Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we keep our study moving along strongly as we delve into part Ten of this series as we discuss John Chapter Eleven!
In Chapter Eleven, the time for Jesus’ passion (A short-form way of referring to Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection) is drawing near so John’s book begins to compress time.
John 1 to 10 = 30-33 months
John 11 to 21 = 2-3 months
Except for His crucifixion, this will be the last public action Jesus will do. From now on, He will exclusively be in the company of His disciples.
The resurrection of Lazarus will: End His public ministry
Prove His divine power
Preview His own death and resurrection
John 11: 1-6: "A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days."
We have to understand that everything Jesus said and did had its purpose and had AS its purpose the creation of faith in the hearts of the people. Soon He, Himself, would be killed; He knew this, and His disciples had to be prepared to face His death without losing their faith. If they lost their faith, the mission would be over. Jesus wasn’t worried about death (John 10:18), He already said His father gave Him the power to lay down His life and pick it up again but His disciples had to be prepared to lose their leader without being crushed. The raising of Lazarus showed His power and to strengthen faith of His existing disciples. It’s not truly about Lazarus at all (Lazarus says nothing of it), it’s for the witnesses of the miracle. John divides the story into four parts, to show how four different people reacted to Lazarus’ death.
The Reaction of the:
Apostles (John 11:7-16)
Martha (John 11:17-27)
Mary (John 11:28-37)
Jesus (John 11:38-44)
John 11:7-8: " Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
The apostles notice not so much the death of Lazarus, but the threat of death to Jesus and consequently to themselves. If they go back to the area where there’s trouble, they might lose their lives so they react with FEAR.
John 11:9-10: "Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”
Jesus reassures them by stating that their safety is not measured by the power of their enemy but rather by whose side they’re on. The side of light or the side of dark? Remember Jesus is the Light. Being with Jesus is safe no matter the situation.
John 11:11-12: "Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!”
They weren’t quite convinced. Jesus had said “Let us go” in the previous verses, and in seeing their fear, He then says “Okay, I will go.” The apostles now think Lazarus is just asleep and try to convince Jesus that if he is just asleep he will be okay by Himself; Jesus does not have to go (and by extension, they would not have to go either). Its always easier to discourage someone who wants to go forward, than swallowing our pride or fear and going with them.
John 11:13-15: "They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
Jesus explains plainly that Lazarus is dead. He also expresses His joy at the fact that God has worked out the circumstances in such a way that Jesus will perform a great miracle before their eyes and encourage them to believe. The thing that is driving their fear is the weakness of their faith. In order to bolster their courage, Jesus understands that what He needs to do is bolster their faith. The stronger your faith, the stronger your courage. Faith always has an element of risk to it.
John 11:16: "Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”
Thomas after Jesus, invites them to come. Thomas has found his courage (which is interesting because he doubts regularly).
John 11:17: "When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days."
The body is in the tomb for four days. You need to understand the Jewish people did not embalm dead bodies. Egyptians did but the Jews didn’t do that. They merely perfumed and cleaned the body, wrapped it in cloth, and put it into the tomb. So four days dead, in a hot stone tomb with no air, the body will begin to decompose.
John 11:18-22: "Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Martha respects Jesus. She sees Him as a great prophet and healer. She knows Jesus could have healed her brother. She even expresses this idea in her disappointment.
John 11:23: "Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Jesus is telling her plainly what He is about to do; He is about to resurrect Lazarus.
John 11:24: “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
How interesting. She quotes doctrine to Him. Resurrection on the “last day”. She doesn’t hear what He says, she just hears what she THINKS He said. She repeats what she has learned as a good Jewish woman. She is reasonable and controlled. She doesn’t want to bother God. Her response to death is resignation “Well, it is what it is.” Jesus never said at the end of the world though...
John 11:25-26: "Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
Jesus says to a person, “do you believe this?” You know how fantastic that is? God is saying to this poor woman “do you believe me?” Jesus reveals to Martha the reality behind the doctrine. If there is a resurrection from the dead, the One that produces the resurrection is standing right in front of her. And He’s real! He’s not just a doctrine or a teaching, He’s real. If by faith, you are united to the one that produces the resurrection, the resurrection will become a greater reality in your life than death. She is resigned to death and what He is trying to do is to get her to focus on resurrection, on life. Jesus says the union with Him through faith give the believer two things:
Life, true life not enslaved to the fear of death.
It’s not easy to believe in resurrection. There’s so much death everywhere.
John 11:27: "Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”
Martha goes from intelligent faith to living faith in the heart. She doesn’t speak of resurrection, rather its her view of Jesus that changes. Note her response:
Yes (not maybe)
Believe (accepting as true who Jesus is and what He says)
Christ (the Anointed one of God)
Son of God (accepts His divinity)
Comes into the world (a savior)
Jesus redirected her focus to Him, the only one that could give her life NOW despite the daily reality of death and the promise of eternal life to come.
She goes from resignation to faith in Christ
John 11:28-31: "Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him. Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there."
Martha goes and gets Mary and sends her to Jesus and the others follow.
John 11:32-33a: " When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her,"
So Mary’s reaction to Jesus is the same as Martha’s or similar BUT her reaction to Lazarus’ death is sorrow. She’s not reasonable like Martha was, she lets her emotions go. She’s crushed, and says the same thing as Martha says but does not accept the death of her brother.
John 11:33b-37: " a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Notice Jesus’ initial reaction to Mary was His own human emotion. Jesus’ reactions were:
Jesus reacted this way because this is a legitimate reaction a human should express when someone dies. He felt emotional discomfort of the effects of sin and death. He expressed sorrow. Here is a demonstration of Jesus’ humanity. This was Jesus’ friend who had died. In the next few verses, Jesus will demonstrate how God reacts to death.
John 11:38-40: "Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”
Martha gives Jesus a lesson in Mortuary Science. Martha’s faith here weakens because she is faced with the reality of death (this time, it's the stench). The reality of death is stronger than her reality of faith. That’s normal though, isn’t it? This is true of our everyday life. Jesus reaffirms her faith and encourages her to believe despite the realities of death she is facing. Notice, He doesn’t say “Oh! You wavered in your faith, you’re out! Disqualified!” He never does that, He knows our weaknesses, He says “its okay, just keep believing.”
John 11:41-42: "So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”
Jesus prays out loud to show the people around that the miracle He is about to perform is from God and then through it He will confirm that He is sent from God. One last powerful miracle to affirm for them. He also wants to show them how God reacts to death. Not with fear, resignation, or sorrow, but with power.
John 11:43-44: "Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
With a command Jesus demonstrates His power over death by calling Lazarus back to life. The people were no longer reacting to death, they were reacting to Jesus! The apostles now knew why they were on the right side and now did not need to fear. Their confidence was up. Martha now saw how valid her faith was. Jesus demonstrated His power before her eyes. Mary could now go beyond sorrow to hope! She saw death, although sad, is not final.
John 11:45-46: "Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done."
Note once again the result was some believed and some disbelieved. Even with the powerful proof before them, some still chose to reject the evidence before them and remain unbelieving. John adds further commentary here coming up on what impact the final miracle had on some here, especially those in leadership roles.
John 11:47-48: "When the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.”
So, they had a meeting, acknowledged the sign, and miracle but discredit the significance. They see a man that is a threat to their leadership, not a man from God. This scares them. John confirms here What Jesus had previously accused these men of in the story of the good shepherds. These guys are the bad shepherds.
John 11:49-53: "Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world. So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death."
Despite their evil intent, God still uses them for the purpose of Christ’s work. Caiaphas argues that its better that one man die than the entire nation be disrupted or destroyed. His point is If we let this Jesus guy keep doing this stuff, the Romans are going to come in and they are going to wipe us out and take our position. So its better to get rid of this guy to maintain the status quo. Purely political.
John 11:54-57: "As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him."
Because the Lord knew their plans and wanted to go to His death on His terms and not their terms, He chooses to leave the city for a safer region, probably in the northern region. Jesus was usually found at the temple teaching during feast days so they are plotting and saying “He’ll be back soon. If you see Him, let us know and we will seize Him.” The final verses set up the final meeting between Jesus and His apostles and His subsequent clash with Jewish leaders and His passion.