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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel
John 11

 

 

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Verse 1
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany1, of the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
    PEREA TO BETHANY. RAISING OF LAZARUS. John 11:1-46

  1. Bethany. See John 11:1-46.


Verse 2
And it was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment1, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus2 was sick.

  1. And it was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment. See shows. For a similar anticipation, see Matthew 10:4. There are five prominent Marys in the New Testament: those of Nazareth, Magdala, and Bethany (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 27:56; Luke 10:39); the mother of Mark (Acts 12:12), and the wife of Cleopas (John 19:25).

  2. Lazarus. On this name, see Luke 16:20.


Verse 3
The sisters therefore sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick1.

  1. Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. The message and its form both indicate the close intimacy between this family and Christ. They make no request, trusting that Jesus' love will bring him to Bethany.


Verse 4
But when Jesus heard it, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God1, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby2.

  1. This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. The sickness of Lazarus was for the purpose or design of a resurrection, so that death was a mere preceding incident.

  2. That the Son of God may be glorified thereby. By this resurrection the Son of God would be glorified by manifesting more clearly than ever before that death came under his Messianic dominion, and by gathering believers from amongst his enemies. In all this the Father would also be glorified in the Son.


Verse 5
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus1.

  1. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. In this passage we have two Greek words for love. In John 11:3,36 we have the Greek word "philein", which expresses natural affection such as a parent feels for a child. In this verse we have "agapan", an affection resulting from moral choice, loftier and less impulsive. We are told of the Lord's love that we may understand that his delay was not due to indifference.


Verse 6
When therefore he heard that he was sick, he abode at that time two days in the place where he was1.

  1. When therefore he heard that he was sick, he abode at that time two days in the place where he was. It is urged that the exigencies of his ministry delayed Jesus in Perea. But the import of the texts is that he kept away because of his love for the household of Lazarus and his desire to bless his disciples. He delayed that he might discipline and perfect the faith of the sisters and disciples. He withheld his blessing that he might enlarge it. Strauss pronounces it immoral in Christ to let his friend die in order to glorify himself by a miracle. In the vocabulary of Strauss, "glorification" means the gratification of personal vanity, but in the language of Christ it means the revelation of himself as the divine Savior, that men may believe and receive the blessing of salvation.


Verse 7
Then after this he saith to the disciples, Let us go into Judaea again1.

  1. Let us go into Judaea again. The word "again" refers back to he has friends, but to go back to Judea, the land of hostility. In so doing he caused them to think of his death, of which he had some time been seeking to accustom them to think.


Verse 8
The disciples say unto him, Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone thee1; and goest thou thither again?

  1. The Jews were but now seeking to stone thee. See John 10:31.


Verse 10
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.
    John 11:9,10

  1. 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. This parabolic expression resembles that at John 9:4. In this passage, day represents the alloted season of life which was to be terminated by what Jesus called "his hour" (John 2:4; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 13:1). Until this "hour" came, Jesus felt no fear. He did not thrust himself into danger, thus tempting God; but he feared not to go whither his duty and the spirit led him. As yet it was still day, but the evening shadows were falling, and the powers of darkness were soon to prevail (Luke 22:53), and then the further prosecution of the work would lead to death, for death was part of the work, and had its allotted time and place.


Verse 11
These things spake he: and after this he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep1.
    John 11:11-13

  1. Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Jesus had before this spoken of death under the figure of sleep (Luke 8:52).


Verse 14
The disciples therefore said unto him, Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover.

  1. Lord, if he sleepeth, he shall do well. The disciples might have understood him to mean death in this case had they not misunderstood his promise given at (John 11:4). As it was, they looked upon the mentioned sleep as marking the crisis of disease, as it so often does in cases of fever. They were glad to urge it as an evidence of complete recovery, and thus remove one of the causes of the dreaded journey into Judea.


Verse 15
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there1, to the intent ye may believe2; nevertheless let us go unto him.

  1. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there. Had Jesus been present during the sickness of Lazarus, he would have felt constrained to heal him, and so would have lost the opportunity of presenting to his disciples a more striking proof of his divine power, a proof which has been the joy of each succeeding age.

  2. To the intent ye may believe. The disciples were soon to learn by sad experience how little belief they really had (Mark 14:50; Mark 16:11 Luke 24:11,21,25).


Verse 16
Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him2.

  1. Thomas . . . who is called Didymus. See .

  2. Let us also go, that we may die with him. That is, die with Christ. See John 11:8. They could not die with Lazarus, as some have foolishly supposed, for he was already dead. This mention of Thomas is closely connected with the thought in John 11:15. Jesus was about to work a miracle for the express purpose of inducing his disciples to believe in him, especially as to his power over death. In this despairing speech Thomas shows how little faith he had in Christ's ability to cope with death. Thomas sadly needed to witness the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, and even after seeing it, it proved insufficient to sustain his faith in the ordeal through which he was about to pass (John 20:25-29).


Verse 17
So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already1.

  1. So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already. If Lazarus was buried on the day he died, as is the custom in the East, and in hot climates generally (Acts 5:6,10), he probably died on the day that the messengers brought word to Jesus about his sickness. If so, Jesus set forth for Bethany on the third day and arrived there on the fourth. The resurrections wrought by Jesus are progressional manifestations of power. Jairus' daughter was raised immediately after death (Mark 5:41; Luke 8:54), the young man of Nain was being carried to his grave (Luke 7:12), and Lazarus was buried four days. All these were preparatory to that last and greatest manifestation of resurrectional power--the raising of his own body.


Verse 18
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off1;

  1. About fifteen furlongs off. The furlong, or stadium, was 1,600 feet; so that the distance here was 1-7/8 miles.


Verse 19
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother1.

  1. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. These Jews were present four days after the death because Jewish custom prolonged the season of mourning. (Genesis 1:3,10; Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8; 1 Samuel 28:13). The Mishna prescribed seven days for near relatives, and the rules as laid down by rabbis, required seven days' public and thirty days' private mourning for distinguished or important personages.


Verse 20
Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him1: but Mary still sat in the house.

  1. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him. Jesus evidently paused on the outskirts of the town. He probably wished to avoid the noisy conventional wailing, the hypocrisy of which was distasteful to him (Mark 5:40). It comports with the businesslike character of Martha as depicted by Luke to have heard of our Lord's arrival before Mary. She was probably discharging her duty towards the guests and new arrivals, as was her wont. See notes on Luke 10:38-42.


Verse 22
Martha therefore said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died1.
    John 11:21,22

  1. Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. We might take it that Martha confidently expected the Lord to raise Lazarus, were it not for the subsequent conversation and especially (John 11:39). We must therefore look upon her hope as more vague than her words would indicate. Such vague and illusive hopes are common where a great expectation, such as she had before indulged, had but lately departed.


Verse 23
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again1.

  1. Thy brother shall rise again. Instead of saying, "I will raise Lazarus", Jesus uses the wholly impersonal phrase "thy brother shall rise again", for it was this very impersonal feature of faith which he wished to correct.


Verse 24
Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day1.

  1. I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Martha assents at once. The doctrine of a resurrection was commonly held by all the Jews except the Sadducees. It was in their view, however, a remote, impersonal affair, a very far distant event powerless to comfort in bereavement. From this comparatively cheerless hope, Jesus would draw Martha to look upon "himself" as both resurrection and life.


Verse 26
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life1: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live;

  1. I am the resurrection, and the life. Where Jesus is there is life, and there also is resurrection at his word without limitation. No mere man, if sane, could have uttered such words. They mean that Jesus is the power which raises the dead and bestows eternal life (John 6:39-54; John 10:28).


Verse 27
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God1, [even] he that cometh into the world.

  1. Yea, Lord: I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. She could not say she believed it, for Lazarus had believed in Jesus and yet he had died. So, evading the question (John 11:26), she confessed her faith in him. Believing him, she accepted whatever he might say. She responds in the words of that apostolic creed which, in its ultimate application, embraces all that is true and discards all that is false (Matthew 16:16; John 6:68,69; John 20:31; 1 John 5:1-5). See 1 John 5:1-5.


Verse 28
And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly1, saying, The Teacher is her, and calleth thee.

  1. She went away, and called Mary her sister secretly. She called Mary secretly, for she wished that Mary might have a private word with Jesus such as she had just had.


Verse 30
And she, when she heard it, arose quickly, and went unto him1.

  1. And she, when she heard it, arose quickly, and went unto him. Moved by ardent feeling.


Verse 31
The Jews then who were with her in the house, and were consoling her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going unto the tomb to weep there2.

  1. The Jews then . . . followed her. According to Eastern custom, the Jews followed her as friends, to assist in the demonstration of mourning. This frustrated the effort of Martha to keep secret the Lord's coming, and caused the miracle to be wrought in the presence of a mixed body of spectators.

  2. Supposing that she was going unto the tomb to weep there. Rather, to wait (Matthew 2:18; Mark 5:38).


Verse 32
Mary therefore, when she came where Jesus was, and saw him, fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died2.

  1. Mary . . . fell down at his feet. In grief and dependence, but with less self-control than Martha.

  2. Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. That both sisters used this phrase (John 11:21), shows that it is an echo of the past feelings and conversation of the sisters. It is clean that they felt hurt at his not coming sooner, as he could have done.


Verse 33
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews [also] weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit1, and was troubled,

  1. He groaned in the spirit. The verb translated "groaned" carries in it the idea of indignation. But the fact that sin had brought such misery to those he loved was enough to account for the feeling.


Verse 34
and said, Where have ye laid him1? They say unto him, Lord, come and see.

  1. Where have ye laid him? This question was designed to bring all parties to the tomb; it was not asked for information. See also Mark 5:30; John 6:5.


Verse 36
Jesus wept1.

  1. Jesus wept. This is not the Greek verb for wailing ("klaio"), but for shedding tears ("dakruo"). On another occasion, when Jesus saw with prophetic eye a vast city, the center of God's chosen nation, sweeping on to destruction, he lamented aloud (Luke 19:41), but here, as a friend, he mingled his quiet tears with the two broken-hearted sisters, thus assuring us of his sympathy with the individual grief of each lowly disciple (Romans 12:15). Nor did the nearness of comfort prevent his tears. They were tears of sympathy. Says Neander,

    "A sympathetic physician in the midst of a family drowned in grief,--will not his tears flow with theirs, though he knows that he has the power of giving immediate relief?"


Verse 37
But some of them said, Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die1?

  1. Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die? Knowing the miracle which he had performed upon a blind man (John 9:1-13), they could therefore see no reason why he should not have performed one here.


Verse 38
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it1.

  1. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. These stones were frequently in the shape of large grindstones resting in a groove, so that they could be rolled in front of the door of the tomb. Tombs had to be closed securely to keep out jackals and other ravenous beasts.


Verse 39
Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone1. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time the body decayeth; for he hath been [dead] four days2.

  1. Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone. Miracles only begin where human power ends.

  2. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time the body decayeth; for he hath been [dead] four days. Martha evidently thought that Jesus wished to see the remains of his friend, and her sisterly feeling prompted her to conceal the humiliating ravages of death. Her words show how little expectation of a resurrection she had.


Verse 40
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God1?

  1. Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Jesus reminds her of his words which are recorded in John 11:25,26 and of the message which he sent, found in


Verse 41
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me1.
    John 11:41,42

  1. Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. Jesus, dwelling in constant communion with the Father, knew that the Father concurred in his wish to raise Lazarus. He therefore makes public acknowledgment, and offers a prayer of thanksgiving, for the Father's gracious answer to this and all his petitions.


Verse 42
And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the multitude that standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me.

  1. That they may believe that thou didst sent me. He states, too, that the prayer is publicly made that it may induce faith in the bystanders. He wished all present to know that the miracle about to be wrought is not the work of some independent wonder-worker, but is performed by him as one commissioned and sent of God. In other words, the miracle was wrought to prove the concord between the Son and the Father, the very fact which the Jews refused to believe. Rationalists criticize this prayer as a violation of the principle at Matthew 6:5,6), and Weisse called it "prayer for show". But it shows on its face that it is not uttered by Jesus to draw admiration to himself as a praying man, but to induce faith unto salvation in those who heard.


Verse 43
And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice1, Lazarus, come forth2.

  1. He cried with a loud voice. The loud cry emphasized the fact that the miracle was wrought by personal authority, and not by charms, incantations, or other questionable means. His voice was as it were an earnest of the final calling which all shall hear (John 5:28,29 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:5).

  2. Lazarus, come forth. It has been happily said he called Lazarus by name, lest all the dead should rise.


Verse 45
He that was dead came forth1, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes2; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

  1. He that was dead came forth. It is thought by some that Lazarus walked forth from the tomb, and the fact that the Egyptians sometimes swathed their mummies so as to keep the limbs and even the fingers separate is cited to show that Lazarus was not so bound as to prevent motion.

  2. Bound hand and foot with grave-clothes. But the grave-clothes were like a modern shroud, wrapped around arms and legs, and mummies also were thus wrapped after their limbs were swathed. It was part of the miracle that Lazarus came out bound hand and foot, and John puts emphasis upon it.


Verse 46
But some of them1 went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done2.

  1. But some of them. Some of the class mentioned in John 11:37.

  2. Went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. By the miracle Jesus had won many from the ranks of his enemies, but others, alarmed at this deflection, rush off to tell the Pharisees about this new cause for alarm. Farrar argues that these may have gone to the Pharisees with good intentions toward Jesus, but surely no friend of Jesus could have been so hasty to communicate with his enemies. But the way in which the Evangelist separates these from the believers of John 11:45, stamps their action as unquestionably hostile.


Verse 47
The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council1, and said, What do we2? for this man doeth many signs3.
    RETIRING BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN'S DECREE. (Jerusalem and Ephraim in Judea.) John 11:47-54

  1. The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council. Called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

  2. And said, What do we? Thus they reproach one another for having done nothing in a present and urgent crisis. As two of their number (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) were afterwards in communications with Christians, it was easy for the disciples to find out what occurred on this notable occasion.

  3. For this man doeth many signs. They did not deny the miracles, therefore their conduct was the more inexcusable.


Verse 48
If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him1: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation2.

  1. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him. They found that despite the threat of excommunication, Jesus was still winning disciples under the very shadow of Jerusalem.

  2. And the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. The course of Jesus seemed to undermine Judaism, and to leave it a prey to the innovations of Rome. It is uncertain what is meant by the word "place". Meyer says it refers to Jerusalem; Luecke to the temple; while Bengel says that place and nation are a proverbial expression, meaning "our all"; but the Greek language furnishes no example of such proverbial use. It is more likely that place refers to their seats in the Sanhedrin, which they would be likely to lose if the influence of Jesus became, as they feared, the dominant power. They feared then that the Romans would, by removing them, take away the last vestige of civil and ecclesiastical authority, and then eventually obliterate the national life.


Verse 50
But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all2,
    John 11:49,50

  1. Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year. That notable, fatal year; he was high priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 36.

  2. Said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, etc. His words are a stinging rebuke, which may be paraphrased thus: "If you had any sense you would not sit there asking, 'What do we?' when there is but one thing to do; viz., Let Jesus die and save the people". Expediency, not justice, is his law.


Verse 51
Now this he said not of himself1: but, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation;

  1. Now this he said not of himself. The expression "not of himself" is a very common Hebrew idiom for "not of himself only". God had a meaning in his words different from his own. In earlier, better days the high priest had represented the divine headship of the nation, and through him, by means of the Urim and Thummin, the inspired oracles and decisions had been wont to come. This exalted honor had been lost through unworthiness. But now, according to the will of God, the high priest prophesies in spite of himself, as did Balaam and Saul, performing the office without the honor.


Verse 52
and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad1.

  1. That he might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad. See Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:1.


Verse 53
So from that day forth they took counsel that they might put him to death1.

  1. So from that day forth they took counsel that they might put him to death. Thus, acting on the advice of Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus without a hearing and sought means to carry their condemnation to execution. Quieting their consciences by professing to see such political dangers as made it necessary to kill Jesus for the public welfare, they departed utterly from justice, and took the course which brought them upon the very evils which they were professedly seeking to avoid.


Verse 54
Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, but departed thence into the country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim1; and there he tarried with the disciples.

  1. Into a city called Ephraim. Ephraim is supposed to be the city called Ophrah at Joshua 18:23 and Ephraim at 2 Chronicles 13:19. Dr. Robinson and others and others identify it with the village now called el Taiybeh, which is situated on a conical-shaped hill about sixteen miles northeast of Jerusalem and five miles east of Bethel. It is on the borders of a wilderness, and commands an extensive view of the Jordan valley. Here Jesus remained till shortly before his last Passover.


Verse 55
Now the passover of the Jews was at hand: and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the passover, to purify themselves1.
    JESUS ARRIVES AND IS FEASTED AT BETHANY. (From Friday afternoon till Saturday Night, March 31 and April 1, A.D. 30.) Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 11:55-12:11

  1. And many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the passover, to purify themselves. These Jews went up before the Passover that they might have time to purify themselves from ceremonial uncleanness before the feast. They were expected to purify before any important event (Exodus 19:10,11), and did so before the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:13-20), for those who were ceremonially unclean were excluded from it (John 18:28).


Verse 56
They sought therefore for Jesus, and spake one with another, as they stood in the temple, What think ye? That he will not come to the feast?
    John 11:56,57

  1. What think ye? That he will not come to the feast? The decree of the Sanhedrin ordering the arrest of Jesus led the people to question as to whether he would dare to approach the city. But this mention of it, and the stir and question which it created have a dark significance. It shows that the Jews generally were forewarned of the evil purpose of the Sanhedrin, and the dangers which surrounded Jesus. They were not taken unawares when their rulers told them to raise the cry "Crucify him"! And they raised it after they had due notice and time for deliberation.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 11:4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-11.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

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Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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