- As Son of God in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:4, 42)
- As Son of David (King of Israel) at the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13)
- As Son of Man when sought by Greeks at the Feast (John 12:23)
- Setting: The Lord Delays His Departure for Bethany, Lazarus Dies (11:1-16)
- Conversation With Mary and Martha (11:17-32)
- Raising of Lazarus (11:33-44)
- The Sanhedrin Council & the Plot to Kill Jesus (11:45-54)
- Public Excitement Regarding Jesus Approaching Passover (11:55-57)
Setting: The Lord Delays His Departure for Bethany, Lazarus Dies (11:1-16)
The Sickness of Lazarus (vv.1-4)
The Lord’s Delayed Departure (vv.5-10)
Thus we see why evil is permitted; for the greater manifestation of the glory of God, for the everlasting strength and comfort of His saints.2
The Death of Lazarus (vv.11-16)
Sleep is often used to describe the death of a believer, although it is never used to describe the death of an unbeliever. The original word is ekoimethesan; "a sleep that is induced by another". In 1 Thess. 4 we learn who it is that has induced the sleep; the Lord Jesus. What a precious thought! Death is not an accident. Jesus puts His saints to sleep, and He will wake them up with His own voice (John 5:28-29)! It speaks of a sweet tenderness in our Lord's care for His own, even in death. It reminds us of the tender way in which the Lord Himself took Moses personally aside, put him to sleep, and then buried the body. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints" (Psa. 116:15). Scripture does not teach so-called "soul-sleep"; i.e. that a person is unconscious in the intermediate state. Both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious in the intermediate state (Luke 16:19-31). Those who teach "soul-sleep" leverage scriptures like Ecc. 9:5 which speak of the ignorance of the dead; "for the dead know nothing". That passage really speaks of ignorance as to things on earth; that which is "under the sun". Quite the opposite, unbelievers who have died are conscious in their suffering, and believers who have died are "present with the Lord".Their misunderstanding led them to think that Lazarus was still alive, and that sleep would improve his condition. Lazarus in this chapter is a type of Israel, which has sunken down into national sleep. No amount of “resting” will improve their moral condition before God. The first man cannot be improved. The passage of time only results in more stink. Divine intervention is needed; resurrection power (Ezek. 37:1-10). However, we cannot be too hard on the disciples; “…the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
Conversation With Mary and Martha (11:17-32)
The Lord’s Arrival in Bethany (vv.17-19)
Conversation with Martha (vv.20-28)
Martha tells her, “The Master is come and calleth for thee” – like saying, “He is talking about what I do not understand, and you must come.”6
Conversation with Mary (vv.29-32)
- In Luke 10:39 we have Mary at Jesus’ feet as a learner. Each time Jesus would go to Jerusalem, He would stop at Bethany and enjoy the company of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. There He would teach them divine things, and Mary had the “better part” of sitting at His feet to learn.
- In John 11:32 we have Mary at Jesus’ feet as a pray-er, or supplicant. When overcome with grief, she falls at the feet of her Lord, and without complaining, acknowledges His absolute power over all circumstances, and places herself and her happiness in His capable hands.
- In John 12:3 we have Mary at Jesus’ feet as a worshiper. This is pictured by her anointing the Lord’s feet with precious spikenard. What the Lord values most is our worship. But we will never be a worshipper until we have sat first at Jesus’ feet as a learner, then as a pray-er.
Raising of Lazarus (11:33-44)
Christ's Groaning. We see the moral sufferings of Christ never so clearly as in John 11, at the grave of Lazarus. Twice over, the moral sufferings of Christ caused Him to groan; once in vv.33-34, and again in vv.37-38 for a different reason. The word "groaning" is interesting in the original. There is no easy English equivalent. The actual word is 'thundered-in'... an inward thundering. It could have been somewhere between a muttering and a snorting noise, but the point is not so much the noise as the internal suffering in His soul.
It may be a similar thought to Romans 8, where (1) the creation groans unintelligently under the bondage of corruption, (2) the believer groans with a measure of intelligence, and (3) the Spirit of God groans with perfect intelligence within us, because the Spirit is able to perfectly express to God what we feel but are unable to articulate.
- “Jesus therefore, when he saw her weeping… was troubled“ (John 11:33). Jesus was disturbed as He contemplated the effects of sin in His creation, especially the sorrow that death had brought to Mary and the others.
- “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour” (John 12:27). Jesus was disturbed as He contemplated the hour of His atoning sufferings on the cross.
- “Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, that one of you shall deliver me up” (John 13:21). Jesus was disturbed as He contemplated that one of His own disciples (Judas) would betray Him.
- Weeping at the Grave of Lazarus (John 11:35), as He contemplated the awful ravages of sin in the creation, all in perfect sympathy with those who had lost their loved one. This has to do with His sympathetic sufferings.
- Weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), as He contemplated their folly in rejecting Him, and the sorrows that awaited the city as governmental consequences. This has to do with His official sufferings.
- Weeping in Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7), as He contemplated the horrors of Calvary, particularly the atoning sufferings which weighed upon His holy soul. This has to do with His anticipative sufferings.
The Sanhedrin Council & the Plot to Kill Jesus (11:45-54)
Public Excitement Regarding Jesus Approaching Passover (11:55-57)
- Bowley, Mary. Jesus! How Much Thy Name Unfolds. Little Flock Hymnbook #6, 1881. (vv.2-3)
- Darby, J.N. The Gospel of John. Notes and Comments, Vol. 6. p.177
- Note that Job even predated Moses! It is remarkable that he knew of resurrection.
- This is the principle of resurrection, although the scripture applies to the national resurrection of Israel.
- I risk being overly judgmental of Martha in this, but it seems that Martha was saying the right words, but didn’t yet grasp their full meaning – nor could she until the Spirit of God was sent. Perhaps we have all experienced this before, when someone is trying to explain spiritual truth to us that goes over our head, and we just mutter a statement of truth (e.g. “Yes, God is truly amazing”, etc.) because we want to agree, but just don’t understand. Her heart was right, and she was speaking in faith.
- Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John. p.261
- Rowan, Ora. Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him? 1834-1879.