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7. Christ the Antagonist of death—a victory of love and power. The narrative of this chapter is a further advance in the proof that the unbelief of the Jews was aggravated by the greatness of the revelation. The issue of his sublime and culminating act of power, of his supreme and self-revealing work of transcendent tenderness and beauty, was a deeper and wilder passion of hatred. The evangelist completes his series of seven great miracles with one that in true and believing minds, evokes a new sense of the glory of God. This great last sign corresponds with the first (John it.) by being enacted amid the domestic and family life of a small and insignificant town, and also by express reference to the veritable manifestation involved in it of the δόξα Θεοῦ, on which we have frequently commented. Baur treated the narrative as an ideal composition, illustrating the great metaphysical utterance, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Keim endeavored to reduce the whole narrative to a fiction, not so well contrived as some of the evangelist's tours de force. This is almost as arbitrary and offensive as M. Renan's endeavor (which held its place in numerous editions of his 'Vie de Jesus') to represent the miracle as a got-up scene, into which Christ, by a kind of Divine mensonge, allowed himself to be drawn. Subsequently, Renan has suggested that Mary and Martha told Jesus their persuasion that such a miracle would convince his enemies, and that he replied that his bitter foes would not believe him even if Lazarus were to rise from the grave; and that this speech was expanded by tradition into an actual event. This corresponds with what Weisse had suggested, that the story is an expansion of the Lord's conversation with the sisters at Bethany. Gfrorer thought that it is the story of Nain over again in a developed form, and that Nain is equivalent to Bethany; and Schenkel has fancied that the parable of Luke 16:1-31. has been expanded into a narrative of genuine resurrection. Thorns has, in like manner, regarded it as the poetic expansion of the idea of the Christ as the Prince of life and Conqueror of death, and as based on the synoptic account of two resurrections, and on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. These hypotheses are all incompatible with the simplicity of the account and with the apostolicity of the Gospel. Many attempts have been made to account for the silence of the synoptists concerning this narrative.
Some writers, with Epiphanius, have said they feared, when their narratives were made public, to call such marked attention to the family of Bethany, lest they might have endangered their lives; but this is exceedingly improbable. Others have argued that this crowning miracle would not take such a conspicuous place in their less-carefully arranged records. It was only one of "many signs" wrought by our Lord with which they were familiar. Matthew (Matthew 9:18) and Mark (Mark 5:22) had already described the raising of Jairus's daughter from the bed of death, from what was believed by the onlookers to have been veritable dissolution; and Luke (Luke 7:11) had shown the Lord at the gates of Nain to have royally withstood the power of death, even when the corpse of a young man was being carried out to the burial. The narrative before us is not different in kind from these, though the prelude and the accompaniments of the miracle and its consequences are all wrought out with much dramatic force, while numerous touches, by-scenes, and references are introduced which give consummate interest to the whole. Another suggestion of moment is that it was not the purpose of the synoptists to detail the incidents of our Lord's ministry in Jerusalem. Let it not be forgotten that each of the evangelists records incident and discourse to which neither of the others had access. The peculiarities of Matthew and Luke are nearly as numerous as those of the Fourth Gospel. Why should not John bring forth facts from his memory which they had left untouched?.
(1) The mystery and might of sacrificial love seen in the prelude of the miracle.
Now a certain (man) was sick, (named) Lazarus, of Bethany, of the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The certain man who was sick, Lazarus (or Eleazar) by name, £ was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The two prepositions ἀπὸ and ἐκ generally denote procession from, but the latter implies closer and more intimate original association; they here are put in apposition, though there are passages where they are discriminated (Luke 2:4; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:34; R.T. of Revelation 9:18). The contention of Gresswell that ἀπὸ referred to present residence, and ἐκ to nativity, and that the κώμη was to be found in Galilee, is not sound (see John 12:21; John 19:38). Bethany is mentioned to distinguish it from "Bethany beyond Jordan," referred to in John 1:28 (see note). The town is now known as El Azirieh, and is about a mile and a half from Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Simonis interpreted the name to mean "house of depression," "valley-town" היָּנִעֲ־תיבֵּ (Lightfoot); Reland derives its name from ינֵיהִ־תיבֵּ, "house of dates" (see Matthew 21:17). It seems that palm branches could be then torn from the trees in the neighborhood. Arnold (Herzog., 'Enc.') derives its name from איָּנְעֲ־תיבֵּ (Aramaic), "house of the afflicted." The village has become well known in the circle of evangelic narrative from St. Luke's reference to Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38, etc.). Mary's name is probably mentioned first from the further record of her ecstatic love, which the other Gospels were diffusing through the world, and to which John makes an anticipatory reference. Her name had not been given before. In Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:3 she was "a certain woman." Jn throws light on the ground of her gratitude. The efforts made by Bunyan, in his 'Jerusalem Sinner Saved,' and by Hengstenberg, to defend the pre-Reformation identification of "Mary" with the "Magdalene," and the Magdalene with the woman that was a sinner (cf. Luke 7:37 with Luke 8:2), rest on insufficient grounds. The identification of the two anointings with each other is without justification. All the circumstances are different—the time, the place, the obvious reason, the motive assigned by our Lord, the conversations which followed. If a woman who was a sinner had taken such a step, and this expression of her gratitude had been accepted by Jesus, Mary of Bethany found more ample reason for following her example (see Dr. Schaff's admirable and extended reply to Hengstenberg). B. Weiss acutely observes that this reference shows that in the circle for which the evangelist wrote Bethany was known as the home of the sisters, and Mary as the heroine of the anointing incident. Numerous other identifications, i.e. of Simon the Leper with Simon the Pharisee, Martha with Simon's wife, are precarious. Dean Plumptre's identification £ of Lazarus with the "rich young man" who is supposed to have given his all away to the poor, and who possessed nothing but a solitary garment; and his subsequent identification with the young man who fled away naked on the night of Christ's arrest, are specimens of ingenuity, but carry no conviction. The contrast between the ideas involved in the parable of Luke 16:1-31. and this narrative is so profound that we dismiss the hypothesis of the identity of the two Lazaruses. Strauss, Keim, and others deal with it as an expansion of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who is supposed actually to have been sent unto the people from the dead, but, in agreement with our Lord's prediction, winning no obedience. Vehement efforts are made in this and other ways to undo the commanding significance of the miracle. Bishop Wordsworth and Archdeacon Watkins are disposed to identify the Lazarus of the parable and the Lazarus of Bethany; the latter supposes the parable to have been delivered at the very time mentioned in Persea. Our Lord's statement, that the brothers of the rich man would not believe though one rose from the dead, was in some sense paralleled by the desire of the Jews to put Lazarus to death; but the reason given is that by reason of Lazarus "many of the Jews went away from them, and believed on Jesus" (John 12:11; cf. also John 11:45, "Many of the Jews, when they beheld what he did, believed on him").
Now it was that Mary who anointed the Lord with perfume, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. The word μύρον is used of any aromatic balsam which is distilled from trees and herbs by itself. In classical Greek μύρον was used of costly ointments used by women. Ἐλαίον was the common oil used by men for purposes of health, which might be perfumed. Our Lord clearly draws a distinction between the ἐλαίον and μύρον in Luke 7:46. Ἀλείφω has been said to be used for the more superfluous anointings and χρίω for the sanitary anointing with oil. No trace of such distinction is found in the New Testament. One great distinction in biblical Greek is that χρίειν is used of religious anointings, from its association with Χριστός, but ἀλείφειν in the LXX. is only twice used in this sense, while χρίειν is used times without number (Archbishop Trench, 'New Test. Syn.,' § 38.). The use of the term Κύριον, "Lord," shows that the story was widely known, and that when the Gospel was written it had passed into a commonplace of Christian experience and illustration. The anointing has not yet been referred to by John, but he is looking back upon the events and anticipates his own subsequent record.
Therefore the sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick (ὃν φιλεῖς nominative to ἀσθενεῖ). The sisters knew well what peril Jesus and his disciples would encounter by coming to Bethany, and they must have known that he could have healed him by a word; so they simply state the case. (On the difference between φιλεῖν and ἀγάπαν, see notes on John 5:20; John 21:15, John 21:17. Trench, 'New Test. Syn.,' § 12. The former word is that of personal affection and fondness, though occasion ally having grander associations and equivalent to amo, while ἀγαπάω is equivalent to diligo, and means the love of choice, of sentiment, of confidence and esteem.) There is delicate tact and beauty in the use of the two words, one by the sisters, the other by the evangelist. The statement of needs, the simple voice of our weakness, the infant's cry, goes up to heaven. The bleat of the lost lamb is enough for the good Shepherd.
When Jesus heard (it), he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby. What message Jesus gave to these who brought him these tidings we know not; the evangelist records what he said to the bystanders. Our Lord did not mean to say that the sickness would not terminate in what men ordinarily call "death," nor that it was not a deadly disease, but that it was not πρὸς θάνατον. "He shall not fall a prey to death" (Meyer), The sickness is so timed that it shall conduce to the (δόξα Θεοῦ) glory of God, i.e. to the majestic appreciation of the sublime perfections of God, and that by or in it the Son of God may be glorified. Υπὲρ elsewhere in the Gospel means "sacrifice on behalf of;" so here the very suffering of Lazarus and of the sisters, and the tears of Jesus over the grave, are part of the sacrificial ministry by which the glory of God or of the Sun of God may be advanced.
Now Jesus loved (ἠγάπα) Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. "Felix familia!" (Bengel). Martha is here mentioned first, because in all probability the head of the household. The love of selection, friendship, or esteem is the result of long acquaintance, and reveals "the fragmentariness of the evangelic records" (Westcott); see note on John 11:3.
John 11:6, John 11:7
The τότε μὲν of John 11:6 implies an understood δὲ in John 11:7, and the whole passage will be as follows: Now Jesus loved deeply Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus; when therefore he heard that he (Lazarus) was sick, he remained, it is true, τότε μὲν two days in the place where he was, but then ἔπειτα (δὲ) after this (and because he loved) he saith to his disciples, Let us go again into Judaea. He did not remain because he loved, but, though he remained, and because he loved, he said, "Let us," etc. So that we do not see here any intention on his part, by remaining, to test their love (Olshausen), nor to exaggerate the effect of the miracle by raising a dead man from his grave rather than from his death-bed or his bier. It is not difficult to gather from the sequel that when the message reached Jesus Lazarus was dead and buried. We find that when our Lord returned to Bethany four days had elapsed since the death of Lazarus, and the four days must be calculated thus: First one long day's journey from Peraea to Bethany, a distance of eight or nine leagues. If the messenger of the sisters had taken equal time to reach Jesus in Perked, or even a longer period, as time might easily be consumed in the effort to find our Lord in the mountains of Moab; then the two days of his waiting after receiving the message would, with those occupied by the double journey, make up the four that had passed when Jesus reached the grave. Lucke, Neander, Godet, and Westcott think that our Lord remained in Peraea because there was work in which he was engaged and could not relinquish. Meyer, Moulton, and Weiss, that he waited for some especial communication from his Father, for some revelation of moral necessity and heavenly inspiration, like those which dictated all his other movements. B. Weiss: "It was a sacrifice to his calling, of his heart's most ardent desires, that he remained quietly two days in the same place." "We see," says Edersheim, "Christ once more asleep while the disciples are despairing, swamped in the storm! Christ never in haste, because always sure." The silences of Scripture and the waitings of God are often without explanation. The event proves that deep purpose presided over them. The "let us go," etc., implies a lofty courage, a sense of coming crisis. Love conquers fear and peril for himself and his followers. "Judaea" is mentioned rather than Bethany for the same reason. The "again" points forcibly back to the last visit, when he told both friends and foes that the good Shepherd would snatch his sheep from the jaws of death, even though he lay down his own life in the doing of it.
The Aramaic word "Rabbi" is frequently used by John, as the term of respect applied to both the Baptist and our Lord. The extraordinary dignity which the Jews accorded to their rabbis may throw some light upon the honorific title when yielded or conceded to Christ. The disciples say unto him, Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? The νῦν ἐξήτουν imply the continuous process of their antagonism only just now arrested by a timely flight. Here in Peraea Jesus found appreciative listeners. The disciples are more in fear for their Master than for themselves. The residence beyond Jordan had been brief, and they are amazed that the Lord will so soon put himself in the power of that seething and hostile crowd. How different this language from that of his own brothers (John 7:3-5)!
Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. The answer of Jesus is a further deliverance concerning the human law and season (καιρός) of work—a parable drawn from earthly and human analogies, which will unquestionably have a direct bearing on the conditions of Divine service at all time, and is therefore applicable to the disciples with himself. It receives also special significance from some aspects of Christ's own ministry, and from the step he had just now declared that he intended to take. Of course, the parable is based upon the conditions of human work; one of these conditions is light, another of them is time. Light is necessary for all the wise efforts of men—the light of day, the light of this world or the sun; we must see whither we are going, in order to avoid the occasions of stumbling. We must submit to this comprehensive condition, or we fail (cf. here John 9:4, "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work"). There are two kinds of night of which he speaks. One is the night which arrests all labor, the night of death; and the other is the night of ignorance and unbelief, when the light that is in a man becomes darkness, when, if a man does attempt to work or walk, he will stumble. Meyer and some others, from the reference to another condition, viz. that of time, persist in limiting the notion of the day to that of the period of service, about which the Lord says also some very solemn things; and Meyer objects to Luthardt and others, who give to the sun, to the light of this world, any moral or spiritual meaning. We need not limit the application. Light may mean knowledge of duty supplied by God's providence and the revelation of his will, and so far as "day" is made by light, it is important to notice it here. But time is an equally important condition, and whereas in John 9:4, John 9:5 the Lord laid emphasis upon the limited amount of opportunity during which the light lasts and the work can be done; so here there is an appointed period during which stumbling is unnecessary: "twelve hours in the day." This (I take to be Christ's meaning) is one of these hours, and before the night comes "I must work." Godet suggests that the disciples, by this question, recommended him not to shorten his career by courting danger, and so to create for himself "a thirteenth hour" to the day, in which he would secure no blessing; that the Lord condemned the proposal, knowing that he was immortal till his hour had come; and that if we shrink from a call of duty, and thus save ourselves, adding an unhallowed increment to our day of useless work, we incur the like condemnation, we shall stumble. Let it be observed that the reason for working in the night is not because we have twelve hours for duty and no more, but because, though we have a time of service and an opportunity, we have let both slip past us, and then the work is difficult and perilous if we do attempt it. Some have said that Judas, Peter, Thomas, etc., walked in the night, and that they stumbled and fell.
But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. He shuts himself off from the light of God-given opportunity, and carries no lamp in his soul. There is no necessity to suppose, in John 9:4, that the day was drawing to a close, or that in this place a natural day was dawning; but there is some probability from this phraseology that John adopted the Babylonian rather than the Roman method of computing the hours of the day. This has decided bearing on several important questions (notes, John 1:39; John 4:6, John 4:52; John 19:14). The "twelve hours" shows, at all events, that the Jews at this time generally reckoned from sunrise to sunset. It must be remembered that the day differed considerably in length at different parts of the year, from fourteen hours to nine; but perhaps the emphatic use of the expression derives special interest from the fact that the equinox was approaching.
These things spake he, and probably many more words expository of the vast principle of service which he here propounded; and after this (for μετὰ τοῦτο implies a break, during which the disciples pondered his words) he saith, Our friend Lazarus; implying that Lazarus was well known to the disciples, and that the Lord classes himself here, in wondrous condescension, with them. He elsewhere speaks of the twelve as his "friends" (John 15:14, John 15:15, where he made it a higher designation than δοῦλοι; see also Luke 12:4). John the Baptist also calls himself "the Bridegroom's friend" (John 3:29). Though Lazarus had passed into the region of the unknown and unseen, he was still" our friend." Hath fallen asleep. Meyer says that Jesus knew this by "spiritual far-seeing;" and Godet thinks that he knew it by supernatural process, and had known it all along. It does not require much beyond what we know to have occurred in thousands of instances, for our Lord to have perceived that his friend had died—had, as he said, "fallen asleep," in that new sense in which Jesus was teaching men to look on death. But I go, that I may awake him out of sleep (ἐξυπνίσω is a late Greek word; of. Acts 16:27). Wunsche says the Talmud often speaks of a rabbi's death under the form of" sleep" ('Moed. K.,' fol. 28, a; cf. Matthew 9:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Homer spoke of death and sleep as "twin sisters," Christ's power and consciousness of power to awake Lazarus from sleep gives, however, to his use of the image a new meaning. It is not the eternal sleep of the Greek and Roman poets.
The disciples£ therefore say unto him, Lord, if he have fallen asleep, he will recover. Wunsche quotes 'Berach,' fol. 57, b, "Sleep is a good sign for the sick." The language of the disciples is somewhat remarkable; at least their misunderstanding is puzzling (Reuss and Strauss think it is a sign of the unhistorical); but it probably arose out of the statement, made two days before, that "the sickness was not unto death," and from their eager and affectionate desire to prevent their Lord's retraining to Judaea. If he have fallen asleep, he well recover (be saved). The whole narrative is throbbing with deeper meanings than lie on the surface of it. The theory of the sanitary effects of sleep in fever are well known, and the rousing from such sleep might seem hazardous; but the disciples were catching at straws to save their Master.
Now Jesus had spoken of his death: but they thought that he spake of taking rest in sleep. Λέγει, though in the present tense, represents a time anterior to the time of ἔδοξαν. Κοίμησις is found in Ecclus. 46:19. This is an explanation of the misunderstanding, occasioned, perhaps, by the statement of verse 4, and further elucidated by what follows. A difference prevails between κοίμησις and ὕπνος as both words are used for sleep; but the former has rather the idea of the repose accompanying sleep, the latter the phenomenon itself. With one or two exceptions, κοιμᾶσθαι is always used in the New Testament of the sleep of death, ὑπνός never.
Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly. Jesus spake at length (παῤῥησίᾳ) without metaphor (cf. John 11:11, note). Lazarus died; died, i.e. when he told them two days ago that this sickness would not have death as its end—died in the sense in which they ordinarily used the word. When Jesus described the condition of Lazarus in figurative language, he made use of a metaphor which would have peculiar application in his ease. The grace of Christ will turn the death of his beloved throughout all time into restful sleep. Lazarus was part of the method by which this transformation would be effected. The Christian idea soon found far richer expression than classical poetry or rabbinism could supply (Acts 7:60; Matthew 27:52; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Revelation 14:13).
And I rejoice that I was not there. Death could not have occurred in his presence; at least, as Bengel says, we never read of any one dying in the presence of the Prince of life. Whenever he came into contact with death, he conquered the great enemy. Still, this was not the absolute reason for his gladness. The gladness was conditioned by the need of the disciples, not merely for the comfort of the sisters, or for his own greater glory, but for your sakes, to the end that ye might believe. The word πιστεύω is often used absolutely (John 1:7, John 1:50; John 4:41, John 4:42; John 5:44; John 6:36; and many other places). The disciples had believed something of Christ's power before (see John 2:11, etc.); but every act of faith prepares the way for another. Every fresh exercise of faith makes all previous efforts in the same direction appear elementary (cf. 1 John 5:13, T.R.). The joy of Jesus in the augmenting faith of his disciples is one of the most pathetic and instructive features of this Gospel (see John 16:31, and notes). The kingdom of God among men was, so far as we can see, dependent on the amount of faith that the apostles could be induced to cherish in the fact of the Incarnation during the brief period of this ministry. The Church has not yet come to a full understanding of all that he was. But if the disciples had not known his power over death, they would have been destitute of the alphabet of this new language, of the foundations of the spiritual city they had to build. Jesus rejoiced when disciples believed. So he does still. Nevertheless, let us go to him—to Lazarus, who still lives with God (cf. Matthew 22:32, and parallel passages). This is very remarkable. Even the dead body is in this case still (cf. John 14:31).
Thomas, in Aramaic, is equivalent in meaning to the Greek name Didymus, or "twin." This apostle is mentioned in the synoptic Gospels with Matthew, and in Acts (Acts 1:13) with Philip. He is classed with the fishermen (John 21:2), and may therefore have been a Galilaean. Ecclesiastical tradition has associated him with Judas (not Iscariot) (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' Ecclesiastes 1:13), and with Judas the brother of Jesus. He is reputed to have preached ultimately in Parthia and India, there to have suffered martyrdom. The various references to him in this Gospel give, by a few vivid touches, a biography and characterization of singular congruity. He said to his fellow-disciples (the word συμμαθητής is only used in this place, and shows that the body of the disciples were being more and more blended into a unity), Let us go, that we may die with him. Here he manifests a fervent love to his Master, tinged with a sorrowful, melancholy temperament. He saw the danger to his Lord, but at once, with the spirit of self-surrender, was ready to share his fate. Moulton says these words reveal love, but they are "the language of despair and vanished hope. This is the end of all—death, not Messianic kingdom." Surely Thomas may have pondered much the Lord's words about his approaching death, and may have felt ready, along the same line, willingly to yield up his own life for his Master's or with his Master. Too much has been made of Thomas's skepticism and criticism. He was one who wanted visible, tangible evidence; but he was prepared to act impulsively, and to give powerful expression to his faith, whenever the evidence was granted. In John 14:5 he was still in the dark, but it was not an evil darkness. How could he know, with the clearness which his mind naturally desiderated, whither our Lord was going? No brainless or heartless unbelief led him to ask, "How can we know the way?" At last (John 20:24, etc.), when he wanted ocular, personal, tangible evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, and absented himself in deep melancholy from the company of the eleven, it is clear that his soul was ready for the full manifestation. Before he could have put his finger into the print of the nails, he exclaimed, with adoring gratitude, "MY LORD AND MY GOD!" His hesitation and his conviction, with his superlative ecstatic cry, form the culminating point of the Gospel.
(2) Human affection drawing from Christ the assertion and promise, "I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE."
So; or, thereupon; for οὖν not infrequently indicates the relation between two narratives, as well as between two state-meats or arguments. When Jesus came into the neighborhood of the village (see John 11:30), he found, on inquiry, that he (Lazarus) already £ during four days had been £ in the grave; or literally, had had four days. These four days are differently counted. Alford, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Lange, Gorier, Westcott, and Moulton believe that this mention proves that Lazarus died and was buried on the day on which the message was sent, which, if it took one day to deliver, and if one day had been consumed in the return of Jesus, would leave the other two days as those of the delay in Peraea. Meyer and Ewald, with Bengel and Watkins, think that he died at the conclusion of the delay, that Jesus became aware of it, and told his disciples of it, and spent the two days, or parts of them, in the journey; that on the fourth day he reached Bethany. The former and usual view is the more obvious one, although it must turn ultimately on the position of Bethany beyond Jordan. If the recent speculations of the Palestine Exploration Society and Caspari be correct, the distance between the two Bethanys may have required at least two days for the journey, and therefore favors the latter interpretation. If Bethany (Bethabara) be near Jericho, the distance between them would be much less, and the former and usual reckoning must prevail.
John 11:18, John 11:19
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem. This geographical observation is introduced to explain the following verse. Meyer and Alford think that the use of the past tense, ἢν, may be perfectly justified in making reference to past events; yet, since John is the only New Testament writer who uses it, the usage may have been adopted by him because, at the time when he wrote his Gospel, Bethany had been for the time destroyed with Jerusalem itself. The construction is peculiar: ὡς ἀπὸ. Many think that it is to be understood—about fifteen stadia from it—a kind of trajection of the preposition; but Winer thinks that it points to the spot where the fifteen stadia might be supposed to terminate, i.e. "lying off at the end of the fifteen stadia," and so giving an adverbial force to the preposition: and he adds a long list of similar constructions in later Greek writers. The stadium was 606.75 feet—less than the eighth of an English mile; the distance was therefore between a mile and a half and a mile and three quarters. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary. "The Jews" is a phrase generally, not uniformly, used by John to denote those permanently hostile to our Lord, and often of the upper and ruling classes. These, therefore, had one more trial of faith, one further opportunity of recognizing his glory. Many of them came £ to Martha and Mary. They came to comfort them, according to ordinary usage among the Jews after bereavement. This ceremony often lasted seven days. Concerning (their £) brother. We cling to earthly love. The gush of strong affection that mourners lavish on the dead deepens their love to one another, and the praises of the departed often gild and almost pierce the veil itself. The fact that many Jews should have taken the trouble to journey nearly two miles to comfort the bereaved sisters shows that the family at Bethany was one of some wealth, position, and importance (cf. Matthew 26:6-13). If so, it is exceedingly unlikely that the narrative stands in any relation to the parable of the rich man and the beggar.
The οὖν points back probably to John 11:1. The type of character so beautifully contrasted in the previous reference to the family at Bethany appears again, and confirms the historical character of Luke 10:38, etc., as well as of the narrative before us. Thoma says that this picture is "simply painted with synoptic color." Martha is the mistress of the house. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Martha was a woman of impulse, energy, practical duty; like Peter, she was ready even to give advice to her Lord, and eager to put everybody in his rightful place. On the first opportunity she hastened at once to "meet" Jesus, even without at first warning her sister of his approach. Mary, contemplative, pensive, undemonstrative under ordinary circumstances, but with a great fund of love, was sitting in the house receiving the condolences of the Jews (cf. Luke 10:19). Weiss suggests that Jesus was well aware, from the station of the family, and from the fact that hitherto his own friendship for the sisters had not submitted them to the ban, that "many Jews" would have congregated in the house of mourning. Consequently, Jesus does not come straight to the house, but allows it to be known that he is there.
Martha therefore (having met her Lord) said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here—the εἰ ἦς ὦδε expresses no complaint: "If thou hadst been here," a simple condition of what is now an impossible event—my brother had not died. Meyer says, "If thou weft making thy residence in Bethany rather than in Peraea." This is somewhat unnatural, and would have been a complaint. Her faith had at least ground enough for this assurance, but she mounts above it. The two sisters, with their contrasted natures, had grasped the life-giving, joy-diffusing, heaven-revealing powers of Jesus. They had believed in him, with a gracious abandonment of all prejudice and in the sweeping force of a great illuminating love. They had said often this same thing to one another, and now Martha pours her high persuasion into the ears of her Lord; but she proceeds further.
And even now I know, that whatsoever thing thou shalt ask of God, God will give it thee. Νῦν οἶδα may be contrasted with John 11:27. In his presence she knows intuitively that nothing is impossible. The αἰτήση is a word of more human quality than that which our Lord customarily used for his own appeals to God. He spoke of ἐρωτᾶν, to seek as an equal; παρακαλεῖν, to intercede for another; προσεύχεσθαι, to pray; δεῖσθαι, to supplicate. It was appropriate enough that Martha should use the verb αἰτήση. Her word was a burst of excited feeling, and does not dictate to the Master what he should do. Her twofold mention of the name of God with "thou" and "thee," shows that she had not risen to highest light on the Lord's mysterious relation to the Father. She speaks of him and to him as of a strangely gifted human Friend. But she had doubtless heard of the widow of Nain, and of Jairus's daughter, and she made no irrational suggestion. The ὅσα covers much. Jesus loved Lazarus. He was Friend to the whole group, and known to them all.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Hengstenberg thinks that the reply of Jesus is a grand dogmatic assertion of the resurrection of the dead, in special application to Lazarus, and it covers the kind of ἀνάστασις which takes place at death, as well as the resurrection at the last day. If so, surely our Lord would have said, "Lazarus is risen again." The Lord does elsewhere speak of the dead as risen, and of their angelic state, and of all the dead living unto God; but he is here speaking of the immediate resurrection of Lazarus from what is called death to that which is called life, and which would be a pledge and type of the final resurrection of all.
Martha saith to him, I know that he will rise again at the resurrection in the last day. Some disappointment is revealed in this speech, such as we have all felt with the promise of an ultimate resurrection, when the grave has closed over some dear friend. We find small relief in the assurance. The old ties are snapped, the old ways are at an end. We shall go to the dead: he will not return to us. The last day is too far off to comfort us concerning our brother. That the answer of Martha is important as revealing belief in the resurrection at the last day; of which, however, it must be remembered those who had heard our Lord's own assertions about it could no longer have doubted (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54; John 12:48). The teachings of Jesus in this Gospel with reference to eternal life made the promise of resurrection, the transfiguration of the physical life of man, a necessity, not a contradiction. The reply of Martha shows that she does not as yet grasp the whole truth. "The last day" may be far nearer in her thought than we now know it to have been, or them it is to us; still, however near, it would imply a complete transformation of all these sweet human relationships. She longed to have the home as it was before Lazarus died. It is, however, of very great interest that we have, on the part of a Jew, this profound expectation of resurrection and immortality. Jews, or at least Pharisees, had derived from Old Testament thought—from Genesis, and from Job, and from the Psalter, from the Books of Daniel and Ezekiel, and from the progress of human thought as evinced in 'Wisdom of Solomon'—a great belief in both. Martha reveals incidentally the new light which had been cast on the mystery of the grave by the words and acts of Jesus.
John 11:25, John 11:26
Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection. Not merely that God will give me what I ask, but that I am in some sense already his gift to man of resurrection, inasmuch as I am that of Life. (So Luthardt and Godet, but not Meyer, who makes ζωή the positive result of ἀνάστασις.) By taking humanity into his Person, Christ reveals the permanence of human individuality, that is, of such individuality as is in union with himself. He associates (John 14:6) "the Life" which he gives with" the Way" and "the Truth," i.e. with the whole sum of human experience and of human meditation and speculation, i.e. with all the conduct of the will and the mind. He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live. In these words he identifies the "life" with the transfiguration of the bodily life. The grand method of this blessed life is faith. The life which is the condition and ground of resurrection is the natural consequence of a faith which accepts Christ, and identifies itself with him. But "there are some who have believed, and have what you call died"—though they die, they shall live. In such cases, so-called "death" is veritable "life." The life of faith will survive the shock of death, and whosoever liveth, and believeth on me, shall never die—shall never taste of death (cf. John 6:51, John 8:51). This is no new teaching for the more thoughtful of his hearers. There are multitudes now believing (and therefore living) in him. They shall never die in the sense in which death has been hitherto regarded; they shall by no means die forever. Faith is eternal life: death is only a momentary shadow upon a life which is far better. Whether the corruption of the grave passes over the believer or not, he lives an eternal life, which has no element of death nor proclivity to death in it. So far the Lord is lifting Martha to a higher experience of life and a comparative in difference to death. Before he offers any further consolation, he probes to the quick her faith in him and in the eternal life. Believest thou this? Τοῦτο; "Is this thy belief?" not τουτῷ; "Dost thou believe in my statement?" "Believest thou that the Resurrection which I am and which I give can thus transform for thee the whole meaning of death?" The fullness of life after death is assured in virtue of the resurrection which Christ could effect at any moment, and will eventually effect for all. This life of which Christ speaks may be the life which is the consequence of the resurrection (ἀνὰστασις) of man effected in the Incarnation, or it may be the condition of "resurrection" and sufficient proof that, if a man receive it by faith, he is free' from all the curse of physical death, and assured of a perfect victory over it. So also the οὐ μὴ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα may either mean "not forever," and thus the words may be taken to refer to the resurrection. "He will not forever die," i.e. death may supervene, but will be conquered; or οὐ μὴ may mean "never," "in no wise," and the "never die" may refer to spiritual death, overlooking physical death altogether. The whole narrative is a great parable of life through death.
She saith unto him: Yea, Lord. The reply admits the τοῦτο; Many seem to think that Martha falls back on theocratic technicality after a high flight of faith, and leaves the solution of her deepest anxieties to the Lord. I have believed, not now for the first time, that thou art the Christ of all our highest hopes and of our prophetic Scriptures—the Son of God in the sense in which Nathanael, and the healed blind man, and the heroic Peter, and John the Baptist have regarded thee, not now dawning on the world as an unexpected apparition, but long since awaited—even he that cometh into the world, the Hope of all, in fact, the Resurrection and the Life because the Christ, and the Christ because the Son of God. In her great faith these deeper truths, just announced, are implicitly involved.
When she had said this, £ she departed, and called Mary her sister secretly. Observe the important emendation of text from ταῦτα to τοῦτο. When she had made this great utterance, her heart is big with hope. The grim shadow of death is now transparent to a heavenly light. She must share her hope with her sister. Jesus gave the commission to fetch Mary, as is obvious from the words of Martha which follow. The term "secretly" (λάθρα), when elsewhere used, precedes the verb with which it is associated, and therefore here it is joined with εἰποῦσα, whispering to her, lest the hostile Jews should hear and intercept the interview. The Master (the Teacher) used absolutely (cf. John 13:13)—is here, and calleth for thee. Sacred summons! Martha expected (as Euthymius suggested) that some blessing might come from his words.
And she, as soon as she heard, arose (aorist) quickly, and went forth to (meet) him (imperfect); or, was £ on the way to come to him—a vivid touch conveyed by the change of tense which has been introduced into the text by the Revisers. The summons is met by prompt obedience, and we see it in immediate resolution and activity.
Now Jesus was not yet come into the village, but was still £ in that place where Martha met him. At no great distance from the grave or from the village. The Lord probably sought to comfort the sisters apart from the crowd. Thus say most commentators. This is not in the text. If it were his purpose, it was frustrated. Hengstenberg thinks our Lord did not object to the crowds witnessing the miracle, but if so, it would be without any arrangement on his part.
The Jews therefore who were with her in the house, and were comforting her. If the "Jews" (see note, John 11:19) were comforting Mary, and (John 11:37) recognized his love in its Divine depths, and if (see John 11:45) (πολλοὶ) "many believed on him," and only (τινές) some of them (John 11:46) made the stupendous miracle a new occasion for expressing their inveterate malignity, there is no reason to import the element of hostility into the word ἰδόντες. When they observed Mary, that she suddenly rose and (silently) went out (of the house), followed her, supposing that she goeth £ to the grave to wail there. This custom was followed widely in the East, £ and is still observed in Roman Catholic communities. The word κλαίω is to be carefully distinguished from δακρύω of John 11:35; it denotes the loud expressive wailing and manifestation of grief of which so many instances occur, while the latter word means the shedding of tears. "Wailing" is often the regulated expression of professional grief; "weeping" the irresistible burst of personal sorrow. The first may be violent and obtrusive, the other silent and pathetic.
Mary therefore, when she came where Jesus was, and when she saw him, fell at his feet, and in other ways showed more intensity of feeling than did the energetic sister, who in many ways is the feminine type of what Peter was as a man. She is not altogether silent, but sobbed forth the very words which her sister had uttered before. Thus had they often said one to another while Lazarus was yet alive, "Oh that the Lord Jesus were here!" Lord, said she, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. The position of μου, which in some manuscripts was placed before ἀπέθανεν is here emphatic, as though Mary had in some way especially claimed Lazarus as her brother more than Martha's. She does not add a word of remonstrance or suggestion. She moans forth the same confident expression of her sense of the love and power of Jesus.
(3) The struggle with death.
When Jesus therefore saw her walling, and the Jews wailing who came with her, he was moved with indignation in the spirit, and troubled himself. The sight of the wailing Mary and the wailing Jews, who took up her grief and, according to Oriental custom, adopted her expression of it with loud cries and emphatic gestures, praising the dead, and lamenting his loss, produced a most wonderful impression on the Lord Jesus. Meyer thinks that the contrast between their hypocritical or professional tears and her genuine emotion, the blending of these incongruous elements, the combination of a profound affliction of a dear friend and the simulated grief of his bitter enemies, led him to manifest the feeling here described. But we have no right to import such an element into the scene. The concerted wailing was, however, the occasion of what is described in very remarkable terms, ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν. The first expression occurs again in John 11:38. Westcott says in the three places where it elsewhere occurs there is "the notion of coercion arising out of displeasure," a motion "towards another of anger rather than sorrow." The verb βριμάομαι and its compounds is used in the classics and the LXX. in the sense of hot anger, neither pain nor grief. Luther translated it ergrimmete, and Passow gives no other meaning. This seems generally accepted. But at what was Jesus angered? This can be answered only by deciding whether τῷ πνεύματι is the dative of the object, or whether it is the instrument or sphere of his holy indignation. According to the old Greek expositors, Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact—and they are followed by Alford and Hilgenfeld, the latter of whom finds in it a hint of the Gnostic Christology which, in his opinion, pervades the Gospel—the anger might have been directed against his own human spirit, at that moment tempted into an unfilial strain of sympathy with the mourners; yet, if this be its meaning, why was it that Jesus subsequently wept himself? and why, instead of exciting himself, instead of shuddering with his bitterness of feeling, did he not (as Hengstenberg says) compose and quiet himself? Beside, τῇ ψυχῇ would have been a far more appropriate term to use for the effective and sympathetic part of his nature than πνεύματι. It is possible, if "the spirit" expresses that part of his human nature in special fellowship with the Father, to suppose that he felt a certain antagonism with that within himself which had prompted to some immediate manifestation of Divine power, and to translate, "He sternly checked his spirit." But the miracle of Divine struggle with death followed so immediately that this cannot be the true explanation (Westcott suggests it as an alternative, but not the best interpretation). The τῷ πνεύματι, must be the sphere of his holy wrath, for which we must find some explanation. Meyer's seems (as already said) to be altogether insufficient. So also in our opinion is that of Godet, viz. that this act of victorious conflict with death, on which he was entering, involved his own death-warrant by being the occasion of the last outbreak of malice on the part of the Jews. Such a fact would be out of harmony, not only with the Fourth Gospel, but with the (synoptic) struggle in Gethsemane. Now, without enumerating various other interpretations of the passage, we think Augustine, Erasmus, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Moulton, meet our difficulty by the suggestion that death itself occasioned this indignation. Though, like the good Physician in the house of mourning, he knew the issue of his mighty act, yet he entered with vivid and intense human sympathy into all the primary and secondary sorrows of death. He saw the long procession of mourners from the first to the last, all the reckless agony, all the hopelessness of it, in thousands of millions of instances. There flashed upon his spirit all the terrible moral consequences of which death was the ghastly symbol. lie knew that within a short time he too, in taking upon himself the sins of men, would have taken upon himself their death, and there was enough to rouse in his spirit a Divine indignation, and he groaned and shuddered. He roused himself to a conflict which would be a prelibation of the cross and the burial. He took the diseases of men upon himself when he took them away. He took the death-agony of Lazarus and the humiliation of the grave and the tears of the sisters upon himself when he resolved to cry, "Lazarus, come forth!" and to snatch from the grasp of the grim conqueror for a little while one of his victims. Compare the toil of Hercules in wrestling with death for the wife of Admetus. Compare also John 13:21, where moral proximity to the treacherous heart and ghastly deed and approaching doom of Judas made him once more to shudder.
And he said, Where have ye laid him? They say unto him, Lord, come and see. A strange echo of John 1:39 (cf. Revelation 6:1, Revelation 6:5, Revelation 6:7)—Christ asking for information. The Lord was answered out of his own words. His mind was made up.
Jesus wept. The shortest verse, but one of the most suggestive in the entire Scripture. The great wrath against death is subdued now into tears of love, of sympathy, and of deep emotion. Jesus shed tears of sympathetic sorrow. This is in sacred and eternal refutation of the theory which deprives the incarnate Logos of St. John of human heart and spirit. These tears have been for all the ages a grand testimony to the fullness of his humanity, and also a Diving revelation of the very heart of God (see Isaiah 25:8). It was not a κλαυθμός, as the weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), but profound and wondrous fellow-feeling with human misery in all its forms, then imaged before him in the grave of Lazarus. It is akin to the judicial blindness which has obscured for the Tübingen school so much of the glory of Divine revelation, that Baur should regard this weeping of Jesus as unhistorical.
John 11:36, John 11:37
The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him! But some of them said, Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man also should not die? The effect upon the Ἰουδαῖοι differs here, as always; but if (πολλοὶ, John 11:45) many were favorably impressed, we may believe here that the πολλοὶ said one to another with genuine emotion, "Behold how he loved him!" (ἐφίλει, not ἠγάπα; amabat, not diligebat). Tears are often the expression of love as well as grief. Hengstenberg sees in the cry of the better class of these Jews, "How has he then let him die?" probably he could not have helped him if he would. In the language of the other Jews there was the suggestion of inability, and the ironical hint that the cure of the blind man, which had created so great a commotion, was only a delusion. Perhaps, too, a covert expectation of some further display of wonder-working power. Strauss regards it as unhistorical that the previous restorations from the dead should not be cited. But surely, when John wrote this Gospel, the story of the widow's son and of Jairus's daughter was known throughout the world. And if, in the middle of the second century, this Gospel had been written by a speculative theologian, who deliberately set himself to concoct such a narrative as this, with the view of completing the picture of the vanquisher of Hades, he would most certainly have cited the Galilaean miracles. John, however, is merely recording his own experiences. These Jews at that time may never have heard of either Nain or the daughter of Jairus, and spoke merely of that which was within their own recollection and experience. As they stand here, these words are striking testimony to their historical validity. The Gospel which most unequivocally establishes the claim of our Lord to a Divine Personality or subsistence, is more explicit than any of them in asserting his pure humanity, and giving proofs of it.
Jesus therefore again moved with indignation within himself. The (ἐν ἑαυτῷ) "in himself" is not so forcible an expression as "shuddering in his spirit (John 11:33), but it implies a continuity of grand, holy indignation against the anomaly of death, from which the human family and he as its Representative were suffering (cf. John 11:33). He cometh to the grave. The (μνημεῖον or) tomb is forthwith described as (σπήλαιον) a den, cavern, or cave, from σπέος, spelunca, of which, partly natural, partly artificial, abundant use was made in the East. A stone lay (ἐπ αὐτῷ) against it; or, over it; i.e. either closing it up as a pit, or closing the mouth of it, by being rolled along a ledge horizontal with the base of the excavation. The former kind of cave is shown at Bethany, but no dependence can be placed on the tradition. The tomb of Joseph was that of a rich man, and all these circumstances show opulence, rather than the beggary and rags of the Lazarus of the parable.
Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone. Ἄρατε has rather the idea of "lift" than "roll away;" it is used for "take," "take away," "carry as a burden." Martha, the sister of him that was dead, £ said unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been four days here. Martha's language is another singular illustration of the desire on her part to give a certain kind of advice and direction to our Lord, as though he might be the wiser and bettor for her monitions. The characterization of her as "£the sister of the dead" man is not needed for identification, but rather to explain or justify her intrusion upon the solemn, stately direction of the Lord. She shrank from such an exposure of the body of her beloved brother, as an unnecessary act, since he was only to rise at the last day, or to be regarded by his faith in Christ before his death as having already passed from death and through death into a new life. She must have relinquished at that moment all hope of resurrection of the body of Lazarus there and then: ἤδη ὄζει, "he already stinketh." This is explained by many of the Fathers as proof that our Lord not only raised from death-swoon Jairus's daughter, and the young man on his way to burial, but also a putrefying corpse; thus giving three symbols of the effects of sin:
(1) a young life blighted;
(2) a man's energies dissipated and his condition apparently hopeless; and
(3) a type also of one dead in trespasses and sins (Trench on the Miracles)
—one whose habits of trespass and bondage to evil seem to forbid all renewal. Godet thinks that Martha had special reasons for such a speech. Others, that all that we have here is the speculation or lanai of Martha, and that it must be so. She puts one more arrest, as it would seem, upon the free act and love of Jesus. This seems quite sufficient to account for the use of the word. It would seem that, for some reason, the body had not been fully embalmed, or she would not have used the expression. Still, all had been done with spices and perfumes that was intended. The Tübingen criticism eagerly lays hold on this point, as proof that the fourth evangelist intended by such a touch to exalt and exaggerate the wonder-working power of Christ. There is no need whatever to see in it more than Martha's sisterly love getting the better of her submission to her Master's order. Τετερταῖος γάρ ἐστι, £ "For he is of the fourth day (dead) (buried)." On the fourth day the countenance changes, and, as the Jewish proverb urged, the spirit takes its flight from the sepulcher, and no longer hovers over the departed form.
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldst see the glory of God? This was a probable reference to the language of John 11:4, and also to the teaching of John 11:25, John 11:26, where our Lord had encouraged her imperfect faith in himself to become a veritable vision of Divine glory. Out of the deepest humiliation comes the highest glory, The putrefaction of the grave is a stepping-stone to his throne. More is meant than the physical resurrection of Lazarus. She would or might by faith see the glory of Divine power and love which would, by what was about to happen, dawn upon her. Christ was going to prove to faith that he could and would destroy the power of death, rob him of sting, swallow up the grave in victory, and proclaim the everlasting curse of this mysterious flesh of ours to be a vanquished foe.
Then they took away the stone [£ from the place where the dead was laid]. They lifted the stone, and Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven. This is not to be taken as an ordinary prayer, but a thanksgiving for prayer already heard. "Jesus lifted up his eyes," i.e. to heaven—to that sublime symbol of the infinite activity of God, which surrounds us day and night, and which is in numerous religious systems made a type and image of the Divine Being himself; nor does our modern conception of the universe dethrone it from this high place. Christ's language is thanksgiving that God has already heard him. Godet and Hengstenberg say that Jesus thanked God in anticipation of the miracle, as though it were already done. Meyer and Alford look back to some earlier prayers. But surely there is some reason for the thanksgiving. The stone is lifted, or removed; there lies the corpse, but no dank sepulchral vapor issues from it; rather some sign is given that prayer offered by Christ had been already heard, and that death has not made the havoc with the frame which would otherwise have occurred. Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. When he uttered the prayer we cannot say; but we know that his mind was greatly exercised concerning his friend before he left Peraea. His words confess that his wishes have been in harmony with the Divine eternal will. So elsewhere the Lord tells his disciples, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you;" i.e. "your desires will be in harmony with the Divine purpose; you will not be able to pray for anything either temporal or spiritual which God will not bestow, has not indeed prepared himself to bestow and you to receive." This is the true mystery and meaning of prayer. The hypothesis of the twofold nature of Christ, instead of being shipwrecked on the fact of his prayers and intercessions, throws light on the very nature of prayer itself.
And I knew that thou hearest me always, but because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me. This great utterance declares all the intimate relation which subsists between the Father of all and the Son in Jesus. A continuous absolute communion is ever going on between heaven and earth in the heart of Jesus. His consciousness of the Father is a door opened in heaven. Alas! these words have been a stumbling-block to many; have suggested to Baur the idea of a "show-prayer," and to Weisse a "deceptive prayer" (schaugebet), and to Strauss that they were introduced into a later but in-authentic narrative of the second century to establish the Divinity of Christ. The simple fact is that the words are not "petition" at all, but they are spoken thought and Divine communion, graciously unveiled for the advantage of the disciples. They are built upon the wonderful assurance which had been repeatedly given by our Lord of his union with and association in unique Personality with the Father. We see from John 16:29-31 that the profound desire occupying the heart of Jesus was that his disciples, first of all, should know that he came out from God, and almost with pathetic eagerness he asks them, "Do ye now believe?" But in John 17:21 he shows that his wishes were not limited to the faith of disciples, but extended to the production of a like conviction in the κόσμος. Here he says, after a pause, "I know that thou art hearing me always." There is no surprise in the discovery that Lazarus was as he really is. Christ's own prayers are always heard, even those in Gethsemane and on the cross (cf. Hebrews 5:7, εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας). I said it for the multitude that standeth around. The use of ὄχλον περιεστῶτα rather than Ἰουδαίους reveals the genuine language of our Lord rather than that of the evangelist. To what does he refer, what saying has he uttered for the sake of this miscellaneous group? Surely to the great declaration, "I thank thee that thou heardest me." His reason for the audible utterance of his gratitude is, "That they may believe that thou didst send me." If he had not uttered this thanksgiving, the multitude would have glorified him rather than his Father, nor would they have learned, as now they may, that he came forth from God.
And when he had thus spoken, he cried with loud voice. Ἐκραύγασε is used of the shout of a multitude (John 12:13, R.T.; John 18:40; John 19:6, John 19:15), and implies the loud, imperative command to Death to give up his prey, and relinquish the grasp which had, in answer to his prayer, been already relaxed. The loud voice keeps up the image that death is a deep sleep. The critical moment in Christ's own career has arrived, when, having pledged the rather to this manifestation of his own glory, he was prepared to take this final step, however perilous to himself; one which would finally demonstrate whether he was sent from God, or was merely boasting a power he did not possess (cf. Elijah and the priests of Baal, 1 Kings 18:1-46.). Observe the loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! or, (Hither, out!); or, Veni foras! (Origen, Chrysostom, Lampe, suggest that the awakening from death had already taken place. Meyer and Alford condemn this. It seems to me that this supposition. somewhat modified as above, throws light upon John 11:41, John 11:42.) The words themselves are applicable to a grave from which the stone door had been removed. Weiss has made some admirable remarks on the use made by the Tübingen critics of this admission. In many cases in which such miracles took place the soul had obviously not left the body, but yet the entire surroundings here imply that, apart from miraculous energy, resuscitation was absolutely un-looked for. Even Strauss refuses utterly the trance hypothesis, and Renan has renounced the farcical drama that he thought at one time might account for the event and its record.
£He that (had died and) was (up to that time) dead, came out (of the grave), bound feet and hands with grave-bands. The swathing of the limbs after the Egyptian fashion, each limb separately, renders the action most natural, because ἐξῆλθεν is used. Lazarus did not simply stand in his grave. The early commentators and Stier saw in this emergence of the swathed Lazarus an additional miracle, just as they augmented the force of the supposition involved in the ὄζει, into the fact that our Lord raised from death a putrefy-tug corpse. Both suppositions would be unnecessary adjuncts of the proof of the glory of God and power of Christ. Lucke and others refer to the habit of swathing separate limbs, but in such a way as not to impede motion if the person thus swathed desired it. Meyer and Godet see no necessity for the suggestion of the early writers. Kuinoel thinks that ἐξῆλθε was used of the mere struggle of the swathed body to escape. The above supposition is the most probable. So Westcott. (Κειρία, an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον of the New Testament, is used of girdle or bandage.) And his face was bound about with a napkin. The surrounding of the face with a sudarium is the touch of an eyewitness. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and suffer him to depart; the part which bystanders might perform; this was the wise advice of Friend and Teacher. (For similar injunctions of a physical and practical kind on other occasions, see Luke 7:15 and Luke 8:55.) The majestic miracle is no further pressed by the evangelist, but left to tell its own sublime meaning, which in the multiplicity of exegetical hypotheses we are in danger of missing.
"Behold a man raised up by Christ.
The rest remaineth unrevealed—
He told it not; or something sealed
The lips of that evangelist."
(4) The effect of the miracle (sign) upon the multitude and on the authorities. Their final resolve, and its bearing upon the great sacrifice of Calvary.
John 11:45, John 11:46
Many therefore of the Jews which came to Mary, and beheld that £ which he £ did, believed on him; but certain of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. Πρὸς τὴν, Μαρίαν. Here Mary is named alone, as the sister who was most deeply afflicted by the death of Lazarus, and most in need of friendly consolation (cf. also John 5:1). This clause may be read so as to include those who went to communicate the startling intelligence to the Pharisees among the πολλοὶ of the Jews who went to comfort Mary and who "believed;" on the ground that οἱ ἐλθόντες is in apposition with πολλοὶ, not (according to the text of D, τῶν ἐλθόντων) with Ἰουδαίων. This, however, would imply that all of them believed, and that the τινὲς went to the Pharisees with no hostile intent (Meyer); but why should not ἐξ αὐτῶν refer to the Ἰουδαίων, implying another set not of the friends of Mary (Godet)? The remark would then be in harmony with the fact to which the evangelist continually calls attention, that Christ's miracles and words produced a twofold effect, and made a frequent division among the Jews, thus bringing to light who were and who were not his true disciples. The same facts excited faith in some and roused animosity in others. The great sign has been dividing men into hostile camps ever since. As Browning's Arab physician said-
"'Tis well to keep back nothing of a case.
This man (Lazarus) so cured regards the Curer then
As—God forgive me—who but God himself,
Creator and Sustainer of the world,
That came and dwelt in flesh on it awhile …
The very God! Think, Abib; dost thou think?
So the All-great were the All-loving too;
So through the thunder comes a human voice,
Saying, 'O heart I maple, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself.'"
The chief priests and Pharisees therefore gathered a council. If a formal meeting of the great council, if "the Sanhedrin," had been summoned, the article would have been used. (On the Sanhedrin, see Winer, art. "Sanhedrin," in his 'Bib. R. Wort.;' Lange, in loc.; Edersheim, vol. 2:553, etc. This name is Greek (though Hebraized in the Talmud), and signifies the supreme court of the people, resident in Jerusalem, consisting of seventy-one members, with a president, Nasi, and a vice-president, Ab-baith-den.) Extraordinary sessions of the Sanhedrin were called at the house of the high priest, but ordinary sessions in some rooms adjoining the temple. The points submitted to their cognizance were hierarchical and religious. They had at this time lost their actual power of inflicting capital punishment. They were a court of appeal from lower courts in the province, framed after the same model. Pharisees and Sadducees were alike to be found in their number. The family of Annas, his sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, were all Sadducees, and embraced the priestly part of the assembly. They were the most deadly enemies of Christ throughout. The Pharisees are scarcely again mentioned in the account of the Passion. The priestly Sadducean party became also bitter enemies of Christianity and of the Church during apostolic times. Here they take the initiative. And they said, What are we about? because this Man is (as we must admit) doing many signs, which will produce a perilous effect among the people. There were certain aspects and views both of the Pharisaic and Sadducean party with which our Lord's teaching coincided. When he denounced ritualism, literalism, and tradition, and laid emphasis on moral law, he had to some extent the ear of the Sadducees; when he cleansed the temple of the priestly bazaar, when he rebuked the secular conceptions of Messianic glory, the Pharisees inwardly rejoiced. Nevertheless, they had both too many g-rounds of criticism and dislike not to combine against him. The council of the nation found it a delicate and difficult task to frame charges in which the entire authorities of the nation and the popular clamor could coincide.
If we let him alone thus, as we have been doing hitherto—if we suffer him to do these things—all men will believe on him, and the Romans will come and take away from us, i.e. from the Sanhedrin, from the lawful rulers in all matters affecting religious order or privilege, our place—the city or temple—and the nation, which we rule through our subordinates and surrogates, but to accomplish which we shall prove our incompetence if we cannot keep down all insubordination and hold perilous enthusiasm in check. De Wette and Hengstenberg strongly urge that by τόπον was meant the temple, "the dwelling-place and seat of the whole people" (Psalms 84:4; Psalms 27:4; cf. Matthew 23:38). Ewald, Godet, Meyer, Watkins, consider τόπον to be the city, the seat of all the power of the nation, spiritual and civil. The nation was a province of the Roman empire, but the hierarchy was still invested with great powers.
But a certain one of them, (named) Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all. Among the divided interests and irresolute fears of the Pharisees, who had not made up their minds as to the right course to pursue, "one of them," i.e. of the council, a man of firm will and hectoring disposition, had a clear though devilish purpose of political expediency, and a stern resolve, if he could, to repress the inconvenient manifestation of religious earnestness—Caiaphas. We know that Annas is spoken of as ἀρχιερεὺς in John 18:15, John 18:19. And Annas and Caiaphas are both said to be "high priests" (Luke 3:2). In Acts 4:6 Annas is spoken of as high priest, Caiaphas being associated with "John and Alexander." This becomes more comprehensible when we learn from Josephus ('Ant.,' John 18:2. John 18:2 and 4. 3) that valerius Gratus (in the year A.D. 14) had deprived Annas (or Hanan, Ananias, Ananas) of the office, "when he had held it for seven years." So great, however, was the influence of Annas, that, either to consult his temper or that of the people, who would consider him the legal high priest, the office was conferred upon members of his family in succession, first on Ishmael, then on Eleazer the son of Ishmael, then on Simon his son, and finally on Joseph Caiaphas to be the son-in-law of Annas, thus explaining his appointment on the one hand, and the continued influence on the other of the unscrupulous Annas, who was high priest de jure). Joseph Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 25 to A.D. 36, and thus throughout the ministry of Jesus. The apostle's remark (repeated John 18:13) that he was "high priest that same year" has been set down by Strauss, Scholton, and others to ignorance on the part of the writer of the Hebrew law of the priesthood. This is excessively improbable, even with a late author of the second century, who evidently knew as much concerning Judaea and its history as the author of the Fourth Gospel did indubitably possess. It is enough that the evangelist singles out "that memorable year" (Lucke, Meyer and Lunge, etc.) of the death of Christ; and remarks on the man who was holding the position at this solemn time, with obvious reference to the fact that now for many years the functions of the high priest were discharged only at the pleasure of the Roman governor, who might, as Caiaphas himself said, abolish the office altogether if he chose arbitrarily to do so. The first words of Caiaphas, "Ye know nothing at all," are brusque, rough, imperious, but are quite akin to what we know elsewhere of the manners of the man (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' John 2:8. John 2:14), and of the aristocratic clique of which he was the head.
Nor £ consider; or, nor do ye take account. Hengstenberg shows that where this verb (λογίζεσθε) elsewhere occurs, it is used intransitively, and with this Godet agrees; then they take ὅτι, as "because" or for it is expedient for you (the text ὑμῖν is preferred by Meyer, Godet, Westcott and Herr, and the Revised. The chief difference in thought is that it makes the language somewhat more dogmatic, Caiaphas hardly classing himself for the moment with such irresolute companions) that one man should die for ("on behalf of" amounting to "instead of") the people—i.e. for the theocratic organization, whose were the promises, to whom was given the dominion—and not that the entire nation (the political aggregation) perish. Some have supposed (like Lange) Divine purpose lurking in the ἵνα; but it was rather the maxim of worldly expediency of half-paganized superstition allied in this form to the sacrifice of Codrus, or of Iphigenia, viz. that the extinction of guiltless and innocent victims may be demanded by political necessity, and must be determined upon at once, by the chief court of equity and criminal judicature in the nation. If, thought he, the multitudes accept this Sabbath-breaker, this Worker of miracles, this religious Enthusiast, this moral Reformer, for their Messiah, the Romans will crush the movement, will stamp out the entire religious order; "we" shall be annihilated as a power, the "nation" will be abolished as such. It is more expedient that this one man should suffer than that the whole of our position should be sacrificed.
John 11:51, John 11:52
The evangelist discerned the presence of a deeper meaning in his words not intended by himself. As Balaam and Nebuchadnezzar and even Pharaoh had uttered unconscious or unwilling prophecies, and as in all genuine prophecies there are meanings meant by God beyond what the utterer of them at all conceived possible. So here. This he spake not from himself: but being high priest that awful, critical year, he prophesied. The high priest was believed in ancient times to have the power of drawing from Urim and Thummim the Divine decisions as to future events: "He saved others; himself he cannot save!" (Mark 15:31); when the people said, "His blood be upon us" (Matthew 27:25); when Pilate, by unconscious prophecy, ironically declared him to be "King of the Jews" (Matthew 27:37). Wunsche quotes a curious case of unconscious prophecy, which the rabbinical writers attributed to Pharaoh's daughter, when she forecast the future legislator in the infant derelict. The substance of the prophetic word extracted from his saying was that Jesus should die for the nation. Hengstenberg wisely says, "Caiaphas could not have spoken other than of the λαός." When John wrote, the difference between the λαός and the ἔθνη had vanished away. Israel had become an ἔθνος, like the rest. And not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one (λαόν) the children of God scattered abroad—constitute a new center, life-giving and sacred in the covenant of his blood (cf. 1 John 2:2, a very remarkable parallelism). Who are the τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ διεσκορπισμένα? According to some, the dispersed Israelites, but surely the passage corresponds with the "other sheep," of John 10:16, and refers to all who enter by living faith in him into the full realization of the Divine Fatherhood (see John 1:12 and Ephesians 2:14) and their own sonship. Christ is the true Union of Jew and Gentile.
Therefore from that clay they took counsel £ to slay him. The οὖν shows that the advice of Caiaphas was followed, and whereas before this, minor courts and synagogues had plotted the ruin of Jesus, and they themselves had excommunicated his followers (John 9:1-41.), yet, after this evil counsel, they deliberated on the surest and safest way of destroying him. The sentence had gone forth. They bound themselves to secure his arrest for this purpose. Some of their number, a small minority, including Joseph of Arimathaea, disapproved of this counsel, and withdrew from their society (Luke 23:51), but the majority overruled the dissidents. This is the very climax of their perversity. They have resolved on the death-penalty. The sentence has been recorded against the Holiest. Priesthood and prophecy have pronounced their final verdict. They have extinguished themselves. Nevertheless, that which proved the occasion of their malice became a further proof of his Divine goodness and superhuman claims.
This constituted the close of his earthly ministry after his ordinary method. Jesus therefore walked (cf. John 7:1) no more openly (παῤῥησίᾳ; cf. John 7:4) among the Jews; but he deputed thence into the country nigh unto the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim. Westcott says the place is mentioned in connection with Bethel (2 Chronicles 13:19). Not far from Bethel, on the border between Benjamin and Ephraim, is Taiyibeh a conical hill with a village perched aloft, which Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2:127) and Stanley identify with this Ephraim. In this form the word does not appear in the Old Testament, but Ensebius and Jerome make it twelve miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the road leading to Sichem; and Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' John 4:9.John 4:9) speaks of "two little towns of Bethela and Ephraim, through which vespasian passed and left garrisons." Hengstenberg identifies it with "Baal-hazor, which is by Ephraim" (2 Samuel 13:23). The maps of van der Welt and of the Palestine Exploration Society place it on the site of Ephraim, Ephron (2 Chronicles 13:19), or Ophrah (Joshua 18:23), about seven miles north-east from Bethel, and give as second designation Apharaim. The intelligence must have reached our Lord that the Sanhedrin had formally pronounced sentence against him. This may have induced him to retire from Jerusalem until the next great feast, when he would publicly challenge their allegiance. From this neighborhood our Lord could (as we learn from the synoptists) have easily joined the caravan from Persea, which, after crossing Jordan near Jericho, there set its face towards Jerusalem, or the caravan which may have come through Samaria to Bethel. There he abode a (tarried) with the disciples. Μετὰ (says Godet) is not synonymous with σύν, but equivalent to—he confined himself in the desert region north-east of Jerusalem to the company of the twelve.
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand: and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, that they might purify themselves. Ἐκ τῆς χώρας meant "from the country" generally. Though the Law did not specifically recommend purification "before the Passover," yet the general principle of ceremonial cleansings had been applied to the Feast of the Passover (see 2 Chronicles 30:16-20; Acts 21:24). The time required varied from one to six days (Exodus 19:10, Exodus 19:11; Numbers 9:10).
They sought therefore for Jesus, and said one with another, as they stood in the temple. Their excitement augmented from day to day; they dreaded and hoped for the final conflict. Not being aware of his retreat, not caring, perhaps, to dispatch him by hired assassins, they determined in the most public way, on a great platform, to complete the deep damnation of his taking off, little forecasting their eternal infamy. They were in continual search for Jesus, and spake in excited groups when they met, asking one another eager questions when they stood in the temple. The evangelist has witnessed the scene; these are two inquiries mentioned: What think ye, generally? Think ye that he will not come to the feast? The aorist subjunctive is used here in the sense of an event in the future which when effected will be a completed act; so that the statement gives a reason for the excitement among the people.
£Now the chief priests and Pharisees had given commandment, that, if any one knew where he was, he should indicate it, that they might take him. This would not have been a difficult task. Jesus and twelve men could hardly have been hidden from their spies. The country people must have been faithful to him, and the edicts were issued rather to intimidate the people than to secure the immediate end; but they were quite sufficient to excite the inquiries of Galilaeans and others who had gone to Jerusalem for the main purpose of seeing him. The interdict had been aimed probably at the family of Bethany, which was clearly one of some consequence, or against any household in Jerusalem which should harbor him. It may have been the occasion which stirred the devilish spirit in the mind of Judas. So long as Jesus was surrounded with an enthusiastic crowd, they dared not seize his person. They resolved on secrecy, but were bent on public humiliation.
The raising of Lazarus.
This event, a third good work, hastened the final crisis.
I. THE BETHANY FAMILY. "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha."
1. Their home. It was a small village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, two miles from Jerusalem. It is familiar to us in the earlier Gospels as the place to which our Lord resorted from time to time for happy retirement. It remains the sweetest spot in the memory of the Christian Church.
2. The members of the home.
(a) It is a suggestive circumstance that the parable of Dives and Lazarus was spoken about the time of the Bethany miracle. Yet there is no ground for believing that this Lazarus was the beggar of the parable.
(b) He was stricken with a mortal disease, perhaps the fever so common in the country. Though specially dear to our Lord, as well as his sisters, he enjoyed no exemption from the ordinary afflictions of life.
(2) Mary. "It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair." Her name is mentioned before Martha's, on account of this touching incident.
(a) The incident here recorded was "to be told for a memorial of her wheresoever this gospel had been preached" (Matthew 26:13). The other evangelists do not give her name. Her act marked at once her true faith and her abiding affection.
(b) Mary was distinguished from her sister by her contemplative religious spirit. She sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words, while Martha was busied with practical duties (Luke 10:40).
(3) Martha. She was probably the eldest of the family.
(a) She had evidently the chief care of-the house.
(b) She was of a practical turn, full of resource, and less given to emotion than Mary.
II. THEIR MESSAGE TO JESUS. "Lord, he whom thou loves is sick."
1. It was a message full of delicacy; for it did not urge him to come. The sisters knew that, even from Peraea, it was possible for Jesus to put forth his power of healing; while they could not but know of the perils of an immediate return to Judaea.
2. It emphasized the tender affection with which Jesus regarded Lazarus, and which made it right that he should be informed at once of his friend's danger.
III. OUR LORD'S REMARK UPON THE MESSAGE OF SORROW. "This sickness is not unto death, but it is for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."
1. Our Lord did not signify that Lazarus would not die, but that death would not be the ultimate result of this sickness.
2. The sickness had a double aspect.
(1) It was to be borne by Lazarus "for the glory of God."
(2) With an ultimate design of glorifying his Son.
(a) Our Lord reiterates the oneness of the work of the Father and the Son.
(b) The raising of Lazarus would bring to a head that hostility of the Jews which would involve his death, and, through death, his glorification.
IV. THE MYSTERIOUS DELAY OF JESUS IN PERAEA. "When then he had heard that he was sick, he remained yet two days in the place where he was."
1. This delay, in so urgent a crisis, is all the more mysterious, because "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Yet Lazarus had already died when the messenger arrived from Bethany. Our Lord's instant departure could not, therefore, have averted death.
2. His delay might be caused
(1) by the necessities of his work at Peraea;
(2) but, more probably, by the necessity of making the miracle more striking and the result more fruitful. The delay of two days could make no difference to the surviving sisters in respect of their brother's death.
3. His departure for Judaea was the proof at once of his affection, his courage, and his knowledge. "Then after that he saith to his disciples, Let us go again into Judaea." The word recalls at once the region of hostility and unbelief from which he had just escaped.
V. THE REMONSTRANCE OF THE DISCIPLES AT HIS RESOLUTION. "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?"
1. They think of the danger to him, and are not regardless of the danger to themselves. (John 11:16.)
2. Men often allow their fears to stand in the way of duty.
VI. OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO THEIR REMONSTRANCE.
1. Every man has his twelve working hours of life. "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" The work must be
They were believers already.
(2) But he contemplated the increase of their faith as a necessity in view of their coming trials. The disciples themselves once asked, with one voice, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5).
4. The loving resolve of Thomas. "Then said Thomas, who is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him."
(1) Thomas's name is mostly coupled with Matthew, whose twin-brother he possibly was.
(2) He regards the journey with the gloomiest apprehensions. He judges rightly that the death of Jesus will be the end of it.
(3) Yet his love to the Lord nerves him to share in the risks of the Judaean journey. He will follow his Master even unto death.
Jesus and Martha.
Our Lord had at last come to the neighborhood of Bethany, but not to the village itself.
I. THE CONDOLENCE OF THE JEWS WITH THE BEREAVED SISTERS. "And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother."
1. This visit of sympathy implies that the family at Bethany was well known and highly respected by the Jews of Jerusalem.
2. It afforded a providential opportunity to Jesus for the working of his last miracle in sight of the Jews.
3. The time of bereavement is the time that demands all the resources of consolation. The days of mourning were divided among the Jews into three periods of three days of weeping, seven days of lamentation, and twenty days of sorrow.
II. THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN JESUS AND MARTHA. "Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat in the house." The different character of the two sisters is revealed in these words.
1. Martha would evidently be the first to receive the news of Christ's coming. Not so much, perhaps, because the message would be first brought to her as the mistress of the house, as because, going about the house in the busy routine of her life, she would be in the way of first receiving intelligence.
2. Mary's profound feeling, that made her a better listener than Martha, makes her a more helpless sufferer now. She sits still in the house. She is not so capable as Martha of shaking off her depression at once.
3. Martha's address to our Lord shows that she is not so overwhelmed by grief as to prevent her utterance. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, our brother had not died."
(1) This is not the language of complaint, for she does not say, "Lord, if thou hadst come, our brother had not died." She must have known that Lazarus was dead before the tidings could have reached the Lord.
(2) It is the simple language of faith and love; for she seems to say that death could not have entered the happy home at Bethany in the face of Divine power and Divine love. She is even sure that now he was able to restore her departed brother to life. "Whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." She remembered, no doubt, the two Galilaean miracles of resurrection.
4. Our Lord's answer to Martha's touching appeal. "Thy brother shall rise again."
(1) He alludes evidently to the miracle about to be performed.
(2) A belief in the resurrection of pious Jews was already familiar, as an inauguration of the reign of the Messiah, from the language of Daniel (Daniel 12:2) and from the Maccabees. Death is not the final conqueror.
5. Martha' s apparent misunderstanding of his saying. "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
(1) Her rejoinder, marked by a spirit of mournful resignation, goes back upon the belief of the final resurrection, which, however, had no direct bearing upon her present bereavement. There is an evident touch of disappointment in her words.
6. Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.
(1) He is the Resurrection,
(a) as he is "the First-Begotten from the dead" (Colossians 1:18);
(b) as he is the Author or Cause of the resurrection of believers: "I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54);
(c) as his resurrection involves their resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23).
(2) He is the Life. Jesus goes beyond resurrection to life itself.
(a) He is eternal Life.
(b) He gives his life for his people.
(c) He is the Life of his people (Colossians 3:3).
(d) His life in glory is the guarantee of the believer's life. "Because I live, ye shall live also."
(e) He is the Life of both soul and body in the resurrection (Romans 8:11).
(3) Faith which unites the believer to Christ admits of no severance by death. "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall be live." This sentence might apply to Lazarus in his tomb. As a true believer, though now in the power of death, he would yet be restored to life. Or it might apply, generally, to sinners who accept Christ as Savior.
(a) They are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1).
(b) Yet when quickened by God's Spirit they believe upon Christ.
(c) And their faith ensures life spiritual and everlasting. "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
(α) The faith and life are regarded as equivalent terms, because they are inseparably joined together.
(β) Death cannot break the continuity of Christian life. The second death does not touch it at all.
7. Martha's triumphant faith. Jesus says, "Believest thou this? She said unto him, Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."
(1) This was a prompt and full acceptance of the revelation just made to her.
(2) It marks likewise the foundation upon which that revelation rested.
(a) Jesus was Christ, the end of the theocratic prophecies and promises;
(b) the Son of God, dwelling in mysterious relation with God, and therefore able to act as Daysman between God and man, and restore the long-broken fellowship;
(c) making the world the theatre of his Divine power in resurrection and life. Her confession was the simple but profound acknowledgment of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus and Mary.
Our Lord deals with Mary according to her nature and temperament.
I. THE SECRET MESSAGE TO MARY. "She went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee."
1. Jesus, though he would not fly from danger, does not seek it. He did not care to attract the notice of the Jews who were with Mary. Otherwise he would at once have gone to the house of mourning.
2. How promptly but silently Mary acts upon the invitation! The true Comforter is at hand. She may well shake off her depression.
3. How blessed it is to meet Christ anywhere, but especially at his own invitation!
II. MARY'S DECLARATION TO HER LORD, AND HER LORD'S ANSWER. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, our brother had not died."
1. The same thought occupied the minds of the two sisters, and perhaps that of Lazarus in his dying hour. But she adds not a word more, either in the way of faith or hope—unlike Martha—but falls prostrate at his feet, the place where she delighted to lie.
2. Mark how differently Jesus treats Mary. He does not minister to her faith by discourse like that which he addressed to Martha, but he shares silently in her grief. What a Friend! What a Brother is here! Yea, more than a brother.
3. He is profoundly agitated in spirit, partly by his sympathy with the sorrowing sisters, partly by the check that he puts upon the manifestation by his emotions, and partly by the hypocrisy of the Jews. "He shuddered in his spirit, and troubled himself, and said, Where have ye laid him?"
4. He at last gives way to his emotion. "Jesus wept." What tears are these which the spirit of inspiration has crystallized and set like gems in the diadem of truth! Strange to find the Lord, who is just about to put forth Divine power, standing a weeper at a Jewish grave.
(1) It shows that he was such a High Priest as became us, that "cannot but be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15).
(2) It touched even the Jewish spectators by the spectacle of his love for the sisters.
5. The hostile Jews found in it cause for sneering irony. "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?"
(1) The question might be interpreted as indicating a suspicion of the reality of Christ's friendship for Lazarus,
(2) or a doubt as to his possession of miraculous power at all.
There is a fresh struggle in the soul of Jesus, perhaps caused by the malicious observations of the Jews.
I. JESUS COMMANDS THE STONE TO BE ROLLED AWAY FROM THE SEPULCHER. "Take ye away the stone."
1. This command suggests that where human power is sufficient, Divine power will not be put forth. A word from Jesus could have taken away the stone as easily as a word raised Lazarus to life. The action of Jesus suggests the economy of miracle so observable in Scripture history.
2. The command was evidently given to convince the spectators that Lazarus was, indeed, a dead man. The pent-up odors of putrefaction would in such a hot climate convince the spectators that there could be no imposture or collusion in the case. It was evidently the thought of this disagreeable circumstance that led Martha to say, "Lord, by this time he stinketh; he hath been there four days."
3. The incident suggests that there is a sphere for human agency in connection with the salvation of men. The miracle is symbolic, like all Christ's miracles. It is possible for man to bring man within the knowledge of salvation. Jesus seems to say to the Christian Church, "Roll away the stone of ignorance and superstition from the hapless heathen by imparting Bible knowledge." He says, even, to professing Christians, "Roll away the stone that lies as an obstacle in your own family to the salvation of your children." Many an obstacle may stand in Christian households in the way of youthful conversions.
II. THE PRAYER OF JESUS AS A PREFACE TO THE MIRACLE. "Father, I thank thee because thou hast heard me."
1. It is more a thanksgiving than a prayer.
(1) It implies that the prayer for rower to do the miracle had been already offered up and already heard.
(2) It implies that there was at all times the most perfect conformity between the will of Christ and the will of his Father.
2. His design in this miracle was to dispose the Jews to see in it the glory of God. "I said it because of the people who surround me, that they may believe that thou hast sent me." They attributed his cure of the blind man to the work of a demon or to deception. By his prayer Jesus makes his Father a Participator in the miracle.
III. THE MIRACLE. "And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth!"
1. The loud voice contrasts with the retired incantations of sorcerers, and is the expression of an authoritative Divine will.
2. The voice does not say, "Lazarus, come to life!" but "come forth!" "They may be alive to Christ who are dead to us."
3. That voice of power suggests
(1) that it is the voice of Jesus that pierces the hearts of sinners and quickens them to spiritual life;
(2) that it is the same voice that will be heard in the end of the world, saying, "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment."
4. The immediate effect of the voice. "And he that was dead came forth, his feet and hands bound with bandages, and his face wrapped in a napkin."
(1) It must have been a strange awaking to Lazarus after four days' experience of death. But Scripture gives us no record of his death-experiences.
(2) His first movements would be restricted by the grave-clothes. His appearance at the mouth of the sepulcher in that strange guise suggests, in the spiritual sphere, that:
(a) Christian men, especially those converted late in life, find themselves hindered by the "grave-clothes" of old habits.
(b) The grave-clothes ought soon to be laid aside that believers may walk free and unimpeded in the vigor of their new life.
(c) Our Lord's command, "Loose him, and let him go," suggests
(α) the propriety of the new powers being freed from restriction;
(β) the influence of Christian men in helping to unbind the burdens that habit may have fastened upon the individual life.
The effect of the miracle on the spectators.
There is still the same division among the Jews as on the occasion of every miracle.
I. THE MIRACLE ACTS WITH CONVINCING POWER. "Then many of the Jews, those who had come to Mary, and had seen the things which he did, believed in him."
1. They saw in the miracle the evidence of his Messiahship, and heartily accepted Christ as their Redeemer.
2. It was a providentially happy visit that led them to Bethany on that day. They came to comfort the sisters, and found for themselves "the Consolation of Israel."
II. THE MIRACLE ACTS LIKEWISE WITH A REPELLENT POWER. "But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done."
1. They had a strange story to tell, which it was impossible to gainsay.
2. It was a hostile motive that prompted the errand to the Pharisees, the implacable enemies of Christ.
The decision of the Sanhedrin.
The miracle at Bethany had still more momentous effects.
I. THE MEETING OF THE SANHEDRIN. "Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What are we doing? for this Man doeth many miracles."
1. It was a conjunction of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, for the chief priests belonged to the Sadducean faction. A common danger engaged them in a common cause.
2. They frankly admitted, not only the Bethany miracle, but other miracles that Jesus did, but did not on that account recognize his Messiahship.
3. They received the success of Jesus in making converts with alarm, as likely to destroy the nation. "If we let him thus alone, all will believe on him; and the Romans will come and destroy both our place and our nation."
(1) The dread of the Roman power was always present to the Jewish mind of that generation because of the determination with which it had once and again crushed Jewish revolts.
(2) The authorities feared that if the Messiah were recognized-generally as "King of Israel" there might be a fresh rising, which would lead to the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the whole nation.
II. THE DIABOLIC SUGGESTION OF CAIAPHAS. "But one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, and do not reflect that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
1. This Caiaphas was a Sadducee, and held the office of high priest from 25 till 36 of our era, and therefore during that momentous year.
2. His suggestion was purely political, and involved nothing less than the destruction of an innocent man to save the Jewish commonwealth. It was a truly diabolic suggestion; for, though the representative of God, Caiaphas holds that it is right to do evil that good may come. He does not suggest that Jesus was guilty of any crime. A perfectly innocent man was to be sacrificed for the public advantage.
3. The evil suggestion was an unconscious prophecy. "Now this he spake 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 also that he should gather together in one body the children of God that were scattered."
(1) It was the function of the high priest to announce the decision of the Most High for the benefit of the people.
(2) The declaration of Caiaphas was a prophecy in the literal sense, though he had himself no true sense of its blessed import.
(3) It was not unusual for God to make evil men the organs of prophetic communication. Caiaphas, like Balsam, declared the mind of God.
(4) The prophecy had a wider scope than the high priest imagined, for it spoke of the death of Christ as having relation to Gentiles as well as Jews. The children of God everywhere were to be gathered into one body in Christ.
III. THE EFFECTS OF CAIAPHAS'S EVIL COUNSEL. "Then from that day forth they took counsel to put him to death."
1. This shows the baneful influence of evil counsel. The Sanhedrin were ready to act upon the fatal advice of the high priest. There was no longer any hesitation or irresolution among the rulers of the people.
2. But the question wan still for consideration how Jesus could be put to death without stirring up a popular tumult and bringing themselves into collision with the Roman authorities.
A brief period of retirement.
Jesus was now forced to withdraw for a time into a lonely place, so as to place himself beyond the reach of the Sanhedrim
I. THE PLACE OF HIS RETIREMENT. "Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence into a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples."
1. The place lay some distance north of Jerusalem, on the borders of the desert.
2. It was well adapted for a brief period of quiet and unbroken intercourse with his disciples, that he might prepare them for his approaching end.
II. THE CURIOSITY OF THE COUNTRY PEOPLE AT JERUSALEM RESPECTING JESUS.
1. It was near the time of the Passover, and many Jews had gone up to purify themselves for the feast.
2. They had heard so much respecting his miracles, his parables, his discourses, that they sought him out to gratify a not unnatural curiosity. "They said among themselves, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? The question suggests that, aware of the plot of the Sanhedrin for his destruction, Jesus might stay away from the feast.
3. They had been made acquainted with the decree of the Sanhedrin. "Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had also given a commandment, that, if any man heard where he was, he should show it, that they might take him."
(1) Jesus had disappeared from Bethany immediately after the raising of Lazarus. The Jews could not trace his movements after that event.
(2) The commandment of the chief priests and Pharisees betrays an extreme anxiety to arrest Jesus, and put an end. to a career so fatally disturbing to all their ideas and hopes.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Jesus as a Friend.
Whilst the narratives of the four evangelists are chiefly concerned with the Savior's public ministry, it is interesting to be allowed, with their aid, now and again to gain a glimpse into the sanctuary of his more private life, his more intimate associations with his personal friends. The simplicity of the statement made in this verse is just what might be expected from St. John. Himself a chosen and beloved companion and friend, he knew how tender was the Master's heart, and took pleasure in recording instances of his sympathy and affection.
I. LIGHT IS HERE CAST UPON THE CHARACTER OF THE FAMILY AT BETHANY. What manner of people must those have been whom Jesus loved! The narrative gives us several particulars regarding the sisters, so that we can appreciate the affectionate temper of both—the eager and practical nature of Martha, and the more contemplative habit and the quiet enthusiasm of Mary. Perhaps too much has been made of the slight indications afforded by the evangelists of the characters of these two sisters respectively. However this may be, they and their brother Lazarus were all mutually attached, and were all in common devoted to Jesus. That it was exquisite grace and condescension on the part of Jesus to honor them with his society and his intimacy is undeniable. Yet there was a sense in which he counted this household "worthy," so that his peace rested upon it. The life of all three inmates of this happy and harmonious home was made radiant by the visits of Jesus during his lifetime; and by the memory of his friendship it must have been sanctified and sweetened as long as the circle was unbroken.
II. LIGHT IS HERE CAST UPON THE CHARACTER AND DISPOSITIONS OF THE LORD JESUS HIMSELF. We see him in his true and perfect humanity, when we see him in the household of Bethany. It is the same figure, the same Divine Teacher and Master whom we see upon the mountain or by the shore, and in the judgment-hall of Pilate. Yet we are familiar with the newness of aspect under which here and there a man appears to us when we meet him amidst his family, or as we English say, "by his fireside." It is in the home that the softer, gentler, more sympathetic features of the character reveal themselves. Imagination pictures Jesus as he visited the home at Bethany in its days of tranquility and prosperity, and reproduces the tones of his discourse, the expression of his countenance; or as he came when the household was plunged in sorrow, and when his sympathy soothed them, and when his omnipotence restored their dead one to life and fellowship. As the perfect Son of man, Jesus was not merely the public Preacher; he was the private Friend. His ministry was not only one of general benevolence; it was one of personal affection.
III. LIGHT IS HERE CAST UPON THE PROVISION MADE FOR A PERPETUAL FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE. Our Lord, as St. John has recorded, declared his people to be his friends, and mentioned unquestionable proofs of his friendship toward his people. It is, however, somewhat difficult for us to realize this friendship on the part of the unseen and glorified Son of God towards us in our humiliation and imperfections. But the statement made in the text brings to our minds an actual instance of the Lord's friendship, which helps us to apprehend and to feel that it is not a mere matter of theory; that Jesus is indeed a Friend to those who welcome him into their heart and home with reverence and gratitude, and with the response of devout and ardent love. Jesus is, to those who love him, a Friend who can hallow their joys, and can soothe their griefs, who can make their dwelling bright with his radiant smile, musical with his gracious voice.—T.
Sleeping and waking.
Our Lord Jesus, in this metaphorical language, doubtless adopted a view of death which was familiar to his countrymen, because presented in the works of their inspired and their uninspired writers—of seers and of sages. Yet, in adopting it, he imparted to it a tone and character peculiar to himself. On the other hand, what he says concerning the awakening is altogether original; herein he claims a power which is unprecedented and unparalleled.
I. To THE CHRISTIAN DEATH IS SLEEP.
1. It is the close of the day of toil.
2. It is the hushing and silencing of the many harsh and jarring voices of care, of anxiety, of restlessness.
3. It is the soothing of sorrow and trouble.
4. It is looked for and welcome, when the due time comes.
II. IT IS THE PREROGATIVE OF CHRIST TO AROUSE HIS PEOPLE FROM THE SLUMBER OF DEATH.
1. Our Lord awakens slumbering souls from the stupors of sin. The message of the gospel to such is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and he shall enlighten thee." This spiritual awakening is the pledge of the glorious and final awakening of the future unto the higher and immortal life.
2. As sleep is but for a season, so the sleep of death is appointed only as a temporary, a transitory experience.
3. The voice which woke Lazarus out of his sleep is the voice which summons from the slumber of death. Christ's assumption of this power is an implicit claim to Divine authority. God's omnipotence alone can create life, and alone can restore life when death has asserted its power and has done its work.
4. The awakening from death summons to an endless life of activity and holy service. Whilst the hours of slumber are hours of repose, the daylight which arouses the sleepers calls to the exertion of the powers of body and of mind. This law applies to the higher realm. When Christ awakens out of the slumber of death, it is to the happiness of conscious existence and to the energy of untiring effort. There is no reason to suppose that this brief earthly life is man's only period of service. It is the discipline and preparation for endless ages of glad devotion alike to the praise and to the service of our glorious Redeemer.
"If my immortal Savior lives,
Then my immortal life is sure:
His word a firm foundation gives;
Here let me build and rest secure."
The absence of Jesus.
Among our Lord's friends none were more affectionate or more faithful than the favored family of Bethany. That, in the hours of their anxiety and of their mourning, Mary and Martha should have lamented the absence of the Master, is not surprising, nor does it call for any blame. But they did not simply regret that Jesus was not with them; they went further than this, and believed and said that, had he been present, the calamity which befell them would have been averted.
I. THE TEMPER OF MIND WHICH LAMENTED THE BODILY ABSENCE OF JESUS IN AFFLICTION. When this is analyzed, it appears to be mixed.
1. There was faith. In their trouble, the first thought of the sisters was of Jesus. They sent to him an earnest entreaty to come and interpose on their behalf. When he came—as they thought too late—they welcomed and honored him. They threw themselves upon his sympathy, and professed their belief that, even now, their case was not beyond the, reach of his power and compassion. All this implied faith.
2. The faith, however, was imperfect. This appears from their laying undue stress upon Christ's bodily presence. They ought to have been reassured by his language upon receiving tidings of his friend's sickness. They ought to have reflected that his absence was no sign of his want of interest or affection, was no sign of any lapse of power. Their tone of mind evinced the imperfection of their faith.
II. THE REASONS WHICH ACCOUNTED FOR THE BODILY ABSENCE OF JESUS IN THE TIME OF HIS FRIENDS' AFFLICTION.
1. The ultimate reason both for Lazarus's sickness and death, and also for the Lord's delay in visiting Bethany, was a moral reason, relating to his own ministry. The Son of Goal was hereby to be glorified; his mission was to be fulfilled.
2. More particularly, the faith of the disciples was called out and strengthened by this action of the Lord Jesus; it was partly "for their sake," to the end that "they might believe." They had witnessed many instances of his power; they were now to see the crowning proof of the omnipotence of him whom they trusted and honored.
3. The religious confidence of the sisters was to be developed, and a full confession was to be elicited from them. Much as they revered and loved their Lord, Martha and Mary had yet much to learn; and that their conception of Jesus and their faith in Jesus might be perfected, it was necessary that they should see him in a new light, and have a further proof of his Divinity. This end we know from the record to have been answered in their experience.
4. Many unbelieving Jews were convinced. Some such would not, in all likelihood, have been impressed by Christ's sympathetic spirit, had he come to Bethany and pitied the sorrowful family, and saved Lazarus from death. But when they saw their neighbor raised from the dead, these men believed. Thus there was wisdom, there was love, even in that conduct of Jesus which seemed at first sight inconsiderate and unkind.—T.
John 11:25, John 11:26
The living and life-giving Lord.
The confession of Martha was a good and sound one. Yet it is clear that our Lord did not wish her to rest in her creed. He pointed her to himself as the Sum and Substance of all true beliefs, as the Object of all true faith. Creeds are good for the memory, Christ is good for the heart.
I. LIFE IS IN CHRIST. The miracles of raising from the dead which Jesus wrought were intended not only for the assuagement of human sorrow, but for the satisfying of human aspirations. He drew the attention away from the great work to the greater Worker. In him was life; and by his incarnation and sacrifice he brought the life of God to this world of sin and death.
II. THE LIFE OF CHRIST, WHEY COMMUNICATED TO MEN, BECOMES A SPIRITUAL IMMORTALITY. "The Son quickeneth whom he will." He introduced the new life into our humanity. How it has spread! In how many soils have barrenness and death disappeared, and spiritual vitality, vigor, and fruitfulness abounded in their place! Christ has taught the independence of the spiritual life upon the life of this body of our humiliation. In his own resurrection he manifestly conquered death. Living, he has the keys of death and Hades. He is both the Firstfruits of the rising again, and the Agent and quickening Power in raising his people. What can compare for spiritual potency with the life-giving authority of the Savior? In what other is there hope for man's deathless spirit? Like morning after a stormy night, like spring after a dreary winter, like triumph after arduous warfare, like the haven after a tempestuous voyage,—so is the immortality of the righteous who, living in Christ, live in perpetual blessedness. All their aspirations are realized, and all their hopes fulfilled.
III. IT IS BY FAITH THAT THE GLORIOUS IMMORTALITY OF THE BLESSED IS ACHIEVED. Christ presents himself as the Divine Object of faith. It is no arbitrary connection which is exhibited in these words of our Redeemer as existing between faith and life. Life is personal, and spiritual life comes from the Lord and Giver of life to those who believe. Faith is spiritual union with the Christ who died and rose for us, and is the means, first of a death unto sin and a life unto righteousness, and then of all which this spiritual change involves. A life in God is a life eternal.—T.
A good confession.
Martha of Bethany, if we may judge from the little recorded of her, was an interesting and admirable character. She was not only warmhearted, frank, and practical, but one who thought clearly, and professed her faith with boldness and with no hesitation, no qualification. Where shall we find a confession of faith concerning Jesus more sound, more full, more ardent than this uttered by the sister of Lazarus of Bethany?
I. THE CHARACTER AND EXTENT OF MARTHA'S FAITH IN JESUS. Observe the language which is indicative of this—how it proceeds from point to point.
1. She calls Jesus "Lord." This would seem to be simply a title of courtesy, of respect, of reverence. In itself the word may imply no more; when applied to Jesus it may be the acknowledgment of a special authority.
2. She calls him "the Christ." This sounds natural enough to us; but, coming from Martha of Bethany, how much does this designation involve! How hard it must have been for one of Jewish birth and training to recognize in the Prophet of Nazareth the foretold Anointed of God, the Deliverer of Israel, the Savior of mankind!
3. She calls him "the coming One," i.e. the Being foretold in Hebrew prophecy, possessing the nature, the authority, the offices, belonging to the Commissioned of God.
4. She calls him "the Son of God." This is, indeed, a lofty flight of faith; justified, it is true, by the fact, yet exciting our amazement and admiration.
II. THE GROUNDS OF MARTHA'S FAITH. We cannot give a perfect account of these; but we can form a fair judgment as to the reasons and motives which led this woman to make a confession so remarkable and so just.
1. What she had seen Christ do. It is not credible that, intimate as were the members of her household with the Lord Jesus, she should never have witnessed any acts of Divine power such as he was wont to perform in every place where he discharged his ministry.
2. What she had heard Christ say. She too, like her sister, had often sat at the Master's feet, and heard his Word. The teaching of him who spake as never man spake, produced upon her mind a deep and abiding impression; for such a Teacher her reverence could not be too great.
3. The impression she had received of his character. As Guest at Bethany, Jesus had afforded Martha many opportunities of judging of his nature; and her reason and her heart alike assured her that he was indeed Divine. It was a just judgment, and wisely formed.
III. THE RECOMPENSE OF MARTHA'S FAITH. Her ardent and loving confession was not unrecognized or unrewarded. It brought her:
1. The sympathy of the Savior with her in her bitter sorrow.
2. The help of Jesus in her trouble—help bestowed readily and graciously, help taking a form miraculous and glorious.
3. The encouragement of the Savior in her own spiritual life. His companionship became the means of strengthening her beautiful faith, and intensifying her ardent love.—T.
The coming and the call of Christ.
The message of Martha to Mary is the message of the Church to every child of man. "The Master is here, and calleth thee."
I. THE COMING AND THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. Christ came from the Father, and has come unto men. He came once in his ministry, and he comes ever in his gospel. He is here to welcome and to bless. He is here both in his Word and in his Church.
II. THE CALL OF JESUS.
1. The intent of his call.
(1) It is a call to salvation from sin, and from its power and consequences.
(2) It is a call of sympathy addressed to those in sorrow, as in the case of Lazarus's sisters.
(3) It is a call to enter upon his service. To one he says, "Follow me!" to another, "Go, work in my vineyard!"
2. The character of his call.
(1) It is sincere. He always means what he says. This is not always so with the invitations men address to their fellow-men.
(2) It is authoritative. The Master calls. This is not an invitation which may be either obeyed or disregarded, according to men's caprice; for our Lord's royal call is ever a command.
(3) It is effective. There is power in Christ's voice. How many times has that voice awakened men from death to life? To such as have responded to its summons, no other voice has half the charm of this.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF RECOGNIZING CHRIST'S PRESENCE AND RESPONDING TO HIS CALL. They who act thus are as prisoners who obey the summons to liberty; as the imperiled who answer the call which assures them of deliverance and safety; as guests who accept the invitation to the banquet; as friends who are welcomed to fellowship and to immortal honor.—T.
Unavailing regrets and unfounded fancies.
It is in human nature to lean upon the presence of friends and patrons. In their absence it seems as if we could not help exclaiming, "Ah! if only we had been supported by their nearness, their countenance, their encouragement, then all would have been otherwise, all would have been far better with us!" So the soldier regrets the absence of his commander; the official the absence of his chief; the child the absence of his parent. And so, sometimes, like Mary of Bethany, the Christian laments the absence of his Lord.
I. ONE SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I WOULD HAVE BELIEVED ON THEE." To some Jesus seems so far away, in time, in space, that they feel it hard to cherish faith in him. But such should remember that faith is more truly faith when it is tried by the distance of its object. "Blessed," said Christ, "are those who, not having seen, yet believe."
II ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I SHOULD HAVE RESISTED. TEMPTATION." In the absence of the mighty Master, how can the servant stand? Yet, reflection assures us that the Spirit of Christ and the Word of Christ are sufficient to enable the tempted to resist the adversary, and to overcome in the trial. Peter yielded to temptation, and denied his Lord, in his very presence. The same Peter afterwards boldly confessed his Lord when that Lord was no longer present in the body upon earth.
III. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SPARED THIS SORROW, OR, AT THE LEAST, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPORTED UNDER IT?' But this is not certain. Trouble is often—to the Christian it should be always—blessing, even though in disguise. If so, wisdom and love may permit it, whether Christ be, as to the body, present or absent. And certainly his Divine supports and consolations may be experienced, even though his form be not seen, his voice not heard.
IV. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF THOU, LORD, HADST BEEN HERE, I WOULD HAVE BOLDLY ENCOUNTERED PERSECUTION AND DARED DEATH." They who through timidity and faithlessness fail in witnessing to their Lord, and then make to themselves this excuse, prove how little knowledge they have of their own hearts. Some have thought, "If, like the dying malefactor, we could have hung by the side of Jesus, with his presence to encourage and his example to cheer us, then we could have dared to die for him; but how can we suffer for his sake when unnoticed, unsupported, and alone?" This way of thinking overlooks Christ's spiritual presence. In reality, they who suffer for him "suffer with him."
V. ANOTHER SAYS, "IF, LORD, THOU HADST BEEN HERE, THEN THY WORK ENTRUSTED TO MY HANDS WOULD HAVE PROSPERED." There are those who fear that in this spiritual dispensation, where no present Lord stands ready to work signs and wonders for the conviction of men, it is vain to hope for great results to follow the preaching of the gospel and the witness of the saints. Yet it cannot be denied that greater works than those wrought during Christ's ministry were effected after his ascension, and that the spiritual economy was introduced into the world with signal trophies of might and signal omens of victory. It is not the Master's bodily absence which accounts for the slow progress of the truth and kingdom of Christ. Spiritual causes account for this lamentable fact; spiritual powers alone can check the advance of error, and hasten the kingdom of God, of righteousness, of truth. The Church has not faith enough in the Lord's own assurance, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
APPLICATION. It is well for us to remember that, as a matter of fact and reality, Christ is always here. His Spirit is near our spirit. He is truly present to those who have faith. When duty is difficult and arduous, let us reflect, Christ is here! When temptation is urgent, or when trials are severe, let us not forget that Christ is here! When bereavement overtakes us, and we are very sensible that those whom we have loved, and upon whom we have relied, are gone, then let us cherish the comforting assurance that Christ is here!—T.
The tears of Jesus.
Thrice in the gospel narrative is Jesus recorded to have wept; viz. over the unbelieving and doomed city of Jerusalem, by the grave of his friend, Lazarus of Bethany, and in the garden of Gethsemane, when enduring the agony which all but overwhelmed his soul. Much valuable and consolatory reflection is suggested by the simple record, "Jesus wept."
I. CHRIST'S CAPACITY FOR TEARS.
1. It is obvious to say this capacity lay in his true human nature. As we read in Job, "Man is born to sorrow;" as our poet sings, "Man is made to mourn." Jesus was "a Man of sorrows."
2. Christ was capable of human sympathy. Men weep for themselves, and they weep for others. The tears of Jesus were tears shed, not for himself, but for members of this race whose nature he assumed.
3. This capacity lay yet deeper in our Lord's Divinity. It is unjust to represent God as unfeeling; he is susceptible of some deep "painless sympathy with pain." He pities and grieves over the sorrow he nevertheless in wisdom and in love permits.
II. THE OCCASIONS OF CHRIST'S TEARS. The narrative reveals:
1. His personal sorrow for the death of his friend. He had been wont to come to Bethany to meet with a cordial welcome and a friendly smile from Lazarus. And as he knew the joys of friendship, so did he experience the distress of bereavement. There was justice in the exclamation of the Jews, "Behold how he loved him!"
2. His sympathy with the grief of the bereaved sisters. Mary and Martha were nearest in kindred and in affection to the deceased Lazarus; and Jesus, who loved all three, could not but feet for the sisters whom he found in sorrow and in tears.
3. Consciousness of the power of sin. Nothing less than this can account for the prevalence and the bitterness of the heart's anguish. Jesus, who knew all things, knew this; it was sin which "brought death into the world with all its woes." In every instance of human mortality Jesus could not fail to discern the bitterer root of fruit so bitter. Hence the strong emotion he displayed, as he groaned and was stirred and moved by the mighty wave of feeling which swept over his soul.
III. THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF CHRIST'S TEARS. There are cases in which tears are a substitute for help. It was not so in the instance before us. The heart that found expression for its woe in tears, found expression for its sympathy and pity in the reaching out of a hand of help. Jesus first wept, and then succored the sorrowful and raised the dead. Christian sympathy should be like Christ's sympathy, which was not content with words and tears, but made for itself a way of practical compassion.
IV. THE SIGNIFICANT LESSONS OF CHRIST'S TEARS.
1. They assure us that we have in him a feeling Friend, who in all our afflictions is afflicted.
2. They teach us a lesson of sympathy—that we should "weep with those who weep."
3. They remind us by contrast of that state where "all tears shall be wiped from off all faces."
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."
A significant admission.
It was not before the public, but in the secret conclave of the Sanhedrin, that the Sadducean chief priests and the Pharisees made this very remarkable admission. Animated only by selfish considerations, these men looked the facts in the face. They regarded the position of Jesus in the light of their own interests, and accordingly proceeded to deal with his case with a brutal frankness and insensibility. It was no time for misrepresentation or self-deception. To this sincerity of wickedness we owe the valuable witness of those who were as competent as any of his contemporaries to judge of the validity of the claims of Jesus. "This man doeth many miracles."
I. THE ADMISSION ACCOUNTS FOR THE FEARS AND THE MALICE OF CHRIST'S ENEMIES. Had Jesus been a mere teacher, he would not have excited the enmity which, as a matter of fact, encountered him. But he wrought mighty works, and by their means not only excited interest among the people, but acquired influence over them. That this influence might be used to the detriment of the religious leaders of the Jews was their chief dread with regard to Jesus. The exact ground upon which they might well fear him they did indeed misunderstand. Yet it was his possession of superhuman power which made him formidable to their imagination and to the foreboding of their guilty hearts. It was this authority which in fact, though in a different way from that expected by them, did prove fatal to their position, and subversive of their sway.
II. THIS ADMISSION ESTABLISHES THE FACT OF CHRIST'S POSSESSION OF MIRACULOUS POWER. If it had been possible for these selfish and calculating ecclesiastics to do so, doubtless they would have denied the fact of Christ's miracles. It was against their interests to admit it, could it with any plausibility be questioned. The witness of Christ's friends to his superhuman power is valuable; than that of disinterested and impartial spectators is more so; but that of his avowed enemies is most valuable of all. They attributed his mighty works to an infernal power; but they never denied them. How can the conclusion be avoided that these signs and wonders did really take place?
III. THIS ADMISSION AGGRAVATES THE GUILT OF THOSE WHO CONSPIRED TO SLAY CHRIST. There could be no question that the miracles of Jesus were for the most part obviously benevolent and merciful, and that this was well known to his enemies. What excuse then could they have for plotting his death? If he was not only a wise Teacher, but a popular Benefactor and Healer, his enemies, in conspiring to bring his ministry to a close, proved theft indifference to the welfare of the people, which Jesus so compassionately and powerfully promoted. It was not only that they slew "the Holy One and Just;" they slew the Self-denying and Compassionate.
IV. THIS ADMISSION SHOULD SERVE TO CONVINCE THE SKEPTICAL THAT CHRIST WAS THE SON OF GOD. If men enter upon the consideration of Christ's claims with the foregone conclusion in their minds that no miracle can by any power be wrought, then all evidence that may be adduced will be adduced in vain. But if they come with unprejudiced and candid minds, the testimony recorded in this verse must surely have weight with them. At all events, it may serve to show that the objections against our Lord's claims advanced in these days are utterly unlike those advanced in his lifetime. There was keen criticism then, although of a different kind from that we meet with now. Then, the only ground on which our Lord's authority was disputed was the very natural ground of the selfish interests of his enemies. It was thought expedient to bring his ministry to a close by violence, falsehood, and injustice. With such a method of opposition to Christ many modern unbelievers have no sympathy. But it is very hard to substantiate any other method of opposition, that is, upon the grounds of rational plausibility. Take the testimony of Christ's worst foes, and deal fairly with it. And their admissions will be seen to preclude the possibility of impugning Christ's authority. Nor must it be forgotten that the "many miracles" which Jesus wrought when here on earth were the earnest and the promise of those greater and more amazing moral miracles which from the throne of his glory he has been working through the long ages of the Christian dispensation.—T.
Selfishness blinds men to righteousness.
It is sometimes brought, as an argument against man's intuitive perception of right, that there are always to be found those who act spontaneously and without remorse in defiance of the moral law. This argument would hold good were there no principles in man's nature which militate against righteousness. But the fact is that selfish and sinful passions, and considerations which become evil motives, come into play in the human breast. And just as it is no valid argument against gravitation that bodies often, under other physical forces, move in contradiction to that universal law, so in the moral realm there are impulses to action which both conflict with and often overcome the conscience of right, and further, even succeed, as it were by clamor, in silencing the heavenly voice. We have a striking illustration of this complexity of human nature in the counsels and conduct of Christ's enemies in the Jewish Sanhedrim
I. THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND PHARISEES IS IMPLICIT TESTIMONY BOTH TO THE INNOCENCE AND THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS. If they had possessed any information, or had even cherished any suspicion, that Jesus was in any way unworthy of confidence and respect, it' is certain that charges against his character would have been adduced, and that an effort would have been made to substantiate them. But it does not seem to have occurred to them that there was any evidence upon which they could found such charges. This goes a long way towards proving that our Lord was acknowledged to be of blameless character, and that his ministry was felt to be irreproachable and benevolent. At the same time, it was explicitly admitted that his miracles were genuine. The enemies of our Lord did not complain that he professed to wield miraculous power whilst all the time he only made a baseless boast. For the very gravamen of their consultations was that Jesus did many miracles. They, at all events, admitted that superhuman authority resided in our Lord.
II. CHRIST'S ENEMIES CONSIDERED HIS MINISTRY MERELY IN THE LIGHT OF ITS CONSEQUENCES, AS THESE WOULD PROBABLY AFFECT THEIR OWN POSITION AND INTERESTS.
When men look at conduct, not in its relation to principles, but in relation to results, they are usually in danger of error and of grievous practical misdeeds. It is better to think of actions as agreeing or disagreeing with a standard, than as involving results. The reasoning of Christ's foes was sound enough upon their own assumptions. They argued thus: Jesus works many miracles; the result of these will be the faith and adhesion of increasing numbers of the Jewish people; this will lead to popular excitement, which will give rise to tumults or, at all events, to manifestations of enthusiasm, and perhaps fanaticism; such movements will bring about the interference of the Roman authorities; and, as surely as this takes place, the Sanhedrin will be blamed for its inability to restrain the populace, the last remnants of national rule will disappear, and the subjection of Israel will be complete. It is not possible to regard this train of reasoning as motived by exalted patriotism. It was for themselves that the chief priests and rulers were concerned—for themselves chiefly, if not solely. It is easy to cloak selfishness in the garb of public spirit and love of country. The discerning and just mind can see through such hypocritical pretences.
III. CONSIDERATIONS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE OFTEN LOST WHEN THE CONSIDERATIONS OF SELFISHNESS AND AMBITION TAKE POSSESSION OF THE SOUL. After all said and done, Jesus was one single Person; his enemies were many. He was lowly in the world's esteem, and they were the dignified leaders and rulers of the people. He had no force to back him—at least, none that they were cognizant of—and they had their own armed men to support them, and could command the troops of the Roman procurator. Such being the case, why should they scruple to oppose Jesus by fraud and by violence? Nothing prevented save the sense of justice; and this they silenced and stifled. Accordingly their decision was taken, their plans were laid, and in due time were executed, under the influence of selfish fears, it is all too true to human nature. Let self be lost sight of, and then justice, equity, fairness, may prevail. But let self be made prominent, and alas! how often will the right be sacrificed as of no account! A lesson this as to the importance of cherishing a high standard of morality; and a lesson, too, of the proneness from which we all suffer to give heed to the counsels of interest and of personal advancement. Let all men beware lest, beginning with indulging foolish views of the importance of personal aims, they end by "crucifying the Son of God afresh."—T.
The counsel of Caiaphas.
We have here recorded the witness of the earthly to the heavenly High Priest, of human guile to superhuman innocence and goodness, of worldly policy to disinterested benevolence; of personal, selfish ambition to Divine and ardent love. The Sanhedrin as a whole had testified to the reality of our Lord's miracles; Caiaphas here testified to the sacrificial offering and the world-wide mediation of Christ. And it may be noted that, not long after, Pilate bore witness to his Divine royalty.
I. THE INTENTION OF CAIAPHAS IN HIS PREDICTION OF CHRIST'S VICARIOUS DEATH. To understand this we must notice:
1. The character of the high priest himself. Caiaphas was a Sadducee, who is said to have bought his sacred office; he was the nominee of the Roman authorities, and acted in public business under the influence of Annas, his father-in-law. We do not wrong him in deeming him pre-eminently a politician, whose aim was the maintenance of the existing order of things, and the repression of any popular display of feeling, and especially any symptom of disaffection or disorder.
2. The position of Jesus at this critical period of his ministry. His miracles, and especially the raising of Lazarus, had produced a great impression; the courage and hopes of his adherents were raised; the number of his disciples and admirers was increasing, and consequently the fears of his enemies were aroused, and their hatred was intensified. Jesus was the great Figure in the view of all classes of the people. The hopes of some and the fears of others centered in the Prophet of Nazareth.
3. Such being the character of the high priest, and such the position occupied by Jesus in the public estimation, it is evident what was the meaning of the remarkable language which Caiaphas used. In their hearts, the Jewish leaders would have rejoiced if a great Deliverer, such as they expected their Messiah to be, had risen up among them—had emancipated Israel from a foreign yoke, and had provided for themselves posts of honor and power under the new dynasty. But they saw that Jesus was not the Deliverer they hoped for. They thought it likely that his preaching and teaching might lead to insurrection, which the Romans would certainly repress with severity. They preferred to retain such self-government as still lingered among them, such dignity and honors as were still allowed them, rather than risk the repression, the humiliation, the subjection, to which an unsuccessful insurrection would lead. Hence, the counsel of Caiaphas. He was for immediate, stringent, and violent measures. Having no sympathy with the profound teaching and spiritual aims of Jesus, looking upon religion only in the light of statecraft, Caiaphas advocated the ruthless destruction of him who was the occasion of so much anxiety and selfish fear. His policy was to crush Jesus, to propitiate the Romans, and to keep his own position until the advent of the expected Deliverer. Let the innocent Jesus be sacrificed; but let the nation be saved, or rather the rulers, who ever thought more of themselves than of those whom they governed. After all, Jesus was but one, and they were many. With no care for truth, for righteousness, for religion, for God, the degenerate leaders of the chosen people sacrificed to worldly policy him whom the Father had consecrated and sent into the world.
II. THE INTENTION OF GOD, PUTTING A DEEPER MEANING INTO THE PREDICTION OF CAIAPHAS. It is true that genius often utters language which is susceptible of a meaning far deeper than appears on the surface. But according to the interpretation of the evangelist, Caiaphas, being high priest during that memorable year of sacrifice, was prophetically guided or overruled in his language. Thus it was foretold:
1. That Jesus's death should have a bearing upon others. It is true that no man dieth unto himself. But Jesus so lived and so died as to secure the salvation of those whose nature he assumed. For others he lived, and for others he died.
2. That Jesus should die for his own nation. He came to his own. He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And though he was rejected and cast out, he did not die in vain, as far as his own people were concerned, The first converts made after his ascension were for the most part Jews. The apostles were themselves Hebrews, and some of them were ministers to the circumcision. True, the nation as a whole refused the Savior, and for that refusal they suffered the most terrible disasters. But their fall was the rise of the Gentiles, and the time is yet to come when the Jews shall be gathered in.
3. That Jesus should die for the spiritual Israel. "Not for that nation only." To this conception Caiaphas could not rise; but St. John, by Divine inspiration, read this meaning into his words. No doubt, St. Paul did very much to enlarge the general conception entertained regarding the objects of Christ's mission to earth. He showed how Christ had broken down the middle wall of partition, and had made of Jew and Gentile "one new humanity." Thus the mystery which had been hidden was disclosed; that the salvation of God is for all, irrespective of race and privilege. The text makes it manifest that, in this view of Christianity, St. John was in perfect sympathy with the apostle of the Gentiles.
4. That the death of Jesus should issue in the union in Christ of all the scattered children of God. This fifty-second verse is one of the sublimest in the whole compass of revelation. Not only shall the children of the Jewish dispersion be reunited. All lowly, faithful, prayerful, obedient hearts in every land shall come under the mighty sway of Christ's precious cross. Christ is the divinely appointed head of the ransomed race; in him its true unity shall be realized, and in him the benevolent purposes of the Father shall be completely and eternally fulfilled.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
Three views of three vital subjects.
We have here—
I. A VIEW OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP.
1. It has Christ as its Center and Inspiration.
(1) He is its Author, its Model, and Inspirer. He is the only true Friend of humanity. In him all the elements of true friendship pre-eminently meet; and they are pure, elevating, and Divine.
(2) By union with him it is alone attainable. Apart from Christ there can be no true Christian friendship.
(3) Love is its leading feature. It has other features, such as sincerity, truth, fidelity, guilelessness, and constancy; but they are all the emanations of deep, high, broad, pure, and burning love.
2. It is common and mutual. "Our friend." Not "my" nor" your friend," but "our friend." The friend of Jesus and that of his disciples. The friendship is common and mutual. Friendship expects and deserves the same in return. It manifests itself specially to Christ and his followers, and generally to mankind for Christ's sake. Many profess great friendship to Christ, who is personally absent and invisible, but act not as such to his followers, who are visible and present—a proof of a lack of Christian friendship altogether, or a great scarcity of it. The true friend of Jesus is the friend of all his disciples.
3. It is a mark of a high Christian excellency. Our Lord wished to make an honorable mention of Lazarus, and speak of him in high but appropriate terms. He did so by calling him a friend. There are degrees of Christian excellence, and there are outer and inner circles of Christian fellowship. Christian friendship is one of the inner ones. Lazarus had attained to this. Every believer is a brother, but every brother is not a friend. This is a distinction attained but by a comparative few.
4. It is not altogether excepted by death. Lazarus, though a friend, yet died. Christian friendship does not prevent all actions of death. In spite of it, the change, with its pangs and pains and separation, is experienced. The law of dissolution is left by Christ to take its natural course, even with regard to most of his best friends.
5. Although not excepted by death, yet it triumphantly survives it. Lazarus was dead, still he was the friend of Jesus and of his disciples. "Our friend Lazarus." Death, so far from destroying Christian friendship, serves its highest interests, intensifies and purifies it. It burns in the pangs of dissolution, blazes even in the swelling river, and shines with increasing brightness through the intervening gloom.
II. A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF DEATH. "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth."
1. With regard to his friends, Jesus has changed the name of death. It is not to be called any more death, but sleep. Christ not only changes human character, and the character of human events, but changes human language. In the Christian dictionary the word "death" is not found but as an explanation of the word "sleep." The worldly mind cannot understand this new language of Christianity. And even the disciples could not yet understand it. Christ had to speak to them in their own language, the language of the old world, and say, "Lazarus is dead."
2. With regard to his friends, death is really transformed into sleep. Death to them is abolished. To his foes, death is death still, and will ever be so; but to his friends, all that makes it really death is taken away. They are too near him who is the Life for death to hurt them; if. acts as their friend, and lulls them into a quiet and happy sleep. Death is friendly to all the friends of Jesus.
3. This view of death is very consoling.
(1) In this view, departed pious friends are still in a conscious and a happy existence. They are neither annihilated nor lost, only asleep. Neither are they in a state of dormancy. Physical sleep is a state of unconsciousness, but the term as applied by Christ refers not to the state of the soul in relation to the spirit-life, but in relation to this life, with its trials, afflictions, and sin. In relation to these, it is asleep; but in relation to the spirit-life, it is awake and intensely and happily alive.
(2) In this view, death is necessary and refreshing. Physical sleep is a refreshing rest, and one of the essential conditions of life and health. We could not fully enjoy spiritual life without physical death. We cannot stand a hard day's work without a good night's rest. The sleep of death is a necessary and most refreshing preparation for the "weight of glory," and the pleasant enjoyments and duties of an eternal day.
(3) In this view, death is natural. Had man retained his primitive innocency, doubtless there would be some process of transit from this world tantamount to death, although not so called—called perhaps "birth;" but it would be perfectly natural, timely, desirable, and beautiful, like the falling of a ripe apple from the tree. But sin has made this transit unnatural, painful, and filled it with horrors; but union with Christ makes it natural again. It becomes natural and even desirable in the degree this union approaches perfection. "Having a desire to depart." It is not death, but sleep.
(4) In this view, death is robbed of all its real terrors. We may be afraid of sleep in the day, when duty calls; but at night, after the day's work is done, who is afraid of sleep? We are far more afraid to be awake. What parents are afraid in the bedroom at midnight, surrounded by their sleeping children? Christians' death is but sleep, and their graves are but beds in which they enjoy rest from their labors.
III. THE RESURRECTION OF THE FRIENDS OF JESUS.
1. It will involve a Divine process. It will involve the exercise of Divine power. Divine power alone could restore Lazarus to life. All the power of men and angels would be insufficient. The same power which made man at first a living soul can alone reunite body and soul at last, after the great dissolution.
2. This Divine process will be performed by Christ. He raised Lazarus, and he shall raise all the dead at last. This is most becoming and essential, as the resurrection is a most vital part of his redemptive work.
3. A Divine process most easily performed by Jesus, and most natural and improving to them. When on his way to raise Lazarus, he spoke of his Divine process not as an exploit of power, but as an easy task; as easy as it would be for one of his disciples to' awake a friend out of his slumbers. "I go that I may awake him." The resurrection of his friends to Jesus will be a most easy process, and to them a most natural and refreshing experience. There will be no sudden shock, no painful consciousness of the pangs of death and the grief of separation; but the throbbing delight and gratitude of awaking after a sweet and a refreshing sleep. The Christian's death being sleep, his resurrection will be an awaking out of it. How natural and delightful!
4. A process of Divine friendship. Not alone of power, but of friendship as well. "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth," etc. tie approached his grave as a Friend, and, as a Friend, called his friend back to life. The resurrection of the wicked will be an act of retributive justice, but that of the good of Christian friendship. Mutual friendship was an element in the resurrection of Lazarus, and will be at the resurrection of the last day.
1. The death of Lazarus was an opportunity for Jesus to show his Tower and friendship. Our greatest miseries are his special occasions of mercy.
2. His sower and friendship manifested in the resurrection of Lazarus were only specimens. What he did to him he will do to all his friends.
3. If the friends of Jesus, we may venture to die. Death will be only sleep.
4. If so, we may venture to sleep. Jesus will awake us in due time. He cannot leave his friends to sleep long. It is worth while awaking a friend. We would leave a foe to sleep along, unless we awoke him to try to make a friend of him. His friends shall not sleep too long. He is on his way now to the resurrection.
5. It is worth while to sleep in order to be awakened by Jesus. How sweet his voice in the morning! But this cannot be experienced without the sleep. But the sleep would be intensely dismal but as an introduction to the glorious awaking.
6. The friends of Jesus at the general resurrection will be better off than Lazarus. Now he awoke to the old life; they to a new one. He awoke to experience, perhaps, trials untold, and weep over the grave of sisters, and pay with interest tears shed on his own; but they shall awake to weep no more. Lazarus left his grave and his grave-clothes to assume them again; but they shall forever leave the abode and garments of mortality and enter life eternal.—B.T.
John 11:15, John 11:21
Good in apparent evil.
I. THAT ALL THE MOVEMENTS OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAD AN IMMEDIATE REGARD TO OTHERS.
1. His life on earth was purely vicarious. "For your sakes." Not only his death was vicarious, but his life was equally so. Not only he died for others, but he lived for them as well. His vicarious death was only the natural outcome of his vicarious life. All his movements, his actions, his miracles, his teaching and utterances, the fact and sum of his life, were for others—for mankind generally and for his disciples particularly. "For your sakes."
2. His life on earth was purely self-sacrificing. "For your sakes." He sacrificed every personal feeling, convenience, and consideration for the advantage of others. Had he consulted his own personal feelings—feelings of the tenderest affection and the sincerest friendship—friendship for the dying and the living—nothing would have kept him away from the death-bed of his beloved friend at Bethany; but these tenderest feelings of personal friendship he sacrificed for the sake of others. For their sakes he was not there. This was the great and grand principle of his whole life.
3. The vicariousness and self-sacrifice of his life were to him the sources of the greatest pleasure. "I am glad," etc. He found his highest joy in doing good to his fellow-men, and the greatest delight of his life was spending it for the advantage of others. In benefiting them even his own pain was turned into pleasure, his sorrow into joy, and the greatest self-sacrifice afforded him the greatest satisfaction.
4. His life on earth was one of untiring activity. Nevertheless, let us go unto him. His time for sorrow and joy was very limited. His was to act.
(1) His activity was ever timely. He would ever act in his own time; but his time was always right. Some thought he was too late; but if he went, even to a grave, it was not too late.
(2) His activity was often wonderful in its aim, but ever successful. "Let us go unto him." Lazarus was dead, and his soul in the spirit world; but he was not too far for Jesus to reach him—he was at home there. To human view Lazarus was a prisoner of death, and it was a bold march to go to him through the territories of the king of terrors; but, bold as it was, Jesus undertook it successfully.
(3) His activity was ever inviting and inspiring. "Let us go." The disciples could not go as far as the Master, but let them go as far as they are able. If they can only see, weep, and witness, let them do what they can; he will do the rest. They were inspired to go.
(4) His activity was ever helpful, in consoling, teaching, and quickening.
II. THAT ALL THE MOVEMENTS OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAD A SPECIAL REGARD TO THE GREATEST GOOD OF OTHERS. "To the intent that ye may believe."
1. Whatever he did was done with a definite purpose. "To the intent." He had one great and special aim through life. In every movement and act and utterance of his there was a definite purpose, and he kept this ever in view. It was the inspiration and guide of his movements. In all his various and busy activities there was not a single random shot; but he ever took a definite aim, on which his whole being centered. This is one of the secrets of his ultimate success.
2. Whatever he did was done for the best and highest purpose. In relation to his own mission and the salvation of the world. "That ye may believe." This implies:
(1) That although his disciples had faith, yet it was weak. It was incomplete. This was only to be expected. They were as yet but babes in Christ, and their faith was young and tender. Their wings had net fully grown, and could not soar very high—not high enough as yet to reach and fully rest on the Savior.
(2) That it was capable of, and required growth and confirmation. Genuine faith, however weak and small, will grow by trial, by experience, by a fuller manifestation of its object, and cries out for this. Its growth is certain but gradual.
(3) That the growth and confirmation of their faith involved their greatest good. This alone could bring them into closer union with Christ and with the Father, and open to them the door of the spiritual kingdom, and fully present to their view the grand but real visions of the spiritual empire, and Jesus as the King in his beauty. This was the only true foundation of their character, and the only hope and sure means of its future perfection.
3. Whatever he did was done in the best way to effect the highest purpose. His absence from Bethany served the interest of faith far better than his presence would have done. This implies:
(1) That the death of Lazarus could scarcely take place in the immediate presence of Jesus. This is implied in what Jesus said to his disciples, and in what the sisters said to Jesus. We have no account that death ever took place in his presence. Even at a distance the prayer of faith was sufficient to call forth his triumphant power against it. When he met the "king of terrors" on the highway with a lad, a stranger to Jesus, in his prison-van, he had to give him back to his mother at once: how much more would this be the case with regard to a sick friend! Death could hardly perform his work in the very presence of life. However, Jesus could hardly trust himself, and was glad that he was not there.
(2) That the restoration of Lazarus from death was more beneficial to faith than his preservation from it would have been.
(3) That it was the highest aim of Christ to serve the interest of faith in the most efficient way. He did not expect it to live and thrive on nothing, but furnished it with the strongest proofs, and with the most nourishing diet. He not only produces faith, but supports it. His general aim was to produce faith where it was not, but especially to perfect it where it was. His aim was concentration of influence—the perfection of the few faithful ones, and through them the perfection of the many. "That ye may believe."
4. The confirmation of faith in the disciples produced in Jesus the greatest joy.
(1) This was the joy of a favorable opportunity of doing the greatest good. Such opportunities are rare. Jesus availed himself of it with delight. Faith was struggling in the gloom of a friend's death. But this furnished Jesus with a special opportunity to display his Divine power in the grand miracle of life.
(2) The joy of foreseen success. He foresaw the success of his last great miracle, which involved the success of his life, and through the wail of grief rolled the sweetest strains of music to his soul. What joy is like that of the joy of success in the chief aim of life?
III. WHAT PRODUCES REGRET AND SORROW IN US OFTEN PRODUCES GLADNESS IN JESUS. His absence caused sorrow to the sisters, but joy to him. The same event producing different feelings in different persons, as illustrated in Jesus and the sisters, and why?
1. Jesus could see the intention of his absence; the sisters could not,
2. Jesus could see the ultimate result of his absence; they could not. Jesus could see the restoration of his friend, the display of Divine power, the triumph of faith, and the glory of God. This produced in him gladness. The sisters could not see this, and they were sad.
3. Jesus could see the gain of faith by the death of Lazarus to be immeasurably greater than the loss of the family. They could not see this as yet.
(1) Their loss was only personal, limited to a few. The gain of faith was universal.
(2) Their loss was only physical and social. The gain of faith was spiritual and Divine. Social feelings are nothing to the ecstasies of faith.
(3) Their loss was only temporary, for a short time. The gain of faith was eternal.
(4) Their loss was made up with interest; but the loss of faith for the want of the miracle, who could repair? He was the prepared object of the miracle, and the only one of the family not to begrudge the sacrifice. His death was the occasion of life to faith, and doubtless shared the joy of Jesus at its triumph, and was the willing sacrifice to its life.
1. When the claims of personal feelings come in collision with those of public good, the former are to give way at any cost, and give way with joy.
2. In the strange dealings of Providence we should try to learn the Divine intention; that is our good.
3. This is difficult, if not impossible, often to realize. Therefore let us trust and wall.
4. In the light of results all will be plain and joyful. Jesus was glad in Peraea, while the sisters were sad in Bethany; but at the resurrection they could join with Jesus in the song of triumph and the anthem of life. "All is well that ends well."—B.T.
We have here—
I. HER FAITH MANIFESTED.
1. In its strength. In her conversation with Jesus there axe proofs of a genuine and strong faith in him.
(1) Faith in his personal presence as capable of preventing her brother's death. "If thou hadst been here," etc. She had full confidence in the efficacy of his power and influence, and the sincerity and warmth of his friendship, to stand between her brother and death had he been present.
(2) Faith in his ever and all prevailing influence with God. "I know that even now," etc. In her faith God was the great source of supreme and universal power and favor, and the intercession of Christ with him was all-prevailing and coextensive with the power of God, and ever present and available. Even now it was not too late.
(3) Faith in the great resurrection. That all the dead shall rise at the last day, and that her own brother would appear then among the vast throng. This problem has baffled many a bright intellect, and staggered the faith of many a mighty giant, and driven him to the shades of doubt and unbelief. Then, as now, there was many a Sadducee and agnostic. But Martha was not one. This great and mysterious fact was a leading article in her faith, and could say to Jesus with serenity and full confidence, "I know that he shall rise," etc.
2. In its weakness. Though genuine, and strong in some of its features, it is still weak and incomplete. In her faith:
(1) Christ's power is limited by place. "If thou hadst been here," etc. In her faith the presence or absence of Jesus made all the difference with regard to the exercise of his mighty and friendly power. Present he would and could, absent he could or would not. Her faith partook largely of the character of her religion, and had a tendency to localize Divine energy. In this she was very different from that ruler who deemed himself unworthy of Christ coming under his roof. And there was no need: "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." In this his faith was right and strong; but Martha's wrong and defective. Christ could prevent her brother's death in Peraea as well as at Bethany if he so wished.
(2) Christ's power is limited by prayer. With regard to the best of men, prayer is the medium of Divine power, and yet its limitation. In his human nature and official capacity Christ ever exercised prayer, but was not limited by it; he was really above it. Martha had fully grasped what he was in relation to God, but not what he was in himself, the Source and Giver of life; and her faith had not yet risen to the Divinity of his Person and mission.
(3) Christ's power is limited by time. "If thou hadst been here;" but that is passed. "I know that he shall rise;" that is future and distant. Her faith could grasp the Divine power and infinite certainties of the present with regard to Jesus. "As the same yesterday," etc.
3. In its private struggles. In the language of Martha there are indications of the private struggles of her faith.
(1) Its struggle for some special favor, for consolation in their bereavement. Something which no one else could give. Her love was stronger than her faith, but still her faith timidly struggled for a blessing.
(2) Its struggle with doubt. That she had a faint belief that something great would be done seems evident. The sisters were too intelligent and true to dismiss as insignificant the message of their Lord. "This sickness is not unto death." Before his death they could well understand it, but what can it mean now? Scores of times it was pondered over in their minds. It must mean something good and great as coming from him, but what? There was a doubt, which is only the struggle of faith and its vacillation between light and darkness.
(3) Its struggle for a more definite knowledge and a clearer light. "I know that he shall rise," etc. This she said, not merely to indicate her faith in the distant resurrection, but also to draw him out, and it indicates the struggle of her faith for a nearer and a clearer light, and a more present help and solace.
II. HER FAITH STRENGTHENED.
1. By its own trials.
(1) It was tried by the absence of Jesus. Whoever would be absent from their brother's bedside, he was fully expected to be there. But he was not. Although sent for, he came not. A great disappointment, and a severe shock to faith.
(2) By his long delay. He was expected at the heel of the message; but came not for several days, and their brother was in the grave.
(3) It was tried by their sad bereavement. Their brother was dead—dead, while he might be alive if Jesus had been there. Faith was really in a storm. The night was dark, and there was no light but that of the resurrection; but that was too dim and distant to be but of little support.
(4) Faith is strengthened after all by its own trials. It gains strength by trouble, disappointment, and opposition. It gains strength in weakness, and is prepared for more; and down in the region of doubt it is often trained to take higher flights, to receive sublimer truths and grander visions.
2. By the special revelation of Christ of himself. (John 11:25.) He reveals himself.
(1) As the Resurrection and the Life. There is an inseparable connection between the two. The former is the effect, the latter the cause. Jesus reveals himself first in relation to the effect, for this is first seen, and our first concern on this side. This was uppermost in Martha's thoughts. This was the subject of her constant meditation, towards which her faith stretched forth; and here Jesus meets her. "I am the Resurrection." But, as usual, he stops not on the surface with the effect, but leads faith down to the cause. "And the Life." This is complete, and faith is in the light.
(2) As being all this himself. "I am," etc. Not "I can raise the dead," but "I am," etc. Not "I can give life by prayer to God," but "I am the Life." He is this in himself, in virtue of the Divinity of his Person and commission. He is the Resurrection and the Life, physically and spiritually.
(3) He is all this now. "I am," etc. Not "I shall be at some future period," but "I am now, irrespective of time." Thus, to Martha's faith, what was distant is near, what was future is present, and the resurrection and the life are embodied before her in the person of her Lord. The resurrection is not entirely future, but in Christ it is potentially now.
3. By a revelation of the wonderful effects of faith in him.
(1) With regard to the believing dead. "He that believeth on me, though he died," etc. They continue to live in spite of the dissolution of the body, and shall live in union with it again.
(2) With regard to believing survivors. "Whosoever liveth," etc. The death of believers is not really death; to faith death is abolished. It is only a pleasant change, a sweet sleep, and a natural departure from the land of the dying to the land of the living. The life of faith is uninterrupted. "Shall never die." It is not in the least interrupted by the dissolution of the body, but suddenly advanced. What we call death is really a resurrection with Christ into a sublimer state of being, a birth to a higher life and a more perfect manhood.
(3) Faith in Christ produce these effects with regard to all believers without distinction. "Whosoever," etc.
4. Her faith is strengthened gradually. Jesus feeds faith as a mother feeds her babe, little by little; and he teaches faith to move as a mother teaches her child to walk, or as an eagle teaches her young to fly. She takes them on her back and soars aloft and throws them down on the friendly air, and repeats the process till they are able to reach the highest altitudes themselves. Thus Christ taught Martha's faith gradually and helpfully. "This sickness is not unto death." His absence, the death, the disappointment and doubt; but he comes at last, and in his welcome presence and revealing and hopeful words faith obtains a resting-place. "Thy brother shall rise again." Thus gradually, by self-exercise and Divine support, faith is taught to soar aloft till at last she reached the grand heights of the resurrection and the life.
III. HER FAITH TRIUMPHANT. "Yea, Lord," etc.
1. Her faith accepts him fully.
(1) As the Christ.
(2) As the Son of God.
(3) As the One expected to come into the world. Who would fill all the world's expectations and wants, and carry out his Divine purposes. Her faith accepts him as being all he had just revealed, and much more.
(4) As the Lord of her faith and whole spiritual being, who should rule over her, and to whom she would submit.
2. Although her understanding could not fully grasp his revelation, her faith could fully accept him. We are not to think that she understood all that Jesus had just told her; but, failing this, her faith embraced his Person and mission with implicit trust and hope.
3. In accepting him she ensured all at once. What he had just said, after all, contained only a few crumbs from his rich table, a few drops from the inexhaustible ocean of his power and love. Instead of remaining with these, her faith embraced him altogether, and ensured at once his Divine and infinite fullness.
4. She makes a hearty and full confession of her faith. The confession is fuller than the request. "Believest thou this?" "Yea, Lord," and much more: "I believe that thou," etc. To believe in Christ is much more than to believe a few truths of his revelation. Probably Martha's head had become dizzy in looking down from the heights of the resurrection and the life; but faith came to the rescue, and threw her arms around him who is both, and there found a safe repose and a glorious triumph.
1. In some directions too much may be expected of Christ. "If thou hadst been here," etc. There is a slight complaint in these words, as if Christ were bound to be there. But he was under no obligation to keep even Lazarus alive. Too much often is expected of his personal presence, time, attention, and service. He had other places to visit, other things to do, other wants to supply, and purposes of his own to accomplish. Some are ignorant and selfish enough to monopolize Christ and his ministers to serve their own personal and private ends.
2. In the right directions too little is expected of him. The appetite is often keener for the physical than for the spiritual, for the personal than for the general, for the temporal than for the eternal. Many are more anxious for health of body than for health of soul, for a physical resurrection than for a spiritual one. They prefer a dead graveyard to a living sanctuary, and some interesting talk from the minister during the week to a good sermon on the sabbath. Too little is expected of Jesus in the right direction. He will not satisfy our whims and low appetites, but wilt save our souls to the uttermost.
3. In the right direction too much cannot be expected of him. The more the better. The more by faith we expect, the more he will give and we receive. "According to thy faith be it unto thee." Expect as much as we like, his grace will exceed our highest expectations, and will surprise us with more. Martha's expectations were for a future resurrection at the last day, but Jesus surprised her with a present one in himself; and that very day became to her a day of resurrection.
4. The absolute necessity and importance of faith in Christ. It is necessary to the gracious operations of Jesus and to our participation of his grace. Without it even he could not do much, and we can do or enjoy nothing. But with it, in relation to our highest interest, Christ is omnipotent, and we through him are eternally happy and blessed. "He that believeth in me, though he were dead," etc.—B.T.
Martha's and Mary's faith,
I. CERTAIN FEATURES OF MARTHA'S FAITH.
1. The satisfaction of her faith. "When she had so said," etc. Her faith was unspeakably satisfied with Jesus, with his presence, with his gracious words, and his wonderful revelations. She needed no further explanations. Her mind and heart were full to the brim. She was satisfied with her own confession, that she had been so far enabled to unbosom her heart and unburden her mind, and confess her full faith in her Lord. She could remain no longer, but, spiritually buoyant, joyous and elevated above her grief, she went her way.
2. The natural affinity of her faith. She came to Mary. She went not to some of her neighbors, nor even to the Jews, who were in her house, but to her own sister. Christianity does not destroy nor check the natural instincts of relationship; but, on the contrary, revives, sanctifies, and uses them for the highest purposes—to bring the soul to Jesus and Jesus to the soul, and form a spiritual alliance between them. Andrew sought his brother Simon.
3. The communicativeness of her faith. No sooner was she in the house than she called her sister. Her soul was all ablaze. Her faith was full and running over. Her heart was almost bursting to communicate its joy and satisfaction, and especially with a desire that her sister share the same, and go to the fountain to drink of its living waters. Genuine faith in Christ is ever communicative, benevolent, and sympathetic, it partakes of the genius and disposition of its object. Having found Christ for the first time, or found him more fully, or enjoyed a clearer vision of him, there is an intense desire to make it known to others, arising from the special request of the Master, and often from its own character and inspiration. We have a happy illustration of this in the woman of Samaria.
4. The discretion of her faith. Her faith met a difficulty at the threshold. There were in the house indifferent and unfriendly ears to Jesus, and it would be neither safe nor wise to make public her mission. But where there is a will there is a way. She called her sister on one side and told her secretly. Her message was secret and personal, and it was wise that it should be so conveyed. Faith should be discreet as well as bold and faithful, and encounter difficulties with discretion as well as with valour. Much harm may be done in the transmission of the message. What is intended to be private is often made public, and what is public is made private. Faith has its secret mission as well as its public one. In this case it should be whispered.
5. The message of her faith "The Master is come," etc. It is implied:
(1) That the family of Bethany had Jesus as their Master. He was their Master absolutely, and only one. He sat on the throne of their heart. He occupied that position, not on account of any worldly influence, wealth, or bearing, for he was poor. He occupied that position as the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior. The best of masters, not by usurpation, but by the choice of faith alone.
(2) The Master's arrival. "The Master is come." He was their Master wherever he was. It was joyous news that he had come at last. And his long delay made his arrival all the sweeter. Whatever complaint there was, it was on the surface. In the depth of the heart there was the most hearty welcome and gratitude. There was a vast difference between this meeting and the last. One of the members of the family had passed away. Lazarus was in his grave, but now there is no talk of him. Grief for him is for the time lost in the joy of the Master's arrival.
(3) The Master's invitation. "Calleth for thee." He will call some one else by-and-by. This call of Mary is not recorded by the evangelist, but it comes out in the message of faith. It is personal and gracious, and full of personal friendship and affectionate consideration and sympathy. She is not forgotten by the Master.
II. CERTAIN FEATURES OF THE FAITH OF MARY.
1. The readiness of her faith. "As soon as she heard," etc. The readiness of her faith is not only proved by her prompt response to the kind invitation of Jesus, but also by the interview between them. Jesus had not so much work to inspire and strengthen Mary's faith as he had with that of Martha. Her faith had been long ago nursed, strengthened, and prepared at his feet. Faith thrives well at the feet of Jesus.
2. The alacrity of he, faith. "She arose quickly." This was rather unusual for her. Martha was impulsive and quick in her movements. Mary was reflective and slow. Impulsiveness runs; reflection walks slowly, and often sits under its heavy but delightful burden. When the more reflective and deeper nature of Mary was thoroughly stirred, her movements were exceptionally quick, to the surprise of all who saw and knew her. Faith is very swift. There is only one swifter in movement, that is Jesus. Faith is willing to give up to him in the race. "He fainteth not, neither is weary."
3. The attractive Object of her faith. What made her rise and move so quickly? The known arrival of Jesus, his kind and gracious invitation, and the resistless attraction of his near presence. The Jews thought that she had gone to the grave to weep; but this was a mistake, and not the first nor the last mistake with regard to the movements of faith. She had now stronger attractions than those of the grave—the attractions of him who "is the Resurrection and the Life." He called, and she ran. A happy illustration of the words, "Draw me, and we shall run after thee."
4. The story of her faith.
(1) The story of the death of their brother. It was the same story as that of Martha. This was the sad tale of Bethany, and especially of the bereaved family in those days of weeping. Nothing else was scarcely thought and spoken of.
(2) The story of a conditional and glorious certainty. The presence of Jesus would have certainly prevented their brother's death. A present Savior would beyond doubt result in a living brother. "If thou," etc. How many "ifs" have we in relation to the death of dear, dear friends! If we had done or not done this or that! if the doctor were here in time! How groundless are our "ifs" generally! But in the "if" of these sisters there was a glorious certainty.
(3) The wail of a lost opportunity. Past possibilities and especially conditional certainties with regard to departed friends are ever very painful. It was so here, and the pain felt bursts forth in a wail to the Savior. "If thou," etc.
5. The attitude of her faith. Its story is the same as that of Martha's, but its attitude differs, and this makes all the difference. "She fell down at his feet."
(1) The attitude of deep humility; of a burdened and a broken heart, and a contrite spirit; of conscious unworthiness to address him but at his feet.
(2) The attitude of profound reverence, of humble homage, affectionate devotion; an acknowledgment of the majesty and graciousness of his presence; and gratitude for his kind invitation and continued esteem.
(3) The attitude of earliest prayer. The deepest prayer of her faith could only be expressed in the silent but eloquent language of her prostrate and suppliant attitude. The attitude of simple submission and trust. Submission with regard to the past, and trust with regard to the future. What Martha said to Jesus, Mary says also, but at his feet. If she complains, she pours her complaint out at his feet; and there leaves the profoundest prayer of her faith and the heaviest burden of her heart in simple trust and submission.
1. In our bereavements Jesus ever comes to us. When we are m trouble he is never far, and even his delay is only to try our faith, and agreeably surprise it at last. How welcome is his presence in such an hour!
2. In our bereavements he has a special message to us, and the message is gracious and personal. "He calleth for thee." He calls through the living and the dead. Departed pious souls are his ministering spirits. He calls us through others who have been with him. Martha, fresh from the Savior, called Mary to him to share the same comfort.
3. If Jesus is met by faith we shall find more than we have lost. He takes away to give us more—to give us himself more fully. Before he could not draw us near enough to himself, neither was the way clear for him to come to us. When the temporal sea ebbs, let us look out for the flow of the eternal.
4. Rather than go to the graves of departed friends, let us go to Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. And if we go to their graves, let us take Jesus with us as a Companion. He is the only safe Guide through a graveyard. Without him it is dark, dead, and dangerous; but he will fill it with light, life, and joy, and will restore our friends, not to sense, but, far better, to faith, and bring us even now into spiritual fellowship with them, and a bright prospect of a complete reunion in the future.—B.T.
The Savior's tears.
"Jesus wept." Who wept? Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and who was God! What made him weep who is the Delight of heaven, and ever sets its golden harps to the tune of happiness and joy? What could bring tears into the eyes of him who wipes away the tears of thousands, and hushes the sighs of millions of the children of fate? How could he weep? In human nature, on his way to the grave of a friend, we are told that Jesus wept. Notice his tears—
I. AS EXPRESSIONS OF HIS DEEP SYMPATHY WITH THE SISTERS. They were in the depths of trouble and grief. They had lost:
1. A brother. Their brother Lazarus was dead, and now in his grave. A brother is one of the nearest and dearest relations of life. It is not a neighbor or a friend that was cut off by death, but a brother.
2. An only brother. To lose one out of many is a great trial, but in such a case there is an alleviating consideration—there are others to share the grief, and to whom wounded affection may still cling. But these sisters, as far as we can see, had lost their only remaining brother. As they returned from the graves of dear ones before, they had Lazarus with them as the center of their human affections, the healer of their grief; but now he is under the cold hand of death.
3. A most kind and good brother. Even the death of an undutiful and prodigal brother is keenly felt, for he is a brother in spite of all. But the death of a good brother is more keenly felt still. Lazarus was a model brother. The natural relationship was intensified and endeared by sweetness of temper, kindness and goodness of nature, and piety of character, which made him not only their support, but their chief solace and sunshine.
4. Jesus deeply sympathized with them.
(1) With their personal and social loss and grief. They were left lonely and undefended in the world.
(2) With their utter helplessness in the face of death. In themselves they were entirely helpless in this circumstance. They could do nothing but weep, and he wept with them.
(3) He sympathized, as they represented the grief and bereavements of the whole human family. The death of Lazarus was only a specimen of the ravages and the universal reign of the "king of terrors" on earth, which he had come to abolish; and the grief of these sisters was only a specimen of the universal grief of the human race whose nature he had assumed, and whose sorrow he carried; and he could not contemplate all this without expressing his sympathy.
5. This expression of sympathy is most tender. Jesus was not only sympathetic, but most tenderly sympathetic with all human woes. Many have sympathy, but they manifest it awkwardly and even roughly; it is spoilt in transmission. But Jesus manifested his sympathy with these sisters most tenderly; he conveyed it to them in tears. "Jesus wept."
II. AS EXPRESSIONS OF STRONG AND GENUINE FRIENDSHIP. Jesus wept, not only in sympathy with the bereaved sisters, but in friendship to their departed brother. The Jews were right for once in their interpretation of Jesus when they said, "Behold how he loved him!" Lazarus was the special friend of Jesus. Their friendship was not long.
1. It was very intimate and sincere. It was the highest and purest friendship, arising from a general agreement in temper, taste, character, principles, and sympathies. In Lazarus Jesus could see his image; and in Jesus Lazarus could see a perfect Model, and all that his heart could wish. So intimate and sincere was the friendship, that Jesus could not refrain from weeping for the temporary separation of his friend. And his were not mercenary tears—he was not a paid mourner—but they were tears of genuine friendship.
2. It was very valuable. The friendship of Lazarus was very valuable to Jesus during his active ministry. His foes were many, but his friends were very few; he had only one Lazarus. Many a time had he sheltered from the storm under the wing of his friendship, and there tasted of the sweets of human kindness in an hostile world; these reminiscences now crowded his memory, filled his heart with sorrow, and his eyes with tears.
3. It was most intense. If it had been only of a short duration, this was amply made up in depth, breadth, and intensity. Jesus could love in an hour more than we can in an age. His love to Lazarus must be intense ere he would weep. Small natures can weep often, but great ones only weep on extraordinary occasions. Only twice it is recorded that Jesus wept. Once over a spiritually dead city; now near the grave of a departed friend. One was the wail of pity, and the other the wail of personal and wounded love; and so intense were his feelings that they could not be suitably expressed but in tears, nor find relief but in a wail of sorrow.
III. As EXPRESSIONS OF HIS THOROUGH HUMANITY.
1. It is characteristically human to weep. We know not of any other being that can weep but man. Angels, perhaps, have not the power to weep; they certainly have no need. Devils have need, but not the inclination and power. Man has the need and power to weep. Jesus was a thorough Man; he wept.
2. It is human to weep with those that weep. Human sorrow is ever contagious. Tears are its natural language. A thorough man will ever be impressed by the emotions of his fellows, and will express them, as well as those of his own, in the general language of tears.
3. Jesus was thoroughly human. "Jesus wept." We are glad in a sense that he wept; we rejoice in his tears, for in them we meet him as a thorough Man. A Savior who could not weep, could not be a perfect Savior for us; but in tears we embrace him as our human Friend. We scarcely know which to admire and adore most—Jesus on his way to the grave, in his thorough humanity weeping; or Jesus at the grave, in his thorough Divinity calling the dead to life. In the one he is our God, in the other he is our Brother; and in both he is our perfect Savior.
IV. AS EXPRESSIONS OF DIVINE COMPASSION.
1. His compassion was Divine. The tears were human, but the compassion and sympathy were Divine as well. God, as such, cannot shed tears—cannot weep; but he can sympathize, pity, and sorrow. The tears of Jesus were virtually those of incarnate Deity, they were faithful and expressive translations of Divine emotions into human language, and a revelation of the Divine in the human.
2. His compassion was practical. Our compassion often begins and ends in tears. We are helpless. We weep over the graves of departed friends; we can do nothing else. Our tears cannot restore them to life and society. But the tears of Jesus did this. They became unbearable to Heaven; they moved Divine power, and Lazarus had to return. They were divinely practical, and practically Divine. Jesus does not literally weep now, but in his friends, and this wail shall by-and-by bring about the great resurrection and the grand reunion at the last day.
LESSONS. It is natural and right to weep after departed friends.
1. Although we know that they are in happy existence, far happier than on this side. Jesus knew that Lazarus was so; still he wept.
2. Although we know that we shall soon meet again. Jesus knew that he should soon meet Lazarus even on this side; still he wept.
3. When we weep after our departed friends, who are also the friends of Jesus, we are not alone. Jesus wept, and virtually weeps still, and shall not cease till all his friends are fully with him, and with each other, and death swallowed up in victory.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY GEORGE BROWN
The vision of the Divine glory.
"Jesus said unto Martha, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" When Lazarus of Bethany fell sick, his sisters sent a messenger beyond Jordan to carry the tidings to Jesus. Our Lord's reply was to the following effect: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God," etc. We cannot doubt that these words, or the substance of them, was conveyed by the messenger to Martha and Mary, and yet, either before the arrival of the message or shortly after, Lazarus died, and his death was followed by his burial. Four days of mourning passed away, and at last Jesus himself came to Bethany. Martha met him at the outskirts of the village, and he told her that her brother should rise again, and that he himself was the Resurrection and the Life. At last the Savior stood at Lazarus's grave. It was a cave, and its inner recess, which concealed the dead from view, was blocked up by a stone. Before it stood Martha and Mary and a crowd of their weeping friends. But when our Lord bade the bystanders take away the stone, then Martha interfered. She evidently hoped from first to last that Jesus would do something to meet her case, and, though her hopes were vague, they were nourished by his own words; but now her fears prevailed against her hopes. Her faith gave way before the exigencies of sense. She dreaded the removal of the stone and the evidences of corruption. She could not bear to look into the dark and noisome grave. How gently, and yet how solemnly, does Jesus chide her unbelief! "Said I not unto thee," etc.? He reminds her of all that had passed between them before. And could she now mistrust him, whatever he might do? Why doubt that power and wisdom and love, even all that makes up Divine glory, would shine forth in his actions? This was enough for Martha, and now she trusts her Lord. Now she is in a right state of mind and heart for profiting by all that followed. Had it been otherwise, even the raising of her brother from the tomb would not of itself have revealed to her the glory of God. For her it might have been but a temporal mercy, an earthly, perhaps a questionable boon, carrying no spiritual blessing along with it. Miracles, when they were wrought, were extraordinary means of grace, but they might be misunderstood and abused like any other means; nay, we must not forget that there were men who witnessed this miracle as well as Martha, whose hearts were only hardened by what they saw. They went their ways to the Pharisees and helped them to plot against the Prince of life! Our text is this, "If thou wouldest believe," etc. The significance of these words extends far beyond the occasion on which they were uttered. As a master-key opens many locks, so it is with such sayings of Jesus dropped incidentally in the course of conversation. If we could only use them aright they would open many of the secrets of our hearts, and explain to us much of the character and of the ways of God.
I. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT DOCTRINE, VIZ. THAT THE GLORY OF GOD CAN ONLY BE SEEN BY THE EYE OF FAITH. This is universally true, whether we think of his glory as displayed in nature and in providence, or by his Word and his Son from heaven. The psalmist of Israel exclaims (Psalms 19:1-14.), "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork." And so it has been from the beginning. But what multitudes have, alas! been deaf and blind to all this teaching—in some ages worshipping the host of heaven instead of him who made them all; and in later times seeing nothing in God's grandest works but a vast and complicated machine without a final purpose, a thickly woven veil of laws and second causes with nothing behind it! Ah! the last word of unbelief is a blank and cheerless materialism. And the same thing must be said of the very highest display of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ. There, surely, it shines forth in wondrous and yet attractive radiance. "Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God." His life on earth the very image of God's holiness. His cross the meeting-place of righteousness and mercy. His resurrection the triumph of victorious grace. But why is Christ to so many a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence? Why is he still despised and rejected of men, so that they turn from him with indifference or, perhaps, with a far worse feeling? Why do they think naught of his Divine glory, and make so much of the glory of man, which is as the flower of grass? The Apostle Paul replies that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The god of this world, or the spirit of the age, or, it may be, some lust of their own hearts, has blinded their eyes, so that they will not believe. On the other hand, every Christian knows, by a very practical experience, that the glory of God is a spiritual thing, which can only be seen by the eye of the spirit. By whatever way he has been led in providence and grace, he has learned this much, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in his heart and opened his eyes. And what has been the result? May we not say that, so far as he has walked in this light, life has become a more solemn and blessed thing than it was before, and the Bible a different book to what it was, and the day of rest otherwise hallowed and welcomed, and the means of grace, instead of seemly and well-meaning forms, have become wells of salvation? Not seldom among his fellow-pilgrims in life's journey he recognizes men and women who have the mark of God on their foreheads; and there are times, too, when on the face of nature itself—on the many-colored earth beneath and on the heavens over his head—there seems to him to rest "a light that never was on land or sea," revealing to him a glimpse, as it were, of the glory of the Eternal.
II. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT PROMISE, TREASURED UP HERE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF EACH DISCIPLE OF CHRIST. "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe," etc.? For this vision of faith of which we have been speaking does not perpetuate itself. I do not mean that it passes away like a dream in the night, leaving no traces behind it. The Christian who has seen ought of the Divine glory must desire to see it still, or he would be no Christian at all; but how many things tend to veil it from his view! Sometimes, from the inevitable cares and engagements of life, often from causes which cannot be traced, he finds himself in perplexity and gloom. But, weak and changeful as he is, God's promises do not depend on his varying moods of mind; and in view of such a promise as this, faith bursts into prayer, and evermore the prayer of faith shall live. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" "Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy Law; "" Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." But it is in the greater trials of life that the soul feels most its own intrinsic weakness, and that the promise in the text is "exceeding great and precious." When, for example, health is suddenly shattered; or when fair earthly prospects are dashed to the ground; or when the family circle is broken in upon, and a tenderly loved member is taken away;—then nature's darkness and nature's sorrow compass us in on every side. The heart whispers, "Vanity of vanities." Oar common life loses its interest—"like a dream when one awaketh." And perhaps unbelief, no longer like a silent, lifeless weight, but rather like a mocking demon, assails the very foundations of the faith, or tells us that our interest in them has been all a delusion. Thus it was with the Psalmist Asaph, when in an hour of infirmity he exclaimed (Psalms 77:1-20.), "Will the Lord cast off forever? Both his promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" Poor and cold is the comfort that the world can give in such a case—perhaps telling the sufferer that things might have been worse; or that misfortune is the common lot of man; or that time will in the long run blunt the edge of his feelings; and that "wild flowers may yet grow among the ruins of his happiness," and that meanwhile "to bear is to conquer his fate." Ah! surely if these are the only lessons that trial has to each us, we must often come to look upon providence as a necessary evil. How different are the Master's words, "If thou wouldest believe," etc.! This is indeed the sum and substance of many an ancient oracle. In all ages the Spirit of Christ, which breathed in the prophets, had spoken in the same tones. God's children were ever taught to look within the veil and walk by faith. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord,… that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the Name of the Lord, let him stay himself on his God" (Isaiah 1:10). But here Christ himself adds his "Yea and Amen" to all the promises given by his forerunners; and not only when he raised Lazarus from the grave, but above all when he burst forever the chains of death in his own resurrection, he gave assurance unto all men that his words are faithful and true. What, then, is the perpetual message of these words of his to his disciples? Believe that your secret trials are not the shafts of a blind fate, but the decrees of a reconciled Father's will. They are not designed to crush you, inscrutable as they now appear. They bid you "be still, and know that he is God;" but they are never lightly inflicted, never inconsistent with his wisdom and love. Trust him, then, in the dark. Trust him when your heart is aching. Trust him when human sympathy falls short of your need, and your faith shall not be in vain. He has many ways in providence and grace of showing you his glory; tempering your trials with mercy; perhaps giving them an unexpected issue; raising you above them, and, as it were, above yourselves; giving you new discoveries of his love, a deeper assurance than you ever had before that he is your God. Thus those who walk by faith and not by sight have this promise of Christ fulfilled to them even hero below. Through the checkered experiences of life, whether those be joyous or grievous, God is ever drawing near to them and manifesting himself to them. They shall never, indeed, take the measure of his perfections, and they adore him for this; but whilst their knowledge of him cannot be full, it may be most real; whilst it cannot be comprehensive, it may yet be sufficient for their life-journey. They may see enough of his glory to make them habitually humble and thankful and hopeful, to strengthen them for daily work, and support them under daily trial. How often may two persons be met with whose lives have been visited with much the same trials and enriched with much the same outward blessings, and yet as they approach the evening of their days you hear the one complaining that he was born under an unlucky star, that his steps have been dogged by an unkind fate, and that all is vanity and vexation of spirit; while the other is saying that goodness and mercy have followed him all the days of his life, and asking what he shall render to the Lord for all his benefits towards him! Whence the difference between the two? Is it not from this—that the one has lived without God in the world, whilst the other has sought for grace to walk in the light of his countenance? So much for the life that now is. But there is a larger fulfillment of this promise that belongs to the life to come. Here the glory of God can only be seen amidst the clouds and darkness of this storm-tossed world. The faith of his children, too, is not only tried by the long conflict between good and evil which rages around them, but by the unbelief of their own hearts and the weakness of their bodies of humiliation. "Now they see through a glass darkly." But this is not to last forever. This vision is only for an appointed time. And when the mystery of God has been finished, and the children of the resurrection open their eyes on the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, then shall each one of them learn the fullness of these words of Christ, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? "—G.B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Death and sleep.
Here we have another instance of what is so frequent in John's Gospel, Jesus using common words in special and unexpected meanings. The disciples did not understand Jesus—how were they likely to do so? Their rejoinder was a very natural one. Why, then, should Jesus speak of the reality of death under the form of sleep?
I. ALL DEATH WOULD BE PECULIARLY REPUGNANT TO JESUS. JESUS, we may take it, had in him a fullness and healthiness of natural life which would lie at the very antipodes of death. Many live on the verge of death, as it were, for a long time. They have just enough of the vital principle in them to keep the organism going. But Jesus, in his own natural life, was far away from death. He had no occasion to look upon it in the despairing, bewildered way which the common run of men must adopt. To have spoken of Lazarus as dead, without being forced so to speak, would have suggested thoughts to the disciples which he wished to be swallowed up in the inspiring discoveries of a new revelation.
II. DEATH WAS TO GET A NEW AND SPECIAL MEANING. Contrast the way in which Jesus speaks of Lazarus here with the language he uses in Luke 9:60. Here he speaks of the dead Lazarus as only sleeping; there he speaks of living unbelievers in himself as being dead. This is the true death, to be
casts on the relations of Jesus to the family at Bethany! How it corresponds with what we are told elsewhere of the docile attitude of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his Word! Martha, lacking as she seems to have been in spiritual insight and sympathy, could not have known the significance and propriety of her description; but we speak ofttimes better than we know, and the description was very significant and appropriate. The time had come when Jesus had a very practical lesson for both Martha and Mary, but Mary would learn the most. The service of Jesus to mankind, always essentially the same, has many aspects, many ways of beginning. Jesus began his work in some by bodily healing, but in very many—more, probably, than we imagine—by dropping into their ears marvelous utterances which attracted and charmed them. And of this number Mary seems to have been one. Jesus was a Friend of the household, and Martha might have said, "Our Friend is come, and calleth for thee;" but some happy providence ruled her tongue, and she spoke just the word that set prominently forward the teaching mission of Jesus.
II. THE LESSONS THE TEACHER HAD COME TO TEACH. Jesus, indeed, was always teaching, always shedding fresh light on dark places. Not one of his wonderful deeds but was full of instruction. His miracles were instructive, and his teaching was miraculous. His miracles were great object lessons, and here surely is one of the richest. How it stops the men who want to map out the laws of life and death with scientific precision! No wonder they deny the validity of such a record. Jesus comes in here, as elsewhere, with a truth greater than any our senses can tell us. Mere human experience points out the sequence thus: life, death, corruption, and so union with mother earth. Jesus comes with his power, and makes the sequence thus: life, death, incipient corruption, life again. Our experience tells us the actual, not the necessary. Then another great lesson Mary bad to learn was that of absolute trust in Jesus. Jesus was using the dead decomposing body of Lazarus for nobler purposes than one would have thought possible to reside in a corpse. Jesus can make use of the dead not less than of the living.
III. WE SHOULD FEEL THAT THE TEACHER IS CALLING FOR US CONSTANTLY. Not a day but what we can apply the great leading principles of the truth as it is in Jesus. Not a day but what we can find illustrations of his laws kept and his laws broken. The very daily newspaper should be read with Jesus to explain its bearing on his great purpose. He can show us what is really great and what is really little. Without him to guide, we are very likely to overlook things of the greatest moment, and dwell admiringly on things of little worth; and especially, amid the frequent inroads of death, we need to be thoroughly taught the lesson that there is One greater than death. Jesus never points to more glorious and inspiring truth than when he points to himself.—Y.
Why these tears?
This is the only occasion on which Jesus is recorded as having shed tears; for although the Passion in Gethsemane is alluded to in the Epistle to the Hebrews as having been a scene of strong crying and tears, yet this is too general and rhetorical an expression to be taken literally. (In Luke 19:41, ἔκλαυσε is used, not ἐδάκρυσε, as here.) But Jesus, going to the grave of Lazarus, did manifestly shed tears, and this intensity of emotion was noticed. Why, then, was he moved to this extent?
I. A TESTIMONY TO THE FULLNESS OF HIS HUMANITY. These were the tears of friendship. Many a time Jesus must have been filled with profound pity for human suffering and bereavement, but that by itself would not cause him to shed tears. Jesus was on terms of loving intimacy with the family at Bethany. Every bit of evidence should be welcomed that deepens the impression of this; for to be sure that Jesus had special friends is to make us feel that he was a true, full Man. Every true man must have some who are dearer to him than others. A Jesus without intimate friends would have been a contradiction to all that is best in humanity.
II. A TESTIMONY TO FULL COMMUNION OF FEELING. In one sense there was no need for these tears. In a few minutes many tears might be shed, but they would be tears of joy over the restored relative. Jesus knew what was going to happen; why, then, did he seem as if plunged in the very depths of sorrow? The answer is that he really was in the very depths of sorrow, in full communion of grief with the two sisters who were his friends. Jesus behaved in all respects naturally and tenderly.
III. We must not, however, forget that these were THE TEARS OF JESUS. They are part of the proof of his humanity, but they must be looked at in the light of the whole of that humanity. They were the tears of a sinless Jesus. Tears must be looked at according to their cause. Oftentimes they express the most utter selfishness. The passion of grief, natural and inevitable as it is, brings out the whole man by the very violence of its expression, and so enables us to see how much evil there is in the heart. People can hear with equanimity of deaths all round them; it never strikes them there is anything wrong-anything that wants explaining. The problems and the mysteries of life are as if they were not. But let the blow break their own circle, and utterances the most reckless and purely self-regarding come from their lips.—Y.
I. THE FUNDAMENTAL MISAPPREHENSION. We must understand clearly the great and fundamental error that underlay all the animosity of the Pharisees and priests towards Jesus. To understand that error makes their relentless pursuit of Jesus more explicable. Jesus talked much of a kingdom, and what should the Pharisees take that to mean unless a visible kingdom—a kingdom the establishment of which must be contested and prevented by the Roman empire, tolerant, of no authority that rivaled its own? If these Jews had only comprehended what the kingdom of heaven really was, they would have spared themselves much anxiety, and been free from the stains of great wickedness. That all men should believe in Jesus meant, in the esteem of the priests and Pharisees, that Jesus would be made a King after the fashion of men. They judged Jesus by themselves. They had no standard by which to guess at his motives and proceedings, save their own ambitious hearts. Each one of them would have been glad to be a king if they could have got the multitude to accept them. They did not yet understand that human government, an exceedingly important thing in its place, is but secondary and subordinate compared with the perfect subjection of the individual to Jesus. If Jesus had had all the authority and power of the Roman empire at his back, he could have done nothing with it.
II. THE UNSUCCESSFUL SCHEME. Successful, and yet unsuccessful. The priests and Pharisees succeeded beyond their hopes. Jesus did not become the sort of king they feared he might be. They got him out of the way, and then they were happy. But, for all that, the Romans did in due season come and take away both their place and their nation. It is the frequent delusion of men that if only they do certain things they will prevent or secure certain other things. The best way of providing for the future is to attend to present truth and present duty.
III. THE UNCONSCIOUS PROPHET. Caiaphas knew full well how popular Jesus was in many quarters, and what a hold he had on the people in the country districts, so to speak. No doubt the national party was in a dilemma to begin with, and to this was added the deep feeling in the hearts of many that to attack him was to attack a really good Man. They would not have hesitated for a moment if he had been a mere demagogue, but being what he was they did hesitate. So Caiaphas comes to the front with what, from his point of view, was a statesmanlike proposition enough. What he says amounts to this, "We must not think of the character of the one, but the necessities of the many." You do not hesitate to demolish a fine building and scatter its contents if that will stop the burning down of many streets. And the Father of Jesus has the same principle underlying his plans, only it is a principle carried out with true wisdom and perfect success.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent