Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
John 11

Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of JohnHarvey's Notes on John

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Verse 1

John 11:1

Lazarus was Mary’s and Martha’s brother (John 11:19). He was sick (2 Kings 20:1), and his illness brought a sudden death only two days after Jesus heard of Lazarus’ condition (John 11:6).

John mentioned that this Lazarus is from Bethany, because Jesus had spoken of another man named Lazarus (Luke 16:20).

Verse 2

John 11:2

It was also Mary that spent quality time with the Lord (Luke 10:39), but Martha was t0o preoccupied by household chores and only complained to Jesus about Mary’s laziness (Luke 10:40). Later, Martha would again be serving in the house when Mary would lavish Jesus with her worship (John 12:1-3).

One other record of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet is in Luke 7:37-40, and another woman would anoint Jesus’ head instead of His feet (Matthew 26:6-7). Interestingly enough, in both of the other circumstances involving women anointing Jesus, neither woman is mentioned by name, and the houses are owned by men named Simon. In Matthew, Simon was a leper and lived in Bethany. In Luke, Simon was a Pharisee and lived in Nain (Luke 7:11).

Verse 3

John 11:3

Their message was persuasive in tone and was meant to appeal to His emotional attachment towards Lazarus (John 11:5), as though He might need extra motivation to leave His work of healing others in favor of healing His friend (John 11:11). They had highlighted Jesus’ affection for Lazarus. He did love the whole family (John 11:5), but the word for love used in John 11:5, is the same used in John 3:16 (see notes on John 11:5). The whole family or the “whole world” indicates a broader love than the word used in this verse.

The word for “lovest” is from the Greek word phileo G5368, pronounced fil-eh’-o, and it means, “to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety ...” Jesus loved them all, but Lazarus had become a good personal friend to our Lord. Jesus loves us too, but we can have a deep and meaningful personal relationship with Him as well.

Verse 4

John 11:4

Of course ... Lazarus did die (John 11:14). Jesus didn’t mean that Lazarus wouldn’t die. He meant that the death of Lazarus would not be the end of Lazarus’ Earthly life, because Jesus intended to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:23). Jesus meant that Lazarus’ sickness was intended not to bring him to death but to glorify the Lord through the incredible miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection in front of a crowd of witnesses (John 11:45).

See notes on John 11:32.

Verse 5

John 11:5

Jesus “loved” this family. “Loved” is from the Greek word agapao G25, and it means “to love (in a social or moral sense).” Thayer’s Greek Definitions adds, “… to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” Jesus’ love for Martha and her siblings was a close social friendship. It is the same word used of Jesus’ affection towards the Apostle John (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7, John 21:20).

Verse 6

John 11:6

We know Jesus was in Bethabara, as we last saw in John 10:40, because John the Baptist had baptized at Bethabara (see notes on John 1:28). Lazarus’ home was in Bethany (John 11:1). Obviously, Lazarus’ sisters’ pleas to Jesus’ emotional attachment to His friend (see notes on John 11:3) wasn’t reason enough to motivate Him into urgency regarding their brother. He was in no hurry to leave Bethabara in order to go to Bethany.

Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers as quickly as we’d like. We feel like He should respond immediately and intervene miraculously as soon as we finish our prayers. We are His adopted children, after all (Romans 8:15-17, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5). However, our Heavenly Father has a complete and undiminished macro view which includes all things. Our micro worldviews are incapable of understanding how the threads of our lives immediately around us fits into the intricate and complicated full tapestry woven by our artistic Creator God. Being a part of the whole, we are simply too close to the picture to see things as they really are.

Our Lord always cares for us; although we may not perceive His caring. Given His affinity for their family (see notes on John 11:5), to Lazarus’ sisters, Jesus’ delay must have seemed bizarre and uncompassionate. If Jesus had come earlier, surely He would have saved Lazarus from death (John 11:21). When you are waiting for answers to prayer, don’t be offended with God (Matthew 11:6, Luke 7:23). The delay we experience may be used to affect a lot of good and bring much glory to the Lord (John 9:3, John 11:4), and our inability to perceive the whole picture is even more reason to trust the one who does.

Learn to trust Him with H.O.P.E (Psalms 37:7, Psalms 42:5, Psalms 146:5). Learn that, no matter how things appear, we can Hold On Patiently Expecting. Lean on Him who understands all things rather than trying to figure out the whys of adversity and trouble (Proverbs 3:5). Praise the Lord, not only in the midst of your pain (2 Chronicles 20:15-22, Acts 16:23-26, Romans 5:1-7) but because of your pain (Psalms 103:1-5, Romans 1:21, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Ephesians 5:4, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:15-17, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Hebrews 13:15, James 1:2-3). Keep your faith rooted in Christ (Job 19:23-27, Colossians 2:7), and trust the Spirit of Christ to help you endure even what seems to be wrongful suffering (Psalms 119:49-50, Zephaniah 3:19, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 4:19). Be so close to God, and love God so much, that the quality of your relationship with Him doesn’t depend upon your situations (Job 1:20-21, Philippians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6-9, Hebrews 13:5-6). Be resolved that even death cannot break your trust in Him (Job 13:15, Daniel 3:16-18) or separate you from the Lord (Romans 8:35-39). Keep full confidence in Christ (Philippians 4:13). Give yourself over to the realization that whatever your situation is, Almighty and Everlasting God will help you through it (Psalms 37:5, Psalms 115:11, Psalms 121:1-2, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 41:10-20, Jeremiah 17:7, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Verse 7

John 11:7

Bethany was just outside Jerusalem, and both towns were in Judea (Mark 11:1, Mark 11:11, John 11:18, Acts 2:14). Bethany would eventually be the place from which Jesus would ascend into heaven before His disciples’ eyes (Luke 24:50-51).

Verse 8

John 11:8

Jesus and His disciples had gone to Bethabara (see notes on John 11:6) to let things cool down in Judea (John 10:30-40). Consequently, the disciples evidently were not privy to the message of Lazarus’ illness (John 11:3). When Jesus first suggested that they should all return to Judea, they responded negatively and reminded Him about the vehement Jews (see notes on John 1:19). They were afraid that they might all be stoned (John 11:16), should they return to Judea right away. Besides, the latest angry mob scene was not the first time that people had picked up stones with the intention of stoning Jesus (John 8:59).

Verse 9

John 11:9

Jesus was teaching us that:

· It is night to them that are in darkness (1 Samuel 2:9, Job 5:14, Psalms 82:5, Psalms 107:10, Psalms 143:3, Proverbs 4:19, Isaiah 50:10, Isaiah 59:9, Jeremiah 23:12, Micah 3:6, Matthew 6:23, Luke 2:8, John 1:5, 2 Peter 2:17, 1 John 2:9-11).

· Jesus is a “waker” of those that sleep (2 Samuel 22:10, Job 12:22, Psalms 18:28, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:50, Psalms 119:107, Psalms 119:154, Psalms 143:11, Isaiah 42:6-7, Matthew 4:16, John 3:19, John 5:1, John 6:63, Acts 26:18, Romans 4:17, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Colossians 1:13).

· The night time of death is over (Job 28:3, Daniel 12:2, Romans 13:12, 1 Corinthians 15:36, Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:8 ).

· It is time to awaken (Deuteronomy 5:23, Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 60:1-3, Isaiah 52:1-2, Ephesians 5:14).

· Jesus has shown us the way to life (2 Samuel 22:29, Psalms 119:105, Job 29:3, Isaiah 42:16, Daniel 2:22, Micah 7:8, Luke 1:79, John 3:16, John 5:24, John 6:27, John 8:12, John 6:47, John 11:26, John 12:46, John 14:6, Romans 6:22, 2 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Timothy 1:16, 1 Peter 2:9).

· Darkness can be cast aside in favor of the light (Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15, Psalms 80:18, Psalms 107:14, Psalms 119:88, Proverbs 8:36, Isaiah 5:20, Luke 11:35, John 6:40, John 12:35, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 6:8, Ephesians 5:8-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7, 1 John 1:6).

See notes on John 8:12 and John 9:4.

See 1 John 1:5.

Verse 10

John 11:10

Jesus was not talking about natural light from the sun. He was talking about spiritual light from the Son (see notes on John 1:4-5, John 1:9-10, John 9:4, John 9:39-41, and John 11:9). Speaking of any man walking in darkness, Jesus did not say, “There is no light on him.” He said, “There is no light in him.” If the light of the world is not in us, we are walking in darkness (Proverbs 4:18-19).

Verse 11

John 11:11

Jesus called Lazarus “our friend,” not just His, but the disciples’ friend as well. Lazarus’ family and Jesus’ team had all become close and valued their relationships one with another (John 11:16).

Jesus also calls Lazarus’ death merely a “sleep.” Lazarus was truly physically dead (John 11:14), but it would be as though he were only sleeping (Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52), because Jesus was going to awaken him back to physical life (Psalms 4:8, John 5:25-29, 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 5:14).

For more on the difference between physical life and spiritual life, see notes on John 5:24.

Verse 12

John 11:12

When we are sick, we are often encouraged to get plenty of rest. It only made sense to the disciples that they shouldn’t disturb Lazarus’ sleep and hinder his recovery. Additionally, perhaps they felt it necessary to comfort Jesus by saying the sleep will do Lazarus good (John 11:13).

Verse 13

John 11:13

Sometimes Jesus would speak of life and death in either physical or spiritual terms, and it was difficult for His listeners to always easily discern exactly to what He was referring to (John 3:16, John 3:36, John 5:21, see notes on John 5:24-25, John 6:35, John 6:50-58, John 8:22, John 8:51).

Verse 14

John 11:14

At times, Jesus would couch His points in words chosen to bring the intended message in a gentle way that would be more easily accepted but hidden from those not yet ready for it (Matthew 13:10-13). At other times, the message required a blunt frankness, and Jesus wouldn’t speak with any ambiguity (John 16:29). At this point in their discussion, the disciples needed to know that Lazarus was dead.

Verse 15

John 11:15

Jesus was glad, because His love for Lazarus would have moved Him to heal His friend. If Lazarus had been healed from his illness though, it would have been only one of many such miracles that Jesus had already performed. Lazarus’ death moved his recovery to a whole new level. It is one thing to be raised up from a sick bed after being told to pick up your bed and walk (John 5:8), it is quite another to rise from your tomb after being told to “come forth” (John 11:43). Watching Lazarus’ physical resurrection from the dead would expand the faith of His disciples (John 2:11, John 14:10, John 20:30-31), and increasing their faith made Him glad.

When we increase our faith (2 Corinthians 10:15), it makes the Lord glad as well (Hebrews 11:6). We tend to focus on what we have to go through, but God’s focus is on what we become having gone through it. We may wonder why we have a trial. We may wonder why we haven’t experienced deliverance (Matthew 11:2-6). We want our struggle to be transformed into peace, but the Lord wants to use the struggle to change something in us. Having been changed through the power of God and seeing His hand at work in our lives, our faith in His goodness and love towards us grows (Galatians 5:6). Loving Him is easier for us, once we perceive His incredible love of us, and loving God is all he wants from us (Exodus 20:3-6, Deuteronomy 5:7, Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27).

We may be torn and tattered from our spiritual battles, but the scars are our medals of honor reminding us of our victories through Christ over the enemy. Let our past struggles serve only to embolden us, having conquered our foe before (Romans 8:37), as we move onward realizing that Christ is still on our side (Romans 8:31, Philippians 4:13).

Verse 16

John 11:16

Thomas G2381 and Didymus G1324 mean the same thing..Thomas is translated from the Aramaic word for twin and Didymus is Greek for twin. Apparently, in Greek circles, Thomas was referred to as Didymus (John 20:24, John 21:2).

Thomas’ proposition that they return to Bethany despite the dangers (John 11:7-8) was evidence of his personal love for Lazarus.

Verse 17

John 11:17

It appears that upon entering Jerusalem (John 11:18), Jesus immediately heard the four day-old news of Lazarus’ death and burial. The fact that the news was still being broadcast beyond Bethany (see notes on John 11:18) four days after the entombment was evidence of Lazarus’ fame in the area.

Verse 18

John 11:18

See the notes on John 8:1 for more information about the distance between Bethany and Jerusalem.

Verse 19

John 11:19

Typically, the Apostle John would use the term “the Jews” in his gospel referring to the Jewish leadership (see notes on John 1:19). There is now therefore no reason to suppose that John was simply referring to Lazarus’ relatives or other concerned fellow folk from the Jewish people in this verse.

Jesus had experienced many problems with “the Jews,” and most recently “the Jews” had wanted to stone Him (John 11:8). It was likely the same sort of people that were comforting the bereaving family.

Perhaps, the Jews were using the death of Lazarus as bait. They might have thought, “We don’t need to go after Jesus. Lazarus’ funeral will bring Him to us.” Be careful to not assume that all acts of kindness conferred by what appear to be religious people are motivated only by love (Matthew 10:16, James 1:26-27).

Verse 20

John 11:20

We see from Luke 10:38-42 that Martha was a self motivator aggravated by any apparent lack of motivation in others, in particularly her sister, Mary. Martha valued positive and productive movement when things were needed to be done, and she moved quickly towards Jesus.

Mary wasn’t as quick to move as Martha, and she preferred the quiet stillness of sitting in mediation over the nervous and anxiety filled actions that produced more stress (Luke 10:39). Jesus once told Martha that Mary’s way was better (Luke 10:41-42), so let us learn from her example (Psalms 46:10).

Verse 21

John 11:21

She spoke the truth (see notes on John 11:15). However, Martha’s truth was heavy with blame and accusation. We don’t always understand the plans of God. His ways don’t always match what we would prefer. When things don’t go the way we’d like though, we need to learn not to blame God (Luke 7:23).

There is the story of the man whose son was very sick. The man prayed, “Dear Lord, please heal my son. He is my only son. Please don’t let him die.” His prayer was full of faith, and the man believed that God would indeed work a miracle on his son’s behalf. Soon the son died. The boy’s father was so upset at God. “Why didn’t you heal my son? Where were you when my son died? Then he heard the voice of the Lord speak within his spirit, “The same place I was when mine died.”

Our view is limited and clouded by our interpretation of reality (see notes on John 11:6). God alone sees the “Big Picture,” and He is in control. Praise God!

Verse 22

John 11:22

Her statement showed her faith in the power of God working through Jesus. Essentially, she was saying that she believed if Jesus asked God to raise her brother from the dead, God would do it. However, she seemed hesitant to ask Jesus frankly for what she wanted (James 4:3). In His compassion for Martha and her brother (John 11:3) and in obedience to the plans of God (John 11:4), Jesus answered her heart’s cry (John 11:23) despite her timidity (James 1:6-7).

God has plans to help you too and give you the desires of your heart. Knowing how much He loves us (John 3:16), and how much He would give to us (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13), why should we approach Him timidly (Hebrews 4:16)?

Verse 23

John 11:23

Jesus knew what Martha meant and what she wanted despite what she chose to say (see notes on John 11:22). He assured her that He would give the desire of her heart.

Verse 24

John 11:24

Martha didn’t understand that Jesus was prophesying not about the final resurrection on the last day (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15) but of Lazarus’ resurrection that very day (see notes on John 11:23).

Verse 25

John 11:25

What a beautiful statement of the redemptive plan directly from the lips of God. Before we came to Christ, we were dead in our sins (Romans 7:8, 2 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Ephesians 2:1-3, Colossians 2:13 1 Timothy 5:6). We were cut off from communion with the most High (Romans 8:7, Romans 11:22, Ephesians 2:12-17, Ephesians 4:18, Colossians 1:21, James 4:4), and we were spiritually dead (see notes on John 1:4, John 5:24).

Although Jesus would Himself be raised up from physical death (John 20:1-9, Acts 1:3, Acts 2:23-32, Acts 13:30, Acts 25:19, Romans 4:24, 1 Corinthians 15:4, Galatians 1:1), thus providing us hope for our own physical resurrections (1 Corinthians 15:20), Jesus spoke here of spiritual life (Romans 6:11-13, Romans 7:16, Romans 8:10, Ephesians 5:14). We may be dead in our sins, but we can be born again (John 3:3, Romans 6:4, Romans 8:11, Romans 11:15, Colossians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10, 1 Peter 1:23, 1 Peter 4:6) through belief in Christ Jesus (John 3:15-16, John 3:36).

The rebirth from spiritual death into spiritual life everlasting is a resurrection of the most forgiving and merciful sort (Psalms 103:8-11, Daniel 9:9, Micah 7:18-19, Romans 2:4, Romans 5:15-20, Romans 9:23, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:4-6). Through mercy and grace, Jesus was about to show the divine power of almighty God at work in His ministry, in that He is able not only to resurrect the physically dead but the spiritually dead as well (see notes on John 5:21). Praise is to our God and savior Jesus Christ.

Verse 26

John 11:26

Jesus spoke of spiritual life and spiritual death (see notes on John 5:24, John 11:13, John 11:25). Many martyrs, the first of which was Stephen (Acts 7:59), died a physical death believing with all their hearts in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 6:8). However, like Stephen, those that believe in Jesus will never spiritually die (2 Corinthians 13:4, 1 John 5:11-12).

Verse 27

John 11:27

A worried and anxious father once said to the Lord, “I believe, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Believing in Jesus isn’t always easy. When the sun shines and all is well in your life, belief comes easier than when you are suffering through a storm. Build your faith on the firm rock of Jesus’ teachings therefore, that your belief will be able to withstand the crashing forces of life’s challenges (Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:46-49).

Notice what Martha said she believed. She said, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Notice also that the Lord didn’t comment on her declaration. Peter had made a similar statement of faith (Matthew 16:16), and Jesus emphasized the importance of that revelation (Matthew 16:17-19). Since no one can say Jesus is Lord without a personal revelation from God (1 Corinthians 12:3), why was Martha’s statement of faith essentially ignored?

Having come to the knowledge of the Lord, we need to stand strong in our conviction (Ephesians 6:13-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:15) and not stagger in unbelief because of a blow from life (Romans 4:20). Unbelief, even doubt unchecked, can infect the heart of a believer and cause one to turn from God (Hebrews 3:11-14). Turning away from God is to fall into the grossest of error (Hebrews 4:11, 2 Peter 3:17). Sadly, Martha made her statement, and then she turned from the Lord (John 6:66) and went away (John 11:28).

Verse 28

John 11:28

There is no record of Jesus having asked for Mary. There are those that will say they were sent by the Lord with a message, but they were not. Having spoken with the Lord does not give one authority to speak for the Lord. Saying that Jesus is your master does not make it so.

Verse 29

John 11:29

Mary preferred a slower pace (see notes on John 11:20), but notice how “she arose quickly,” when she learned that Jesus called for her.

Verse 30

John 11:30

Before proceeding on to Lazarus’ grave, Jesus apparently decided to rest where Martha had met Him. The family likely desired to have Jesus come as quickly as possible, but it appeared that He was in no hurry at all (Ezekiel 18:29, Isaiah 55:8-9, Hosea 14:9).

Jesus had delayed His return to Bethany and allowed four more days to pass by after Lazarus had been entombed (John 11:17) before arriving just outside the city (John 11:18). Once Jesus arrived, there had been enough time for,

· People to reach Martha with the news that Jesus was on His way towards her house (John 11:20),

· Martha to get to Jesus after hearing of His approach (John 11:20),

· Martha to have a conversation with Jesus (John 11:21-27),

· Martha to go back to the house and tell Mary Jesus was asking for her (John 11:28),

· Mary to get to Jesus after hearing that He called for her to come to Him (John 11:29),

· “Yet,” after all this time, Jesus is still not where it appears that He is needed most.

Sometimes we don’t understand why He doesn’t just answer our prayer right now (see notes on John 11:6). Some will wonder why the Lord allows them to suffer, when He could have healed them at anytime ... preferably immediately. The family and friends of Lazarus suffered, but it was all for a reason (John 11:4, John 11:15). Since we often only partially perceive the reason we may have gone through a problem after the matter has been resolved (if at all), an ordeal can seem random and without any cause. But, we know that everything happens for a reason (Ecclesiastes 3:1, Romans 8:28), and we mustn’t blame God (see notes on John 11:21).

Verse 31

John 11:31

Did they want to weep at the grave with her, or were they wondering if Jesus would be there (see notes on John 11:19)? They must have wondered, “What would cause Mary to move so quickly? Was she going to go where Jesus was?”

Verse 32

John 11:32

Sometimes we suffer, and we don’t understand why the Lord seems to not hear our requests for healing (see notes on John 11:6). We wonder why He didn’t answer. Perhaps it was for purposes only God understands (John 11:4).

Verse 33

John 11:33

See now how it was that the Jews (see notes on John 1:19) came with her after seeing her leave the house so quickly (see notes on John 11:31).

The site of Mary in pain and the Jews sobbing right along with her, actually made Jesus angrily perturbed. The word “groaned” was translated from the Greek word, embrimaomai G1690, and it means, “(to snort with anger), to have indignation on, that is, (transitively) to blame, (intransitively) to sigh with chagrin, (specifically) to sternly enjoin: - straitly charge, groan, murmur against.”

Jesus knew the hearts of the Jews (see notes on John 6:43). He was not deceived by their outward show of empathy for Mary and her family, and it disturbed Him. The word “troubled” was translated from the Greek word tarasso G5015, and it means, “to stir or agitate (roil water): - trouble.”

John tells us that Jesus didn’t show His agitation. Jesus kept His anger inside. John wrote, “… he groaned in the spirit.” Jesus kept His emotions inside until they called Him Lord (John 11:34). Upon hearing their declaration of submission to His control over their hearts, but knowing their true nature (Matthew 9:4, Mark 3:5, Luke 5:22), He wept (John 11:35).

See Hebrews 8:10 and Hebrews 10:16.

Verse 34

John 11:34

See notes on John 11:33.

Not everyone that calls Jesus Lord has actually gave Him that kind of authority in their lives (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 25:11, Luke 6:46, Luke 13:25). Notice how He made no comment about their sobbing. There was no expression of sympathy. In a matter-of-fact sort of way simply asked, “Where is the body?”

Verse 35

John 11:35

It wasn’t Mary’s sincere tears that caused Jesus to mourn with her (see notes on John 11:33 and John 11:34). Jesus knew of her tears before she cried them (John 1:48). It was a false humility led by religious pride and displayed by people among “the Jews” (see notes on John 1:19) with inwardly wicked hearts that pierced the heart of Jesus and made Him weep for their lost souls (Job 30:25, Isaiah 33:7, Jeremiah 9:1, Jeremiah 13:17, Jeremiah 22:10, Luke 23:28).

Jesus would cry another time, and it was also because of the religiously pious Jewish leadership that was leading His people astray (Luke 19:38-41). It is the wickedness of heart (Mark 3:5) in the souls of those filled with unbelief that has consistently grieved God (Genesis 6:6, Psalms 95:10, Isaiah 63:10, John 11:38, Hebrews 3:10).

Verse 36

John 11:36

Once again, the Jews (see notes on John 1:19) didn’t understand. They thought Jesus’ tears were due to sadness at the loss of His friend and the pain He felt because of that loss, but they were wrong. His tears were not because of His loved one’s death (see notes on John 11:35). The grave was about to be opened (John 11:41) and the dead brought back to life (John 11:44). Why would Jesus cry over the loss of His friend, when a joyous resurrection was about to radiate a new day of hope into the dark hour of His friend’s family?

Verse 37

John 11:37

Look at the trouble making, pot stirring snakes hissing regret and resentment. It is one thing to have your own heart hardened, but it is double your shame to contribute to the hardness of another’s heart.

Verse 38

John 11:38

Again, the inward wickedness of people’s hearts (see notes on John 11:37) had stirred up righteous anger within the spirit of our Lord (see notes on John 11:33). How did He react? He continued on to perform the task assigned to Him that day. Jesus was undeterred, and He arrived at the tomb of His friend.

Often times, when we are called by God to do His will in a situation, people speak things into our lives that the enemy would use to distract us from our mission. Additionally, there was a stone in the way. Besides the voices mudding the waters around us, there can be big barriers blocking our way to the place we need to go.

Verse 39

John 11:39

It is important to learn from not only what Jesus has said to us, but also from what He has shown us as well. Jesus told us to speak to the barriers and they will be removed (Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23). We may have our own heavy stones blocking us from achieving what we are called to do and hindering the people God wants to affect from seeing His glory (see notes on John 11:38). Even though we are told our work stinks, even if we are told we aren’t good enough, even if we are told that there are good reasons not to proceed with our plans, we need to keep the faith (John 11:40, 2 Timothy 4:7).

Verse 40

John 11:40

See John 11:25-26 and notes on John 11:39.

Verse 41

John 11:41

Early in Jesus’ ministry those around Him wishing to see the miraculous learned not to hinder His work (John 2:5), and they took away the stone despite their reservations. Having the barrier between Jesus and the dead removed, He turned His eyes toward home. With His gaze fixed in His father’s direction, He begins a short prayer.

Notice that He didn’t say much at all. Notice how beautifully plain the prayer is (John 16:25). It is uncomplicated, modest, unadorned and unpretentious. Jesus, our example, told us to keep our prayers plain and from the heart (Matthew 6:5-7), and full of belief (Matthew 7:7-11, Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13, John 16:23-27) and addressed to our Father in Heaven (Luke 11:2).

He begins with thanks (Matthew 15:36, Matthew 26:27, Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Ephesians 5:4, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Timothy 2:1, Hebrews 13:15, Revelation 11:17). Jesus thanked the Father for already hearing Him, and He puts it in the past tense. Perhaps, He had been praying inwardly for the resurrection of Lazarus as He approached the tomb.

Verse 42

John 11:42

Jesus said that He knows that the Father always hears His prayers, and He had likely already thanked the Father for hearing Him about resurrecting Lazarus (see notes on John 11:41). This outwardly vocal prayer was for the benefit of those that heard it and later those that read it (John 9:31, John 10:37-38, John 20:31).

Verse 43

John 11:43

(See notes on John 5:25)

The Lord gave a shout (Numbers 23:21, Psalms 47:5, Jeremiah 25:30) quickening His dead friend into resurrection (Psalms 71:20, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 143:11, John 5:21, Romans 4:17, Romans 8:11), and one day soon He shall shout again, and all the dead friends of Christ shall be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The Lion of Judah (Hosea 5:14, Revelation 5:5) roared, and the hyena of death gave up its prey and fled. If Jesus had not called out Lazarus by name, surely His shout would have sparked the final resurrection right then.

See also Joshua 6:5, Ezra 3:13, Zechariah 9:9.

Verse 44

John 11:44

We were once dead (Romans 5:12, Romans 7:8, Romans 8:6, 2 Corinthians 4:12, ), because of sin (Romans 5:21, Romans 6:16, Romans 6:23, Romans 7:13, 1 Corinthians 15:56, James 1:15), but now we have been resurrected and are born again (John 3:3, Romans 6:4, Romans 8:2, 1 Peter 1:23). Having been raised from the dead (2 Timothy 1:10, 1 John 3:14), we need to be released from our “grave clothes,” our “old nature” (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22), that we constantly yielded to before (Romans 6:13).

If you are still caught up in sin, let Jesus set you free from the things that bind you (John 8:36). Let Him roar into your dead situation (see notes on John 11:43) and resurrect you from the dark tomb of sin and death. Let His light guide you to everlasting life (John 3:16).

Verse 45

John 11:45

Having seen a person call a dead man back to life would get just about anybody’s attention. It would spark feelings of belief in even the hardest of hearts, but this temporary “belief” reaction to Jesus’ miracles had occurred before (John 2:23, John 6:14, John 7:40-41). However, as is the case in John 8:30, belief isn’t always steadfast (Hebrews 3:11-14, and see notes on John 11:27).

Once we believe, in order to gain the final prize (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:14), we need to continue with the Lord in faith believing until the end (Hebrews 3:6). Unfortunately for some, life’s blows and painful trials cause their hearts to be hardened against the Lord, and they fall into unbelief (Hebrews 3:15-19). Take a stand for Christ, but don’t let the winds of life blow you over (Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13-14, Philippians 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Verse 46

John 11:46

Some of “the Jews” mentioned in John 11:45 were likely Pharisees (see notes on John 8:30), since the Apostle John consistently spoke of the Jewish leadership when using the reference “the Jews” (see notes on John 1:19, John 7:20). Perhaps, some of those that went to the Pharisees were scribes, Chief Priests, or Sadducaean members of the Jewish leadership. “The Pharisees” could also mean the council (John 11:47), so it is possible, and likely, as I have said, that part of “the Jews” that went to assemble the Pharisaean Council were Pharisees themselves.

With their hearts hardened against Jesus and His ministry to the point of seeking His death on several occasions (see notes on John 7:1, John 8:59, John 11:53), imagine the uproar in their council having to face the news that this Jesus had now raised a man from a four-day entombment. Jesus had indeed been glorified (John 11:4).

Verse 47

John 11:47

Once the Council had been assembled (see notes on John 11:46), their most immediate concern was Jesus’ obvious abilities. How should they respond to their perplexing dilemma of what they saw as a sinner (see notes on John 5:12, John 9:16) that can even raise the dead (John 11:44)?

Verse 48

John 11:48

The Council agreed that they needed to do something about their problem with Jesus, but they were at a loss to determine an effective solution (see notes on John 11:47). However, they believed that they had to do something. If they didn’t stop Jesus, it seemed probable that eventually even Rome would see Him as a threat. In order to arrest the further development of what would likely be by then a significant number of Jesus disciples; Caesar might squash the movement by eliminating their right to a Jewish state entirely. Therefore, they needed Rome to see a separation between Jesus and the Jews (see notes on John 1:19), and Jesus needed to be stopped before his ministry got out of hand.

Later the Jews would have Pilot, a Roman Governor (Matthew 27:2), kill Jesus for them by highlighting the fear that Caesar could make a determination that Jesus is a threat (John 19:12-15).

Verse 49

John 11:49

There were two High Priests at that time; Caiaphas and Annas (Luke 3:2, see notes on John 3:1).

Verse 50

John 11:50

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... or the one.” Obviously, from this verse, it is evident that the above thought expressed in the famous quote from “Spock” didn’t originate in the 1982 motion picture, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” *Still others think this quote is old and from some famous philosopher. The thought does have its origins in an ancient text, but it wasn’t spoken by a great philosopher. The thought came to us from Caiaphas, the High Priest mentioned in John 11:49-50.

*Dir. Nicholas Meyer, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, (Paramount Pictures, 1982).

Verse 51

John 11:51

What a dark heart within the chest of Caiaphas that caused one of the High Priests (see notes on John 11:49) serving the people of God to pursue the death of the Son of God? How outrageous that a High Priest would advocate the elimination of one anointed by the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:38), for the perceived peace and tranquility of continued bondage to an occupying invader of their country? How perverted it is to use a prophetic utterance against the very fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 5:17)?

Verse 52

John 11:52

What a twisted web the High Priest weaved (see notes on John 11:51). Caiaphas’ prophecy echoed the prophetic words of Isaiah in Isaiah 49:6, and he made Jesus’ proposed death out to be the spur that might initiate the prophesy’s fulfillment. It is twisted, because Jesus is the lifter up of the children of Jacob (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 9:6, Jeremiah 30:21), the restorer of a scattered Israel (Isaiah 11:10-12, Isaiah 49:18, Isaiah 56:8, Isaiah 60:4, Ezekiel 11:16-17, Ezekiel 34:12, James 1:1), the light to the gentiles (Isaiah 55:5, Romans 3:29), and the salvation for all the Earth (Matthew 25:31-34, John 12:32, Ephesians 1:9-10, Ephesians 2:14-17, Colossians 1:20-23, 1 John 2:2). Jesus didn’t initiate the fulfillment ... Jesus was the fulfillment (Matthew 5:17, Matthew 24:34, Mark 1:15, Mark 14:49, Luke 4:21, Luke 21:22, Luke 21:32, Luke 24:44, John 19:28, Acts 13:29). Jesus’ death wouldn’t be in fulfillment of Caiaphas’ will or his purposes, but it was the will of God from the beginning (Ephesians 3:10-11).

Verse 53

John 11:53

Before this event, the Jewish leadership had thought to kill Jesus (John 5:18, John 7:1, John 7:19, John 8:44, John 8:59, John 10:39), and they had even picked up stones to do it. However, until now, they had never made the intent to kill Him an official edict from the counsel (Psalms 2:2, Psalms 31:13, Psalms 71:10, Jeremiah 11:19).

Verse 54

John 11:54

Ephraim was a city in northern Judea, in the ancient land of Canaan, named after the second son of Joseph (Joshua 16:1-10). It was on the edge of the wilderness, and Jesus resorted there with His disciples. He left open-air preaching and large gatherings where the Jewish leadership would have more opportunity to take Him. It was not yet His time.

Verse 55

John 11:55

John had used the phrase, “the Jews’ passover” before (John 2:13). In this case, it seems even more poignant. It was “the Jews” that controlled the religious goings on and affairs of the Palestinian people, and it was “the Jews” (see notes on John 1:19) that sought to kill Jesus (John 11:53).

Jesus and His disciples had left the metropolitan area of Jerusalem and Bethany for the quiet country setting of Ephraim (John 11:54). John told us that the Jews (see notes on John 1:19) were speculating as to whether Jesus too would come down out of the countryside into Jerusalem for the Passover festivities (John 11:56).

Verse 56

John 11:56

The Jews (see notes on John 1:19) had hoped there would have been an opportunity to take Jesus when He returned to the home of Lazarus (see notes on John 11:19 and John 11:31). However, Jesus had shaken their confidence, and their resolve to end His ministry was hampered by the incredible and miraculous physical resurrection of a man that had been dead for four days (John 11:47). After their meeting where they decided to stop Him in order to save their way of life (see notes on John 11:48), they were hoping that the Passover would present another chance to take Him (see notes on John 11:55).

They looked for Jesus and didn’t locate Him among the people, so they gathered in the temple to discuss what to do if He didn’t come to the feast.

Verse 57

John 11:57

There had been an edict with full consent by both of the Chief Priests (see notes on John 11:49) and the Pharisaean Counsel (see notes on John 11:46) to arrest Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 11". "Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of John". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shj/john-11.html.
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