The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 11

Joh 11:1

Joh 11: "We turn to Christ in our moments of suffering and trial. Our need is enough for his love. But sometimes he remains away and we do not understand the message he sends. The crisis comes and goes. Perhaps we are left grief-stricken and alone. But one day we shall hear the summons, 'The master is come. He calls for you.' Before the open grave he will show us that he is the resurrection and the life... then we shall see the completed pattern of our lives, and we shall know that the sorrow and the suffering made up the fulness of his love" (MP 276).

Joh 11:2

THIS MARY... WAS THE SAME ONE...: A ref forward to Joh 12 -- or more likely a ref to the earlier incident in Luk 7? See Lesson, Mary, "three women".

Joh 11:3

The two sisters make no request; they will accept whatever Jesus decides.

Joh 11:4

JESUS SAID, "THIS SICKNESS WILL NOT END IN DEATH": "When Jesus heard that [the illness of Lazarus], he said, This sickness is not unto death" (Joh 11:4, AV). What a strange thing to say... for of course Lazarus WAS going to die! And this message would have been carried back to Mary and Martha, and given them perhaps a false sense of hope.

But, even though Lazarus DID die, Jesus was still correct. Lazarus might pass THROUGH death, but death was not to be the final end of his sickness. Jesus knew this too!

There IS a limit to every human suffering, and "the limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. 'He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men' [Lam 3:33]. A mother's heart cries, 'Spare my child'; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that He who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation" (CHS).

And even though Lazarus died, his sickness was not "unto death".

And even though he died AGAIN (quite possibly at the hands of evil men bent on removing his "witness" to the One who was "the resurrection and the life"), THAT death was not "unto death" either! Not really.

No death of any saint is "unto death".

The voice whispers in our hearts: "Rejoice, I have conquered death. I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

IT IS FOR GOD'S GLORY: Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

Joh 11:6

HE STAYED WHERE HE WAS TWO MORE DAYS: Christ does not return immediately to solve our problems. but our additional wait and trial is finally rewarded.

Here insert, perhaps, the parable of unjust steward (Luk 16:1-13) and the parable of rich man and LAZARUS (Luk 16:19-31).

Joh 11:7

LET US GO BACK TO JUDEA: His face set like a flint: Luk 9:51; Act 21:12-14; Isa 50:7. In going to Jerusalem, Christ was forfeiting his own life for the life of his friend Lazarus -- a literal "sacrifice", which was a part of his absolute sacrifice for all men. In the one, there was the shadow of all!

Joh 11:9

// 1Jo 1:6,7.

Christ walks in light; his enemies (v 8) walk in darkness, rejecting the "light" (Joh 3:19-21). By ct, Christ knows where he goes (ie to Jerusalem and death) and will not stumble nor be turned aside. Since he loves his brethren (1Jo 2:10), he goes willingly to the cross on their behalf, his eyes fixed on God's glory. He knows he will be given sufficient time to complete his course (Luk 13:33).

TWELVE HOURS OF DAYLIGHT: By implication, sufficient time to accomplish whatever is necessary.

Joh 11:10

// 1Jo 2:10; Pro 4:18,19.

Joh 11:11

ASLEEP: Actually dead (v 14). On one other occasion Jesus speaks of death as a "sleep" -- the daughter of Jairus: Mat 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52.

TO WAKE HIM: Resurrection (vv 43,44).

Joh 11:12

See Lesson, John's figurative language.

Joh 11:16

The disciples expect that Jesus will die in Jerusalem (cp v 8).

THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM: And so we are commanded to go to the cross with Christ, and to be "crucified" with him: Mat 16:24; Rom 6:3,4; 8:7; Gal 2:20; Phi 3:8-11; Col 3:3; 1Pe 2:24; 1Co 15:31; 2Co 5:15; Rev 2:10; etc.

Joh 11:21

See v 1n.

Joh 11:24

RISE AGAIN: "Anastasis" = to stand again. Martha is familiar with the teachings of Jesus.

Joh 11:25

Resurrection to eternal life, predicated upon belief, repentance, baptism, and a faithful continuance: Rom 2:7; Phi 3:8-11; Heb 11:8-13,17-19,39; 1Co 15:1-22.

"All through life the sad story of bereavement goes on. As the leaves are torn from the trees by the rude storm, so those whom we love are plucked away from us. Were it not for the hope that we have in Jesus, these losses would be infinitely sad, without any alleviation. The death of a dear friend is a cause of deep sorrow; such is instinctive -- Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus. But the sorrow of those who belong to Christ is a sorrow chastened by faith and cheered by hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. Those who have fallen asleep in him are not lost for ever; those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one or a dear friend, grasp hold of the imperishable reality, that in the day of resurrection hand will clasp hand again and heart will clasp heart in reunion. The grave is only Winter, and after Winter comes Spring with its wonderful resurrections, in which everything beautiful that seemed lost springs forth into life" (A Higginson, Xd 115:105).

Joh 11:26

Ref those who are alive at Christ's coming, in ct to those who have already died (v 25).

DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?: Jesus leads her on to greater expression of faith.

Joh 11:32

At Jesus' feet, the place of: rest (Luk 8:35); pardon (Luk 7:38); healing (Luk 17:16); teaching (Luk 10:39); comfort (Joh 11:32); intercession (Mar 7:25); and worship (Mat 28:9).

Mary at Jesus' feet: to hear (Luk 10:39), to weep (Joh 11:32), and to worship (Joh 12:3).

Joh 11:35

JESUS WEPT: "How much it cost Jesus to be brother to a sin-stricken race!" (Xd 119:303).

Why did Jesus weep? (1) Because of the horrific density of the Jews' unbelief in spite of all his time teaching and working miracles among them? (2) The hard disappointment of the fact that this unbelief extended to his disciples (Martha, Mary, et al)? (3) Physical/emotional exhaustion in this brutal period leading to the cross? (4) Deep sensitivity to the anguish in Mary and Martha? An expression of solidarity with our human infirmities and weaknesses and losses? (5) And also because there can be, to the human mind, a great gulf between what we know and how we feel, between where we will be and where we are, between reality and "reality", between "then" and "now". And Jesus had a human mind. (6) And, finally, because Jesus saw himself there, in the tomb.

The death of Lazarus provokes the tears of Jesus. Jesus' tears also flow for the prospect of Jerusalem's sufferings (Luke 19:41), and in the stress of the temptation in Gethsemane (Heb 5:7). The tears of Jesus in the Psalms: Psa 6:6; 39:12; 42:3; 56:8; 69:10; 116:8.

Joh 11:36

SEE HOW HE LOVED HIM: These words were prob spoken with scorn.

Joh 11:37

COULD NOT HE WHO OPENED THE EYES OF THE BLIND MAN HAVE KEPT THIS MAN FROM DYING?: They plainly feel that it is now too late to help Lazarus.

Joh 11:38

// Heb 5:7: strong crying and tears.

Joh 11:39

FOUR DAYS: Note progression: "about to die" (Luk 7:2); just died (Mat 9:18); about to be buried (Luk 7:12); and dead 4 days (Joh 11:39). Lazarus sym spiritually dead Gentiles: dead 4,000 years, until the work of Christ. (Cp Act 10:30, four days and Cornelius the first Gentile convert.)

Joh 11:41

SO THEY TOOK AWAY THE STONE: Jesus performed a mighty miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead. But he did not take away the stone from the door of the sepulcher, nor did he remove the grave clothes when his resurrected friend came out of the tomb, "bound hand and foot" (Joh 11:44). Standing before the grave of Lazarus, whose body was corrupting, the Lord demanded something of those who longed for a miracle. They might have questioned, "Lord, You are going to raise the dead; why not move this heavy stone with but a word -- or a thought?" Herein lies a great principle: the Lord will not do by a miracle what we are to do by obedience. Is there a stone he wants you to roll away? Is there some hard, unyielding attitude; someone you will not forgive; some unconfessed sin; some step of obedience he awaits? It is ours to obey, it is his to do the miracles.

Joh 11:42

I KNEW THAT YOU ALWAYS HEAR ME: "God hears our prayers before we have even stated them. May we always go to the Lord with thanksgiving of the assurance that He hears our prayers and knows our needs. He provides for us even when we are not sure of our own needs. He promises that all things work for good for those who love Him. He continually showers His love on us. We have an invitation to continually go before Him in prayer. We can at any moment look and find abundant mercies all around us. And as we direct our attention to the Father in love and thankfulness, we are reminded of our Savior at His right hand. Our master who opens the way to the Father for us. Jesus the Messiah who teaches us how to become like him so we can share in the glory of the Father.

"Father, thank You for hearing me through Your son who ever makes intercession for us. Your mercy endures forever. Thank You for Your love and care in our insignificant lives. Help me to grow to be more like Your son -- a willing worker in Your plan, and a light to all" (CPv).

Joh 11:43

The 3 persons whom Christ raised:

Luke 8:49
Luke 7:14
John 11:43
Jairus' daughter
Widow's son
Social position
Moderate circumstances
Stage in death
Just dead
Going to tomb
Dead and buried
Relative's faith
Father asked
Mother did not ask
Sister doubted
Other characteristics
Friends were put forth
The bier was stopped
Stone rolled away

LAZARUS, COME OUT: A very abrupt, forceful command. Literally, "Lazarus! Here! Out!"

Joh 11:48

PLACE: Meaning the Holy Place, or Temple: sw Mat 24:15; Joh 4:20; Act 6:13; etc.

Joh 11:50

BETTER FOR YOU THAT ONE MAN DIE FOR THE PEOPLE THAN THAT THE WHOLE NATION PERISH: They were afraid that rioting and rebellion (led by Jesus?) might kill many. Priests were esp afraid of losing authority over poor, if Jesus should continue to preach. But inadvertently Caiaphas speaks the truth. Evil men, with their evil plans, are nevertheless controlled by God for good: Act 2:23,24; 4:28. (Caiaphas actually fulfills his own "prophecy": Joh 18:4.)

It was rare for the Sanhedrin to issue the death penalty. "The Sanhedrin that puts to death one person in seven years is termed tyrannical. Reb Elazar ben Azariah says, One person in seventy years." So the condemnation of our Lord by the Sanhedrin was evidently very unusual and supports the testimony of Scripture to the antipathy for him, as well as evidences a sense of urgency in Caiaphas' plot that "one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."

Joh 11:52

THE SCATTERED CHILDREN OF GOD: In the widest possible sense: people of every nation, who believe (cp Act 17:26).

Joh 11:53


Joh 11:54

THEREFORE JESUS NO LONGER MOVED ABOUT PUBLICLY AMONG THE JEWS: The transition: From this point, Jesus turns his back on the nation, and concentrates on his own little band of disciples. The things which took place between Jesus leaving Bethany and returning (John 12:1) are recorded only in Luke 10:42--18:14.

A REGION NEAR THE DESERT...: His very last opportunity for solitude and preparation before the last week.

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