Notes on John 11:1-10

John 11:1‑10  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The Lord was rejected, rejected in His words, rejected in His works. Both were perfect, but man felt that God was brought near to them 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 fullness 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. He 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 fullness of detail.
"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 ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. The sisters then sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick.” (Vers. 1-8.) 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? 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 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 disciples, Let us go into Judea 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 any one walk in the day, he doth not stumble, because he seeth the light of this world; but if any one walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.” (Vers. 4-10.)
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? And 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 Judea again. Then wonder, Did He not know better than they the murderous rancor 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 any one walk in the day, he stumbleth not., because he seeth the light of the world; but if any 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!