Lord's working by contrary means; and rendering that, which he meant for evil, to be productive of the greatest good. And Scripture abounds with unconscious instances to the same amount. The sons of Jacob selling Joseph, Genesis 45:7-8 . Haman, for the destruction of Mordecai. Esther 7:10 . And infinitely more, and above all, the Jews crucifying the Lord of life and glory! Acts 2:23 .

Verse 57


What a blessed thing it is, when at any time, upon the sickness of our friends or ourselves, we are enabled to tell Jesus, as those sorrowful sisters did: Lord! behold he whom thou lovest is sick! Oh! the privilege of knowing the Lord, and knowing that we are beloved by him! Reader! do you know the sweetness of thus daily, yea, sometimes hourly, going to the court of this gracious heavenly King, and receiving a look, a love-token, from Jesus himself, amidst the crowds which attend his Levee? And my soul observe: Reader do you also observe, how graciously the Lord proposed to visit the sorrowful family of Lazarus, under their bereaving providence. And although two days elapsed before he went, yet this delay was all in greater mercy, as the sequel of the history proved. Learn then from hence, how to interpret silence in the Lord. It is for the greater glory of the Lord, and the greater good of his people.

Reader! look, and look again, to the Lord, as he approached the grave of him whom he loved. Oh! that I had the power of persuasion, methinks I would call all whom Jesus loves, and who love Jesus, to take their stand there, and by faith, and behold the Son of God in our nature, shedding tears and groaning in spirit, over the sad consequence of sin, in our death. And didst thou, dearest Lord, mingle thy tears with ours, at such a sight. Didst thou indeed give such a proof, that because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, thou thyself hast taken part of the same? Oh! for grace to have it always in remembrance. Jesus wept. Jesus knows, and hath felt, what human sorrows are. Never, never my soul be thou afraid to go to him, in all thy afflictions, He that wept at the grave of Lazarus, and took part in the weepings of the sorrowful sisters, will take part in thine. He knoweth thy frame, and remembereth that thou art dust.

Hail! thou that livest and wast dead; and behold thou art alive forevermore. Still by the ear of faith, I hear thy soul-reviving, body-quickening words: I am the resurrection and the life! Lord Jesus! give me that sweet earnest and pledge of the first resurrection in grace, here below; and sure I am that in thee, and from thee, I shall have part in the resurrection to glory hereafter. And dearest Lord! while my soul rejoiceth in hope of the glory of God; in the awful character of this High Priest Caiaphas, and in all the awful characters beside in every generation, which like those who went their way to the Pharisees, unconvinced at the resurrection of Lazarus; most fully deciding that grace alone makes all the difference; teach me to whom to look, and to whom to ascribe the source of all my mercies. Though one arose from the dead, such will not believe. And wherein Lord do I differ from them, but what grace hath made? Oh! prepare me, by living wholly upon thee, deriving all from thee, and ascribing all to thee; for the great and awful day of my God, when the dead shall hear thy voice, and come forth; some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt. In that all-decisive hour, be thou to me the resurrection and the life, and my portion forever.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/john-11.html. 1828.
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