John 11


‘Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”” John 11:1-16

The Death of Lazarus

Jesus was now out of Judea on the other side of the Jordan and He heard that his friend Lazarus was ill. Lazarus lived in Bethany, a small village about 2 miles East of Jerusalem, John 11:1.

As many Marys are named in the various accounts of Jesus’ life, it’s important that they be identified. As John, the Apostle wrote this account after the fact, he referred to a story not yet written to identify Mary, John 11:2. The complete story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet is given in John 12:1-8.

Lazarus might well have been deteriorating on a daily basis, and the message Jesus receives from the sisters has an urgent ring to it, John 11:3.

The Greek has the word ‘idle’ in John 11:3, suggesting urgency, this can be translated as ‘see’, ‘listen’ or ‘behold’. The N.I.V. ignores this word.

Lazarus’ death is permitted, John 11:4, for the same reason as the blindness, John 9:3. Time and again we see how Jesus’s miracles back up the claims that He makes, no wonder He so often referred to His critics of the work that He was doing.

He claims He can give men new spiritual life. What greater evidence and assurance than Lazarus’ return from the dead after 4 days in the grave!

In John 11:4-6, we see Jesus making a bold declaration, ‘this sickness will not end in death’. He had already made up His mind about what to do about Lazarus. He doesn’t mean that Lazarus will not die, but that the final result of this illness will not be death.

He predicts that the result will be the glorification of the Son. Although Jesus loved the sisters, He didn’t depart immediately for Bethany, John 11:5-6. He needed to wait to ensure that Lazarus was dead and buried before He arrived.

Lazarus must have already been dead when Jesus received the message that he was sick, in fact, he must have died soon after the messenger left Bethany.

One day’s travel from Bethany to Jerusalem, two days Jesus delayed, and one day to journey from Jerusalem to Bethany. This all adds up to the four days mentioned in John 11:17-19.

There was a belief among the Jews that the spirit remained with the body for three days after death. Perhaps this is why Jesus delays, allowing Lazarus to be dead for four days before raising him, and so leaving no room for doubt.

In John 11:7-10 we read that Jesus decides to return to Judea to see the sisters and Lazarus. As people had tried to kill Him there, the disciples are reluctant to agree to the trip, but Jesus doesn’t let this very real fear and danger affect His decision. The words spoken in John 11:9-10 by Christ, reveal His feelings about the time left to do His work.

He is eager to make the best of the time available and He encourages the men not to depend on physical light but the spiritual light available in Him, John 11:9.

Jesus assures the man that a good strong walk in the light will not lead to falling, but the arrival of all who walk at the heavenly destination, John 11:10.

The term ‘asleep’, John 11:11, became quite popular as Jesus said that they were going to ‘wake him up’. It ought to have been clear what the Lord was considering but it wasn’t.

Following on in John 11:12-13, we see Jesus trying to tell the disciples that Lazarus is dead without alarming them. However, on hearing that he is ‘asleep’, they conclude that it is the best thing for the sick man.

Neither the disciples nor the two sisters could understand Jesus’s behaviour, but the result for all of them was renewed trust in Him, John 11:15 / John 11:27 / John 11:42.

To ensure the disciples understood, Jesus had to tell them in plain language, John 11:14-15. He also points out that if He had been present at the time of death, He would have prevented death and healed the man. In this case, He has the opportunity to perform a far more convincing miracle, raising the dead.

Jesus could have healed Lazarus immediately but allowed him to die but in John 11:14-15, we are given the reason, ‘so that you might believe’.

Thomas was the spokesman and called all the disciples to join on the trip to Judea, John 11:16. Peter normally plays this role, and it may indicate that Peter isn’t present.

This may explain why the raising of Lazarus doesn’t appear in the other three Gospels if Peter dictated what he says to Mark who was helpful in writing the other Gospels.

‘That we may die with him,’ the words spoken by Thomas, could refer to one of two things.

1. Die with Lazarus, an indication that they would mourn his death together with the sister or.

2. Die with Jesus, often people have grand ideas. In this case, he referred to the possible death of Jesus as He moves into an area where the people would like him dead.

As they are disciples of Jesus, Thomas suggests they die fighting on his side. When the crunch came, they were too frightened to support the Christ and ran, Matthew 26:56 / Mark 14:50. I believe the second option to be true.

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11:17-37

A burial frequently took place on the day of death, Acts 6:6-10. As Jesus knew Lazarus was dead, He had been placed in the tomb four days before, after being dressed with herbs and so-forth as the current day tradition demanded. Lazarus was dead, John 11:17.

2 miles, John 11:18, is literally 15 stadia, a stadium is approximately an eighth of a mile. In John 11:19 se wee many people had come to mourn and comfort so quite a crowd was present but before Jesus arrives at the village, Martha one of the sisters go out and meet Him. Mary the other sister may have been too overcome with grief to even be told of Jesus’ imminent arrival.

Resurrection was a subject not normally taught in Jewish teaching as most didn’t even accept the possibility, many never even considered it. Jesus mentions it here for the first time.

We draw our doctrine of the resurrection from the resurrection of Jesus, John 11:25-26 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:6-7 / 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 / 1 Thessalonians 4:14 / 1 Peter 1:3. Obviously, Jesus hadn’t yet been resurrected, so little was known on the subject, it was somewhat hazy, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

Martha has no doubt that had Jesus been there before Lazarus had died, he would still be alive, John 11:21. She speaks half with reproach but also, she notes that nothing is impossible for Jesus, a hint at her faith in Jesus’ ability to bring him back, John 11:22.

But also, perhaps like the ‘royal official’, John 4:46-47, she believed that Jesus would have to actually be present for Him to have saved Lazarus.

The messenger had brought back reassuring words, ‘this will not end in death’, John 11:4, her mind is struggling against sorrow and disappointment, she knew that Jesus could raise the dead, yet the doubts of despair reign strong.

Jesus’ statement in John 11:23 and Martha’s in John 11:24, are quite remarkable. John 11:23 could be seen by some as a normal term of conventional condolence but Jesus wasn’t being conventional, He was stating a fact.

Was He referring to what He was about to do or was he referring to the future general resurrection on the last day? John 5:28-29 / Acts 23:8. Martha agrees that he will live again after the last day, John 11:24, but appears hopeful that she will see him alive again before the general resurrection.

I am the resurrection and the life


There are 16 signs recorded in John’s gospel, 8 are things which Jesus did and 8 were things which Jesus said. John is basically saying that the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are signs, selected from many other signs.

And he says these signs are selected with a purpose in mind and that purpose is that you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, John 20:30-31.

Here we find the sixth of seven of Jesus’ I AM’ claims, John 6:35 / John 8:12 / John 8:58 / John 10:9 / John 10:11 / John 11:25 / John 14:6 / John 15:1.

Each of His ‘I AM’ claims are claims that He is God, EGO EIMI, is the Greek equivalent of YHWH, Exodus 3:13-14 / John 5:18. He is Eternal, Psalm 135:13, and self-existent, Psalm 88:6-7.

When we come to the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus was not giving Himself a Name or a title, but was asserting His Deity. In other words every ‘I AM’ reveals some aspect of His nature and purpose.

In John 11:25 Jesus guarantees life for those who believe in Him. This is an absolute statement, one we can rest on without fear, He promises life as a result of this superficial physical death we need to enter. Note He doesn’t say He will give the resurrection and the life, He says ‘HE IS’ the resurrection and the life.

He is the resurrection, He is the cause of resurrection, John 6:54. Jesus is indeed the cause of resurrection since life is in Him, John 1:4. Hence we can confidently say ‘amen’ to what Paul has to say in his letter to the Romans in Romans 6:8-9.

Jesus has power over death is clear, even more, He has given the ultimate proof of this by virtue of His own resurrection. He is indeed the first-begotten from the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:20 / Colossians 1:18.

Those who believe in Christ and keep on believing him in trusting obedience will be raised by him to eternal life and not to condemnation, John 5:25 / John 5:28-29 / John 3:36.

What an exhortation of love; a love that shows concern for those who do not merit it since we are all sinners. The love is infinite and true indeed!

He is the life and those who are in Christ already have eternal life. Christ Jesus is our life, Colossians 3:3-4 / Romans 8:11. That the life we thus have in Christ is eternal is clearly stated, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.’ John 8:51 / John 3:16 / 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

All this has been achieved because God Incarnate gave Himself for our salvation, John 3:16.

The second death, i.e. the eternal separation from the presence of God is not for those whose life is hidden in God with Jesus. The fact of Christ’s life in glory with the Father is a guarantee of our eternal life, John 14:19.

As He promised in His discourse as the Good Shepherd, John 10:10-11. Jesus offers a peace the world cannot give, John 14:27 / John 16:33 / Philippians 4:6-7. He gives us His love, which passes knowledge, John 15:10 / Ephesians 3:19. He provides His joy, which is inexpressible, John 15:11 / 1 Peter 1:8.

Jesus then specifically asks if Martha agrees with his statement, John 11:26, and she is, and more. She declares her conviction that He is the promised Messiah, John 11:27 / John 6:6-9.

This series of statements by Martha is one of the few speeches of great doctrinal words ever given by a woman and ensures Martha a place in the book of great faithful women.

Jesus then calls for Mary the other sister, Martha quickly goes and fetches her and brings her to the place where Jesus was waiting outside the village, John 11:28-30.

John 11:31 notes how Mary got up quickly to greet Jesus. It appears as if she also had some hope restored on hearing Jesus’ name. All the Jews with her in the house follow her to Jesus.

In John 11:32-37, we see that when Mary arrives at Jesus’ feet she falls to His feet in respect and worship. Again, faith in Jesus is displayed by Mary acknowledging His ability to prevent Lazarus’s death.

Jesus saw the emotion of the people, especially the two sisters and felt for them, John 11:33. The phrase, ‘deeply moved’, John 11:33, is a verb which originally meant to snort like a horse, to be agitated, troubled, literally He troubled Himself, He was inwardly deeply moved and outwardly visibly distressed.

However, He doesn’t relieve their pain by restoring Lazarus to life immediately or even telling them what He proposed to do, John 11:34.

Jesus feels with them, He too is disturbed. So much so, that when they arrived at the tomb of Lazarus ‘Jesus wept’, John 11:35.

Three arguments are given to explain why He wept at this time.

1. He was overwhelmed by emotion at the time. His good friend was dead, the others with Him who He loved were heartbroken and it was all too much for Him. His tears would bring comfort to the other mourners.

2. He was greatly disturbed by the lack of faith evident. Why would Jesus cry for one he was about to raise? Would this not be superficial and prolong the pain of those he came to comfort? This ought to have been a happy occasion, not one for mourning a man about to be raised. Jesus knew what He was about to do and must have known that the sisters knew it was possible. By joining in with the mourning, it would surely cause them to believe Jesus mourning Lazarus’ final departure.

3. He identified and empathised with all the misery and pain that resulted from the far-reaching consequences of sin which included the effect of death represented by this dead man and all the sorrowing broken-hearted people around him. There was also righteous wrath against the sin that could cause so much sorrow.

I personally agree with argument number 3. Jesus sees things that we can’t see or refuse to see.

The company of Jews present are again arguing about Jesus, some sympathise with His caring nature, others scorn His apparent lack of action.

They acknowledge that He has the power to open eyes, proving that the people of Jerusalem now accept that Jesus did perform miracles and that the restoration of sight was a true miracle, John 11:36-37.

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 8:38-44

In John 11:38-42 we see that Jesus was deeply moved once more as He went to Lazarus’ tomb. It was a communal grave, consisting of a cave inside of which the dead were placed, normally on shelves, covered in grave clothes and normally in something similar to a rudimentary coffin.

The cave could either be manmade or natural. A large slab of stone was placed in front of the cave to protect it from wild animals and grave robbers.

Jesus takes control of the situation and His commands are short and sharp, John 11:39. Once the stone was removed, Martha’s faith, which was so strong just a few moments before, wavered a little and so, Jesus reminds her of their earlier conversation, to restore that faith, John 11:40.

Jesus prays, thanking God for the coming sign which Jesus knows will occur. He thanks God on behalf of or for the sake of those around, that they might believe, John 11:40-41.

The command ‘Lazarus, come out’ is given, John 11:42. He spoke out loud so that all could heard it and would understand that Lazarus was to come forth by the command of Jesus no other means, indisputable evidence of His power to raise the dead, John 11:43. One day the same voice will raise ALL the dead, Matthew 5:28-29 / 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

Notice the short command was directed only at Lazarus, John 11:43, if He hadn’t specified Lazarus, then all the dead in that tomb may have walked out, a harrowing ordeal indeed.

Lazarus comes out, still dressed in grave clothes, and the family is reunited, John 11:44. The bandages were wrapped around the body, the cloth was probably a towel under the chin. Jesus tells them to remove his Lazarus’ grave clothes and let him go, John 11:44.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

‘Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was a high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So, from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore, Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. John 11:45-57

The event is decisive, for faith and life, on one hand, John 11:45, for hatred and death on the other, John 11:53.

As a result of the raising of Lazarus, many people who had witnessed the miracle believed, John 11:45 / John 20:30-31. However, as always, some wouldn’t believe and decided instead to inform the Pharisees of what had occurred, John 11:46. The effect of Jesus on a person depends entirely on the person’s attitude of mind.

This miracle must have caused quite a rumpus in Jerusalem, so much so that the chief priests and Pharisees called all the members of the Sanhedrin together for a special meeting, John 11:47.

Many of the Jews including some of the rulers now believed, John 12:42-43 / John 19:38-39, drastic action had to be taken before the whole nation was won over.

They admitted that Jesus did many signs but wouldn’t admit to what those signs pointed out, John 11:47 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 10:38. These men were afraid, the Romans were in a position to destroy the nation if they found the need and the nation was built up around the Jewish theology, John 11:48.

Now Jesus was going about destroying that foundation. The Romans could, if too many people followed Jesus, decide that unifying factor, Judaism, was no longer prevalent among the people. More than that, Jesus threatened the position and didn’t want them out of a job, John 11:48.

The high priest of that year, Caiaphas spoke up and he was very rude in his dealing with the people present, John 11:49. He was an evil politician and wealthy ruler.

His idea was to kill Jesus and save the nation, John 11:50, he portrays himself as a concerned patriot, while in fact, he was scheming to rid himself of Jesus who was distracting from his own popularity, his idea was all wrong, John 11:51-52.

Jesus did die for the nation, He did at the hand of the nation for them, Acts 2:36, and everyone on earth, John 3:16. Jesus died for all, the death of Jesus didn’t cause or guarantee the safety of the nation, as just forty years later the Romans did move in an attempt to destroy the nation.

They were successful in destroying the temple, and as a result, no temple has ever been re-built. Judaism, at its very roots, is no more. The result of this meeting was a decision to seek and kill Jesus. So, the net slowly closed around Him, John 11:53.

Jesus left the immediate area and went to Ephraim, John 11:54, a village about twelve miles north of Jerusalem and He was with the disciples at this time. As the Passover drew closer, people started talking about Him. Again, He seems to be the main topic of conversation, with people unsure if He would arrive, John 11:55-56.

The order was out, any who see Him must report that sighting, John 11:57. If they didn’t, they would be thrown out of the synagogue. He is seen now as an outlaw, yet He is king, Luke 7:36 / John 12:1-8 / Matthew 28:6-13.

Go To John 12