By: Steve Shirley
"Christ Raises Lazarus From The Dead!" This is considered by most the greatest miracle of Jesus in the Bible. Let's begin looking at this by reading (Jn 11:1-19).
(Verse 1) "Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" Bethany was a city that was about 2 miles east of Jerusalem. It was along the road leading to Jericho.
(Verse 2) "(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)" This event is listed here before it actually happens. John mentions it in the next chapter (Jn 12:1-10). Jesus previously visited Mary and Martha in (Lk 11:38-42). Let's turn to this.
(Verse 3) "his sisters sent unto him" We see at the end of John Chapter 10 (Jn 10:40) that Jesus "went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode." That place was likely "Bethabara," (sometimes also called "Bethany"), which is mentioned in John Chapter 1 (Jn 1:28). Jesus was here when Mary and Martha sent word to Him that Lazarus was sick. The distance between "Bethabara" and "Bethany" was a full day's trip (one commentator says about 25 miles).
(Verse 4) "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." We see here that Jesus, in His omniscience, knew exactly why Lazarus was sick. It was so that He would be "glorified" through it. We see a similar example with the blind man in (Jn 9:1-5). So today, does God still make, or allow people to be sick, and then heal them so that He might be "glorified?"
(Verses 6-7) "When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was." Why did Jesus wait more two days before going to Judea?
(Verses 8-10) I will quote from the Believer's Bible Commentary to explain these verses: (Verse 9) "In the ordinary course of events, there are twelve hours of light in the day, when men can work. As long as a man works during this allotted time, there is no danger of his stumbling or falling because he sees where he is going and what he is doing. The light of this world, or daylight, keeps him from accidental death through stumbling. The spiritual meaning of the Lord's words is as follows: The Lord Jesus was walking in perfect obedience to the will of God. There was thus no danger of His being killed before the appointed time. He would be preserved until His work was done. (Verse 10) The person who walks in the night is one who is not faithful to God, but is living in self-will. This man stumbles easily because he does not have divine guidance to illuminate his pathway."
(Verses 11-14) "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." The Greek word used for "sleepeth" here is "koimao." While this word is used for literal sleep sometimes, it is also used for "died/dead." There are some verses in the Bible that use the word "sleep or asleep" for when a person dies. This verse is one example. Let me show these verses with Greek words injected:
(Jn 11:11-14): "These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth (koimao); but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (12) Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep (koimao), he shall do well. (13) Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep (Gr: hupnos, actual sleep). (14) Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." (Note: Jesus used koimao to speak of death. The disciples thought he used koimao to mean he was actually asleep. Then Jesus plainly says, (No, I mean) "Lazarus is dead" (not asleep).
These verses are among several key verses in the Bible used to refute those who teach what is called "soul sleep" (called "psychopannychia" by Calvin). Those who teach this falsely believe that when a person dies, they actually "go to sleep." For a believer, they do not go to Heaven, but instead their soul goes to sleep until Jesus returns, and they are resurrected. This belief is clearly, and easily refuted with the Bible (I do this here: https://jesusalive.cc/ques2). In addition to these verses in John, here are a few more: (Acts 7:60)(1 Cor 11:30)(Acts 13:36)(2 Pet 3:4).
(Verse 16) "Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Thomas is most often remembered for
"refusing to believe" ("doubting Thomas") that Jesus had appeared to the other disciples
until: "I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and
thrust my hand into his side" (Jn 20:25). However, here we see that
Thomas is ready to die with Jesus! And, in (Jn 20:28), Thomas makes one of the
clearest proclamations of Jesus' deity in the Bible: "My Lord and My God." Thomas has only one other speaking part in
the Gospel of John, and that is in (Jn 14:5) when he says, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way?" To which Jesus answered with one of the most famous verses in the Bible:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me"
***Note: The synoptic Gospels do not mention Thomas speaking at all.
(Verse 17)(NASB) "So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days." Having a "tomb" was an indication of wealth (see: Mt 27:57-61). We see in (verse 38) that this tomb was "a cave" with a "stone laid against it."
Next, let's read (Jn 11:20-45)
(Verses 20-21)(NASB) "Martha... went to meet Him (Jesus)... (and) said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." It is interesting to note that in (Verse 32), Mary says "exactly" the same words to Jesus when she meets Him. However, Mary "fell down at His feet" when she said them, while Martha did not. It is worth noting though that it is Martha, not Mary who goes to meet Jesus when she hears He is coming.
(Verse 22) "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." What did Martha mean when she said this to Jesus?
(Verses 25-26) "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
This is the 5th of 7 key "I AM" statements (metaphors used to describe Himself) by Jesus in the Book of John. For the other 6 "I AM" statements, see: (Jn 6:35)(Jn 8:12)(Jn 10:7,9)(Jn 10:11,14)(Jn 14:6)(Jn 15:1,5).
(Verse 27)(NASB) "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." Martha confesses that she knew Jesus was the prophesied Messiah ("The Christ")! (Prophesied in Old Testament verses such as: Gen 3:15, Gen 9:27, Gen 12:2-3, Gen 49:8-12, Num 24:15-19, Deut 18:15-18).
(Verses 33 and 35) "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled." (35) "Jesus wept." Why did Jesus "groan in the spirit" and "weep?"
***Geek Note: "Jesus wept" is the shortest verse in the "English" New Testament. However, in Greek, this verse contains 16 letters. In Greek, the shortest verse in the New Testament is (1 Th 5:16) which says, "Rejoice always" ("evermore" - KJV). This contains 14 letters in Greek. BUT, "some" manuscripts translate (Lk 20:30) to say, "And the second." "IF" this is a correct translation, then this verse would be the shortest in Greek with 12 letters.
(Verse 37) "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?" They are referring to Jesus' healing of the "blind man" in (Jn 9:6-7). If Jesus could heal the "blind man," surely He could have healed the sickness of Lazarus, and kept him from dying. They had no idea that Jesus was about to do something even greater!
(Verse 39) "a stench" The Jews would use "spices" to help neutralize the stench of a decaying body (i.e. Jn 19:39-40 with the body of Jesus). However, this did not totally eliminate the smell. The Jews did not "embalm" dead bodies as some Egyptians did (Gen 50:1-3,26).
(Verses 41-42) JESUS PRAYER: "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. (42) 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." What do you see in this prayer?
(Verses 43-45) "Lazarus, come forth!" Lazarus is ALIVE! As a result of this miracle, "many of the Jews.... believed on Him."
Finally, let's read (Jn 11:46-57).
(Verse 46) However, some of the Jews ran to tell the Pharisees "the things Jesus did." (Apparently more concerned with the problem the healing would cause, than rejoicing about the miracle which had just occurred.)
***Short Rabbit Trail!: This came to me while I was studying this, and I found it interesting! There are two men named "Lazarus" in the Bible. The Lazarus here, and the Lazarus mentioned by Jesus in (Lk 16:19-31) with the "Rich Man And Lazarus." I had never seen a connection between these two places before. HOWEVER, as I was studying (verse 46) here, and how some of the Jews would not believe in Jesus even though He had just raised a "dead man to life," it brought to mind the conversation between Abraham and the "rich man" in (Lk 16:27-31).
The "rich man" "begged" Abraham to send Lazarus to
warn his five brothers, so that they would not come to the "place of torment"
that he was in. Check out the next 3 verses!
(Lk 16:29) Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
(Lk 16:30) And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
(Lk 16:31) And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
See the connection? I thought it was cool!
(Verses 47-48) "The chief priests and Pharisees gathered a council" (likely the Sanhedrin) and expressed their concern saying: "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." The leaders were worried about the Romans coming to take away their power and position. The Romans allowed the Jews to have some measure of freedom as long as they didn't cause problems. However, the things Jesus was doing might indeed cause an uproar!
(Verse 49) "Caiaphas" He was the High Priest from about 18 - 36 A.D. We see him mentioned in 4 places in the New Testament. First in (Lk 3:2), then here, then he played a major role in the crucifixion of Jesus (Mt 26:3-4,57-68)((Jn 18:13-14,24,28), and finally he was at the trial of Peter and John in (Acts 4:5-22). (He was removed from his position shortly after this trial.)
(Verses 49-50) The words of Caiaphas: "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."
(Verses 51-52) What is said about the words of Caiaphas: "And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; (52) And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."
What do you think is going on here in (Verses 49-52)?
(Verse 52) "gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" All believers in Christ are called "children of God" (Gal 3:26)(Jn 1:12)(Rom 8:14-17). Therefore, this is likely referring to believing Jews, and Gentiles who make up the "church," being "gathered together" and made "one" in Christ (Eph 2:11-18)(Gal 3:26-29).
(Verse 53) "Jesus...went... into a city called Ephraim" No one knows "exactly" where this city was. Easton's Bible Dictionary says, "It lay in the wild, uncultivated hill-country to the north-east of Jerusalem, between the central towns and the Jordan valley." MacArthur says, "This probably refers to the OT city of Ephron (see 2 Chr. 13:19). It's modern village name is Et-Taiyibeh, and it is located 4 mi. NE of Bethel and about 12 mi. from Jerusalem."
(Verse 55) "And the Jews' Passover was nigh at hand" The approaching Passover was the final one that Jesus would take part in. This would be the third Passover mentioned in the book of John that Jesus celebrated (also see: Jn 2:13, Jn 6:4).
(Verses 56-57)(NASB) The Jews wondered if Jesus would "come to the (Passover) feast" since "the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him."
Jesus did show up, and shortly afterwards, the leaders did "seize" Him (Jn 18:1-13)(Mt 26:47-57)(Lk 22:47-54), which led to His death on the cross.