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Bible Commentary / Bible Study

Raising Lazarus

B.W. Johnson Commentary on John 11:1-46

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891

Lazarus Raised from the Dead.

SUMMARY.--Lazarus Sick Unto Death. Jesus Sent For. Lazarus Dead and Buried When He Comes. The Resurrection and the Life. Lazarus Comes Forth at the Word. Many Jews Believe. The Sanhedrim Takes Counsel Against Christ. The Prophecy of Caiaphas. The Passover at Hand.

1. A certain man . . . named Lazarus. He is not named in the other Gospels, though his sisters are. Bethany. About two miles east of Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet. The town of Mary, etc. John speaks of the sisters as well known in the church. They had been named by Luke, who wrote before him.

2. It was that Mary. As there are several New Testament Marys, John points out this one by the well known incident of the anointing described in 12:1-11.

3. His sisters sent unto him. Unto Jesus who was now beyond Jordan. In their distress they turn to the Lord.

4. This sickness is not unto death. That is, death shall not prevail, but God shall be glorified by his rescue from death.

6. He abode two days still in the same place. Because his work there was not yet done. He was in Perea; Lazarus was at Bethany in Judea.

9, 10. Are there not twelve hours in the day? This is his answer to the protest of his disciples against going to Judea again, where the Jews seek his death. He sees his course clearly and is walking in the day.

11-16. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. Jesus before called death a sleep, because it was [372] only a temporary slumber. Let us also go, that we may die with him. The Jews were so hostile when they left Jerusalem that they expect him to be put to death.

19. Many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary. Jews from Jerusalem, of which Bethany was a suburb. As "Jews" in John's usage means the ruling classes, the fact that they came shows that the family of Lazarus was influential. These came to "comfort;" that is, to sit with and talk to the mourners. The mourning was kept up thirty days.

21. If thou hadst been here. Martha's faith made her believe that Jesus would have healed Lazarus, but even she did not expect him to call back from the grave one already buried.

23. Thy brother shall rise again. She takes this as an allusion to the final resurrection.

25. I am the resurrection, and the life. Christ makes the grand, striking declaration that he is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, words that never could have fallen from the lips of a sane mortal. They mean that he is the power which opens every grave, gives life to the sleepers, and calls them forth to a new existence; that the life that endows men with eternal being is in him and proceeds from him. In the light of his own resurrection they mean that when he burst open the tomb he did it for humanity and in him humanity has won the victory over death.

26. Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Those dead, who believed in [373] him, shall be raised and live, and those living who believe, shall never perish. Death will only be a change to a better existence.

27. I believe that thou art the Christ, etc. He asks about her faith. She responds by the good confession that embraces all, Martha's creed, Peter's creed, the true "Apostles' creed," the only creed of the Apostolic church.

28-30. Called Mary her sister secretly. The Lord had evidently directed her to do this, for she said, "The Master calleth for thee." At once, with a promptitude that shows her joy, Mary arose and hastened out of the town to the place where the Lord still tarried.

31. She goeth to the grave to weep there. The message to Mary was secret. When she suddenly arose and left hurriedly, the only explanation that suggested itself to the Jews was that she had gone to weep at the tomb, a custom of Jewish women.

33, 34. He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. The word rendered "groaned" undoubtedly means "was indignant," and is so rendered in the margin of the Revision. Jesus was deeply moved by the grief of Mary, but the hypocritical weeping of the Jews who followed her, and who were acting according to the rules, filled him with indignation.

35. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible and one of the most touching.

36, 37. Behold how he loved him! Some of the Jews were touched by the evidence of tender affection. Others, remembering the healing of the blind man right there at Jerusalem, asked if he could not have saved Lazarus from death.

38. Jesus . . . cometh to the grave. Graves in Palestine were caves in the rock, either natural [374] or cut, and the mouth was closed by a great stone. Such graves are still seen there. For references to graves, see Gen. 23:9 and 35:8; 1 Kings 2:34; Isa. 14:15 and 22:16; Matt. 27:60; John 19:41.

39, 40. Take ye away the stone. The large stone that closed the entrance, and which several persons would be required to remove. The practical Martha suggests that decomposition has begun, not understanding his purpose.

41, 42. And Jesus lifted up his eyes. The Son always sought to honor the Father and to show that the Father was in him as he was in the Father. I thank thee that thou hast heard me. Constantly in communion with the Father, he had the Father's answer already and assent to what he was about to do. Thou hearest me always. Even in Gethsemane, when the cup was not taken away.

43. He cried with a loud voice. A suggestion of the "voice like the sound of many waters" (Rev. 1:15 ), at which all who are in their graves shall come forth (1 Thess. 4:16). It was the voice of authority.

44. And he that was dead came forth. The earth had never beheld a more wonderful or startling sight. At once the sleeper arose, came forth, bound with his grave clothes, with the napkin still upon his face that had been bound under his jaw to keep it from falling. The lookers-on, astonished, dazed, were only recalled to themselves when the Lord bade them, "Loose him and let him go." He spoke as the Divine Word, and death obeyed. As he cried to Lazarus, Come forth, so shall he speak with the voice of an archangel to all that are in their graves, and they shall come forth and live.

45, 46. Many of the Jews . . . believed. They could not doubt after such a display of Divine power. There were, as usual, two classes. The others went and reported to the Pharisees.

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