Chapter 11


A Need Arises


Sickness falling upon those who are loved and known of the Lord is difficult to understand but we see this occurring in the scriptures a number of times and we know from our own experiences. There is a purpose for all things and although we may not understand or know the reason until we are with the Lord we are to trust in Him. Paul says all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28)  


11:1 Now a certain man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived.


Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary who lived in Bethany which was a town two miles east of Jerusalem on the slopes on Mount Olivet becomes sick


11:2 (Now it was Mary who anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and wiped his feet dry with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.


This was the Mary who later would anoint the feet of Jesus and wipe them with her hair (John 12:1-8).


11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, look, the one you love is sick.


The sisters knew where to send for help, not to the doctors but to Jesus. This family was among the few intimate friends of Jesus therefore went they sent their message to the Lord they referred to their brother Lazarus as the one "you love". The word for love used here is the Greek word "phileo" that was the term used for a dear friend.   At the start of this sickness the sisters and, most probably Lazarus, had great faith. They did not doubt for one moment that Jesus was able to heal and that He would come immediately to their brothers aid.  


11:4 When Jesus heard this, he said, "This sickness will not lead to death, but to God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.


On hearing about Lazarus Jesus tells the messengers and those with Him that the purpose of this sickness was for the glory of God and for His Son to be glorified by it. The words of Jesus,  "this sickness is not unto death", would seem to be a contradiction to what followed for Lazarus did die. His disciples took them to mean that his sickness was not serious. The words can only be interpreted to mean that Lazarus' death was only to be temporal (see John 11:11-14) that the grave would not be able to hold its victim.


11:5 (Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.


The Amplified Bible translates this verse "They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem".


The Delay


11:6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained in the place where he was for two more days.


The natural reaction if a loved one falls sick is to hastily visit them to comfort and help but here Jesus has to resist this and harden himself to a degree in order to do the will of His Father and this He did for four days in all. Lazarus had most probably died just after the messengers had left for in John 11:39 Martha says that he had been in the tomb four days. Jesus needed only to say the word from where He was and Lazurus would have been healed as He had done for the centurion's servant (Matt. 8:16). If He had  done so then the greater miracle of rising Lazarus from the dead would not have taken place and God would not have received as much glory neither would it have been shown that Jesus Christ had power over death. The disciples nor the two sisters knew what was going to happen or what Jesus was going to do. The delay certainly tested the faith that the sisters had just as Abraham's was when God asked him to offer up Isaac. As they watched their brother getting worse and then saw him die they must have felt like the Psalmist when he cried "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?" (Psa. 13:1). However, the Lord's delays are not denials (2 Pet. 3:8-9).


11:7-8 Then after this, he said to his disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples replied, "Rabbi, the Jewish leaders were just now trying to stone you to death! Are you going there again


After two days Jesus starts His journey to Bethany. His disciples remind Him that four months ago the Jews had wanted to stone Him (John 10:31)


11:9-10 Jesus replied, "Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks around at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.


As in John 9:4-5 Jesus tells His disciples that He must do the works of His Father while there is still time.  He uses the illustration of a traveller who does his journeying in the daytime so that he has the light to see where he is going and avoid any dangers that would cause him to stumble. Jesus was fully aware of the plot of the Jews to kill Him.


11:11-14 After he said this, he added, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I am going there to awaken him." Then the disciples replied, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." (Now Jesus had been talking about his death, but they thought he had been talking about real sleep.) Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died.


Jesus then tells his disciples that  Lazarus has fallen asleep. The word He used for sleep (koimao¯) is applied to death, and that He was going to raise him up. The disciples, however misunderstood Him and thought that he meant he was sleeping (katheudo in Mark 5:39) and that this would do him good. The Lord the plainly tells them he is dead (apothne¯sko).


11:15 And I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.


Barnes comment on this verse is "If I had been there during his sickness, the entreaties of his sisters and friends would have prevailed with me to restore him to health. I could not have refused them without appearing to be unkind. Though a restoration to health would have been a miracle, and sufficient to convince you, yet the miracle of rising him after being four days dead will be far more impressive, and on that account I rejoice that an opportunity is thus given so strikingly to confirm your faith."


11:6 So Thomas (called Didymus ) said to his fellow disciples, "Let us go too, so that we may die with him.


Even though Thomas realized that it meant certain death for Jesus to return to Judea, he was sufficiently committed to His Lord to accompany Him.  


The Challenge


11:17-19 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already. (Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, so many of the Jewish people of the region had come to Martha and Mary to console them over the loss of their brother.


For two days Jesus delayed coming to Bethany and then it took another two days to journey to get there. Beyond any shadow of a doubt Lazarus was  died and buried and his body would have already  started to decay. On the other occasions that Jesus raised the dead, Jairus' daughter and the widow of Nain's son they had only just died they had not been buried. Many of the Jews had come to console Mary and Martha.


11:20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary was sitting in the house.


Here we see the difference between the two sisters.  Martha was always active and practical she reminds me of Peter,  while Mary was passive and more thoughtful. They complemented each other, Martha perhaps giving that thrust which Mary lacked, and Mary the restraint that Martha needed.


11:21-22 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.


The initial faith that these sisters had when Lazarus was sick seems to have faded with his death. They had enough faith to believe that He could heal their brother but not to believe that He could raise him from the dead.  Although it appears as if Martha was prepared to believe that Jesus could do anything. They had a limited faith and a limited knowledge of Jesus.


11:23-34 Jesus replied, "Your brother will come back to life again." Martha said, "I know that he will come back to life again in the resurrection at the last day.


His answered to her that Lazarus would rise from the dead brought the response from Martha "Oh yes I know he will rise again at the resurrection of the dead" suggests that she had faith for the "substance of things hoped for" but not for the "evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).  


11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?


This is the  key verse to the whole episode for Jesus absolutely declares that He "is", not will be, "the resurrection" - He is the giver of life,  life is in and is Jesus Christ!. (John 1:4). He has all power and authority over all things He is "Lord of all". At His word the dead are raised to life again even if the body has already begun to decay.   All who believe in Him although they may die yet they will live.  Although they may die physically they will go on living because they have eternal life and can never perish (John 3:16). He asks Martha if she believed this.


11:27-28 She replied, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world." And when she had said this, Martha went and called her sister Mary, saying privately, "The Teacher is here and is asking for you.


This brings Martha to a more confident faith and a confession that Jesus is the Christ and she goes to tell her sister Mary that the Master had come.


11:29-32 So when Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. (Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still in the place where Martha had come out to meet him.) Then the people who were with Mary in the house consoling her saw her get up quickly and go out. They followed her, because they thought she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. On hearing this Mary immediately gets up and goes to Jesus. Those with her think she is going to the tomb to continue her mourning. Mary on coming to Jesus shows the same limited faith as Martha and uses exactly the same words although she approaches Him in a different way; she falls at His feet in an attitude of worship.


11:33-34 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, "Where have you laid him?" They replied, "Lord, come and see.


Jesus' reaction to the situation presented before Him was to groan in His Spirit; He was deeply moved with compassion. The situation before Him was that of the devastation of sin (Rom. 5:12) - someone dead and decaying in the grave and the grief of the bereaved.


11:35 Jesus wept.


The shortest verse in the Bible expresses the heartache and sympathy that Jesus had for the sisters.  


11:36-37 Thus the people who had come to mourn said, "Look how much he loved him!" But some of them said, "This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn't he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?


On seeing Him weep some of the Jews realized how much Jesus loved Lazarus while others in a cynical manner said if He could make a blind man see surely He could have saved Lazarus from dying.


11:38 Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.


On hearing this Jesus again groaned within Himself this time in indignation at their unbelief.


11:39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, "Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days."


Martha's faith is challenged again. When actually faced with the stone that entombed her brother and the prospect of it being removed her faith faltered. We cannot point a finger at Martha for so often this is what happens to us.  We declare our faith in the Lord and in His Word, we accept that nothing is impossible for Him and yet when we come face to face with the impossible our faith can falter and fail.


11:40 Jesus responded, "Didn't I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?


The Lord reminds Martha of His  Word and promise by doing so He stirs up and imparts the faith that she needs to believe.


The Resurrection


11:41-42 So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.


In obedience to His command they take the stone away. The first thing that Jesus does is to lift His eyes to heaven and publicly give thanks to the Father for hearing His prayer for the raising up of Lazarus for He had already done this. His purpose in publicly doing this is so that the people may know that without any shadow of doubt God always hears and answers His prayers because He is the "Beloved Son" and that they might believe in Him.  


11:43-44 When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, "Unwrap him and let him go.


Jesus then in a voice of authority and power speaks direct to the dead and decaying Lazarus to come forth. Death and the grave had no alternative but to give up its victim even though Lazarus was still completely bound with  grave clothes even to his face. No devil, demon, principality or power can resist the authority and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  At Christ's bidding Lazarus came out of the tomb and He tells them to set him free from his burial clothing.


11:45-46 Then many of the people, who had come with Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and reported to them what Jesus had done.


Many of those who had come with Mary to the tomb and had witnessed this mighty miracle believed on Him while others made their way as quick as they could to report it to the Sanhedrin.  


The Plot to Kill Jesus 


11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs.


Immediately a meeting of the Sanhedrid was called to discussed what they could do about this man who was doing many miracles.


11:48 If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.


These bigots (a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own) were not concerned about the many people whom Jesus had healed but of losing their own positions and power.  They realized that if allowed to continue in His ministry many more would believe that Jesus is the Son of God.    


11:49-50 Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.


Caiphas, whom was the High Priest at that time in effect called the members of the Sanhedrin fools for their hesitation in doing what he considers was the only answer to the problem.    The only way to save the people from destruction was that Jesus should die for them.  


11:51-52 (Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered.


In saying this Caiphas as the High Priest was unconsciously prophesying that Jesus would die but what he did not know or ever accepted was that He would do so for the sins of the whole world.


11:53 So from that day they planned together to kill him.


From this time on they tried to find a way to capture and to kill Jesus.


11:54 Thus Jesus no longer went around publicly among the Judeans, but went away from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples.


He therefore left Jerusalem and went with His disciples to a place called Ephraim that was on the edge of the desert five miles from Jericho.


11:55 Now the Jewish feast of Passover was near, and many people went up to Jerusalem from the rural areas before the Passover to cleanse themselves ritually.


As the Jewish Passover drew near many from the countryside made their way to Jerusalem so that they could go through the cleansing ceremony to prepare themselves for it.


11:56 Thus they were looking for Jesus, and saying to one another as they stood in the temple courts, "What do you think? That he won't come to the feast?


They were all on the lookout for Jesus and as they gathered in the Temple they asked each other if they thought Jesus would come to the Feast.


11:57 (Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should report it, so that they could arrest him.


In the meantime the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was that they should report it to them so that they could arrest Him.

Johanine Studies - Gospel of John Chapter 11 New Testament Bible study


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