[14]   Signs and Discourses 11: Lazarus (11:1-57)

Explanation

[C15]  11:1-57........... SEVENTH Sign - The raising of Lazarus

11:3     “Lord” probably means “Sir.” Lazarus ws referred to simply as “the one you love” (your friend), implying a close friendship between Jesus and the family.

11:4     The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son are always in close connection.

11:5     Jesus loved (Gr. agapa) all three individually. The verse is here to show that Jesus’ failure to move immediately was not due to any lack of affection for the family.

11:6     “Therefore” (not translated) He remained for two days. Lazarus must have died shortly after the messengers started on their way.

11:7     The double time note “then” and “after this” puts some emphasis on the delay.

11:9     “This world’s light” is the sun. Jesus must do His work while He has the opportunity.

11:10   Jesus talked about the condition of the soul as He says “the light is not in him” but not “he has no light”. When there is darkness in the soul, one will stumble.

11:11   In the NT, the death of the believer is commonly spoken of as “sleep”. The fear of death was universal. But with salvation, death is now no more than sleep (1Co 15:55).

11:12   The disciples tried to avoid going back to Judea.

11:13   The common pattern that Jesus’ hearers misunderstood what He said occurs again.

11:14   The aorist tense indicates the supernatural knowledge of Jesus that Lazarus had died.

11:15   Jesus’ joy was for the disciples so that they might believe. This is a deeper faith.

11:16   “Didymus” is the Greek equivaluent of the Hebrew “Thomas”. He was usually a doubter not marked by abundant faith. Here, however, he expressed courage to choose death with Jesus.

11:17   There was a Jewish belief that the soul stays near the grave for three days, hoping to return to the body. But on the fourth day, decomposition of the body sets in and the soul finally leaves.

11:18   Bethany is a village 3 km from Jerusalem; Jesus had reached the final stage of His journey.

11:19   “Many of the Jews” normally describes the enemies of Jesus. However, some were sympathizers of Martha and Mary and they came for a prolonged stay to comfort the bereaved.

11:20   Martha, a busy active lady, came out to meet Jesus outside the village.

11:21   Martha’s greeting is an expression of faith and a regret. It may well echo what she and Mary had said to one another in the past four days (see v.32).

11:22   Martha did not think there was any hope of resurrection as she objected the removal of the tomb stone later (v.39). Here, she simply expressed her continuing faith with Jesus.

11:24   Martha takes Jesus’ words as referring to the final resurrection at the end of the age.

11:25   “I am” saying again. Jesus “IS” (not “He will give”) the resurrection and the eternal life.

11:26   Eternal life is a present reality, not a future promise.

11:27   Martha’s significant declaration of faith: “I have believed” indicates a permanently remaining faith; also her belief is: Jesus is the Christ; the Son of God; the long-awaited Deliverer.

11:28   Possibly Martha wanted Mary to have the opportunity for a short private conversation with Jesus as she had had. This may be why Jesus remained for a while outside the village.

11:32   Possibly Mary’s quick action gained her a short time with Jesus when she prostrated.

11:33   “Weeping” signifies a noisy unrestrained wailing, commonly at that time. The scene of confusion and sorrow caused Jesus’ deep emotion. It could be either (a) Jesus’ sympathy for the mourners, being angry against sin, sickness and death for causing so much sorrow or (b) His indignation at the attitude of the mourners as even believers like Mary mourn like people without hope. It could also be both.

11:34   “They” probably means the two sisters.

11:35   This is the shortest verse in the Bible. The word “wept” probably means “burst into tears” but quietly, not like the others. Since Jesus knew that Lazarus would be risen soon, his weeping was not for Lazarus but possibly for reasons described above.

11:36   The people did not discern the deeper reason of Jesus’ tears.

11:38   The tomb was for someone of importance.

11:40   Jesus was promising Martha a sight of the glory of God. The crowd would see the miracle but only believers would perceive the spiritual significance.

11:41   Jesus’ prayer started with a thanksgiving that the Father had heard Him. The aorist tense points to a prayer already prayed, likely a prayer for the resurrection of Lazarus.

11:43   The loud voice was not for the dead to hear but for the crowd.

11:44   Lazarus was still bound with grave clothes, narrow strips of cloth or bandages.

11:46   While some Jews believed, others reported to the enemies of Jesus in a spirit of hostility.

11:47   The continuous tense indicates that Jesus was performing miracle after miracle.

11:48   Many would put their trust in Jesus if they left Him alone. The Romans would not stand by if there were tumult stirred up by messianic expectations. They feared the destruction of all they had, including their special position. “Our place” probably means the temple.

11:49   Caiaphas was high priest about AD18 to AD36. High priesthood was normally conferred for life. “This year” refers to “this fateful year”. Caiaphas’ arrogance can be demonstrated by his first words, “You know nothing at all!” with the intention of suppressing differing opinions.

11:50   They were not concerned about justice or the nation but their position as a privileged class.

11:51   God spoke through Caiaphas. He unconsciously prophesied the substitutionary death of Jesus: that His death was a death for others, not a death for Himself.

11:52   John has a worldwide vision. Because of Jesus’ death, the “scattered children of God” will be gathered into a unity. The term points to Gentile Christians.

11:54   Ephraim cannot be identified for certain but was probably about 25 km from Jerusalem.

11:57   The order from the religious leaders made anyone an accessory if he knew where Jesus was but did not report.

Application

§         For Christians, death is only a prolonged sleep, not the end (v.11). Death is the gateway to eternal life and fellowship with God.

§         In response to our prayers, God may answer: “Yes”, “No”, or “Later”. God has the perfect plan and the perfect timing, out of His sovereign will (v.6-7).

Hymn

Hymns of Life no.499 “Abide with me” (evening hymn)

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide;

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?

Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, it glories pass away,

Change and decay in all around I see;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;

Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still if Thou abide with me.