One of the most astounding statements Jesus made was that the entirety of human hope in life after death rested in him. He claimed that he personified the Resurrection. It was not an event but a person.
The setting for his amazing claim was the death of the disciple whom Jesus loved, Lazarus. The Lord would go on to raise Lazarus back to life and set in motion those who would plot to take the life of the life giver.
For me, the concept of Jesus, Lazarus, or anyone else who has died physically coming back to life is a real mind bender. Since I don’t understand how it worked scientifically and biologically, I wrestle with doubting it really happened. Then I look at the evidence of the Scriptures, the early church, the history of the Christianity in the first century Roman Empire, the thousands of people I’ve seen Jesus transform including me, etc. and chose to believe. Still and all, it’s a difficult concept.
No wonder Jesus asked Martha if she really believed him. I take strength from the fact that though she didn’t fully grasp all of what Jesus was saying she entrusted herself to him in complete confidence and so believed because he was saying it. Consequently, she got to witness the glory of God as her brother rose from the dead. I want to have that kind of faith.
On pages 184 and 185 in his book The Gospel and Letters of John, Alan Culpepper quotes agnostic Miguel de Unamuno’s book, The Tragic Sense of Life. What he said resonated with me as I wrestle with the Resurrection. Paraphrasing Unamuno, Culpeper wrote that “human beings have such a driving need to know that there is something beyond death that we spend most of our lives diverting and distracting ourselves from this issue because we cannot know what lies beyond death. The tragic sense of life is that our spirits tell us it must be, but we cannot know that it is so.”
Jesus spoke to that most basic of human questions; is there more to our lives than these few years we spend on earth? The answer is a resounding yes. Our spirits confirm what the Spirit has said in his Word: “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. 26 They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this?” That is the question isn’t it?
For more on this week’s I Am statement see the commentary below and this week’s featured resource.
Also, thanks for all your efforts in making our “Lift” night of worship happen. It was exultant! I’ve never heard our church sing like that. There were over 1,000 people in attendance. It was remarkable! Thank you God!
Have a great week…
The great sign at Bethany (11:1-44
This climactic miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was Jesus’ public evidence of the truth of His great claim, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Death is the great horror which sin has produced (Rom. 5:12
; James 1:15
). Physical death is the divine object lesson of what sin does in the spiritual realm. As physical death ends life and separates people, so spiritual death is the separation of people from God and the loss of life which is in God (John 1:4
). Jesus has come so that people may live full lives (10:10
). Rejecting Jesus means that one will not see life (3:36
) and that his final destiny is “the second death,” the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15
is mentioned in the New Testament only in this chapter and in chapter 12
) is on the east side of the Mount of Olives. Another Bethany is in Perea (cf. 1:28
). Luke added some information on the two sisters Mary
). This Mary… was the same one who
later (see John 12:1-10
) poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.
However, John may be assuming that the original readers of his Gospel already had some knowledge of Mary (cf. Mark 14:3-9
11:3. The sisters
assumed, because of the Lord’s ability and His love
for Lazarus, that He would immediately respond to their word
about Lazarus’ illness and come.
did not go immediately (see v. 6
). But His delay was not from lack of love (cf. v. 5
), or from fear of the Jews. He waited till the right moment in the Father’s plan. Lazarus’ sickness
would not end in death,
that is, in permanent death. Instead Jesus would be glorified
in this incident (cf. 9:3
). This statement is ironic. Jesus’ power and obedience to the Father were displayed, but this event led to His
death (cf. 11:50-53
), which was His true glory
In spite of Jesus’ love for all three (Martha and her sister and Lazarus), He
waited two more days.
Apparently (vv. 11
) Lazarus was already dead when Jesus heard about him. Jesus’ movements were under God’s direction (cf. 7:8
11:7-10. His disciples
knew that His going to Judea,
would be dangerous (10:31
). So they tried to prevent Him from going. Jesus
spoke in a veiled way to illustrate that it would not be too dangerous to go to Bethany. In one sense He was speaking of walking (living) in physical light
or darkness. In the spiritual realm when one lives by the will of God he is safe. Living in the realm of evil is dangerous. As long as He followed God’s plan, no harm would come till the appointed time. Applied to people then, they should have responded to Jesus while He was in the world as its Light (cf. 1:4-7
). Soon He would be gone and so would this unique opportunity.
Jesus then said, Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.
The word “friend” has special significance in Scripture (cf. 15:13-14
; James 2:23
). This “sleep” is the sleep of death. Since the coming of Christ the death of a believer is regularly called a sleep (cf. Acts 7:60
; 1 Cor. 15:20
; 1 Thes. 4:13-18
). Dead Christians are asleep not in the sense of an unconscious “soul sleep,” but in the sense that their bodies appear to be sleeping. The disciples
wrongly assumed that Jesus meant Lazarus had not died, but was sleeping physically (cf. John 11:13
) and was on his way to recovery: If he sleeps, he will get better.
As was often the case in the Gospels, Jesus
about one thing but
were thinking about another. The words Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there
seem shocking at first. But if Lazarus had not died, the disciples (and readers of all ages) would not have had this unique opportunity to have their faith quickened. Lazarus’ death was so that you may believe.
means “twin.” Thomas
is often called “doubting Thomas” because of the incident recorded in 20:24-25
. But here he took the leadership and showed his commitment to Christ, even to death. That we may die with Him
is ironic. On one level it reveals Thomas’ ignorance of the uniqueness of Christ’s atoning death. On another level it is prophetic of many disciples’ destinies (12:25
Apparently Lazarus had
died soon after the messengers left. Jesus
was then a day’s journey away. Since Palestine is warm and decomposition sets in quickly, a person was usually buried the same day he died (cf. v. 39
The fact that Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem
points up two things. It explains why many Jews
from Jerusalem were at the scene of this great miracle (vv. 45-46
). It also prepares the reader for the coming climax which was to take place in the great city. When a person died, the Jews mourned for a prolonged period of time. During this period it was considered a pious duty to comfort
the activist, went… to meet
Jesus while Mary,
the contemplative sister, waited. (Cf. Luke 10:39-42
for a similar portrayal of their personalities.) Martha’s greeting is a confession of faith. She really believed that Jesus
could have healed her brother if
He had been
there. No criticism of Jesus seems to be implied since she knew her brother
was dead before the messengers got to Jesus. Her words But I know… God will give You whatever You ask
might imply by themselves that she was confident Lazarus would be resuscitated. But her actions in protest at the tomb (John 11:39
) and her words to Jesus (v. 24
) contradict that interpretation. Her words may be taken as a general statement of the Father’s blessing on Jesus.
11:23-24. Your brother will rise again.
Since the word “again” is not in the Greek it is better to omit it in the translation. This promise sets the stage for Jesus’ conversation with Martha.
She had no thought of an immediate resuscitation but she did believe in the
final resurrection at the last day.
11:25-26. I am the Resurrection and the Life.
This is the fifth of Jesus’ great “I am” revelations. The Resurrection and the Life of the new Age is present right now because Jesus is the Lord of life (1:4
). Jesus’ words about life and death are seemingly paradoxical. A believer’s death issues in new life. In fact, the life of a believer is of such a quality that he will never die
spiritually. He has eternal life (3:16
), and the end of physical life is only a sleep for his body until the resurrection unto life. At death the spiritual part of a believer, his soul, goes to be with the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6
; Phil. 1:23
Martha gave a great confession of faith in Christ. She agreed with Jesus’ exposition about eternal life for those who believe
in Him. Then she confessed three things about Jesus. He is (a) the Christ
(“Messiah”), (b) the Son of God
—which is probably a title of the Messiah (cf. 1:49
; Ps. 2:7
)—and (c) the One who was to come into the world
(lit., “the Coming One”; cf. John 12:13
). She believed that Jesus is the Messiah who came to do God’s will, but as yet she had no hint of the coming miracle regarding her brother.
Martha then told Mary
that Jesus the Teacher
was asking for
her. He evidently wanted to have a private conversation with Mary. His purpose was probably to comfort and instruct her. “The Teacher” is a notable title for it was unusual for a Jewish Rabbi to instruct a woman (cf. 4:1-42
Mary’s sudden departure to see Jesus caused the crowd of Jewish comforters to follow her.
So a private session with Jesus became impossible. Reaching Jesus,
Mary fell at His feet.
This is significant, for on a previous occasion she had sat at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching (Luke 10:39
). Her greeting to Jesus was the same as her sister’s (John 11:21
). She felt the tragedy would have been averted if
He had been
present. Her faith was sincere but limited.
In great contrast with the Greek gods’ apathy or lack of emotion, Jesus’ emotional life attests the reality of His union with people. Deeply moved
may either be translated “groaned” or more likely “angered.” The Greek word enebrimēsato
) seems to connote anger or sternness. (This Gr. verb is used only five times in the NT, each time of the Lord’s words or feelings: Matt. 9:30
; Mark 1:43
; John 11:33
Why was Jesus
angry? Some have argued that He was angry because of the people’s unbelief or hypocritical wailing. But this seems foreign to the context. A better explanation is that Jesus was angry at the tyranny of Satan who had brought sorrow and death to people through sin (cf. 8:44
; Heb. 2:14-15
). Also Jesus was troubled
, lit., “stirred” or “agitated,” like the pool water in John 5:7
; cf. 12:27
). This disturbance was because of His conflict with sin, death, and Satan.
Jesus’ weeping differed from that of the people. His quiet shedding of tears (edakrysen
) differed from their loud wailing (klaiontas
, v. 33
). His weeping was over the tragic consequences of sin. The crowd interpreted His tears as an expression of love, or frustration at not being there to heal Lazarus.
Disturbed emotionally (cf. comments
on deeply moved,
in v. 33
), He came to the tomb.
Tombs were often cut into limestone making a cave
in the side of a wall of rock. A stone
was placed over the entrance. Jesus
commanded that the stone
door be taken away.
To do so was to risk defilement. But obedience was necessary if Jesus’ purpose was to be realized. The scene was highly dramatic. The crowd watched and listened. Mary was weeping and Martha
objected because after four days
putrefaction had set in.
reminded Martha of His earlier promise (vv. 25-26
; cf. v. 4
His word that He is the Resurrection and the Life and trusted Him, God
would be glorified. But unless the sisters had trusted Jesus, permission would not have been given to open the tomb.
With the stone
the tension mounted. What would Jesus
do? He simply thanked His Father
for granting His request. He knew He was doing the Father’s will in manifesting His love and power. His prayer of thanksgiving was public, not so that He would be honored as a Wonder-Worker but so He would be seen as the Father’s obedient Son. The granting of His request by the Father would give clear evidence to the people that He had been sent
by the Father and would cause the people to believe
(cf. Elijah’s prayer; 1 Kings 18:37
On other occasions Jesus
had said that men would hear His voice and come out of their graves (5:28
) and that His sheep hear His voice (10:16
). After His brief prayer He called
, lit., “shouted loudly”) in a loud voice.
This verb is used only nine times in the New Testament, eight of them in the Gospels (Matt. 12:19
; Luke 4:41
; John 11:43
; Acts 22:23
Jesus shouted only three words: Lazarus come out! Augustine once remarked that if Jesus had not said Lazarus’ name all would have come out from the graves. Immediately, the dead man came out. Since he was wrapped in strips of linen, a special work of God’s power must have brought him out. Jesus’ directive to the people, Take off the grave clothes, enabled Lazarus to move on his own and at the same time gave evidence that he was alive and not a ghost.
This event is a marvelous picture of God’s Son bringing life to people. He will do this physically at the Rapture for church saints (1 Thes. 4:16
), and at His return for Old Testaments saints (Dan. 12:2
) and Tribulation saints (Rev. 20:4
). Also He now speaks and calls spiritually dead people to spiritual life. Many who are dead in sins and trespasses believe and come to life by the power of God (Eph. 2:1-10
—Bible Knowledge Commentary
Jesus’ revelation of Himself always produces two responses. For many of the Jews,
this miracle was clear proof of Jesus’ claim. In response they trusted Him. But
others were only hardened in sin or confused. They went to
His enemies, the Pharisees, and
had happened. This miraculous sign was so significant that the chief priests and the Pharisees
decided to call an emergency session of the Sanhedrin
on the Sanhedrin). Doubtless they felt that Jesus was some kind of magician who by secret arts was deceiving the people.
The council expressed its inability to solve the problem by continuing to do what they had been doing. Official disapproval, excommunication, and counterteaching were not stopping Jesus’ influence. The outcome would be insurrection and the Romans
would crush the Jewish revolt; taking away both our place
(i.e., the temple) and our nation.
was the high priest that year
). Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience. Caiaphas had the office from a.d.
18 to 36. His contempt was expressed in his words, You know nothing at all!
His judgment was that
must be sacrificed if the nation
was to continue in Rome’s favor. The alternative was destruction of the Jewish nation in war (11:48
). But their rejection of Jesus did not solve the problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (a.d.
66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.
John by God’s Spirit recognized a deep irony in Caiaphas’ words. As
the high priest,
Caiphas pointed to the last sacrificial Lamb in a prophecy he did not even know he made. Caiphas meant Jesus
had to be killed, but God intended the priest’s words as a reference to His substitutionary atonement. Jesus’ death would abolish the old system in God’s eyes by fulfilling all its types and shadows. His death was not only for Jews but also for the world, thus making a new body from both (cf. Eph. 2:14-18
). The Sanhedrin then decided to kill Jesus.
11:54. Jesus… withdrew
from Bethany to a village
15 or so miles to the north called Ephraim.
The little village provided a place for rest and it was close to the wilderness of Judea in case it was necessary to escape.
pilgrims went up
to the Passover
feast at Jerusalem
and looked for Jesus.
) He had attended the national festivals during which time He publicly taught in the temple area.
Would He continue this pattern of ministry? Large crowds gathering in the city kept looking for
Him. The religious authorities gave orders
if he found out where Jesus was
could arrest Him.
—Bible Knowledge Commentary