John 11:1-57

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2022-12-01 13:11.

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Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus lived in Bethany, a village about two miles (c. 3 kilometers [15 stadia (11:18)]) from Jerusalem. Lazarus became seriously ill, and his sisters apparently looked to Jesus either for comfort or to restore their brother to good health. They sent him the following message about Lazarus, “The one whom you love is sick.” (11:1-3)

Verse 1 contains the first mention of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. A number of other women were also called Mary. Therefore, in verse 2, the sister of Lazarus is uniquely differentiated from the others by a notable deed that had not as yet taken place. She was the one who anointed Jesus with perfumed ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. (11:1, 2)

To the messenger or messengers, Jesus then indicated that the sickness would not have death as its final outcome but would serve to bring glory or praise to God. Moreover, through this illness, he, the Son of God, would be glorified. This would be because his greatness would be revealed in an astonishingly impressive way. By his words (which would have been related to Martha and Mary), Jesus desired to provide hope to them. (Compare 11:40, where Jesus reminded Martha about having told her about seeing the glory of God.) (11:4)

He did not leave for Bethany immediately but stayed two days longer where he was. Indicating that this delay did not reflect unfavorably on his compassion, the account says that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. (11:5, 6)

When he then told his disciples about his decision to go with them to Judea, they were shocked, reminding him that the unbelieving Jews there had intended to stone him. In disbelief, the disciples asked, “Are you going there again?” (11:7, 8)

Jesus assured them that they had nothing to fear. “Are there not twelve hours of day?” By walking in the day, one would not stumble, for one would see the “light of the world” or the sun. If, though, a person walked in the night, he would stumble. Light enters the eyes, and this may be why, when all is darkness and no light can enter the eyes, Jesus is quoted as saying, “The light is not in him.” In daylight, one would be able to see obstacles and avoid them, but darkness conceals, creating a far greater likelihood for tripping over an object in one’s path. (11:9, 10)

As far as Jesus’ activity was concerned, the night had not yet come when he would be arrested and killed. It continued to be daylight for carrying out his commission, which included bringing comfort to those in distress. Moreover, while with his disciples, he served as a light to them. When he would be taken away from them in death, darkness would set in for them, causing them to succumb to fear and to scatter. (11:9, 10)

Jesus then told the disciples that their friend Lazarus had fallen asleep and that he would be going to awaken him. They understood this to mean that Lazarus was getting his rest and would get well. To correct their misunderstanding, Jesus said, “Lazarus died,” thereby also revealing to them his being in possession of miraculous knowledge. (11:11-14)

For the sake of his disciples, Jesus rejoiced that he had not been in Bethany, for what was about to take place would lead them to “believe” or would strengthen their faith in him as God’s Son. Although Lazarus had died, Jesus said, “Let us go to him.” (11:15)

One of the apostles, Thomas, also called Didymus (meaning “Twin,” probably because he had a twin brother or sister), spoke up, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Lazarus was already dead, and so Thomas would not have meant dying with Lazarus. It appears that Jesus’ reassurance had not convinced him that returning to Judea would not be risky. Thomas seems to have concluded that the unbelieving Jews would kill Jesus and that the apostles should nevertheless go with him to Judea and share his fate. By the time they arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. The family seems to have been well known in Jerusalem, for Bethany was only about two miles [c. 3 kilometers] away. Many Jews had come to see Martha and Mary, seeking to comfort them over the loss of their brother. (11:16-19)

As soon as she learned that Jesus was on his way, Martha, typical of a woman of action, left to meet him. Mary, however, stayed in the house, remaining seated as a mourner in the presence of those who had come to comfort her and her sister. (11:20)

Martha’s first words to Jesus reflected her faith in him. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Her words indicate that she believed Jesus could and would have restored her brother to soundness of health. Still, she had not given up hope, for she confidently acknowledged that God would grant all of Jesus’ requests. (11:21, 22)

In response to Jesus’ assurance, “Your brother will rise,” Martha expressed her belief in the resurrection, “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Her reply suggests that she was familiar with the assurance given to Daniel (12:13, NRSV), “You, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.” Martha was confident that the promise of a resurrection “at the end of the days” or “on the last day” also applied to her brother. (11:23, 24)

Jesus then indicated that Martha would not have to wait until the “last day” for Lazarus to rise. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” When referring to himself as being “the resurrection and the life,” Jesus revealed that he had the authority to raise the dead and to impart life. This assured a resurrection for believers who died. All living believers enjoy an enduring relationship with him and his Father. Death does not end that relationship, for it is eternal. Therefore, believers continue in possession of the real life or the eternal life and, in that sense, would never die. (11:25, 26)

At the time, Martha seemingly did not fully understand Jesus’ words, for her response focused on why she believed what he had told her. “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Martha believed him because she recognized him to be the promised Messiah, God’s Son. She returned to her home, called Mary, and “secretly” or privately told her, “The teacher has come and is asking for you.” Martha’s intent for speaking to her sister away from others may have been to give her the opportunity to have a private conversation with Jesus. Mary then rushed off. Jesus had not as yet entered Bethany, remaining at the location where Martha had met him. When those who had come to comfort Mary saw her get up and quickly leave the house, they followed her, thinking that she was heading for the tomb to weep. (11:27-31)

Mary fell to her knees at Jesus’ feet and expressed herself just as Martha had, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It is likely that the two sisters had often said this to one another, prompting the same spontaneous expression from them when meeting him. Seeing Mary and those who accompanied her weeping, Jesus was deeply moved emotionally. The “weeping” of Mary and those who were with her would have been an audible weeping or wailing. The Greek word klaío, meaning “weep,” “mourn,” or “wail,” lays stress on the sound associated with the weeping. In describing Jesus’ reaction, the Greek text has a form of embrimáomai, which can mean “to be indignant,” “to rebuke,” or “to charge sternly.” In this context, the term may indicate that the grief brought about by the death of Lazarus caused Jesus to be “indignant in spirit” or to experience an intense internal upheaval. It disturbed him greatly, and he also came to be troubled and distressed. Jesus then asked, “Where have you laid him?” The mourners replied, “Lord, come and see.” The grief Jesus witnessed affected him deeply, and he began to weep. In Greek, the term dakrýo designates the weeping of Jesus. The noun form of this verb is dákryon, meaning “tear.” So it would seem that Jesus’ sympathetic sorrow proved to be a silent shedding of tears. Observing this, many regarded his tears as an evidence of his great affection for Lazarus. The expressions of others suggested a measure of unbelief, “Was not this one who opened the eyes of the blind man able to keep this one from dying?” (11:32-37)

Upon arriving at the burial site, Jesus again felt indignant (embrimáomai) within himself, was deeply moved, or experienced an inner upheaval. Both the weeping and the expressions of unbelief must have contributed to this internal emotional stirring. The body of Lazarus had been placed in a cave, and the opening had been closed with a large stone. (11:38)

When Jesus asked for the stone to be taken away, Martha protested, “Lord, he already stinks, for it is four [days].” Her reaction was an emotional response based on knowledge about the stench resulting from decomposition. This instantaneous emotional reaction did not take into consideration that Jesus had identified himself as “the resurrection and the life.” He reminded her of his promise, “Did I not tell you that, if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (11:39, 40)

Certain ones then did remove the stone. Jesus focused his eyes heavenward and thanked his Father for having heard him. Continuing to pray, he said, “I, however, knew that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing around I spoke, that they may believe that you sent me.” In response to Jesus’ loud cry for him to come out, Lazarus did so. His hands and feet were still wrapped with bands, and a cloth covered his face. Jesus asked that the restraining bands be removed, making it possible for Lazarus to walk. (11:41-44)

Many of those who witnessed this miracle became believers. Some, though, did not put faith in Jesus. They reported what had happened to the unbelieving Pharisees. (11:45, 46)

This news prompted the chief priests and Pharisees to arrange for the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, to meet to determine what they should do about Jesus. Because of the many signs he had performed, they feared a popular uprising. Many would put faith in him as the promised Messiah, leading to a conflict with Rome. As they expressed it, “The Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” Convinced that war with Rome would mean loss of their place, meaning their land, their holy city Jerusalem, or their temple, and the destruction of the nation, they felt that they needed to act. They must also have recognized that their position as prominent members of the nation was at stake. What seems to have troubled them was their lack of the needed evidence to justify having Jesus executed. (11:47, 48)

Caiaphas, who was then the high priest, had no qualms respecting this. He basically told the members of the Sanhedrin that they did not need any evidence of guilt, saying, “You do not know anything nor do you understand that it is better for you [us, according to other manuscripts] that one man die for the people and not for the whole nation to be destroyed.” As far as he was concerned, Jesus endangered the continued existence of the nation and needed to be killed. Saving the whole nation was sufficient reason for executing one man. (11:49, 50)

According to Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, ii, 2), Valerius Gratus, whom the Roman emperor Tiberius had appointed as procurator of Judea, replaced Simon with Joseph Caiaphas as high priest. Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas (Ananus, according to Josephus), whom Valerius Gratus had deprived of the high priesthood about three years earlier but who continued to wield great influence in the affairs of the nation. (18:13; Antiquities, XVIII, ii, 2) The reference to Caiaphas as being “high priest that year” does not mean that he was annually appointed to the office. It may be understood to signify that he served as high priest at that time or in the significant year when Jesus was put to death. (11:49)

Whereas Caiaphas spoke as one guided by political considerations, the words were framed in a manner that expressed a prophecy appropriate for one occupying the position of high priest. The account includes the editorial comment that Caiaphas did not speak of his own and adds, “Being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that he might gather into one the scattered children of God.” Jesus did die for people everywhere, making it possible for all those who believed in him to become God’s children and form one united whole or one family even though they were widely dispersed in different regions. (11:51, 52)

In keeping with the words of the high priest, the Sanhedrin determined to have Jesus killed. Possibly word about this development reached Jesus through Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. (Compare Luke 23:50, 51; John 7:45, 50, 51.) As a result, Jesus could no longer walk openly among the people. He left Bethany and the area around Jerusalem and headed for a less populated region. For a time, he and his disciples stayed in Ephraim. This town is commonly thought to have been located about 12 miles (c. 19 kilometers) northeast of Jerusalem, but the identification is uncertain. (11:53, 54)

According to the law, ceremonial defilement could result from touching a dead body, being present when someone dies, entering the home where there is a dead person, walking over a grave, or experiencing certain bodily afflictions or conditions. (Leviticus 14:1-20; 15:1-33; Numbers 19:11-18) To observe the Passover, one had to be ceremonially clean. (Numbers 9:6-14) Therefore, many Jews went to Jerusalem before the Passover in order to fulfill the legal requirements for purification from ceremonial defilement. (11:55)

In the temple precincts, these early arrivals began looking for Jesus and talking about him with one another. Among them were those who wondered whether he would even come to the Passover festival. The chief priests and the influential Pharisees in Jerusalem had given the order that anyone knowing Jesus’ whereabouts should inform them, as they wanted to arrest him. (11:56, 57)