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Bible Commentaries
John 11

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Lazarus’ death recalls Jesus to Judaea .

Verse 1

John 11:1 . Ἦν δέ τις ἀσθενῶν . “Now a certain man was ill;” δέ connects this narrative with the preceding, and introduces the cause of our Lord’s leaving His retirement in Peraea. “Lazarus,” the Greek form of Eleazar = God is my Help ( cf. Luke 16:20 ), “of Bethany”. ἀπό is commonly used to designate residence or birthplace, see John 1:45 , Hebrews 13:24 , etc.; ἐκ is used similarly, see Acts 23:34 . Bethany lay on the south-east slope of Olivet, nearly two miles from Jerusalem, John 11:18 ; it is now named El-’Azirîyeh, after Lazarus; “from the village of Mary and Martha her sister,” a description of Bethany added not so much to distinguish it from the Bethany of John 1:28 ( cf. John 10:40 ) as to connect it with persons already named in the evangelic tradition, Luke 10:38 .

Verse 2

John 11:2 . In order further to identify Lazarus it is added: “Now it was (that) Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill”. This act of Mary’s has not yet been narrated by John (see John 12:3 ), but it was this which distinguished her at the time John was writing; cf. Matthew 26:13 .

Verse 3

John 11:3 . The sisters were so intimate with Jesus that they naturally turn to Him in their anxiety, and send Him a notice of the illness, which is only a slightly veiled request that He would come to their relief: “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is ill”. “Sufficit ut noveris. Non enim amas et deseris.” Augustine.

Verse 4

John 11:4 . Ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν . “And Jesus when He heard said,” i.e. , to His disciples. It was not the reply sent to the sisters. “This illness is not to death,” πρὸς θάνατον , death is not the end towards which it is making. But that Jesus knew that death had already taken place (John 11:6 and John 11:17 ) or was imminent is evident from the following clause, but He knew what He would do (John 6:6 ) and that death was not to be the final result of this illness. The illness and death were ὑπὲρ τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ , for the sake of glorifying God ( cf. John 9:3 ), “gloriae divinae illustrandae causa,” Winer, p. 479. This is further explained in the clause “that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it,” i.e. , by means of this illness; cf. John 13:31 . “In two ways; because the miracle (1) would lead many to believe that He was the Messiah; (2) would bring about His death. Δοξάζεσθαι is a frequent expression of this Gospel for Christ’s death regarded as the mode of His return to glory (John 7:39 , John 12:16 , John 13:31 ), and this glorification of the Son involves the glory of the Father (John 5:23 , John 10:30-38 ).” Plummer, Bengel.

Verse 5

John 11:5 . Ἠγάπα δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς … It is quite true that φιλεῖν denotes the more passionate love, and ἀγαπᾶν the more reasoning; but it is doubtful whether this distinction is observed in this Gospel. Passages proving the distinction are given by Wetstein.

Verse 6

John 11:6 . Jesus loved the family, ὡς οὖν ἤκουσεν … τότε μὲν ἔμεινεν . We expect another consequence: “Jesus loved them, therefore He immediately went to Bethany”. But the consequence indicated in οὖν is found in λέγει , John 11:7 , and the whole sentence should read: “When, therefore, He had heard that he was ill, for the present indeed [ τότε μὲν = tum quidem], He remained for two days where He was; then after this He says to His disciples, Let us go into Judaea again”. The μέν after τότε suggests a δέ after ἔπειτα and unites the two clauses. For the dropping of δέ after ἔπειτα or its absorption see Winer, 720; and for the pleonastic ἔπειτα μετὰ τοῦτο and for ἄγωμεν in the sense “let us go” see Kypke, who gives instances of both from post-Macedonian authors. Jesus remained two days inactive, not to test the faith of the sisters, which Holtzmann justly characterises as “grausam”; but, as Godet, Holtzmann, and Weiss agree, because He awaited the prompting of the Father, cf. John 2:4 , John 7:1-10 .

Verse 8

John 11:8 . The announcement of His intention is received with astonishment: Ῥαββὶ … ἐκεῖ . “Rabbi, the men of Judaea were but now seeking to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?” “They think of the danger to Him, and are not without thought of the danger to themselves (John 11:16 ).” Watkins. The νῦν shows that they had not been long in Peraea. To this remonstrance Jesus replies, as in John 9:4 , that while His day, appointed to Him by the Father, continued, He must work, and nothing could hinder Him.

Verse 9

John 11:9 . Οὐχὶ … ἡμέρας , i.e. , each man’s day, or term of work, is a defined quantity. [ τὰ δυώδεκα μέρεα τῆς ἡμέρης παρὰ Βαβυλωνίων ἔμαθον Ἐλληνες , Herod., ii. 109; and see Rawlinson’s Appendix to his Translation .] ἐάν τις … βλέπει . So long as this day lasts, a man may go confidently forward to the duties that call him; οὐ προσκόπτει “he does not stumble,” he can walk erect and straight on amid dangers, cf. Matthew 4:6 , “because he sees the light of the world”; as the sun makes all causes of stumbling manifest and saves the walker from them, so the knowledge of God’s will, which is man’s moral light, guides him; and to follow it is his only safety.

Verse 10

John 11:10 . On the other hand, ἐὰν δέ τις … ἐν αὐτῷ , if a man prolongs his day beyond God’s appointment, he stumbles about in darkness, having lost his sole guide, the will of God. His prolonged life is no longer a day but mere night.

Verse 11

John 11:11 . Ταῦτα εἶπε … αὐτόν . “These things spake He, and after this,” how long after we do not know; but John 11:15 , “let us go to him,” indicates that the two days here intervened. There is, however, difficulty introduced by this supposition. He now makes the definite announcement: “Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep, but I go to awake him”. κεκοίμηται cf. Matthew 9:24 ; Matthew 27:52 , Acts 7:60 , 1 Thessalonians 4:13 , 1 Corinthians 15:6 . “Mortuos dormientes appellat Scripturae veracissima consuetudo, ut cum dormientes audimus, evigilaturos minime desperemus.” Augustine. The heathen idea of the sleep of death is very different, cf. Catullus, “Nox est perpetua una dormienda”. ἐξυπνίσω is later Greek: ἐξυπνισθῆναι οὐ χρὴ λέγειν , ἀλλʼ ἀφυπνισθῆναι , Phrynichus (Rutherford, p. 305). The disciples misunderstood Him, and said: Κύριε … σωθήσεται . “Lord, if he sleep, he will recover,” implying that in this case they need not take the dangerous step of returning to Judaea [ cf. Achilles Tatius, iv., ὕπνος γὰρ πάντων νοσημάτων φάρμακον ]. How He knows that Lazarus sleeps they do not inquire, accustomed as they are to His exercise of gifts they do not understand. σωθήσεται , cf. Mark 5:28 ; Mark 5:34 ; Mark 6:56 , etc. Their misunderstanding was favoured by His having said (John 11:4 ) that the illness was “not to death”; naturally when Jesus spoke of Lazarus sleeping they understood Him to speak (John 11:13 ) περὶ τῆς κοιμήσεως τοῦ ὕπνου , “of the κοίμησις of sleep”.

Verse 14

John 11:14 . τότε οὖν . “At this point, accordingly, Jesus told them plainly,” παρρησίᾳ “without figure or ambiguity,” “expressly in so many words,” cf. John 10:24 , removing all possibility of misunderstanding, “Lazarus is dead,” but instead of grieving (John 11:15 ) καὶ χαίρω διʼ ὑμᾶς , “I am glad for your sakes,” although grudging the pain to Lazarus and his sisters, ὅτι οὐκ ἤμην ἐκεῖ , “that I was not there,” implying that had He been there Lazarus would not have died. This gives us a glimpse into the habitual and absolute confidence of Jesus in the presence with Him of an almighty power, ἵνα πιστεύσητε “that ye may believe,” go on to firmer faith. “Faith can neither be stationary nor complete. ‘He who is a Christian is no Christian,’ Luther,” Westcott.

Verse 16

John 11:16 . Εἶπεν οὖν Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος Θωμᾶς is the transliteration and Δίδυμος the translation of חּאֹם , a twin. He is the pessimist among the disciples, and now takes the gloomy, and, as it proved, the correct view of the result of this return to Judaea, but his affectionate loyalty forbids the thought of their allowing Jesus to go alone. “To his mind there is nothing left for Jesus but to die. But now comes the remarkable thing. He is willing to take Jesus at the lowest, uncrowned, unseated, disrobed, he loves Him still.” Matheson. If Thomas is stiff and obstinate in his incredulity, he is also stiff and obstinate in his affection and allegiance. “In him the twins, unbelief and faith, were contending with one another for mastery, as Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb.” Trench. συμμαθηταῖς occurs only here. ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ , i.e. , with Jesus. The expression is well illustrated by Wetstein.

Verse 17

John 11:17 . Ἐλθὼν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὗρεν . “When, then, Jesus came, He found,” implying that He did not know before, but learned from some in Bethany, αὐτὸν τέσσαρας ἡμέρας ἤδη ἔχοντα ἐν τῶ μνημείῳ “that he had been four days already in the tomb”. Raphel and Wetstein give instances of this construction, and see John 5:5 . According to Jewish custom burial took place on the day of death, so that, allowing somewhat more than one day for the journey from the one Bethany to the other, it seems probable that Lazarus died about the time the messenger reached Jesus. At John 11:39 the time which had elapsed since death is mentioned for a different reason. Here it seems to be introduced to account for John 11:19 ; as also is the statement ἦν δὲ Βηθανία [ ἡ deleted by Tisch [77] and W.H [78] ] ἐγγὺς τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων , ὡς ἀπὸ σταδίων δεκαπέντε , within easy walking distance of Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off. The form is a Latinism, used in later Greek instead of ὡς σταδίους δεκαπέντε ἀπὸ τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων ; cf. John 12:1 , John 21:8 , Revelation 14:20 . The nearness of Bethany accounts for the fact that πολλοὶ … αὐτῶν , “many of the Jews had come out to Martha and Mary”. Of visits of condolence we have a specimen in Job. “Deep mourning was to last for seven days, of which the first three were those of ‘weeping’. During these seven days it was, among other things, forbidden to wash, to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to study, or to engage in any business. After that followed a lighter mourning of thirty days.” Edersheim, Jewish Social Life , an interesting chapter on In Death and after Death . Cf. Genesis 50:3 ; Num 20:29 ; 1 Samuel 28:13 . Specimens of the manifestations of grief in various heathen countries and of the things said ὑπὸ τῶν παραμυθουμένων are given by Lucian in his tract Concerning Grief .

[77] Tischendorf.

[78] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 17-44

John 11:17-44 . The raising of Lazarus .

Verse 20

John 11:20 . ἡ οὖν Μάρθα … ἐκαθέζετο . Martha as the elder sister and mistress of the house (Luke 10:38-40 ) goes out to meet Jesus, while Mary remained seated in the house. “After the body is carried out of the house all chairs and couches are reversed, and the mourners sit on the ground on a low stool.” Edersheim, loc. cit . On sitting as an attitude of grief see Doughty, Analecta Sacra , on Ezekiel 8:14 .

Verse 21

John 11:21 . Martha’s first words to Jesus, Κύριε … ἐτεθνήκει , “hadst Thou been here my brother had not died,” are “not a reproach but a lament,” Meyer. Mary uses the same words (John 11:32 ), suggesting that this had been the burden of their talk with one another; and even, as Bengel says, before the death “utinam adesset Dominus Jesus”.

Verse 22

John 11:22 . But Martha not only believed that Jesus could have prevented her brother’s death but also that even now He could recall him from the grave: καὶ νῦν οἶδα … “Even now I know that what thing soever you ask of God, God will give you.” Cf. John 9:31 . Jesus referred all His works to the Father, and spoke as if only faith were required for the working of the greatest miracles. See Matthew 14:31 ; Matthew 17:20 . On the use of αἰτεῖν and ἐρωτᾶν see Ezra Abbot’s Critical Essays , in which Trench’s misleading account of their difference is exposed.

Verse 23

John 11:23 . λέγει … σου . “Thy brother shall rise again.” “The whole history of the raising of Lazarus is a parable of life through death.… Here, then, at the beginning the key-note is struck.” Westcott. Whether the words were meant or not to convey only the general truth of resurrection, and that death is not the final state, Martha did not find in them any assurance of the speedy restoration of Lazarus.

Verse 24

John 11:24 . “I know,” she says, “that he will rise again, in the resurrection at the last day.” On the terms used see John 5:28 , John 6:39-40 ; John 6:54 . Belief in the resurrection had been promoted through Daniel 12:2 , and, as Holtzmann remarks, Martha must have heard more than enough about it during the last four days, and fears perhaps that even Jesus is offering the merely conventional consolation. To one who yearns for immediate re-union the “last day” seems invisible. It was small consolation for Martha to know that her brother would lie for ages in the tomb, no more to exchange one word or look till the last day.

Verse 25

John 11:25 . Nor does this faith satisfy Jesus, who at once replaces it by another in the words, Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή . Resurrection and life are not future only, but present in His person; she is to trust not in a vague remote event but in His living person whom she knew, loved, and trusted. Apart from Him there was neither resurrection nor life. He carried with Him and possessed there and then as He spoke with her all the force that went to produce life and resurrection. Therefore ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ … αἰῶνα (John 11:26 ), “He that believeth on me, even though he die, shall live; and every one who liveth and believeth on me shall never die”. Belief in Him or acceptance of Him as the source of true spiritual life, brings the man into vital union with Him, so that he lives with the life of Christ and possesses a life over which death has no power.

Verse 27

John 11:27 . Martha believed this, as implicitly included in her belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Ναὶ , Κύριε … ἐρχόμενος . Resurrection and life were both Messianic gifts, but it is doubtful whether Martha fully understood what our Lord had said. Rather she falls back on what she did understand and believe. She will not claim to believe more than she is sure of; but if His statement is only an elaboration of His Messianic function, then she can truly say: Ναὶ , Κύριε . ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα , I have come to believe, I have reached the belief.

Verse 28

John 11:28 . καὶ ταῦτα εἰποῦσα ἀπῆλθε , “and when she had said this,” and when some further conversation had taken place ( cf. φωνεῖ σε ), “she went and called Mary her sister, secretly saying to her: The Teacher is here and asks for you”. The secrecy was due not so much to the presence of Jesus’ enemies as to Martha’s desire that Mary should meet Jesus alone, unaccompanied even by friends. For the same purpose Jesus remained in the place where He had met Martha.

Verse 29

John 11:29 . On the delivery of His message Mary springs up from her attitude of broken-hearted grief and comes to meet Him.

Verse 31

John 11:31 . But she was not allowed to go alone: οἱ οὖν … ἐκεῖ . The Jews who were with her in the house comforting her interpreted her sudden movement as one of those urgent demands of grief which already, no doubt, they had seen her yield to, and in sincere sympathy (John 11:33 ) followed her.

Verse 32

John 11:32 . Consequently when she reaches Jesus she has only time to fall at His feet and exclaim, in Martha’s words, Κύριε … ἀδελφός . The sight of Jesus, ἰδοῦσα αὐτόν , produced a more vehement demonstration of grief than in Martha. Cf. Cicero, in Verrem , John 11:39 . “Mihi obviam venit et … mihi ad pedes misera jacuit, quasi ego excitare filium ejus ab inferis possem.” Wetstein.

Verse 33

John 11:33 . Ἰησοῦς οὖν … αὐτόν . “Jesus, then, when He saw her weeping [ κλαίειν is stronger than δακρύειν and might be rendered ‘wailing’. It is joined with ἀλαλάζειν , Mark 5:38 ; ὀλολύζειν , James 5:1 ; θορυβεῖν , Mark 5:39 ; πενθεῖν , Mark 16:10 . Cf. Webster’s Synonyms ] and the Jews who accompanied her wailing,” ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι , “was indignant in spirit”. The word ἐμβριμᾶσθαι occurs again in John 11:38 and in three other passages of the N.T., Matthew 9:30 , Mark 1:43 ; Mark 14:5 . In those passages it is used in its original sense of the expression of feeling, and might be rendered “sternly charged”; and it is in each case followed by an object in the dative. In Matthew 9:30 Jesus sternly charged or with strong feeling charged the healed blind man not to make Him known. In Mark 1:43 the leper is similarly charged. In Mark 14:5 the bystanders express strong feeling [of indignation, ἀγανακτοῦντες ] against Mary for her apparent extravagance. In all three passages it is used of the expression of strong feeling; but no indignation enters into its meaning in the former two passages. Here in John it is not feeling expressed, but τῷ πνεύματι , inwardly felt; and with only such expression as betrayed to observers that He was moved ( cf. Mark 8:12 , ἀναστενάξας τῷ πνεύματι ), for τῷ πνεύματι cannot be the object, for this does not give a good sense and it is contradicted by πάλιν ἐμβριμ . ἐν ἑαυτῷ of John 11:38 . It would seem, then, to mean “strongly moved in spirit”. This meaning quite agrees with the accompanying clause, ταραζεν ἑαυτόν , “and disturbed Himself”; precisely as we speak a man “distressing himself,” or “troubling himself,” or “making himself anxious”. To say that the active with the reflexive pronoun indicates that this was a voluntary act on Christ’s part is to introduce a jarring note of Doketism. His sympathy with the weeping sister and the wailing crowd caused this deep emotion. To refer His strong feeling to His indignation at the “hypocritical” lamentations of the crowd is a groundless and unjust fancy contradicted by His own “weeping” (John 11:34 ) and by the remark of the Jews (John 11:35 ).

Verse 34

John 11:34 . His intense feeling prompts Him to end the scene, and He asks, Ποῦ τεθείκατε αὐτόν ; He asks because He did not know. They reply, but probably with no expectation of what was to happen, ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε . As He went ἐδάκρυσεν , “He shed tears”. To assert that such tears could only be theatrical because He knew that shortly Lazarus would live, is to show profound ignorance of human nature. And it also shows ignorance of the true sympathy requisite for miracle. “It is not with a heart of stone that the dead are raised.”

Verse 36

John 11:36 . These tears evoked a very natural exclamation, Ἴδε πῶς ἐφίλει αὐτόν , “see how He loved him”.

Verse 37

John 11:37 . But this again suggested to the more thoughtful and wary the question, Οὑκ … ἀποθάνῃ ; The tears of Jesus, which manifest His love for Lazarus, puzzle them. For if He opened the eyes of a blind man, He was able to prevent the death of His friend. The question with οὐκ expects an affirmative answer. Euthymius and the Greek interpreters in general think the question was ironical and scoffing. Thus Cyril, Ποῦ ἡ ἰσχύς σου ὦ θαυματουργέ ; But there is nothing in the words to justify this.

Verse 38

John 11:38 . Ἰησοῦς οὖν πάλιν ἐμβριμώμενος . “Jesus, then, being again deeply moved.” “Quia non accedit Christus ad sepulcrum tanquam otiosus spectator, sed athleta qui se ad certamen instruit, non mirum est si iterum fremat.” Calvin. To refer the renewed emotion to the sayings of the Jews just reported is to take for granted that Jesus heard them, which is most unlikely. The tomb ἦν σπήλαιον … αὐτῷ , “was a cave,” either natural, as that which Abraham bought, Genesis 23:9 , or artificial, hewn out of the rock, as our Lord’s, Matthew 27:60 . λίθος ἐπέκειτο ἐπʼ αὐτῷ , “a stone lay upon it,” i.e. , on its mouth to prevent wild animals from entering. The supposed tomb of Lazarus is still shown and is described by several travellers.

Verse 39

John 11:39 . The detail, that Jesus said, Ἄρατε τὸν λίθον , is mentioned because it was an unexpected step and quickened inquiry as to what was to follow, but also because it gave rise to practical Martha’s quick objection, ἤδη ὄζει . [“He employed natural means to remove natural obstructions, that His Divine power might come face to face with the supernatural element. He puts forth supernatural power to do just that which no less power could accomplish, but all the rest He bids men do in the ordinary way.” Laidlaw, Miracles , p. 360.] ἤδη ὄζει shows that Lazarus had not been embalmed or even wrapped in spiced grave-clothes; which, some suppose, sheds light on John 12:3 . The fact is mentioned, however, to show how little Martha expected what Jesus was going to do: evidently she supposed He wished to take a last look at His friend, and she [ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ τετελευτηκότος ] the sister of the deceased, and therefore jealous of any exposure, interposes, knowing what He would see. τεταρταῖος γὰρ ἐστι , “for he is four days [dead]”. Herodotus, ii. 89, tells us that the wives of men of rank were not at death given to the embalmers at once, ἀλλʼ ἐπεὰν τριταῖαι ἢ τεταρταῖαι γένωνται . Lightfoot quotes a remarkable tradition of Ben Kaphra: “Grief reaches its height on the third day. For three days the spirit hovers about the tomb, if perchance it may return to the body. But when it sees the fashion of the countenance changed, it retires and abandons the body.”

Verse 40

John 11:40 . But Martha’s incredulity is mildly rebuked, Οὐκ εἶπόν σοι … Θεοῦ ; “Did I not say to you, that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” recalling rather what He had said (John 11:4 ) to the disciples than what He had said to Martha (John 11:23-26 ); but the conversation is, as already noted, abridged.

Verse 41

John 11:41 . Accordingly, notwithstanding her remonstrance, and because it was now perceived that Jesus had some end in view that was hidden from them, they lifted the stone, ἦραν οὖν τὸν λίθον . Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς … ἀπέστειλας . “But Jesus lifted His eyes upwards and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me.” No pomp of incantation, no wrestling in prayer even; but simple words of thanksgiving, as if already Lazarus was restored. [Origen thinks that the spirit of Lazarus had already returned. Ἀντὶ εὐχῆς ηὐχαρίστησε , κατανοήσας τὴν Λαζάρου ψυχὴν εἰσελθοῦσαν εἰς τὸ σῶμα .] The prayer which He thanks the Father for hearing had been offered during the two days in Peraea. And the thanksgiving was more likely to impress the crowd now than in the excitement following the resurrection of Lazarus. Therefore He thanks the Father because it was essential that the miracle should be referred to its real source, and that all should recognise that it was the Father who had sent this power among men.

Verse 43

John 11:43 . Having thus turned the faith of the bystanders to the Father, φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐκραύγασε , “He cried with a great voice,” “that all might hear its authoritativeness” (Euthymius). “Talis vox opposita est omni magico murmuri, quale incantatores in suis praestigiis adhibere solent.” Lampe. More probably, as Lampe also suggests, it was the natural utterance of His confidence, and of the authority He felt. κραυγάζω is an old word, see Plato, Rep. , 607 B, but is principally used in late Greek (Rutherford’s New Phryn. , 425). Λάζαρε δεῦρο ἔξω . “Lazarus, come forth,” or as Weiss renders, “hier heraus,” “huc foras,” “hither, out”; but on the whole the E.V. is best. Sometimes an imperative is added to δεῦρο , as χώρει σὺ δεῦρο (Paley’s Com. Frag. , p. 16).

Verse 44

John 11:44 . Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ τεθνηκὼς , “And out came the dead man,” δεδεμένος … περιεδέδετο , “bound feet and hands with grave-bands,” κειρίαις , apparently the linen bandages with which the corpse was swathed. Opinions are fully given in Lampe. “And his face was bound about with a napkin.” Cf. John 20:7 . “The trait marks an eye-witness,” Westcott. λέγει … ὑπάγειν . “Jesus says to them, ‘Loose him and let him go away’.” He did not require support, and he could not relish the gaze of the throng in his present condition.

Verse 45

John 11:45 . Πολλοὶ οὖν … αὐτόν . “Many therefore of the Jews, viz. , those who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus did, believed on Him.” That is to say, all the Jews who thus came and saw believed.

Verses 45-54

John 11:45-54 . The consequences of the miracle .

Verse 46

John 11:46 . But of this number [it may be “of the Jews” generally, and not of those who had been at Bethany] some went away to the Pharisees and told them, His recognised enemies, what He had done. Whether they did this in good faith or not does not appear.

Verse 47

John 11:47 . The Pharisees at once acted on the information, συνήγαγον … συνέδριον . The chief priests, who were Sadducees, and the Pharisees, their natural foes, but who together composed the supreme authority, “called together a meeting of the Sanhedrim”. The keynote of the meeting was struck in the words τί ποιοῦμεν ; “What are we doing?” i.e. , why are we doing nothing? The indicative, not the deliberative subjunctive. The reason for shaking off this inertia is ὅτι … ποιεῖ . The miracles are not denied, but their probable consequence is indicated.

Verse 48

John 11:48 . ἐὰν ἀφῶμεν … ἔθνος . “If we let Him thus alone,” i.e. , if we do no more to put an end to His miracles than we are doing, “all will believe on Him; and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation”. ἡμῶν emphatic. The raising of Lazarus and the consequent accession of adherents to Jesus made it probable that the people as a whole would attach themselves to Him as Messiah; and the consequence of the Jews choosing a king of their own would certainly be that the Romans would come and exterminate them. τὸν τόπον one would naturally render “our land” as co-ordinate with τὸ ἔθνος [“Land und Leute,” Luther], and probably this is the meaning; although in 2Ma 5:19 in a very similar connection ὁ τόπος means the Temple: οὐ διὰ τὸν τόπον τὸ ἔθνος , ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ ἔθνος τὸν τόπον ὁ Κύριος ἐξελέξατο . Others, with less warrant, think the holy city is meant.

Verse 49

John 11:49 . Εἷς δέ τις ἐξ αὐτῶν Καϊάφας . “But a certain one of them, Caiaphas.” Winer (p. 146) says that τὶς does not destroy the arithmetical force of εἷς . This may be so: but the use of εἷς in similar forms is a peculiarity of later Greek. Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3 ) is a surname = Kephas, added to the original name of this High Priest, Joseph. He held office from A.D. 18 to 36, when he was deposed by Vitellius. ἀρχιερεὺς ὢν τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου , “being High Priest that year,” not as if the writer supposed the high priesthood was an office held for a year only, but desiring to emphasise that during that marked and fatal year of our Lord’s crucifixion Caiaphas held the position of highest authority: as if he said “during the year of which we speak Caiaphas was High Priest”. “Non vocat anni illius pontificem, quod annuum duntaxat esset munus, sed quum venale esset transferretur ad varios homines praeter Legis praescriptum.” Calvin. And Josephus ( Ant. , xx. 10) reminds us that there were twenty-eight high priests in 107 years. Ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἰδατε οὐδέν . “Ye [contemptuous] know nothing at all,” οὐδὲ λογίζεσθε , “nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and the whole nation perish not”. The ἵνα clause is the subject of the sentence, “that one man die for the people is expedient”; as frequently, cf. Matthew 10:25 ; Matthew 18:6 , John 16:7 , 1 Corinthians 4:3 . On the use of ἵνα in this Gospel see Burton’s Moods and Tenses , 211 219. Caiaphas enounced an unquestionably sound principle (see Wetstein’s examples); but nothing could surpass the cold-blooded craft of his application of it. He saw that an opportunity was given them of at once getting rid of an awkward factor in their community, a person dangerous to their influence, and of currying favour with Rome, by putting to death one who was claiming to be king of the Jews. “Why!” he says, “do you not see that this man with His eclát and popular following, instead of endangering us and bringing suspicion on our loyalty, is exactly the person we may use to exhibit our fidelity to the empire? Sacrifice Jesus, and you will not only rid yourselves of a troublesome person, but will show a watchful zeal for the supremacy of Rome, which will ingratiate you with the imperial authorities.”

Verse 51

John 11:51 . Τοῦτο δὲ ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ οὐκ εἶπεν … προεφήτευσεν . ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ , “at his own instigation,” is contrasted with “at the instigation of God” implied in ἐπροφήτευσεν [Kypke gives interesting examples of the use of ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ in classical writers]. “None but a Jew would be likely to know of the old Jewish belief that the high priest by means of the Urim and Thummim was the mouthpiece of the Divine oracle.” Plummer. Calvin calls him “bilingual,” and compares his unconscious service to that of Balaam. John sees that this unscrupulous diplomatist, who supposed that he was moving Jesus and the council and the Romans as so many pieces in his own game, was himself used as God’s mouthpiece to predict the event which brought to a close his own and all other priesthood. In the irony of events he unconsciously used his high-priestly office to lead forward that one sacrifice which was for ever to take away sin and so make all further priestly office superfluous. He prophesied “that Jesus was to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that also the children of God who were scattered in various places should be gathered into one”. ὅτι is rendered “because” by Weiss and others. Jesus was to die ὑπὲρ τὸ ἔθνος although not in Caiaphas’ sense; and His death had the wider object of bringing into one whole, of truer solidarity than the nation, all God’s children wherever at present scattered. Cf. John 10:16 , Ephesians 2:14 . The expression τὰ τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ is used proleptically of the Gentiles who were destined to become God’s children. So Euthymius. For the phrase συνάγειν εἰς ἕν Meyer refers to Plato, Phileb. , 378, C, and Eurip., Orestes , 1640.

Verse 53

John 11:53 . This utterance of Caiaphas brought sudden light to the members of the Sanhedrim, and so influenced their perplexed mind that ἀπʼ ἐκείνης ἡμέρας συνεβουλεύσαντο ἵνα ἀποκτείνωσιν αὐτόν . This was the crisis: what hitherto they had desired (John 5:16 ; John 5:18 , John 7:32 , John 10:39 ) they now determined in council.

Verse 54

John 11:54 . Jesus accordingly, Ἰησοῦς οὖν , not to precipitate matters, οὐκ ἔτι … αὐτοῦ , “no longer went about openly among the Jews, but departed thence ( i.e. , from Bethany or Jerusalem and its neighbourhood) to the country near the desert ( χώραν in contrast to the city; the particular part being the wilderness of Bethaven, a few miles north-east of Jerusalem) to a city called Ephraim (now Et-Taiyibeh, anciently Ophrah, see Smith’s Hist. Geog. , 256, 352; ‘perched on a conspicuous eminence and with an extensive view, thirteen miles north of Jerusalem,’ Henderson’s Palestine , p. 161), and there He spent some time with His disciples”.

Verse 55

John 11:55 . ἦν δὲ ἑαυτούς . “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.” Cf. John 18:28 , Numbers 9:10 , 2 Chronicles 30:17 . Some purifications required a week, others consisted only of shaving the head and washing the clothes. See Lightfoot in loc.

Verses 55-57

John 11:55-57 . Approach of the Passover .

Verse 56

John 11:56 . ἐζήτουν … ἑορτήν ; Jesus was one main topic of conversation among those who stood about in groups in the Temple when their purifications had been got through; and the chief point discussed was whether He would appear at this feast. Cf. John 7:10-13 .

Verse 57

John 11:57 . There was room for difference of opinion, for Δεδώκεισαν … αὐτόν , “the Sanhedrim had issued instructions that if any knew where He was he should intimate this that they might arrest Him”.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 11". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-11.html. 1897-1910.
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