Notes on John 11:11-29

John 11:11‑29  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
THE Lord would exercise the hearts of His own. As His abiding in the same place for two days was not the impulse of human feeling, and His going to the place of deadly hatred was according to the light He walked in and was, so He has more to say which they had to ponder.
“These things said he, and after this he saith to them, Lazarus our friend is fallen asleep; but I go that I may wake him. Therefore said the disciples to him,1 Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover. But Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he was speaking [literally speaketh] of the rest of sleep. Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead; and I rejoice on your account that I was not there, that ye may believe. But let us go unto him. Thomas therefore, that is called Didymus, Said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (Vers. 11-16.) The Lord begins to disclose what He was about to do; but they were dull to think of death, on the one hand, or of His resurrection power, on the other. The prevention of death, the healing of disease, is far short of triumph over death. The disciples were to be strengthened by the sight of resurrection before He died on the cross.
It is important to note that here, as everywhere, sleep is said of the body. It is the suited word of faith for death: how dark the unbelief that perverts it, as some do, to materialize the soul!
But the Lord, who tries faith, meets the weakness of His disciples, and clears up the difficulty. He tells them plainly” Lazarus is dead,” and expresses His joy on their account that He was not there (that is, merely tο heal), in order that they might believe, when they knew better His power to quicken and raise the dead. Gloomy Thomas can see only His rushing into death when He proposed to go to Judea, though his love to the Lord prompts him to say, Let us also go that we may die with Him. How poor are the thoughts of a disciple, even where affection was true to the Master, who was indeed about to die in willing grace for them—yea, for their sins—that they might live forever, justified from all things; but who would prove before He died a sacrifice that He could not only live, but give life to the dead as He would, yet in obedience to, and communion with, His Father! Such is our Savior.
“Jesus therefore, on coming, found that he was four days in the tomb. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem about fifteen furlongs off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary and their company, that they might comfort them concerning their brother. Martha then, when she heard Jesus is coming, met him; but Mary was sitting in the house. Martha then said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. And now I know that, whatsoever thou mayest ask of God, God will give thee. Jesus saith to her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith to him, I know that he shall rise in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth on me shall never die [literally, shall in no wise die forever]. Believest thou this? She saith to him, Yea, Lord, I do believe [I have believed, and do] that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world. And having said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Teacher is here, and calleth for thee. When she heard [it], she riseth quickly, and cometh unto him.” (Vers. 17-29.)
The interval since death and burial is carefully stated, as well as the contiguity of the spot to Jerusalem, and the number of Jews who at the moment had joined the company of Martha and Mary, with a view to console them in their sorrow. God was ordering all for a bright testimony to His Son.
Again Martha prompt as ever when she heard of Jesus approaching, went to meet Him, while Mary kept sitting in the house, with a deeper sense of death, but at least as ready to go when summoned. Meanwhile she waits, as the Lord knew well and appreciated. When Martha did meet the Lord, she confesses His power to have warded off death by His presence. She owns Him as the Messiah; and as such she is confident that even now, whatever He may ask of God will be given Him. No doubt she meant this as a strong expression of her faith. But it was to correct this error, to give an incomparably fuller apprehension, that the Lord came now to raise Lazarus. Hence she applies to the Lord language far below His true relation to the Father:,t'cra lip allay Tov OCI;P. Had she said, ipiuTipti TOV w-a7Apa it would have been more becoming. It is all right to use airja, of us, for the place of a suppliant or petitioner becomes us; but the word of more familiar demand, OptoTrite, is suitable to Him. This, however, she, though a believer, had to learn.
When Jesus tells Martha that her brother shall rise again, she replies at once, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. But the Lord was here, not to teach truths known already, but to give what was unknown, and this in the glory of His own person. Therefore said Jesus to Martha, I am the resurrection and the life, and in this order as strictly applicable to the case in hand, Lazarus being dead and buried. He was the resurrection no less than the life, and this in fullness of power. “He that believeth on me, though he should die, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth in me shall never die: believest thou this?” It is the superiority of life in Christ over all impediments, to be displayed at His coming. For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Thus at the coming of the Lord the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living that remain, without passing through death, shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Thus will He be proved the resurrection and the life: the resurrection, because the dead believers immediately arise, obedient to His voice; the life, because every one that lives and believes on Him has mortality swallowed up of life at the same moment.
This tests Martha. To the Lord's inquiry, “Believest thou this?” she can only give the vague reply, Yea, Lord, I have believed, and do believe, that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world: a word containing truth, doubtless, but no real answer to the question. She felt the uneasiness usual even to saints, who hear what is beyond their depth; and she thinks of her sister as one that would understand incomparably better than herself; and so, without staying to learn, she hurried off, and called Mary secretly, saying, “The Teacher is here, and calleth thee,” who, when she heard, quickly rises and comes. How sweet the call to her heart!
1. αὐτφ οί μ. à D K Π, &c., some adding αὺτοῦ with Syn.. &c., B Cp.m. X, &c., οἱ μ. αὐτφ, the latter only is in A, &c., while the Test. Rec. with most gives οί μ. αὺτοῦ