William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.JOHN - THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER
The Lord was rejected, rejected in His words, rejected in His works. Both were perfect, but man felt that God was brought near to him by both, and, an enemy of God, he increasingly musters hatred against His Son, His image.
But the grace of God still waits on guilty man, and would give a fresh, full, and final testimony to Jesus. And here we begin with that which was most of all characteristic of our Gospel-His Divine Sonship displayed in resurrection power. All is public now; all near or in Jerusalem. The design of God governs here, as everywhere. All the Evangelists present the testimony to His Messianic glory, the second of these three testimonies, though none with such fulness of detail as Matthew, whose function it was pre-eminently to show Him as the Son of David according to prophecy, but rejected now, and about to return in power and glory. It was John's place, above all, to mark Him out as Son of God, and this the Holy Spirit does by giving us through His Gospel the resurrection of Lazarus. Christ is in resurrection the life-giving Spirit, as contrasted with Adam; but He is the Son eternally, and the Son quickens whom He will, before death no less than after resurrection; and this is here exhibited with all fulness of detail as was due to it 205
"Now there was a certain (man) sick, Lazarus, from Bethany, of the village of Mary and Martha her sister. But Mary was she that anointed the Lord with unguent, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.205 The sisters then sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest (φιλεῖς) is sick" (verses 1-3). Thus does John introduce the account. It puts us at once in presence of all concerned-the household whither He used to retire from the sterile but guilty parties of Jerusalem. Who had not heard of the woman that anointed the Lord with unguent, and wiped His feet with her hair? (John 12:3.) Wherever the Gospel was preached in the whole world, this was told for a memorial of her. But her name had been withheld till now. It was John's place to mention what so closely touched the Person of the Lord. John names others, if he conceals his own name. It was Mary; and she, with her sister, sent a message to the Lord reckoning on the promptness of His love. They were not disappointed. His love exceeded all their thought, as His glory was beyond their faith, however real it might be. But their faith was tried, as it always is.
"But when Jesus heard, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved (ἠγάπα) Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When, therefore, He heard that he was sick, He then remained two days in the place where He was; then, after this, He saith to His* (or, the) disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. The disciples say to Him, Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours of the day? If one walk in the day, he doth not stumble, because he seeth the light of this world; but if one walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him" (verses 4-10).
* BELX, etc., read τοῖς [Weiss, Blass], but the weight favours αἰτοῦ also.
First appearances are ever in this world against the good and holy and true. Those who seek occasion against what is according to God can easily find excuse for their own evil. And the moral object of God, as of His Word, tests every soul that comes into contact. So here the Lord knew the end from the beginning when He said, This sickness is not unto death; but he who was quick to judge by the beginning must inevitably misjudge. What would he have judged who heard Him say, Lazarus, come forth, and saw the dead man come forth from the cave of burial?
Resurrection displays the glorious power of God beyond all else. It arrests, and is intended to arrest, man, who knows too well what sickness is, and how hopelessly death severs him from all his activities. The sickness of Lazarus, then, just because it ran up into death, was about to furnish a meet occasion for God's glory, and this, too, in the glorifying of His Son thereby.
There are those who delight in what they call "the reign of law"; but what is the sense of such thoughts or words when brought to the touchstone of resurrection? Does not the raising of the dead prove the supremacy of God's power over that which is a law, if there be an invariable lot appointed to sinful man here below, the law of death? For certainly death is not the cause of resurrection; but the Son is He Who wields the power of life. He quickens whom He will, for He is God, but as the Sent One, the dependent and obedient Servant, for He is man. Such was Jesus here in this world, and this manifested most fully a short time before He laid down His life for the sheep.
But man is a poor judge of Divine love, and even saints learn it only by faith. Jesus will have us confide in His love. For this is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us, and proved it in His dying a propitiation for us. Even here, too, how significantly the Evangelist says that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, just before the mention of His staying two days in the place where He was after the message came. If a mere man, with power to heal, loved another that was sick, how soon he would have healed the patient! And Jesus had already shown His power to heal in the same hour. No matter what the intervening distance, or how unconscious the sufferer, why not speak the word on behalf of Lazarus? Did He love the nobleman of Capernaum and his boy, did He love the Gentile centurion and his servant, better than Lazarus? Assuredly nothing of the sort; but it was for the glory of God that the Son of God might be glorified by that very sickness, not arrested, but allowed to work its way.
The Lord was about to raise the dead Lazarus; and this when it had not the appearance of a law, but rather by grace the exemption of one from the law of death. How truly for the glory of God was the result! Not so was the way man would have wrought at once if he could. He Who was God, and loved as no man ever did, abode two days where He was, and then calmly said to the disciples, Let us go into Judæa again. They wonder. Did He not know better than they the murderous rancour of the Jews? Had He forgotten their repeated efforts to stone Him? Why then, did He propose to go thither again? He was here to do the will of His Father; and here was a work to do for His glory. His eye certainly was ever single, His body full of light.
"Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours of the day? If one walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of the world; but if one walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him." If it was the will of the Father, it was day; and as Jesus was not only sent by the living Father, but lived on account of Him, so for the disciple He is the light and the food and the motive. The known will and word of God is the light of day; to be without it is to walk in the night, and stumbling is the sure consequence. If Christ be before us, the light will be in us, and we stumble not. May we evermore heed His word!
The Lord would exercise the hearts of His own. As His tarrying in the same place for two days was not the impulse of human feeling, so His going to the place of deadly hatred was according to the light He walked in and was. He has more to say which they had to ponder. He abides in dependence; He awaits His Father's will. This given decides His movements at once.
"These things said He, and after this He saith to them, Lazarus our friend is fallen asleep; but I go that I may awake him. Therefore said the disciples to Him,* Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover. But Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking (lit. speaketh) of the rest of sleep. Then therefore said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead; and I rejoice on your account that I was not there, that ye may believe. But let us go unto him.207 Thomas therefore, that is called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him" (verses 11-16).208 The Lord begins to disclose what He was about to do; but they were dull to think of death on the one hand, or of His resurrection power on the other. The prevention of death, the healing of disease, is far short of triumph over death. The disciples were to be strengthened by the sight of resurrection before He died on the cross and rose again.
* αὐτῳ οἱ μ., DKΠ, etc., some adding αὐτοῦ with Syrr., etc.; BCpmX, etc., οἱ μ. αὐτῳ (the latter only is in A, etc.), while the Text. Rec. with most gives οἱ μ. αὐτου.
It is important to note that here, as everywhere, sleep is said of the body. It is the suited word of faith for death: how dark the unbelief that perverts it, as some do, to materialise the soul! He Who is the truth speaks as the thing really is. He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus.
But the Lord Who tries faith meets the weakness of His disciples, and clears up the difficulty. He tells them plainly "Lazarus is dead," and expresses His joy on their account that He was not there (that is, merely to heal), in order that they might believe, when they knew better His power to quicken and raise the dead. Gloomy Thomas can see only His rushing into death when He proposed to go to Judea, though his love to the Lord prompts him to say, Let us also go that we may die with Him. How poor are the thoughts of a disciple, even where affection was true to the Master, Who was indeed about to die in willing grace for them-yea, for their sins-that they might live for ever, justified from all things; but Who would prove before He died a sacrifice that He could not only live, but give life to the dead as He would, yet in obedience to, and in communion with, His Father! Such is our Saviour.
"Jesus therefore, on coming, found that He was four days in the tomb. Now Bethany was209 near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off; and many of the Jews had come unto Martha and Mary* that they might comfort them concerning their brother. Martha then, when she heard Jesus is coming, met Him; but Mary was sitting in the house. Martha then said unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. And now I know that, whatsoever Thou mayest ask of God, God will give Thee. Jesus saith to her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith to Him, I know that He shall rise in the resurrection at the last day.210 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on Me, though he have died, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth on Me shall in no wise die for ever. Believest thou this? She saith to Him, Yea, Lord, I do believe (I have believed, and do) that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world.211 And having said this she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Teacher is here, and calleth thee. When she heard (it), she riseth quickly, and cometh unto Him" (verses 17-29).
* The Received Text with [ACcorr.ΓΔ] Syrhcl implies "and their company" [Blass, conflate reading], but the more ancient copies and versions do not allow this.
The interval since death and burial is carefully stated, as well as the contiguity of the spot to Jerusalem, and the number of Jews who at the moment had joined the company of Martha and Mary, with a view to console them in their sorrow. God was ordering all for a bright testimony to His Son. For Aeschylus (Eum. 647) but expressed the universal mind of the heathen, himself a religious heathen, that man, once dead, has no resurrection. What had God for such as believe on Jesus? What had Jesus? What is He but the resurrection and the life? It was no question of the last day only. Jesus was there then, the conqueror of death as of Satan.
Again Martha, prompt as ever when she heard of Jesus approaching, went to meet Him, while Mary kept sitting in the house with a deeper sense of death, but at least as ready to go when summoned. Meanwhile she waits, as the Lord knew well and appreciated. When Martha did meet the Lord, she confesses His power to have warded off death by His presence. She owns Him as the Messiah; and as such she is confident that even now, whatever He may "ask" of God will be given Him. No doubt she meant this as a strong expression of her faith. But it was to correct this error, to give an incomparably fuller apprehension, that the Lord came now to raise Lazarus. Hence she applies to the Lord language far below His true relation to the Father: ὅσα ἂν αἰτήσῃ τὸν Θεόν. Had she said ἐπωτήσῃ τὸν πατέρα, it would have been more becoming. It is all right to use αἰτέω of us, for the place of a suppliant or petitioner becomes us; but the word of more familiar demand, g ejrwtavw, is suitable to Him. This, however, she, though a believer, had to learn.
When Jesus tells Martha that her brother shall rise again, she replies at once, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." But the Lord was here, not to teach truths known already, but to give what was unknown, and this in the glory of His own Person. Therefore said Jesus to Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," and in this order as strictly applicable to the case in hand, Lazarus being dead and buried. He is the Resurrection no less than the Life, and this in fulness of power. "He that believeth on Me, though he should die, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die: believes" thou this?" It is the superiority of life in Christ over all impediments, to be displayed at His coming. "For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51.) Thus, at the coming of the Lord "the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we the living that remain," without passing through death, "shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16f.) Thus will He be proved the resurrection and the life: the resurrection, because the dead believers immediately arise, obedient to His voice; the life, because every one that lives and believes on Him has mortality swallowed up of life at the same moment.
This tests Martha. To the Lord's inquiry, "Believest thou this?" she can only give the vague reply, "Yea, Lord, I have believed, and do believe (πεπίστευκα) that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world:" a word containing truth doubtless, but no read answer to the question. She felt the uneasiness usual even to saints who hear what is beyond their depth; and she thinks of her sister as one that would understand incomparably better than herself; and so, without staying to learn, she hurried off, and called Mary secretly, saying, "The Teacher is here, and calleth thee." Mary, when she heard, quickly rises and comes. How sweet the call to her heart!
There was not the smallest haste in the movements of our Lord. Indeed, we may rather note His calm bearing in presence of the one sister, so quick to go before she was called, and of the other when she was. Jesus abides the same, a man yet in the quiet dignity of the Son of God.
"Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha came to meet Him. The Jews therefore who were with her in the house and consoling her, having seen Mary that she quickly rose up and went out, followed her,* thinking she goeth unto the tomb, that she may weep there" (verses 30, 31). It was not so, however; but the grace of Christ meant that there He should meet Mary, soon about to behold a bright outshining of the glory of God in her beloved Lord. What strangers to Jesus were those who would console her in vain in the presence of death!
* δόξαντες BCpmDLX, some cursives, and most ancient versions etc.; λέγοντες, "saying" (Text. Rec.), ACcorr and a dozen uncials, most cursives and versions.
Not that Mary was above the pressure of death more than others. She repeats what Martha said; but she was of a different spirit in repeating it. "Mary therefore when she came where Jesus was, having seen Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (verse 32). But if she saw in Him as yet only power to preserve, if she had to learn that He is the resurrection and the life, at least she fell at His feet, as Martha did not; and the Lord, if He says nothing, will soon answer in deed and in truth. But the consciousness of Divine glory, and this about to manifest itself superior to death in presence of all, in no way detracted from the sensibilities of His spirit. On the contrary, the very next verses let us know how deep were the emotions of our blessed Lord at this moment.
"Jesus therefore, when He saw her weeping, and the Jews that came with her weeping, was deeply moved in spirit, and troubled Himself, and said, Where have ye laid Him?212 They say to Him, Lord, come and see. *Jesus wept. The Jews therefore said, Behold, how He loved (ἐφ.) him! And some of them said, Could not this (Man) that opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this (man) also should not have died?" (verses 33-37).
* D, etc., with most of the ancient versions, add the copula καὶ, "and."
The word translated "deeply moved" occurs elsewhere for a "strict" or stern "charge," as in Matthew 9:30, Mark 1:43; or an angry speech, as in Mark 14:5. Here it is rather the inward feeling than the expression, approached rather nearly by such use as that in Lucian (Nec. 20), of (it would seem) groaning. It means the strong, and it may be indignant, affection the Lord experienced at the power of death over not the Jews only, but Mary, wielded as it still was by the enemy. This is still farther expressed by the phrase that follows, as well as by verse 38. His tender sympathy appears rather in His weeping (verse 35), after asking where they had laid Lazarus, and the invitation to come and see. His indignant sense of Satan's power through sin did not interfere in the least with His deep compassion; and what we see here is but the counterpart of His habitual bearing the diseases and taking the infirmities, which the first Gospel applies from Isaiah 53:4. (Matthew 8:17.) Never was it mere power, nor was it only sympathy, but the entrance of His spirit into every case He cured, the bearing of the weight on His heart before God of all that oppressed sin-stricken man. Here it was the still greater ravage of death in the family He loved.
But we may note that in our Lord's case, profound as was His grief, it was His servant. "He troubled Himself." It did not gain the mastery, as our affections are apt to do with us. Every feeling in Christ was perfect in kind and measure as well as season. His groaning, His trouble, His weeping-what were they not in God's sight! How precious should they not be to us! Even the Jews could not but say, "Behold, how He loved him!" What had they thought had they known He was just going to raise the dead man? If they did not recall His power, it was only the unavailing regret that He Who healed the blind had not forefended death in the case of Lazarus. They were utterly at fault about this sickness, as blind to the glory of God as to the way of it, that the Son of God would be glorified thereby. Faith in the glory of His Person alone rightly interprets and appreciates in its measure the depth of His love. "Jesus wept." What a difference these words convey to him who sees nothing but a man, and to him who knows Him to be the mighty God, the only-begotten Son! Even the believer could not in this case fail to own His love; but how immensely that love is enhanced by His Divine dignity, and the consciousness that He was about to act in the power of Divine life above death!212a
Now it is of all consequence that we should believe and know, without doubt, that all which Jesus showed Himself that day on behalf of Lazarus He is, and far more, for His own, and that He will prove it for every one of us at His coming. For there is now also the fruit of the travail of His soul, and the power of His resurrection, after the fullest judgment of sin in the cross. Hence all His love and power can act unhinderedly on our behalf, as they surely will to the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby. What men then beheld was but a testimony, however truly Divine; but at His coming the truth will be fully out in power. Now is the time to believe and confess the truth in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation. May we be enabled in lowliness of mind to appear as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life!
"Jesus therefore again, deeply moved in Himself, cometh unto the tomb. Now it was a cave,213 and a stone lay upon it. Jesus saith, Take away the stone.214 Martha, the sister of the deceased,* saith to Him, Lord, he already stinketh, for he is four days (dead). Jesus saith to her, Said I not to thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? They took away therefore the stone;† and Jesus lifted His eyes upward, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but on account of the crowd that standeth around I said (it), that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.215 And having said this, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And‡ the dead came forth,215a having the feet and the hands bound with grave-clothes, and his face was bound round with a handkerchief. Jesus saith to them, Loose him, and let him‡ go" (verses 38-44).
* For the received reading τεθνηκότος, "dead," supported by a good many uncials and most cursives, the highest authorities give τετελευτηκότος, "deceased,"214a
† Text. Rec., with the great majority of MSS., adds οὗ ἦν ὁ τεθνηκὼς κείμενος, AKΠ, etc., only οὗ ἦν, but the best (BCpmDLX, some cursives, and the oldest versions) omit.
‡ The Received Text with most authorities begins with the copula καὶ, "and," but omits the last αὐτὸν, "him," contrary to a few of the best authorities.
It was no longer the time for words, and Jesus, again realising for Himself the power which shut out God's glory from man, comes to the cave with a stone laid on it, which served for a tomb. There the unbelief of Martha ventured (what does it not?) to oppose the Lord's word to remove the stone: He, that all might be clear; she, because His words disappointed her haste, if, indeed, she expected anything. But if Martha could not rise above the humbling effects of death, which she would shut out from others, Jesus would not hide what was due to God in grace to man. How quickly the word of the Lord is forgotten in presence of the sad circumstances of human ruin! Faith gives the word heed, and reaps the blessing in due time. Listen to Jesus. He is heard already. He knows beforehand that He has what He asks, heard now as always before. The Father was concerned no less than the Son, and it was said that those who heard might believe that the Father sent Him forth.
Thereon comes the word of power: "Lazarus, come forth." He had prayed to the Father, jealous above all for His glory, and never forgetful of the place He had Himself come down to as man. But He was the Son, He could quicken whom He would, and so He does. Yet even in the majesty of this Divine display, He intermingles after, as well as before, what drew men's attention, that they might not be faithless but believing. What difficulty was there in the stone? For Himself He needed to remove nothing. It was for their sakes. Behold, man in the loathsomeness of death before he was raised! And so now what for Him mattered the binding of the grave-clothes, or of the handkerchief? The grace of the Lord by both would only give them the better confirmation of what He had wrought. He could have loosed Lazarus as easily as He could have caused the stone to disappear; He could have willed all without crying with a loud voice; but He, Who would that we should confide in the power of His word, would have us note the corruption that precedes quickening and the bondage which may follow it now. Liberty is needed as well as life; but it is unnatural that one who is made to live should be longer bound.
Mighty as was the work of thus raising Lazarus, we see here, as everywhere, how dependent man is on grace. Sin makes him the slave of Satan, little as he suspects it. His will is against God, in His goodness or in His judgment, in His word or His works; and the greater the mercy, the less he likes what is so contrary to his thoughts, and so humbling to his pride. If many were impressed and believed, some went mischievously to the enemy with their information.
"Many of the Jews, therefore, that came to Mary, and beheld what He did, believed on Him; but some of them went away unto the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus did.215b The chief priests, therefore, and the Pharisees gathered together a council, and said, What do we, for this man doeth many signs? (and)* if we leave Him thus, all will believe on Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest of that year, said to them, Ye know nothing, nor reckon† that it is profitable for you‡ that one man should die for the people, and not the whole nation perish. Now this he said not from himself, but, being high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that also He should gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad. From that day, therefore, they consulted§, that they might kill Him. Jesus, therefore, walked no more openly among the Jews, but went away thence into the country near the desert, unto a city called Ephraim, and there He abode"" with the¶ disciples" (verses 45-54).
* D, 255, with Syrr., Memphwi, Aethr, add καὶ, "and."
† λογίζεσθε ABDL, some cursives, etc., instead of the Text. Rec. διαλ., "consider," supported by most uncials, cursives, etc.
‡ ὑμῖν, "you," BDLMXΓ, many cursives, etc., ἡμῖν, "us," still more witnesses; , etc., omitting either [Blass].
§ ἐβ, BD, etc., συνεβ. much the most.
"" Instead of διέτριβεν, "tarried," as most [so Blass]; BL ἔμεινεν, "abode " [W. and H., Weiss].
¶ BDILΓΔ, etc., do not read αὐτοῦ, "his," as in the rest.
The chief priests and the Pharisees are immediately on the alert. They assemble a council; they wonder at their own inactivity in presence of the many signs done by Jesus; they fear that, if left alone, He may become universally acceptable, and that they may provoke the Romans to destroy them, Church and State, as men now say. How affecting to see the power of Satan blinding those most who take the highest place in zeal for God after the flesh! It was their desperately wicked purpose to put Him to death-a purpose as desperately effected, which led to the cross, in which He did become the attractive centre to men of every class and nation and moral condition; and it was their guilt in this especially, though not this alone, which drew on them the wrath of "the king," who sent his forces, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. All righteous blood came upon them, and their house is left desolate unto this day, and this, too, by the dreaded hand of the Romans, whom they professed to propitiate by the death of Jesus. Such is the way and end of unbelief.
Yes, most solemn it is to see that God at the last hardens those who have long hardened themselves against the truth. So He is by-and-by to send men "a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but found pleasure in unrighteousness;" and this most justly, "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.)216 It was He Who spoke by Balaam against his will to bless His people, though hired of Balak to curse them, and proving afterwards, not only by his corrupting wiles, but to his own destruction, how little the prophecies then were from himself. It is He Who now speaks by Caiaphas, whose high-priesthood in that year gave his words the more official weight. Not that it was an orderly condition that there should be such shiftings of the high priest.217 But so it was total confusion when the Son of God came here; so most of all when He was to die. No wonder that God, long silent, should speak by the high priest of that year.217a He is Sovereign. He can employ evil as well as good-these heartily, those spite of themselves, and if their will be in it, with a sense as wicked as themselves.
So it was here, when Caiaphas217b said, "Ye know nothing, nor reckon that it is profitable for you that one man die for the people, and not the whole nation perish." God was not in his thoughts, but self without conscience. The Evangelist comments on this, that he said it not from himself, but, being high priest of that year, prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation,218 and not for the nation only, but that He should also gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad. In the heart of Caiaphas it was an unprincipled sentiment; in the mind of the Spirit it was not only most holy, but expressed the foundation of God's righteousness in Christ. On His death is based the future hope of Israel, and the actual gathering of God's scattered children, the Church.* From that day measures were taken in concert to compass the death of our Lord,219 Who retired to the northern wilderness of Judæa, and there abode awhile with the disciples in the city called Ephraim.220 The hour was coming.
* [Cf. "Lectures on the Church of God," pp. 82-84.]
"But the Passover of the Jews was near; and many went up into Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, that they might purify themselves. They were seeking, therefore, Jesus, and said among themselves, standing in the temple, What think ye, that He will not at all come unto the feast? Now the high priest and the Pharisees had given commandment that if anyone knew where He was, he should inform, that they might seize Him" (verses 55-57).
Thus the closing scene is at hand; and Jesus pursues His service in retirement during the little interval before the Passover, the last so soon to be fulfilled in His death. They went up to purify themselves before the feast, which gives rise to their seeking Him, and to surmises as to His not coming. For orders had been given to inform them of His whereabouts, in order to His apprehension. Little did any, friends or foes, anticipate that one would be found among the chosen twelve to indicate the spot whither the Lord was wont to resort; but He knew all that should come upon Him. How far is man from suspecting that it is all a question between Satan and God, and that, if evil seems to gain the upper hand, good triumphs even now to faith, as it will in the judgment of evil to every eye ere long!
But if the Lord retired from the machinations of men hardened in their enmity toward Himself because of their false pretension to feel and act for God, He had His own death on the cross to God's glory ever before Him. It was not to be done in a corner, nor on mere secret information. It must be at that feast, and no other, at the approaching Passover, when all the religious chiefs should thoroughly commit themselves, the elders, chief priests, and scribes; when the whole nation save the little remnant that believed should also play their blinded part; when they all should deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify. Oh, how little did any of them think of Him as in all this guilt and faithlessness of theirs the Son of God, and the Son of man come not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many! Then should He quickly, but in measured, predicted time, rise in resurrection power, transcending that of Lazarus beyond all comparison; thenceforward to work spiritually in all that believe, quickened with Him and raised up together, and made to sit down together in the heavenlies in Him (as another Apostle was given to teach), (Ephesians 2:5-6) before the bright moment of His coming for us, when we shall all be changed.
NOTES ON THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER
205 The Resuscitation of Lazarus. - This, the third and most notable case of Christ's raising the dead, has always excited sharp criticism by sceptics. Spinoza is said to have declared that if he could be satisfied that the miracle was actually performed he would become a Christian. But, of course, such an intellectual times spoken of in this Gospel, has never permanently profited anyone. At the present day the main objection taken to the incident is that John alone records it, which circumstance is considered to invest the story with suspicion, because it is alleged an incident represented to have brought about the death of the Lord (see note on verse 63) must have been known to one or other of the Synoptists if it really took place. So Cassels, Abbott, Burkitt, etc., after Strauss, Keim, and their Continental followers. It affords prominent illustration of a favourite "critical" canon - that if a biblical historian knows of an event he is bound to record it. The author of "Supernatural Religion" goes so far as to say that "each of the Synoptic Gospels professes to be complete in itself" - a principle that can only yield an absurd result. Not even does the preface of Luke lend itself to such an idea. That Evangelist's "all" is said of his resources, not of the things in which Theophilus had been instructed, for the accuracy of which Luke is prepared to vouch.
If there were any sound basis in the principle, it would, of course, apply all round. Matthew 27:52, for example, would fall under it; there alone are we told of the dead saints who left their graves and appeared in Jerusalem after the Lord's own resurrection. In respect of the present Gospel we should have to assume that, in the face of Synoptic declarations to the contrary, John himself knew nothing of the raising of Jairus's daughter, of the Transfiguration, of the agony in Gethsemane, or the forsaking on the Cross, all recorded by Mark, who was a witness of none of these! Two of such incidents are indirectly attested by John (see notes 20 above, and that on John 12:27); and other such incidents as the Temptation (Matthew, Luke) some (as Reynolds) believe have parallels in his Gospel (chapters 1-4).
Keim treated the resuscitation of Lazarus as a fiction, O. Holtzmann ("Life of Jesus," p. 275), followed by Burkitt, cannot fit it into the framework of Mark's, conceived to be the fundamentally historic, narrative. Schmiedel (col 2,521), as Abbott in the same work (col 1,805), after Bruno Bauer and Schenkel, regards it as a development of the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, and so Wernle ( "Sources," pp. 42 f.). As to all this, see note 5 in the volume on Mark, and cf. Turton, p. 413. Remarks will be made below on individual features of the narrative, to show how worthless are such insinuations against its credibility. See, further, Weiss, "Life of Christ," Bk. vi., § 6, or Westcott, "Study of the Gospels," p. 164, who says: "It did not fall in with the common plan of the Synoptists, which excluded all working at Jerusalem until the final entry."
206John 11:2. - The Evangelist assumes that an incident is already known from the earlier accounts which he will himself describe later (John 12:2). Cf. Luke's manner of writing in 4: 23, 31 of his Gospel.
207John 11:15. - "Let us go unto him." These words negative the idea of Swedenborgians and spiritualists that the disembodied is the final state of man, as if after death the body is no more resumed.
208John 11:16. - "That we may die with him." As in the first edition, "him" has been printed with small initial letter, because of the uncertainty which attaches to its exact meaning. Zahn, as did Grotius, takes it of Lazarus; most commentators, however, understand JESUS. See verse 9 f.
209John 11:18. - "Was." For the imperfect sense here, instead of the present, as in v. 2, Lightfoot compares Luke 4:29 ("Biblical Essays," p. 175). See also Blass in Expository Times, July, 1907.
210John 11:24-26. - "The resurrection at the last day." Martha's belief was doubtless that propounded by the Pharisees from Isaiah 25:8, Isaiah 26:19: Daniel 12:2, Hosea 13:14. For the novelty that the Evangelist was a "Christianized Sadducee," see Burkitt, p. 250.
With v. 26 cf. 6: 40; Luke 20:35 f.; Php 3:11.
211John 11:27. - "That should come into the world." See note on John 1:9.
212John 11:33. - "Where have ye laid Him?" If the Lord had not asked this question, would not unbelievers have said that He was only acting a part or that there was collusion? As to the Lord being "moved in spirit" see Maclaren, ii. 99.
212a John 11:35. - "Jesus wept" - i.e., shed tears simply, not "sobbed," as the word means which is used in verses 31, 33. The word employed in the present verse appears here only in the New Testament. For other occasions of the Lord's weeping, see Luke 19:41; Matthew 26:39. Chrysostom remarks that this Evangelist emphasizes His affections whilst making higher statements as to His nature than the other Evangelists.
Cassels has described our Lord's tears here as "the theatrical adjuncts of a dramatic scene" ("Supernatural Religion," p. 461). Such writers have not profited by the lesson of Mark 9:13; Mar 9:16 and parallels. The propriety of those tears has been questioned because of the early removal of the cause of sorrow. But surely, as Christ thought of the vast area of misery brought in by Satan with sin, the sorrow shown here was natural and becoming. Indeed, had the Lord not wept, would not sceptics have suggested that it was not a representation of any true humanity?
213John 11:38. - "A cave" - that is, a rock-hewn tomb (Schor, "Palestine and the Bible," p. 34), as shown at the Palestine Exhibitions.
214 "Take away the stone." Had the Lord removed it miraculously, objectors would have insinuated that it evinced fraud; that Lazarus had done it from inside.
214a John 11:39. - "The sister of the deceased." Does not the Evangelist say this in order to remove the least shred of suspicion of imposture?
215John 11:41 f. - Cassels: "Evidently artificial." But although no prayer by Christ is mentioned in previous cases of resurrection, the fourth Gospel aims at exhibiting Him as the SON submissive in all things to the Father's will, not an independent Deity. Hence its propriety, which, of course, only a believer can appreciate.
215a John 11:43 f. - "Lazarus . . . the dead." The dead is strictly applicable to the body, and so that attaches to man risen. Resurrection, therefore, is not, as some represent, emancipation of the soul from the body at death. But that notion, doubtless, is widely prevalent.
215b John 11:46. - Origen's view that the information was conveyed to the Pharisees with a friendly intention is, as Carr says, unlikely.
216John 11:47 f. - Bengel: "Death more easily yields to Christ's power than unbelief" (cf. note 219). Observe that "many" miracles are spoken of.
217John 11:49; Joh 11:51. - "Being high priest of that year." Instead of election for life, the office was held at the whim of the Romans, according to Josephus, "Antiq.," 18: 2. Eleazar and Simon (appointed in succession by Valerius Gratus, after the deposition of Annas) each held the office for only one year.
The Evangelist, neither here nor in John 18:12, uses the article before "high priest." It is, perhaps, another illustration of his "irony" (Salmon). "Twenty-eight held the position from the time of Herod's accession to the destruction of Jerusalem" (cf. Acts 23:5). Keim gave up the critical objection founded on the words. Holtzmann supposes a circle of readers accustomed to the naming of a year after the "Asiarch" (Acts 19:31) in office at the time being.
217a The decision as to the death of JESUS must rest with the high priest for the time being (Weiss).
217b "One of them." This may indicate that Caiaphas was not acting as president of the Sanhedrin (Godet). The brusqueness here of this Sadducean illustrates what Josephus tells of his party (Bell. Jud., ii. 8, 14). Here it was a case of "Sadducee versus Pharisee."
218John 11:50. - "For the nation." This is clearly substitutionary, not "in behalf of", ὑπὲρ, "instead of." Our Lord died as Saviour or Redeemer of Israel (Isa. 45, 49), as well as of the Church. "For the transgression of My people was He stricken." Not that He was made a curse for Israel alone, as Kaftan supposes ("Dogmatics," pp. 461 f.). See Galatians 3:13, and cf. Orr, p. 73.
219John 11:53. Cf. note 216. Use has been made of this verse for the supposition that it is to the raising of Lazarus we must attribute the Crucifixion, so as to heighten any difficulty about the silence of the other Evangelists. The Lord's death, however, had been determined on long before (see John 7:1; Joh 7:25 f., 44; again in John 8:39, and John 10:31, John 11:8; Joh 11:16). This incident did not bring matters to a crisis and lead the rulers to give definite shape to their plans, because the characteristic tenet of the high-priestly family had been shaken to its foundations, so as to discredit them to the utmost.
220John 11:54. - This place is identified with the modern El-Taiyibeh, about twenty miles from Jerusalem, on the road from Jericho north-westwards. It was from here, probably, that the Lord went to Jericho, and thence to Bethany (John 12:1; cf. Mark 10:46; Luke 18:31; Luk 18:35).
(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?
Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.