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



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

·         The death of Lazarus (11:1-16)
·         Jesus’ meeting with Martha (11:17-27)
·         Jesus’ meeting with Mary (11:28-32)
·         Lazarus Is raised (11:33-44)
·         The reaction of faith (11:45)
·         The reaction of unbelief (11:46-57)


Bethany was a little village no more than a couple of miles from Jerusalem.

11:3     “Lord” probably means “Sir.”

They did not name Lazarus but referred to him simply as “the one you love (phileis)” (your friend), implying a close friendship between Jesus and the family.

Well aware of the dangers that Jesus might face near Jerusalem, the sisters did not ask Jesus to come but their words are a plea for help.


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” 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.

The deeper meaning is that people should make the most of the presence of Christ, the Light of the world.

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 Greek word koimaoumai occurs 18 times, 14 times describing death.] Throughout the ancient world, the fear of death was universal. With salvation, death was no longer a fearful enemy as its sting was drawn (1Co 15:55). Death is now no more than sleep.

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 be able 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 only 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, they might also be sympathizers of Martha and Mary. Apparently, 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. Or, it may mean, “ If you had been here, my brother might not have died, for I know that God gives you the things you ask.”

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

11:25   “I am” saying does not say that He will give resurrection and life nor that He can effect resurrection and eternal life. Jesus IS the resurrection and the eternal life.

11:26   Believers pass through the gateway of physical death but it is also the gateway to eternal life and fellowship with God. Eternal life is a present reality, not a future promise.

11:27   Martha’s declaration of faith is significant. Here, “I have believed” indicates a permanently remaining faith. She also brings out 3 points: Jesus is the Christ; He is the Son of God; He is 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 the reason 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. Her companions soon caught up.


11:33   The word “weeping” signifies a loud weeping, 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 and 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.

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

11:35   This is the shortest verse in the Bible. The word “wept” occurs only here in the NT and is different from the loud wailing described above. It probably means “burst into tears” but quietly. 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 may be referring to a previous saying not recorded.

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. It was different from the inaudible incantations of magicians.

11:44   Lazarus was still bound hand and feet with grave clothes. The Greek word denotes bandages, narrow strips of cloth.


11:46   While some Jews believed because of the miracle, 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 without action 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 right or wrong and not about the nation but their position as a privileged class.

11:51   Because of Caiaphas’ office as the high priest, God spoke through him. 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. Normally the term refers to Jews of the Dispersion but here it points to Gentile Christians.

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

11:56   The people considered it unlikely that Jesus would not come for the Feast.

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