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The Raising of Lazarus
We begin here with the investigation of the question whether the sinner of Luke 7, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the sister of Lazarus, were different persons, or only different designations of the same person. The result of this inquiry is of great importance in the explanation of the present section.
The more ancient material for its solution Deyling gives in his Observ. Sac. iii. 291 seq. Clemens Alexand. assumes only one anointing, which he ascribes to the woman who was a sinner. Tertullian says that the sinner, by the Washing of Christ’s feet, presignified and presymbolized His burial, and therefore identifies her with the sister of Lazarus. Origen (Tract. 35 in Matt.) remarks: “Many think that the four Evangelists have written concerning one and the same woman.” He himself declares against this opinion, though it was the current one of his time. The reason which he lays most stress upon,—“It is not to be thought that Mary who loved Jesus, the sister of Martha, who had chosen the better part, was a ‘sinner of the town,’”—exerts with most people a strong influence, although its force is destroyed by what the Saviour, who came into the world to save sinners, the friend of publicans and sinners, in Luke 7, says to the Pharisee Simon. (Lücke, for example, says: “The word ἁ?μαρτωλός , in Luke 7:37, is so fatal to the identification, that a single glance at this hypothesis is quite sufficient.”) Irenaeus has been without reason quoted in favour of the distinction between the sinner and Mary. But Chrysostom, in the sixty-second Homily on St John, treads in the footsteps of Origen. “Mary,” he says, “the sister of Lazarus, who anointed Christ, is not the harlot, but a different person, honourable and excellent.”
While to the Greek Church, with her predominant spirit variously touched by the heathen Greek morality, it must have been exceedingly hard to reconcile herself to the theory which identifies the sinner and Mary the sister of Lazarus, that theory found in the Latin Church, especially in consequence of the authority of Gregory the Great, absolute and universal acceptance. In the Breviary it is taken for granted that what is said of the sinful woman, of Mary Magdalene, and of Mary the sister of Lazarus, refers to one and the same person. The antiphone to the Magnificat in the Feast of St Mary Magdalene (22d July) runs thus: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; and He who did not scorn to be born of the Virgin Mary, did not count it unbecoming to be touched by Mary the sinner. This was that Mary whose many sins were forgiven because she loved much. This was that Mary who was thought worthy first of all to see Him who was raised from the dead.” In the Catholic Church of France there arose, in the seventeenth century, a very strenuous opposition to this theory. The defenders of the identity appeared, in the domain of learning, to be altogether vanquished. This went so far, that in a whole series of dioceses, with Paris at the head, the new editions of the Breviary were issued without those portions of the office of St Mary Magdalene which referred to Luke 7 and the sister of Lazarus,—a remarkable instance of the freedom which has always more or less opposed in that Church the intolerance of dead uniformity. Bat soon after this change a reaction took place, and the old Catholic view regained the predominance.
In the theology of the churches of the Reformation, the current hypothesis was that the three persons were distinct. This was supported, among others, by Lyser, Calovius, and Bengel. It needs no proof that, with men of such views as theirs, the Pharisaic bias against the “sinner” exerted no influence. It was not until the Rationalist period that such a bias began to manifest itself again, and then a sentimental element entered into the question. A strong feeling of repugnance displayed itself against admitting the censorious Simon “into the loving company and household fellowship of the brother and sisters in Bethany.” If the sinner, Mary Magdalene, and the sister of Lazarus were identified, their family circle must be regarded with an essentially different consideration from that usually accorded. Martha must be connected with her husband, the repulsive and harsh Simon. Mary, whom we have been accustomed to regard as a silent soul involved in meditation, who has opened her pure heart to the Redeemer, “as the tender flowers silently unfold themselves to the sun,” becomes “a wild and tameless woman;” who first found in Christ stillness for her passions, and convulsively clings to Him still, lest the calmness of the waters of her soul should be exchanged again for tempest. Probably, too, Lazarus has undergone a similar development. He eats, after having led the life of the prodigal son, in the house of his brother-in-law, the bread of mercy; and she loves him, not on account of any natural worthiness to be loved, not as the type of those who continue in the grace of baptism, but like Him who has come to seek and to save that which was lost, and rejoices when He has found it. To some it is hard to accept all these changes. Others will love Bethany all the more, if an honest investigation should establish that the old idyllic view has rested upon illusion. It would then yield them pure consolation in the consideration of their own circumstances, and in the remembrance of melancholy passages of their own religious development.
There have not been wanting those who have sought to mediate between these opposite views. At their head is Grotius, who on Matthew 26:6 maintains the identity of the sinner in Luke 7 with the Mary of Lazarus, but doubts whether this latter Mary were identical with Mary Magdalene. The reasons which he alleges for the now generally admitted identity of the anointing in Matthew, Mark, and John, and the now generally renounced identity of the anointing in Luke 7 with theirs, we shall proceed to consider; for the presentation of this argument forms an excellent preparation. “In Matthew and Mark,” he says, “everything coincides. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the accounts agree that the occurrence took place at a feast in the house of Simon; and that the woman came with an alabaster box of ointment, ἀ?λάβαστρον μύρου , from which she anointed Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and John agree that this took place in Bethany, at a feast; that the ointment brought by the woman was very precious; that she was therefore blamed among the disciples (John mentions Judas) as guilty of waste, under the pretence that the expenditure might better have been devoted to the poor; that Christ defended the woman, with the intimation that the honour had reference to His burial. These details are too specific and peculiar to have concurred at different times. Again, Luke and John agree that the woman washed Christ’s feet, and wiped them with the hair of her head, which was certainly so singular a proceeding, as not to allow the supposition of being repeated. Let it be added, that John gives this token as characteristic of Mary the sister of Lazarus, that she was the person who washed the feet of Jesus, and wiped them with her hair. But a thing which happened more than once, could hardly be mentioned as a sufficient distinguishing mark of any one.”
We shall now proceed, first, to examine the reasons alleged against the identity of these seemingly different persons, and then proceed to an exposition of the reasons in favour of that identity.
1. It is asserted that chronological data will not allow the anointing in Luke to be one with the anointing in Bethany; and therefore that the sinner cannot be identified with the sister of Lazarus. “The anointing recorded in Luke,” says Bengel on Luke 7, “took place in a Galilean town before the Transfiguration, indeed before the time of the second Passover; while the other anointing took place at Bethany, six days before the third Passover.” But this argument rests upon the unsound hypothesis, that chronological principles must alone rule the order of events in the Gospel of Luke,—a view by which Bengel was so far led astray, as to assume that there was a double pair of sisters Mary and Martha, one Galilean, Luke 10, and another of Bethany, and which in other respects has introduced such inextricable confusion. Luke announces, in Luke 1:3, that he purposed giving the events in their order. But the analogy of the book of Judges teaches us that we are not to extend this purpose to every detail. The author of that book says, in the first words of it, that he intended to write what took place after the death of Joshua. But he then forthwith, throughout the first chapter, recapitulates events that occurred during Joshua’s life, which were of importance for the right understanding of events which took place after his death; and in Luke 2:6 seq. he returns back to the times of Joshua. The words, “And it came to pass after Joshua was dead,” at the beginning, were designed, therefore, only to lay down the rule, which would admit of exceptions where circumstances rendered them necessary. So also is it with Luke. The beginning and the end of his Gospel relate events in their chronological succession. But in the middle, after he has brought down the history to the verge of the Passion, between the active work and the sufferings of the Redeemer, we have in ch. Luke 9:57 to Luke 18:34, an entire circle of events which he did not purpose to adjust chronologically; thereby intimating, that in this section everything bears an indefinite character, so far as time and place are concerned,—a testimony against those who would enforce chronological rules upon matter that obstinately resists them. In this part of Luke’s Gospel, which is not fettered by chronology, and which is justified by the consideration, that in Holy Scripture everything gives way to edification, stands the narrative of the visit of Jesus to Mary and Martha, ch. Luke 10:38 seq. In reference to the chronological position of this visit we are left perfectly free: the writer gives us not the least intimation. But the same Spirit from whom proceeded the interpolation of this whole chronologically unconnected mass, manifests its influence in various ways, even in those parts which are chronologically connected. Luke even in them also combines the succession of time with the connection in the nature of the events: he introduces parentheses, and places things related by their character in juxtaposition. Such a parenthesis occurs in the narrative of the feast in the house of Simon the Pharisee, concerning the sinner and her anointing, ch. Luke 7:36-50. This is not an arbitrary supposition: it rests upon plain and obvious grounds. The narrative is given as an appendix to the Lord’s declaration in ch. Luke 7:34: “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” The Pharisaic offence at “the friend of publicans and sinners,” could not be better exemplified than by this narrative. The catchword ἁ?μαρτωλός serves to connect the event related in its chronological sequence and the interpolation with each other. Thus the account of Luke’s anointing is perfectly free as to its chronological place: what that place is, must be found in the other Evangelists. Luke says nothing about the time of its occurrence.
2. “Martha and her sister,” it is said, “were of Bethany, but Magdalen of Galilee.” But there is no contradiction here. The name Magdalena certainly points most probably to Magdala as the home of Mary, and thus of Martha also,—a place mentioned in Matthew 15:39 as on the west coast of the sea of Gennesareth, a few miles from Tiberias, and now el Medschdel. The free communication between Jerusalem, in a certain sense the metropolis of the whole people, and the country, easily explains how Martha came to Bethany. Simon may have made her acquaintance at one of her visits to the feasts. With the change of her dwelling, the change of her designation would concur. The original name we know not. Martha, “the lady,” was certainly not her original name, but the honourable designation which was given her when she became the mistress of the rich Simon’s household affairs, just as in earlier days she who was called as a virgin Iscah ( Genesis 11:29), obtained as Abraham’s wife the name of Sarai, “my dominion,” honourable lady. In Jerusalem the name Martha would not have been very distinguishing, only having value within the house; but it was quite sufficient for the little village of Bethany, where there was only one lord, the rich Simon, whose property was there, and also one “lady.” Mary had remained in Galilee, and there led a life of sin. After the Lord had cast seven evil spirits out of her, she had followed Him in His travels through Galilee, Luke 8:1-3. She could not separate from Him with whom she had received the death of her sinful passions. He had become the magnet of her life. Darkness came upon her inner being when she no longer saw this light. About half a year before His death Jesus had left Galilee. During the entire period between the last Feast of Tabernacles and the last Passover, He remained in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood (Bethabara and Ephraim). Mary had accompanied Him in the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; Luke 23:55; John 19:25. What should she do in Galilee, when the “great light” which had risen upon the darkness of that country had retired from it? Nothing remained for her then but the remembrance of her sins. When Mary went to Judea, she was directed to take up her abode with her sister. There she could “sit still in the house,” and show that the words of Proverbs 7:11 no longer applied to her (“she is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house”); she could at the same time continue her communion with the Healer of her soul. The visit to the sisters which Luke 10:38-42 records, took place during the time of our Saviour’s abode in Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles. That Jesus often went to Bethany, we learn from the history of His last days, when He was wont to pass the night in that village, after spending the day in Jerusalem. In Bethany Lazarus also had found a new home. That he abode in the house of his brother-in-law, and such a brother-in-law, leads us to the conclusion that he had adopted a similar course to that of his sister Mary; and this is confirmed by the special love that Jesus bore to him, Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:4-7; Luke 19:10. That his position in the house of his brother-in-law was a humble one, we may gather from the conduct of the latter to his sister-in-law; and we have a direct assurance of it in the parable concerning Lazarus. This parable, which Jesus probably delivered on the same occasion, forms the counterpart to the transaction between Jesus and Simon touching Mary Magdalen.
3. “If Luke,” it is urged, “meant the same woman, why does he designate her by different names, and speak no otherwise in chs. 7, 8, 10 than if he intended to introduce to us three different women? In ch. Luke 10:38 he speaks of Mary the sister of Lazarus as of one unknown, while in ch. 8 he had already referred to the Magdalen. Mary the sister of Martha is never termed Magdalene, and Mary Magdalene is never termed the sister of Martha or Lazarus.” This argument is at first glance very plausible; but it loses its force when we remark that the Evangelists, in their communications concerning the relations of Mary and Martha, were under a certain degree of restraint. As to the reasons of this reserve, we are left to conjecture. One reason was probably a regard for Gentile readers. In the writings of the Old Testament we meet with only exceptional instances of such regard—for instance, in the preacher Solomon. These writings were, as a whole, ignored by the Gentile world. But it was otherwise with the writings of the New Testament. They were written in the language then universal; and the tendency of the Christian Church, from the beginning, was to make incursions upon heathenism, while the Church of the Old Testament was content to maintain its own existence. The result corresponded with the design. It was natural that the spirit of defence in heathenism would fasten its keen observation on the written archives of the new religion, and use them in its own service. This being the case, it seemed perilous to lay open very explicitly the life of Mary; it might be surrendering to the rude mockery of the Gentiles one of the leading persons of Christianity, and with her the Christian cause itself. It seemed more appropriate to give mere hints, so that only the deeper investigators might understand the whole connection of things, which would remain hidden from superficial readers. A second design was, as it seems to us, one of pious respect to Martha. It was not desirable to expose to all the world the strange household relations in which she stood as the wife of Simon the Pharisee. But whatever view we may take of the reasons of it, the fact of an intentional reserve lies clearly before us; and with it the argument we now consider falls to the ground. Luke introduces to us in ch. Luke 7:36, “a woman which was a sinner.” That he knows her name, but will not mention it, is shown by what immediately follows, where he retrospectively, and with a secret hint, alludes to her name. When in ch. Luke 8:1 seq. he returns again to the chronological order, he makes mention of “certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,” placing at their head Mary Magdalene, “out of whom went seven devils.” There we have the “sinner.” But even in this gentle and prudently hinted solution of the mystery which the previous section presents, we have the same reserve again. The expression, which had already occurred in Mark 16:9, retains a certain ambiguity, so that it might be explained of an “infirmity,” a merely bodily infliction. The sin is at the same time disguised under the veil of this expression. Matthew and Mark record the anointing in Bethany as performed by “a woman.” That they know the name, and that it was concealed only for the time, is plain from the fact that they record the declaration of Christ, “Verily, verily, I say unto you. Wherever this Gospel shall be preached in all the world, there shall this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her.” Name and memorial are inseparably connected together. In John’s account of the last feast in Bethany, the giver of the feast is designedly unmentioned. “They,” it is said, “made Him a feast.” Lazarus was not the host; for he is expressly mentioned as one of the guests. Who the host was, is indirectly contained in the remark that “Martha served;” that is, according to New Testament phraseology, played the hostess. That Martha was married, is plain from her name: she appears as the head of the house in Luke 10:38, “A woman named Martha received Him into her house;” she requires of Mary only that she should lend her co-operation, and help her in her many cares as the mistress of the house. Bengel properly compares 1 Corinthians 7:32 seq. If Martha was the hostess, her husband must have been the host. His name had been mentioned already in Matthew 26:6, “When Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,” and in Mark 14:3. But there Martha is not mentioned, and the name of Mary is also wanting. John, on the other hand, omits to give the name of the host, although well known to him. We see that all the Evangelists have it in view, that the unpleasant family relations of this house should not, at the first glance, be laid bare, Simon is in Luke plainly mentioned, but not the husband of Martha. Luke isolates him, in order to show his title to make his comment. Never are Simon and Martha brought together in the narratives. We are obliged to supply the inference that he was the husband of Martha. The same design appears in John also, in the circumstance that in ch. Luke 19:25 he suddenly introduces the name of Mary Magdalene, without giving the reader any further intimation about her, without giving any answer to the obvious question as to her relation to Mary the sister of Lazarus. For the great mass of readers this relation was, for the time, to remain uncertain. For this there was probably another reason, in addition to those already suggested. Many readers would find more edification in these things when distributed among several persons, than when united in one. And the Evangelists would not prevent this. But, at the same time, care was taken that the true relation of things might be known by those to whom their occurrence in one person would not be an offence, but yield edification, who were thoroughly free from the Pharisaical spirit of Simon,—a thing more difficult than to many it might appear. That the Apostles themselves were not altogether free from this spirit, is plain from the fact that Judas was able to infect them with his murmuring displeasure. Had not Mary been a “sinner,” this would not have been possible.
4. “It is said concerning the sinner of Luke, that she was a woman in the city. The Mary of Lazarus, on the contrary, dwelt in Bethany, which is by Luke himself, in ch. 10, described as a village.” But there is no real contradiction in this. The connection in which Luke communicates the narrative of the sinner in ch. 7, as a mere appendage to the assertion that Christ was the friend of publicans and sinners, independently of all chronological sequence, of itself intimates that external relations would be given only in the vaguest generality. Exactness would in such a case be not an advantage, but a defect. Where the account was so general, Bethany might appropriately be spoken of as the suburb of “a city.” The article does not denote a definite city, but stands as often generically—the city in opposition to the country: so the mountain in Matthew 5:1, is really a mountain, and thus translated by Luther; and the ship of Matthew 9:1, a ship. Bethany was a suburbium of Jerusalem: according to John 11:18, it lay “nigh to Jerusalem,” only 15 stadia removed; and the citizens had there their resort, according to vers. 19, 45, 46, and the narrative of the feast, Luke 11:37 seq. The property of Simon was related to the city, as a detached country-house to a village. Jesus was wont to retire there to spend the night during His last week. As here the city, in a wider sense, includes its surroundings, so Jericho is used for the district of Jericho in Matthew 20:29. Jesus had spent the night in the neighbourhood of the city. When he left that lodging, a blind man met Him near the city who sat and begged, according to Luke 18:35, who does not here contradict Matthew, but only, as a later writer, gives the more exact details.
5. “The sinner” comes, as Augustin says, first to Jesus, and obtains through her humiliation and tears the forgiveness of her sins. This seems to show that she must be distinguished from the sister of Lazarus, with whom Jesus at the anointing in Bethany was already well acquainted, and who was the only sister-in-law of Simon the leper, at whose house the feast was made. But Schleiermacher, in his work upon Luke, has shown in what difficulties we are entangled, if, deceived by appearances,—which here result from the fact, that Luke takes a particular incident in the life of the sinner, and interweaves it into a complete exhibition of Christ’s life,—we assume that the sinner had been hitherto a perfect stranger to Jesus and the circle into which she entered. “Is it indeed probable,” he asks, “that a respectable Pharisee at a great feast would have permitted entrance into the guest-chamber to a person whose reputation was so foul, and so justly foul, in the whole neighbourhood? The person who should venture on and accomplish such an act—without being rejected with abhorrence and removed, or appearing in a very adventurous and ridiculous light—must, on the one hand, have had a right to be there, and to enter among the guests, and, on the other, have stood in some well understood relation to Christ Himself.” The appearance as if the sinner now for the first time obtained forgiveness of sins, has arisen from the fact that Jesus defends her against the attack of her Pharisaic brother-in-law; as also that she had been constrained by the uncourteous conduct of this brother-in-law towards Jesus to give a new expression to the fulness of her heart’s love and gratitude towards Him, and thus to retrieve the Christian honour of the house. To Simon the Pharisee, Mary is never anything but a sinner. A supernatural gift he has never himself experienced in his own heart, and so can never acknowledge it in another. In opposition to his spiritual rudeness, Jesus confirms to the humiliated Mary, before all the guests, the forgiveness of her sins. A similar position to what he assumed towards his sister-in-law Mary, Simon assumed towards his brother-in-law Lazarus. The parable concerning Lazarus, which Jesus delivered probably at the same meal, is the counterpart of the colloquy between Simon and Jesus concerning Mary Magdalene. That this parable had a historical basis, was shown by the Fathers. If we deny the connection between John’s Lazarus and the Lazarus of the parable, we pave the way for modern destructive criticism, which uses the parable in order to bring into suspicion the historical truth of the narrative of John. It is a striking circumstance in itself, that any name is mentioned in the parable. This occurs in no other parable of the New Testament. But if Jesus had purposed to use a name, He certainly would not have used this one in particular, which must have made all think of the Lazarus so nearly related to Himself, if He had not had this same Lazarus in His eye. With the historical Lazarus, who dwells in the house of his brother-in-law, a rich man, and eats at his table, the Lazarus of the parable has this in common, that he satisfies himself with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table: the historical relation is presented to us here only with a poetical clothing. The Lazarus of the parable dies, and goes into Abraham’s bosom: and the starting-point for the poetry lies in the history itself. And even for the resurrection of the historical Lazarus we have a point of connection in the parable. It is said in Luke 16:31, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if one should rise from the dead.” This passage has close affinity with John 11:46, where we read, after the record that many believed in consequence of the resurrection of Lazarus, “But some went to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done.” We may well assume that Simon was among the number of these. Even the name “leper,” which he bears in Matthew and Luke, awakens no favourable prejudice towards him. A man would not continue to be designated by such an opprobrious name, after being healed of the disease, unless his spiritual nature suggested a certain analogy with that disease. And what is recorded of him in Luke 7 excellently suits this name. If after the resurrection of Lazarus he retained the same disposition towards Christ which that narrative displays, where he denied to the guest obtruded upon him the most common courtesies, we may well rely upon it that he was the centre of what is recorded in John, ver. 46. Thus, probably, from the same house in which Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and Martha served Him with joyful heart, where Lazarus dwelt whom Jesus loved, proceeded the first impulse to the Saviour’s death. It is obvious to assume that Simon nourished a mortal hatred towards Him who had disturbed the peace of his house, Matthew 10:34. Finally, even the five brothers in the parable belong, as Bengal perceived, not simply and solely to the region of fiction. The originals might well have sat at this same table. We have, in Luke 11:37 seq., yet another scene which seems to belong to this same feast. A Pharisee there also invites Jesus to his table: not a Pharisee like Nicodemus, but, as the conversation at the table shows, one of the ordinary stamp. There we have certain quite peculiar relations in the house of this Pharisee, such as could scarcely have been found in any other than the house of Simon. This circumstance leads us only to identify the house, in which probably the scene also of Luke 14:1-24 is to be placed, where Jesus is invited by one “of the chief Pharisees” to eat on the Sabbath. But while the latter scene probably belongs to the time of the abode of Jesus in Jerusalem, before the journey into the country beyond Jordan, John 10:40,—the same time in which the visit of Jesus to Mary and Martha, Luke 10, falls,—in Luke 11:37 seq. there are definite reasons which lead us to the last meal in Bethany,—namely, the fact that, according to ver. 49, this meal must have occurred in the last days of our Lord; and again, the coincidence of the discourses which Jesus uttered against the scribes and Pharisees with Matthew 23. The description of the vivid conflict of Jesus with His fellow-guests, the Pharisees and scribes, in ver. 53, 54, assures us of the originals of the rich man’s five brothers. This further sets aside the remark of Bengel, “Simon the Pharisee doubts whether Jesus were a prophet; Simon the leper could not doubt, in the presence of Lazarus raised up.” That he could doubt, is clear from John 11:46, according to which eye-witnesses of that resurrection told the Pharisees with an evil motive what Jesus had done; and that he did actually doubt, from the combination of the parable of Lazarus with this passage. That there must be a connection between Luke 16:31, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead,” and John 11:46, has forced itself upon the convictions of many expositors. Stier, for example, remarks on the latter passage, “Now Luke 16:31 has its impressive fulfilment;” which proceeds, however, upon the unfounded supposition that the parable of Lazarus belonged to an earlier period. The possibility of the doubt in itself could not, however, be denied. A Pharisee like Simon is a poor psychologist when the light side of human nature comes into question. He judges all things according to his own perverted heart, and after the fashion of his party, so rich in wiles and self-deception. A preconcerted plan between Jesus and the three Christian members of his household was to the cunning Jew the solution of the whole problem; and, in fact, he could not go further who was morally so low as not to recoil from the supposition of such a concerted scheme.
6. “The Pharisee Simon says, in Luke 7:39: This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner. According to this, the sinner was till now unknown to Jesus, while the Mary of Lazarus had stood in the nearest relation to Jesus long before the meal at Bethany.” But we have already shown in what perplexities we involve ourselves, when we assume that this woman then for the first time entered into the presence of Jesus and the circle which joined Him around the table. The objection, however, is robbed of its point by observing that the word prophet here only includes the idea of holy man, and sent of God; and that the knowing here, as often, is not a merely superficial and purely theoretical knowledge, but real and practical—such a knowing as that of Isaiah 63:16, where Israel says to God: “Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy name is everlasting;” as also that of Hosea 13:5. Simon does not stumble at Christ’s theoretical ignorance, but at the fact that He ignores and pretermits the earlier sinful course of this woman. It is not said in vain, “When the Pharisee, which had bidden Him, saw it.” It was as a Pharisee that Simon took offence at the conduct of Jesus. The whole narrative is recorded as an adjunct to the remark that the Pharisees took offence at “the friend of publicans and sinners.” If the knowing here is understood of being acquainted with the mere fact, Simon does not interpose as a Pharisee, and the connection with ver. 34 is lost. According to our view, we have here a distinct parallel to Matthew 9:11: “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples. Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners’?”
7. “At the anointing of Luke 7 no one murmured on account of the waste of the ointment; only the Pharisee thought within himself that Jesus, if a prophet, would not have let this woman touch Him; but in John 12. Judas murmurs on account of the waste of the precious substance, and Christ defends this act. In Luke, Christ instructs Simon in the nature of true love as the undeceiving sign and assurance of justifying faith, and announces to her who had anointed Him the forgiveness of her sins. In John there is nothing of all this.” But there is no contradiction here: nothing more than agreement and supplementing. The narrative of Luke was required by its object to bear a partial character. He gives it only as an illustration of the Pharisaic complaint against Christ as the “friend of publicans and sinners.” Weisse (die evang. Gesch. ii. s. 143) has rightly stated this one-sided characteristic of the narrative: “The peculiar essence of the narrative is brought out by the parable of the two debtors, with the appended application. Jesus would plainly show how a converted sinner—that is, one who knows and repents of her sins—is of more value than such righteous persons as have never attained to a true consciousness of their sinful condition.” A second scene which was enacted at the anointing—that which contains the displeasure and murmurings of the disciples, as already recorded by Matthew and Mark—it did not comport with Luke’s object to introduce. This scene stands in an internal connection with the former, as we have already intimated. After Simon’s assault upon the woman had been decisively repelled by our Lord, there arose a murmuring against her even in the circle of the disciples. These were disposed, after she had been so highly exalted by Christ, to prepare for her a slight humiliation; for they themselves were as yet not quite exalted above the prejudice excited by the fact that she had been such a sinner. John almost expressly points to the representation in Luke, when he describes the anointing in words taken from that Gospel; and he then supplements Matthew and Mark by the information that the centre of the opposition to Mary in the apostolical circle was Judas the traitor. This gives a very significant contribution to the understanding of the transaction. It suits well the character of Judas that he should come to the help of Simon, and lead up another seemingly justifiable assault against Mary. Simon and the son of Simon understand each other. The others, or at least several among them, are carried away by the specious argument; they exhibit the relics of a Pharisaical spirit still within them, and which could not be destroyed and entirely disappear until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The collision between the believing and the unbelieving portion of the guests, inevitable at such a time of intense excitement, gave occasion to Jesus, during the progress of the meal, to deliver the parable of Lazarus,—in consequence, probably, of offensive allusions which Simon made to the disparagement of his brother-in-law, as he had formerly done in the case of his sister-in-law. And with all this there is abundant room also at this feast for what is recorded in Luke 11:37 seq. The intimation there, that the conflict began with the commencement of the feast, ch. Luke 11:38, completely coincides with Luke 7:45-46. We might expect a plenitude of events at a feast which occurs in the eventful period of our Lord’s last days.
8. Finally, “The sinner in Luke,” it is affirmed, “cannot be identical with Mary Magdalene. For what is said of the latter—that Jesus cast out of her seven spirits or ‘demons’—does not infer a life of sin, but rather a derangement for which she was not responsible. Where demons are introduced, possession, as commonly understood, is meant.” But the demons do not stand in any particular relation to possession: they everywhere signify the “angels of Satan,” Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:7, whose ministry he uses for all his evil works. This appears most plainly in 1 Timothy 4:1, where the teachings of error are termed “the doctrines of demons,” thus ascribing to them an influence in the purely spiritual domain; and from 1 Corinthians 10:20, it is evident also, where the Gentiles are represented as sacrificing to demons, and not to God, and those who partake of Gentile sacrificial feasts as entering into the fellowship of demons. Here also the demons appear as presiding over a moral region, and from whom a kind of moral contagion proceeds. When James, ch. John 2:19, says, “The demons believe and tremble,” he evidently has in view the whole of the “spiritual powers of wickedness,” Ephesians 6:12. And when our Lord, in Matthew 9:34, describes Satan as the “prince of the demons,” He doubtless meant all the powers of evil spirits which exist apart from Satan, and not one individual class of them. We are led to the same result by the fact that the expressions, “evil spirits,” Luke 7:21, and “unclean spirits,” Matthew 10:1, Luke 4:33, Mark 3:11, are used interchangeably with demons. These expressions are too general to allow of their being restricted to any special classes of evil spirits. Moreover, to these “unclean spirits,” identical with the demons, there is expressly attributed by our Lord, in Matthew 12:43 seq., an influence in spiritual things: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, etc.; then goeth he and taketh to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself.” Thus the Lord speaks when depicting the growing depravation which would follow upon the beginnings of repentance among the Jews, who, in consequence of the manifestation of Christ, would degenerate into a “synagogue of Satan.” This passage is all the more important, since here, and in the whole New Testament only here, we find the seven demons or unclean spirits of Mary Magdalene recurring.
But the fact remains, that throughout the Gospels the demons are commonly introduced with reference to so-called possession; while, on the other hand, the morally evil influences which come from hell are referred directly to Satan, who, for example, put it into the heart of Judas to betray the Redeemer, John 13:2, and enters into Judas, Luke 22:3. But this is explained by the consideration, that moral surrender to the dark powers, as being the more awful, leads the thought more obviously and directly to that “old serpent,” whose working was manifested in the moral region at the first commencements of human history. No unchangeable rule can be deduced from this. Even as possession in Acts 10:38 is referred directly to the devil, so in certain circumstances moral degradation may be represented as resulting from the influence of demons. The reason why this was the case with Mary Magdalene, we have already indicated. Thus there was a veil thrown over her former melancholy condition.
These, then, are the reasons which may be urged against the personal identity of the Sinner, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the sister of Lazarus. It remains that we exhibit the positive arguments which support the hypothesis of that identity.
If Mary Magdalene and the sister of Lazarus are made two persons, the latter was not present at the crucifixion, had no connection with the embalming ( Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55 seq.), and was not amongst the witnesses of the resurrection. The place which we should assign to the woman so inwardly bound to the Lord, to Mary the sister of Lazarus living so near as Bethany, is everywhere appropriated to Mary Magdalene. At the cross there is only one Mary present, the wife of Cleopas, besides Mary Magdalene and the mother of Jesus, John 19:25. At the entombment of Jesus we miss the sister of Lazarus all the more, as she had, John 12:7, already presymbolized the burial of the Lord. Was she likely to have left the actual embalming to the hands of others?
As Peter regularly stands at the head in the lists of the Apostles, so does Mary Magdalene when women are mentioned. This place of honour is given her in all the four Evangelists. Thus it is in the enumeration of the women who followed Jesus m Galilee, Luke 8:2; in the narratives of the crucifixion, Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47; of the entombment, Matthew 27:61, Mark 16:1; of the resurrection, Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:10. The only exception is John 19:25. There, Mary the sister of the Lord’s mother is mentioned before Mary Magdalene. But this was done evidently to avoid sundering her from the previously mentioned mother of Jesus, who naturally took precedence of Mary Magdalene, and formed the centre of the occurrence there mentioned. How absolutely Mary Magdalene took the first place in John’s Gospel, is plain from ch. John 20:1; John 20:18, where she alone is mentioned, and those who accompanied her are left unmentioned. Now, if we distinguish Mary Magdalene from the Mary of Lazarus, and from the sinner of Luke, we lose all reason for such a distinction—the uniformity of which, however, shows that it, like the distinction of Peter, must rest upon some definite fact, and some express word of our Lord connected with that fact. For the isolated Mary Magdalene there remains no reason but this one, that Jesus cast seven devils out of her; but this is not sufficient. We need some fact which exhibits Mary as more than merely suffering and receiving. The anointing and the glorious commendation which Jesus gave her on occasion of it—this is the true solution of the mystery of the distinction of Mary Magdalene.
The anointing in Bethany is recorded by Matthew, Mark, and John. We might naturally expect that Luke also would include it. For it was in reference to it that Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you. Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in all the world, this also that this woman hath done shall be told for a memorial of her.” But Luke contains this memorial, only if we recognise the identity of the sinner in ch. 7 with Mary the sister of Lazarus.
John, in ch. John 11:2, gives it as a characteristic mark of Mary of Lazarus, that she anointed the Lord, and wiped His feet with the hairs of her head. But this token would lose its distinctiveness, if we suppose that another woman, the sinner in Luke 7, had performed the same act; and this passage excludes the notion of a double anointing on the part of Mary herself, for here only one anointing is spoken of. Had there been two, then, in the time that John wrote, the anointing recorded by him in ch. 12, and already before him by Matthew and Mark, would not less than the earlier have passed out of remembrance. John must then necessarily have separated off the one from the other. Moreover, we are otherwise involved in the greatest difficulties by the assumption that the one Mary anointed twice. What, once performed, was an expression of deep and true feeling, must partake, on repetition, of another and forced character. The whole transaction of the anointing is perfectly intelligible only if we combine all the elements which on the one hand occur in Luke, and on the other in John, as forming its conditions; and thus assign to it one motive, and rescue it, once only performed, from all imputation of extravagance on the part of Mary. The things to be assumed are, that Mary had been a sinner, and had found mercy through Jesus; that our Lord had given to her, feeling so deeply as she did her own un worthiness, the very highest proof of His love in the resurrection of her brother; that Jesus was dishonoured by the master of the same house that had received such a deliverance; and that thus a mighty impulse had been given to show “that gratitude had not died out upon earth,” and that Simon had not infected the whole house with his leprosy. This house was disinfected by the savour of Mary’s ointment from the pestilential vapours with which Judas had previously filled it. If it had before represented the germ of the synagogue of Satan, now it became a type of the future Church of Christ. Mary was urged the rather to present the very utmost in honour of Jesus, and to go to the very verge of the extravagant, inasmuch as she knew that the sufferings and death of Jesus impended, that she was paying Him the last honour—a circumstance to which our Lord expressly gives prominence for her justification: comp. ch. John 12:7.
The hypothesis of two distinct anointings is encountered by the insuperable difficulty of both having occurred in the house of a Simon; but his designation, on the one hand, as a Pharisee, and on the other as a leper, presents no contradiction, but rather the reverse. By what figure could Pharisaism be better designated or described than by that of leprosy, by which man in a living body becomes an offensive and abhorred thing? Both anointings, further, took place at a feast, and both have in common the highly characteristic circumstance of the wiping of Jesus’ feet with the hair of the anointer’s head. But the Evangelists have so carefully ordered their expressions, that he cannot err who very carefully follows their hints. There are phenomena here which are very characteristic in regard to the relation of the Evangelists generally. The later writers adopted the most characteristic expressions of the earlier, thereby as good as expressly citing them, while declaring their purpose to be only supplementary; just as, in the narrative of Moses, his manner when returning to the same object is not expressly to adopt the same words again—which would not suit the popular character of Holy Writ—but to connect the latter with the former by verbal repetition, mingled with inserted supplementary matter. Luke borrows the very peculiar ἀ?λάβαστρον μύρου , “an alabaster box of ointment,” from Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3, and intimates thereby that his anointing is the same with that of Bethany. John indicates the identity of the anointing related by him with that of Matthew and Mark, by adopting from the latter the commercial expression πιστική , unadulterated ( Mark 14:3, νάρδου πιστικῆ?ς πολυτελοῦ?ς ; John 12:3, νάρδου πιστικῆ?ς πολυτίμου ). On the other hand, by the literal adherence to Luke 7:38, in ch. John 11:2, he intimates that the anointing by Mary, recorded by him, is identical with the anointing by the sinner in Luke 7. ( John 11:2, ἦ?ν δὲ? Μαριὰ? ἡ? ἀ?λείψασα τὸ?ν κύριον μύρῳ? καὶ? ἐ?κμάξασα τοὺ?ς πόδας αὐ?τοῦ? ταῖ?ς θριξὶ? αὐ?τῆ?ς ; Luke, τοὺ?ς πόδας αὐ?τοῦ? καὶ?—ταῖ?ς θριξὶ?—αὐ?τῆ?ς ἐ?ξέμασσε—καὶ? ἤ?λειφεν τῷ? μύρῳ? ). How closely John adheres to Luke, is emphatically shown by the fact that his “who wiped His feet with her hair” is explicable only by comparison with Luke. John thoughtfully refers the wiping, not to the ointment, but to the feet. The precious ointment, which was rubbed in, could scarcely be regarded with any propriety as the object of the wiping. This points to water or the like: comp. ch. John 13:5. But nothing of this kind has been mentioned in John; nor can the mystery be solved but by a comparison with Luke. According to ver. 38, Mary washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and dried them with the hairs of her head: comp. ver. 44. John could not have written thus, had he not designed that the supplement should be taken from Luke; unless the notion of the Fathers be the correct one, that the Evangelists form a four-sided whole.
The account in Luke on the one side, and of John on the other, mutually supplement and are necessary to each other. The questions which force themselves upon us in Luke,
How came Jesus in the house of the Pharisee, who displayed so unfriendly, yea, so decidedly inimical a feeling towards Him? What could have induced such a man, who stood in absolutely no internal relation to Him, who denied Him the commonest courtesies which a host shows his guests, to invite Jesus; and what could have induced Jesus to accept the invitation? How came the sinner in this company?—are questions which receive their answers in the narrative of John. But in his narrative also there are many things which compel us to go back to Luke. If we regard the family circle in Bethany as limited to Lazarus and his two sisters, we can hardly understand the mixed company which was assembled there for condolence, and cannot see why Jesus did not at once go to the house, but remained outside at a distance; why Martha goes out to Him there; why she secretly calls her sister; and why that sister goes out without letting her company know the reason of her departure. Only when we regard the evil-minded Pharisee Simon as standing in the background, whose friends have met the personal acquaintances of Mary and Martha for the purpose of condoling, can we understand what is written in ch. John 11:46: “But some went to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done.” The intimation, “but Mary sat in the house,” with its reference to Proverbs 7:12, is seen in its true light only when we recognise in the Mary of John the sinner of Luke. To this we are led also, that Mary has so large a quantity of precious ointment at her disposal. This ointment was not provided by Mary originally for the anointing of Jesus. It was already before in her possession; for otherwise the complaint would not have been that she had not sold the ointment, but that she had bought it instead of giving the money to the poor. Christ says in her justification, that she had kept the ointment against the day of His burial, John 12:7, in opposition to the declaration of Judas, that she ought to have sold it. This possession of ointment infers a previous life of vanity. And the otherwise unaccountable wiping with her hair is only then rightly intelligible, when we consider that Mary had formerly made the hair of her head minister to sin, so that the present use of it was an act of penance: comp. 1 Peter 3:3. Both the ointment and the hair are similarly united in Jdt_10:3 . There we read that Judith, when she prepared herself to go to Holofernes, in order to attract him by her arts, “anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head.” There is an analogy also with the women who, in the wilderness, dedicated their precious mirrors, previously the instruments of their vanity, to the service of the sanctuary, Exodus 38:8. So also the tears of her eyes and the kissing of Jesus’ feet would refer to an earlier misuse both of her eyes and of her lips. The early Fathers noticed all these things. Gregory the Great says, in his 33d Homily on the Gospels (the passage is found in the Romish Breviary): “It is manifest that the woman, who had formerly abandoned herself to evil courses, applied the ointment to the perfuming of her flesh. What she had shamefully provided, she now worthily dedicated to God. With her eyes she had sought earthly vanity, but now she wept with them in penitence. With her mouth she had spoken proudly [but see rather Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 7:13 ], but now she kissed with it the Lord’s feet.” That the Mary of Lazarus, like the sinner, had led a passionate career, is intimated by John 11:32: “When she saw Him, she fell down at His feet, and said, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Martha had used the same words; but the passionate falling at the feet of Jesus is peculiar to Mary. Here it is to be observed, that the preference for a place at the feet of Jesus is a tender bond, which connects the sinner of Luke with the Mary of Lazarus: comp. Luke 7:38; Luke 10:39; John 11:32; John 12:2. That was the place most desirable to the state of her feeling, most appropriate to the profoundness of her inward sorrow. Also the coincidence between “which toucheth Him,” in Luke 7:39, with the words spoken to Mary Magdalene, “Touch Me not,” John 20:17, is not without significance. But it can here be only hinted at.
How strictly the accounts of the anointing interpenetrate and complete each other, may be further seen clearly in one small speciality. According to Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3, the woman pours the ointment on the head of Jesus. According to John 12:3, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus. There can be no contradiction here, inasmuch as Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:8, show that the anointing only began with the head, and had a more general character; and the quantity of the ointment requires us to assume that it was more general. The reconciliation we have in Luke. The feet there are the main concern. But there is an indirect allusion to the head in “My head with oil thou didst not anoint,” in the words of Jesus to Simon. It belonged to the polemical character, so to speak, of the anointing, that she began with the part of the body which Simon had omitted to anoint. Then she turned to the part which the heart’s feeling of the “Sinner” must have thought of most. Do we lose anything if we recognise in the Mary of Lazarus the “woman that was a sinner?” Gregory gives us the answer to that question: “If I think of the penitence of Mary, I can better weep myself than say anything. For who has so hard a heart, that the tears of this sinner cannot soften it to repentance?”
The raising of Lazarus is recorded only in the Gospel of John. The silence of the other Evangelists need not perplex us, even if there were no specific reasons for it. Niebuhr (Geschichte Assurs und Babel, s. 6) says: “The Oriental historian is extremely precise in the chronological frame, but in the proper historical narrative very imperfect; so that omission of the most important incidents is no impeachment of his truth.” The historical books of the Old Testament share in this peculiarity of Oriental historical writing; so that we need not wonder at finding it reproduced in the New Testament, where it was all the more natural, from the fact that the Divine plan provided for the supplementing of the earlier Evangelists by the later—just as in the canon of the Old Testament the Chronicles were introduced as supplementary. In the books of Kings, for instance, the combination of the tribes of the wilderness against Israel, under Jehoshaphat, is passed over in silence; a circumstance the deep importance of which we learn, not only from the historical account in 2 Chronicles 20, but also from the psalms referring to it, 47, 48, 83, which confirm every feature in the account of the Chronicles. Viewed in the light of our own historical writings the silence of the books of Kings is all the more unintelligible, inasmuch as nothing less than the very existence of God’s people was at stake, and the wonderful deliverance which was vouchsafed to Israel was rich in edification for all generations of the people. So also in 2 Kings 21 there is no trace of the carrying away of Manasseh to Babylon, nor of his conversion and restoration. The omission of the former point is all the more striking, since his carrying away captive was the punishment of Manasseh’s guilt, on which the writer has dwelt at length.
John expressly says, in ch. John 20:30, John 21:25, that it was not his design to exhaust the infinite treasures of the acts of Christ’s life in his narrative, but only to make prominent some of them. This declaration holds good of all the Evangelists. This is supported by the fact, that the first three, apart from the history of the Passion, remain mostly in the Galilean domain; and that Matthew expressly announces his intention to do so. If the Evangelists aimed only at an eclectic treatment, we might expect that the assertion, “the dead are raised up,” in Matthew 11:5, would be illustrated by the communication of at least one example in each Gospel. Luke has only two instances of the raising of the dead; the others are content with recording only one of these.
The resurrection of Lazarus was assuredly an event of high importance. Yet we must be careful not to exaggerate that importance. We must not overlook the fact, that all miracles are essentially alike, and that it is altogether wrong to measure their greatness, as it were, by the ell. The Lord Himself, at the healing of the man born blind, ch. John 9:6, declared that it was a creative work, and thus that in reality it was on a level with the raising of Lazarus. If we observe that this very miracle formed, according to John, the occasion of the final catastrophe in the life of Jesus, it is not to be overlooked that also, according to John, the matter stood so, that even without this miracle that final catastrophe must have come. Ch. John 11:8 is sufficient to prove this. The raising of Lazarus was not the essential cause of the catastrophe, but only the accidental cause.
Let us turn now to a consideration of the special reasons which have been adduced for the silence of the first three Evangelists. We must first repel the notion that their silence sprang from ignorance of the event. The Lord went to the scene of Lazarus’ resurrection in the company of His disciples, and Matthew was one of these. The three Evangelists record that feast of Simon which, according to John, stood in close connection with the raisins of Lazarus. The anointing of Jesus at that meal was based upon that fact as having already occurred. But all doubt is removed by the parable of Lazarus in Luke, especially by the close of it, the connection of which with 11:46 has forced itself always upon expositors. How little right we have to infer ignorance from silence in their narratives, is plain enough from Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:57-59, compared with John 2:19. The first two Evangelists do not record the event contained in John, but they afterwards refer to it.
They have more show of reason on their side who explain the silence of the first three Evangelists by reference to Lazarus as being still alive. If these Gospels were written in the last days of the Jewish state, in which, as the Epistle to the Hebrews shows, excitement against the Christians had reached a very high pitch, the resurrection of the narrative might have led to a renewal of the danger which, according to John 12:10, threatened the risen life of Lazarus. That personal regards were not without influence upon the inspiration of the Gospels, we have already seen in the example of Mary and Martha: another example Heumann refers to: “The first three Evangelists do not publish that Peter was the disciple who cut off the servant’s ear. All three relate the fact; all three knew that Peter did it; but none of the three mentions him.” We must not, however, forget that this only amounts to possibility, and that the hypothesis is not adequately supported by a historical basis.
Nor can we account for the omission by explaining that the first three Evangelists restricted themselves to the Galilean region until the Passion week. Matthew leaves that region in ch. Matthew 19:1. Luke might, in that portion of his Gospel which is not fettered by chronological law, have as well related this fact as the parable concerning Lazarus. This reason is not, indeed, without some force. The communications relating to the time from the departure from Galilee to the festal entrance in Jerusalem, are in the first Gospels in the highest degree imperfect, as is evident from the fact that in Matthew they occupy only two chapters.
But the chief reason must doubtless be looked for in another direction. The great men of the Old Testament were instructed to change their voice. Among David’s psalms, for example, there are those which, like the sixteenth, lead us into the mysterious depth of the life in God, and the characteristic name of which is מכתם , secret; and there are also those in which he condescends to the simple, plain alphabetical psalms, in which we find only a collection of proverbs. This twofold manner we find also in connection with our Lord and His Evangelists. The mysterious side of His nature was presented more especially in the metropolis, where He had to do with “those who see.” For a colloquy like that with Nicodemus there could have been found in Galilee no immediate occasion. This double-sidedness of our Lord’s manifestation rendered it necessary that the Gospel should not be written by any one single writer. The vocation of each Evangelist had reference to that only which was to him accessible. For the deep and mysterious that disciple had a special mission whom Jesus loved, and who lay on His bosom, as Christ in the bosom of the Father It was not merely in the Divine plan for these writings that John was reckoned on and provided. In the apostolical circle also they looked upon him from the beginning as designed for this; and we cannot suppose that John’s Gospel took the Church by surprise. The narrative of the raising of Lazarus belonged to the class of things reserved for John. That the mysterious character which it bears has its ground in the event itself, and not in the mere record, is plain from the comparison of the perfectly plain narrative of the healing of the man born blind in ch. 9, as also from the narrative of ch. John 4:43-54, which is nearly related in its character to the first three Evangelists. We can hardly imagine the history of Lazarus’ resurrection told in the manner of the first three Evangelists. It belonged essentially to the “spiritual Gospel.”
Let us now investigate the meaning of the event before us. It had this in common with all the miracles and signs of Christ—to serve for the glorification of the Son of God, ver. 4. But its individual and specific purport was, to typify and represent the future resurrection of the dead. Christ issues no mere bulls, or letters of simple authority. All that He will perform in that other world. He had already, during His earthly life, pretypified and symbolized in act; having by that type and symbol given an assurance of that which hath not yet appeared. We have here, as it were, the embodiment of the utterance which our Lord gave in ch. John 5:25; John 5:28-29: “The hour cometh, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those that hear shall live. The hour cometh, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those which have done good, to the resurrection of life.” The καὶ? νῦ?ν ἐ?στι of ch. John 5:25 expressly points (see the commentary on the passage) to this typical significance of our Lord’s resurrection acts: and thus the early Church interpreted them. Vers. 23-27 of the present chapter, which can be understood only in this point of view, have special relation to the present event. The raising of Lazarus constitutes the climax of the pledges, given in act, of the future resurrection. Jesus reawakened the daughter of Jairus, just dead, upon the very couch where her spirit departed; and the young man of Nain, on his way to the grave; but He here signalizes His absolute dominion over death, by calling back to life one who had been four days dead, and in whom corruption had already begun to take place. The chronological position of this event corresponds with this internal relation which it bears to the other resurrections. It was not accidental that it befell at the end of the life of Jesus. This was its appropriate place; and thus Christ, immediately before He gave Himself up to death, declared Himself to be the supreme ruler of death; thus He assured us of the voluntary character of His sacrifice, and gave warranty to the hope of His own resurrection.
Besides being a pledge of the dominion of Christ over death in the more limited sense, this event also gives us assurance of the power of Christ to dispense salvation to all the wretched, whose misery is living death: comp. on ch. John 5:21. The Apostles were destined to experience such death in a living body after the death of Christ. But by His own resurrection the Saviour redeemed the pledge which, in regard to the salvation of His disciples from such a death. He had given them in the resurrection of Lazarus.
Bodily death is the figure and reflection of spiritual death. Instead of “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die,” we may read, “In the day thou (spiritually) diest, thou shalt also (bodily) die.” According to ch. John 5:21; John 5:24, Christ demonstrates His lifegiving power even in the present state by awakening sinners from the death of sin. Sinners are termed dead in Matthew 8:22. “This my son was dead, and is alive again,” is the language of his father concerning the prodigal son, Luke 15. The Apostle Paul describes believers as those who have become alive from the dead, Romans 6:13. He speaks in Ephesians 2:1 of those dead in trespasses and sins; and appeals to the sinner in ch. John 5:14, “Arise from the dead.” From this death too, the most frightful of all deaths, and the primitive form of death, we have the pledge of a joyful and blessed resurrection in the resurrection of Lazarus. It teaches us further that help is near, and help which is sufficient, even when death has gone very far, even when the ἤ?δη ὄ?ζει has begun to take place.
We have here the last of three manifestations of Christ’s glory in Judea, which form a counterpart to three manifestations of His glory in Galilee: comp. on ch. John 9:1 to John 10:21. The second of them, recorded in ch. 9, the restoration of the man born blind, is referred to here in ch. John 11:37. As the manifestation of Christ’s glory in ch. 6 is divided into two parts—the feeding, and the stilling of the tempest—we may reckon altogether seven manifestations in St John: three pertaining to Judea, and four to Galilee. This distribution is recommended by the fact that the number seven plays an important part elsewhere in John—both in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse.
In vers. 1-16 we have what preceded the journey to Bethany, as connected with it. The words of Lampe aptly express the leading idea of this section: Primura indicia omniscientise Domini in ejus susceptione commemoratur. The Lord knew beforehand with supernatural assurance that the sickness would not issue in permanent death, but would tend to the glorification of the Son of God; that this journey would be without any peril to Himself; that Lazarus, whose sickness alone the message announced, was already dead; and that He Himself would raise him from death.
Ver. 1. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.”
The “But,” in opposition to what had been recorded in ch. John 10:40-42 concerning the abode of Jesus on the other side Jordan, intimates that here begins the narration of the circumstances which occasioned His suspension of His work there. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus:” this kind of introduction shows that we shall now have to do with a personage who had never yet (either in first three Gospels or in John) been mentioned. And this introduction was all the more appropriate, as the name Lazarus had already occurred in the Gospel of Luke; the Lazarus of whose parable stands in a certain relation with John’s, so that it seemed proper to prepare the way for their identification. Bethany needed not to be distinguished from any other town of the same name. There was no such other town in existence; it is only a false reading which has introduced it into ch. John 1:28; and if there had been another Bethany, some note of distinction would have been necessary. The expression, “the town of Mary and her sister Martha,” was not introduced for that purpose; for Bethany had never been mentioned before as the dwelling of Martha and Mary, either in John or in the first three Gospels. These also speak of Bethany without any distinguishing note, and take it for granted that there was only one such place. The prepositions ἀ?πό and ἐ?κ do not demonstrate that Lazarus was born at Bethany; sufficient that at the time of the event he was dwelling there. The prepositions are used from the standing-point of the city, in which the whole people annually assembled for the high feasts, and which was the centre of the nation in a far higher sense than any other capital. Ἀ?πό , in respect to locality, does not ordinarily indicate derivation; but simply the place from which one comes to another place: comp. Matthew 27:57, ἄ?νθρωπος πλούσιος ἀ?πὸ? Ἁ?ριμαθαίας . If Mary came from Magdala, then the brother and sister came also from the same place. We find Lazarus in the house of his brother-in-law. He cannot therefore have been a resident in Bethany, as would have been to be expected, if he had originally sprung from Bethany.
Κώμη , village or hamlet, is, as it were, to be enclosed in quotation marks. That Mary and Martha dwelt in one κώμη had already been mentioned in Luke 10:38. John here supplementally names the place, which Luke had designedly omitted to do. The veil which had been thrown over the earlier relations of the sisters is here at least partially withdrawn. John speaks of Mary and Martha as of persons known through the earlier narrative of Luke 10:38-42: the “certain man, named Lazarus,” is introduced, by being connected with their names, into a circle already known to the readers. That Mary is mentioned before Martha, who is introduced as Mary’s sister, is explained by the same passage in Luke, which represents Mary as spiritually the more important person. Ver. 2 gives a further reason. There we have the explanation, that the “sinner,” who according to Luke 7 anointed the Lord; the “woman,” who according to Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3, performed that act, in reference to which the approving word of Christ was spoken, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Wherever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her,”—was no other than Mary, to whom consequently the place of pre-eminence before her sister belonged by the best right. The selection of the expressions points so specifically to Luke 7 as to be equivalent to a simple quotation. The order here, in which Mary takes precedence,
John being guided pre-eminently by the spiritual relation,—is, however, not the only one. In ver. 19, Martha and Mary are mentioned in an order which has reference to their civil and social relation. In this last Martha was first, as Luke 10:38 shows, where Martha is represented as receiving Christ into her house, and Mary assumes a subordinate place. What Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10:41, μεριμνᾷ?ς καὶ? τυπβάζῃ? περὶ? πολλά , suits very well the character of a thrifty housewife ruling over a large establishment, and who has to consult the wishes of a man like Simon. What Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:34, says of the difference between the virgin and the married, serves to illustrate the relation between the two sisters; and shows that the difference between them did not arise so much from any original difference in nature, as rather from their diverse position in life and training.
Ver. 2. “It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.”
Hitherto it had been said only that Mary and Martha belonged with Lazarus to the same place. Thus it was necessary to define still more closely the relation in which he stood to them. That he is described as the brother of Mary, and only indirectly as the brother of Martha (the latter having been mentioned as the sister of Mary), is not to be explained only by the circumstance that Mary was the one last spoken of. Lazarus stood nearer to Mary as an unmarried sister, than to the married sister. Hence also in ver. 45 (if the current reading is the correct one) it is said of the Jews, that they came to Mary to testify their sympathy. She is therefore regarded as the chief mourner.
The Mary whose brother Lazarus was sick, is thus described as the same with the person who anointed our Lord. This way of mentioning it presupposes that there never occurred more than one such anointing: the token would otherwise have had nothing characteristic in it. The Aor. Partic. indicates the “closed past” (Buttmann). John afterwards touches upon the anointing in ch. 12; not giving a full detail, but merely adding one particular that had been passed over by the rest. To this account we cannot refer the ἀ?λείψασα ; for the object evidently was to describe Mary to the readers by a sign already well known to them. Nor can the ἀ?λείψασα be explained as referring to tradition. John in no one instance can be proved to have referred to traditional reports. All that he presupposes is found in the first Gospels. Nor does the ἀ?λείψασα countenance those who assume a double anointing by Mary: the participle cannot be made to mean, “who once more anointed the Lord.” The anointing of the Passion week was, at the time John wrote, long past; and the fact that he afterwards touches upon it is left out of sight. But a double anointing by Mary is decisively set aside by the circumstance that the ἀ?λείψασα would not have been sufficient for the purpose of separating between the earlier and the later, since the former also would belong to the region of the past. It might be thought that, according to the view now given, ἦ?ν would not be the reading, but ἒ?στι ; but this objection is obviated by the remark, that the leading idea is contained in the words, “It was Mary, whose brother Lazarus was sick;” and that the words ἡ? ἀ?λείψασα—αὐ?τῆ?ς do not contain more than a subordinate clause, “that Mary who was well known by the anointing which she afterwards performed.”
Ver. 3. “Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.”
The degree of the sickness is not indicated. That was rendered needless, inasmuch as their mission to Christ of itself proved that all human aid was valueless, and that it was a sickness “unto death,” ver. 4. The message to the “Lord” declared that they were not uttering a request; but that they were content to state the case, and leave it to the Lord to do as seemed good to Him. But that a certain request lay concealed under these words, is evident from “whom Thou lovest;” hinting the thought that Jesus, who had already come to the help of so many persons not directly connected with Himself, had now in the case of a dear friend a manifest call to interpose with His aid. Heumann supposes that “the good sisters knew not as yet that the Lord was omniscient, and needed no intimation of theirs.” But the message should not be regarded in the light of information, so much as in the light of a request. Quesnel observes, “A sinner, who feels his unworthiness and his misery, should often come to Jesus with the same words, following the example of these two sisters: Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick.”
Ver. 4. “When Jesus heard that, He said. This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Jesus shows that He is better acquainted with the circumstances of the sickness than the sisters were who sent Him the message. He not only knows that it exists, but can explain also its origin and its end. “Jesus said’—to whom is not mentioned. It seems obvious, in the nature of things, that He spoke primarily to the messengers, who were not to be sent home without answer; and this is confirmed by ver. 40, where Jesus, speaking to Martha, appeals to this word as having been spoken to her, as well as by the earlier ver. 22, for Martha could have founded the hope which she there utters only on that declaration of Christ. The whole transaction between Christ and Martha in vers. 24-27, takes it for granted that Christ had already given His utterance as to what would first of all befall her brother. But ver. 12 shows that the Apostles were also present; for it speaks of their knowing the fact of Lazarus’ sickness. The εἶ?πεν is designedly used in this indefinite manner, in order to intimate that the word of Christ was not intended for this or that person. The object of the declaration required the greatest publicity. The assurance of Jesus’ foreknowledge of the issue of the sickness—which assurance was thus certified by as many witnesses as possible—was part and parcel of the miracle. Only thus could the thought of happy accident be obviated.
The words do not expressly say that Jesus would raise up Lazarus. They rather seem to imply that He would heal the man who was sick unto death. Not until Lazarus’ death had become a reality is it clearly expressed that Christ will raise up the dead man; then it is made plain that “not unto death” refers to a permanent condition of death,—a transitory death not being termed such,—just as in Matthew 9:24, “The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth (not dead, as others die).” (Heumann: The Lord speaks of a death by which Lazarus should be lost to his sisters.) Mary and Martha had already this illustration from the fact, when the message arrived; for Lazarus was already dead. Of the four days that Lazarus is said to have been in the grave when Jesus raised him, two must be reckoned for Jesus’ continuing in the place where he was, ver. 6, one was occupied in carrying the message, another by the journey of our Lord; so that Lazarus must have died shortly after the departure of the messenger, and have been, as was the custom amongst the Jews, almost immediately buried. When the messenger returned, he had been already two days in the grave.
The road from the Jordan to Jerusalem took about seven hours: five for the plain from Jericho, two from Jericho to the Jordan. It leads over Bethany, and thus required for Christ as well as the messengers not much over six hours. Bethabara lay in all probability in the same position as the pilgrims’ baths placed there as a memorial.
Jesus knew that Lazarus was already dead. He must have intentionally so ordered this message, that the sisters could not at once understand its meaning. It seemed at first thought that Jesus had erred,—that, in fact, He supposed Lazarus would not die at all. This semblance of error was designed to evoke the energy of their faith. As soon as the sisters were firmly established in the living faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, ver. 27, the true interpretation of His words dawned upon their minds.
What Jesus says holds good of every mortal sickness of believers, and was intended so to do: for everything here has, in connection with the obvious sense, a symbolical and typical character. The sickness of believers does not lead to permanent death: it tends rather to the glorification of the Son of God in their resurrection. But so long as the time has not yet come when Jesus should finally demonstrate Himself to be the Son of God, and give the last pledge of His hidden power to raise the dead, it was necessary that some palpable glorification of the Son of God should be given as an earnest; and that the present occasion was selected by our Lord for the purpose of giving such assurance, is evident from a comparison with ch. John 9:3.—“This sickness is not unto death” may be illustrated by Isaiah 38:1, where it is said of Hezekiah, that he was “sick unto death.” And the passages are all the rather analogous inasmuch as in that case also the sickness, which was in itself mortal, became a sickness “not unto death” through the intervention of a messenger sent from God. If we observe that the meaning is here also, “This mortal sickness is not unto death,” the passages become very closely related.
It is first said that the sickness should be for the glory of God; and then this is more expressly defined, that the Son of God should be thereby glorified. The Jews placed the glory of God and the glory of Christ in absolute opposition, just as unbelief and half-belief do even to the present day. Christ teaches us that the honour of God coincides with the honour of His Son; that it is effectually secured only by the glorification of the Son. Bengel: Gloria Dei et gloria Filii Dei una gloria. It is for us to purge out all the Rationalist leaven in respect to this which still remains among us.
Ver. 5. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”
We have here, on the one hand, the motive assigned for the saying of Jesus in ver. 4, which presented the prospect of Lazarus’ deliverance from death; and, on the other, the motive for His subsequent act, in journeying towards Jerusalem for the purpose of accomplishing that saying. That the latter is not to be excluded, is evident from the “Our friend Lazarus,” etc., which our Lord says to His disciples, ver. 11. That gives His friendship to Lazarus as the motive of the journey. Ἀ?γαπᾶ?ν is used, and not φιλεῖ?ν , as in ver. 3, because women are the first mentioned. Ἀ?γάπη is the love which does not so much rest upon individual inclination as upon the purely ethical basis, and which accordingly does not find its expression in tenderness. That the relation even of the Son of man to women was under certain restrictions which were not observed towards men, and that these restrictions were in force until the ascension, is shown by a right interpretation of the μή μου ἅ?πτου which Jesus speaks to one of the women here alluded to, that is Mary, who would, in the passion of her fervour, prematurely overstep these limits.
As it respects the order of the three persons, Lazarus takes the last place, because death for him who dies in faith is not an evil, or, if an evil, one which is followed by an abundant compensation. It was not Lazarus who sent to Christ,—he doubtless rejoiced in the prospect of being received into Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22,—but his sisters. Martha could not be sundered from Lazarus, as she was most severely affected by his death: comp. on ver. 2. Thus Martha must come first.
Ver. 6. “When He had heard therefore that he was sick. He abode two days still in the same place where He was.”
The love of Jesus was approved, not in His tarrying two days, but, in spite of that tarrying, by the fact that He afterwards, without any regard to the machinations of the Jews, journeyed into Judea.
The μέν is not followed by the δὲ? which usually corresponds with it, in order to make the direct introduction of the contrast more striking.
Wherefore did Jesus abide two days where He was? The answer is given by ver. 15. Christ there expresses His joy that He was not in Bethany before Lazarus’ death; because the raising him from the dead would tend more certainly to strengthen His disciples’ faith than the healing which would have resulted from His being present. Thus it was for the same reason, to give opportunity for a stronger development of His miraculous power, that Christ here delayed. If He had set out at once, He would have reached when Lazarus had been dead two days. The reason why He would go later to Bethany is given by the words of Martha in ver. 39. The dead man was to be raised up at the time when corruption begins generally to do its vigorous work. This gave occasion to that climax in the resurrection-acts of Christ which the Gospels set before us.
But was not this delay a hard one to the poor sisters? Those who maintain this will find difficulties enough in almost everything else. In all ages the Lord has been pleased to subject His people to more severe probation than this. He spares not the flesh, that the spirit may thrive. And this we see plainly cared for here. Jesus had previously given the sisters the staff of His promise. And it was a high grace that He, before the fulfilment of the promise, accustomed them for a while to fight against fear in dependence upon His word. Nor is it to be overlooked that they themselves, as well as the universal Church, derived benefit from the enhancement which the miracle gained from delay. Moreover, we must throughout the entire narrative direct our regard rather to the whole work of Christ, than to His personal relation to Mary and Martha, which only subordinately comes into view. How many faithful sisters have to give up their brother for ever, so far as this life is concerned, and not merely to wait for his restoration a few short days! We have here an exhibition beforehand of what was to happen to all. This gives the true key to the whole narrative.
Ver. 7. “Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judea again.”—Ἔ?πειτα and μετὰ? τοῦ?το are often connected in the classical authors. The tautology does not indicate remissness of style, but directs attention to the strange circumstance that Jesus afterwards did that which, if He intended doing it at all, it seemed that He should have done at once, and suggests reflection upon that circumstance. This impressed the Apostles themselves. At the first, as Jesus did not set out at once, they had inferred that He had done what He purposed to do from a distance. From this agreeable delusion they were unexpectedly aroused by the summons to this perilous journey. Jesus does not say, to Bethany, but to Judea, in order to suggest what made the journey perilous, and to excite the opposition of the disciples. He had left Judea in order to place Himself beyond the reach of the persecution with which His enemies threatened His life. That He, in going to Judea, was going to Bethany, was self-understood, according to vers. 3 and 4, and needed not therefore to be expressly mentioned.
Ver. 8. “His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again?”—Νῦ?ν , so recently. In order to make their dehortation more forcible, they bring what had lately happened into the immediate present.
Vers. 9, 10. “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.”
Jesus repels the objection of the Apostles, by showing from His own indwelling higher knowledge that the journey would be without danger. Heumann is essentially right when he says, “The time in which He should (could), according to His Father’s will, teach and preach, and work miracles unhindered, He terms His day of twelve hours; and at the same time gives it to be understood that this day would be followed by a night, the time, namely, when He should fall into His enemies’ hands, be condemned to death, and die a death both shameful and painful.” Jesus does not give, as it were, a comparison and its application, but the figure and the application run into each other. It follows that we must not seek to distinguish between what belongs merely to the figure and what to the application; but that each individual trait belongs to the matter in hand, and all has a double meaning. The lower sense is very clear. The “light of the world” is the sun, according to Genesis 1:15-16. Men stumble generally in the night alone. When this occurs exceptionally in the clay ( Isaiah 59:10, “We stumble at midday;” Hosea 4:5, “And thou stumblest in the day”), extraordinary circumstances must be assumed which have caused the day to be turned into night, Job 17:12. These exceptions are not here taken into account, and the rule only is regarded. Βλέπει and ἔ?στιν ἐ?ν αὐ?τῷ? correspond to each other. The light of the sun is in a man, because the eye receives it into itself, and thus enables him to avoid the obstacles in his path. Now let us look at the figurative meaning. How far the day and the night come into consideration is shown in the clauses, “because he seeth the light of this world,” and “because the light is not in him.” Accordingly it is intimated that the day is light, the night is darkness. But light is in Scripture the ordinary image of salvation, night of an unsaved state. Now the Lord says the time of salvation is not quite run out, and therefore now there is nothing to fear. But a time will come when it shall have run out, and then danger will ensue. Day and night are contrasted also as the time of help and of helplessness in ch. John 9:4. So also the night is introduced in ch. John 13:30: “And it was night” when Judas went out. There can be no question that the words have something mysterious in them; that the external night is to John here the symbol of spiritual night, when the light of the sun ceased to shine, when therefore the power of darkness began, and the hour came for successful assault upon the people of God. As descriptive of an unsaved state, night is used also in Revelation 21:25; Revelation 22:5, where it is said of the kingdom of glory, “And there shall be no night there.” The grievous interchange of day and night, to which the militant Church is here subjected, will there cease for ever. A like distinction of a twofold time for Christ and His disciples, a time of safety and a time of suffering, occurs also in Luke 22:35-36.
Jesus does not speak of the day generally, but of the twelve hours of the day. The fact that He thus represents safety as the characteristic of the entire day down to its perfect close—so that he who only walks generally in the day has no more cause of fear in the twelfth hour than in the eleven preceding—leads to the conclusion that the day, or the time of salvation, still continued, and would continue, during the whole journey, although very near its close nevertheless. (Bengel: Jam longe processerat cursus Jesu; jam multa erat hora, sed tamen adhuc erat dies.) Elsewhere in John we have stress laid upon the hour: comp. ch. John 7:30, John 8:28. So also in Luke 22:53, with which passage this stands in a close internal connection. Lyser: Necclum adesse horam passionis, de qua ad pontifices et seniores dicit: haec est vestra hora.—Προσκόπτειν , כשל , in the Old Testament, is generally used without any moral meaning, but only of proceeding onwards. But the former is here necessarily required by the connection of the figurative with the proper meaning.
The antitype of the “light of this world,” the sun, is the saving grace of God. This appears under a similar image in Job 29:3, where Job says of the time of his prosperity, “When His candle shined upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness.” In Isaiah 9:19 we read: “The sun shall no longer shine upon thee, but the Lord shall be thine everlasting light.” And in Revelation 22:5: “They need not the light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light.” There the sun is the figure of the saving grace of God, which is now in the most real sense imparted to the Church. Even in Jesus there was at the time of His suffering “no light.” Because the sun of salvation was gone down in His heaven, He knew not how to counsel or to save Himself. And, looked at in a higher sense, we have here a general proposition which is spoken primarily with reference to Christ and His disciples (Bengel: τις , indefinite pertinet hoc ad discipulos, qui etiam sibi timebant; with reference to the extension of it to the disciples, we may compare Luke 22:35-36), but which has also a universal applicability. The separation between the time of unhindered active vocation and passion, as seen in Christ, recurs also among His disciples. There is a time which comes also to them, when they see not the light of the world, and no light is in them; when they must say, “Now there remains for me no more than to lie down in my suffering.” “And since, then,” says Lyser, “every man’s day at last goes down, we must not, when we see that the time is come, withstand, but say. Thy will be done, O Lord; Thou hast given life, and Thou hast power to take it; Thou wilt for it give life everlasting. The hairs of our head are all numbered of Thee.
Meanwhile, let it be our comfort, that it lies not in the power of the devil, or of the ungodly world, to make our sun go down, but only in the hand of God. He has given to the day twelve hours, and of not one of these can our foes rob us against His will.”
Ver. 11. “These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”
The circumstantiality at the beginning was intended to guide the reader before he proceeds further to reflect upon the meaning of this mysterious word of Christ. It serves the same end which probably was served by a pause in the Lord’s oral colloquy with His Apostles, and in the Psalms by Selah. After their Master had obviated the disciples’ objections to the journey. He gives the reasons which induced Him to take it. He says, “Our friend,” in order all the more to excite the Apostles’ sympathy. This our friend shows that the relation between Christ and Lazarus must not be regarded in the same light as human friendships generally, such as that between David and Jonathan, but that it belonged entirely to the Christian sphere. Individual friendship would not have been common to Christ and His Apostles. Bengel is not correct here: “Christ says this at a time when Lazarus was just dead.” Lazarus had died three days before. But Jesus says this now for the first time, because it is His will to go now and reawaken him. He is, however, perfectly right when he proceeds: “No man had given Him information of the death, and yet Jesus knew it.” The description of the death of believers as sleep has been derived into Christian phraseology probably from the present passage, and Matthew 9:24. The answer to the question, “Why did not Jesus speak at once of death and the resurrection, and thus prevent the misunderstanding of the Apostles?” is simply, that Christ intended by this word to introduce a milder view of death, as a mere falling asleep. (Augustin: “The Lord awakened him from the sleep of the sepulchre with the same ease with which thou arousest a sleeper from his bed.”) The scriptures of the Old Testament not seldom exhibit death under the image of sleep: e.g. in Jeremiah 51:17, “They shall sleep a perpetual sleep;” Job 14:12, “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” But Daniel 12:2 is the only preparation among all these passages for the New Testament phraseology. The others do not include the idea of awaking out of the sleep; but only the sealing up of life and strength. But this one is adapted to fill us with contempt of death, the terror of which beset the saints of the Old Testament.
Vers. 12, 13. “Then said His disciples. Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.”
The disciples would not indeed have misunderstood Christ’s meaning, if the saying of ver. 4 had not made it obvious that the sickness of Lazarus would not issue in death, but that it would be removed by the healing power of Jesus. Accordingly, they could hardly understand how the actual death of Lazarus should be meant by κεκοίμηται . They supposed that the Lord brought about a salutary crisis from a distance, as He had done on several other occasions: comp. ch. John 4:49 seq. That Christ’s miraculous power had to do with the supposed sickness, was a supposition all the more natural, as Jesus could in the ordinary way have had no knowledge of the fact. Supernatural knowledge and supernatural action go hand in hand. Under these circumstances, the journey seemed to them without object; and they had not been so completely pacified respecting its danger by Christ’s assurance, as not to desire still to be relieved from it. (Calvin: They gladly lay hold of this occasion for flying the danger.) What the words of Christ, “But I go to wake him out of sleep,” meant to express, was indeed still very obscure to them; but as they conceived themselves to be quite certain as to the Lord’s intention in using the word κεκοίμηται , they did not give themselves much trouble to investigate further the sense of the other words. Suffice that they had found reason sufficient for dissuading Him from the journey, which they persisted in thinking a fatal one. Anton: “Among these disciples was John, the narrator of this circumstance, and a sharer in this opinion. But now he is ashamed of it.”
Vers. 14, 15. “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him.”
Jesus rejoices that He had not been there; because His disciples would derive more confirmation to their faith from the resurrection of one who had been long dead, than they would have derived from the healing of a man sick unto death. “That ye may believe” is the explanation of “for your sakes.” Faith is as it were when it grows, and not before. At every new stage of faith, that which preceded is regarded as belonging, so to speak, to the region of unbelief.
Ver. 16. “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples. Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
How necessary it was that the Apostles should be thus strengthened in faith, this word of Thomas shows. He believes in Christ, otherwise he would not have desired to go with Him unto death, (That μετʼ? αὐ?τοῦ? refers to Christ, and not to Lazarus, is proved by the connection with ver. 8. Only with a living person can one die. If any doubt remained. Matthew 26:35 would remove it.) But that Thomas, notwithstanding the assurance of Jesus in vers. 9, 10, is so convinced that He is going to meet His death, shows that there was still in him an evil alloy of unbelief, a contest between doubt and confidence. The word of Christ has less force and effect upon him than the evident fact of the fierce hatred of the Pharisees, who wanted nothing more than an opportunity to get Him in their power.
There is no reason whatever for the supposition that Thomas bore the corresponding Greek name Δίδυμος in addition to this Hebrew name. The words, “called Didymus, or twin,” rather give the explanation of his original name. It is the same in ch. John 4:25, where ὁ? λεγόμενος Χριστός is equivalent to “which is in Greek Christ;” as also in ch. John 1:39, the ὃ? λέγεται ἑ?ρμηνευόμενον . John usually gives such explanations of names only where the name is important to the matter in hand: compare on ch. John 9:7. And the reason of this is obvious: explanations of ordinary names would be, as a rule, extremely insipid. In the present case we are led to expect something important, from the fact that no less than three times we find it said of Thomas, “who is called Didymus,” ch. John 20:24, John 21:2; these two instances occurring so near to each other as to show that something significant in the meaning suggested the repetition, more especially as John is a writer who measures every word. Accordingly, there can be no doubt that the name Thomas, which never occurs in the Old Testament as a proper name, was imposed upon the Apostle by our Lord as descriptive of his character, and that the words “called twin” were designed to point to this significance in his name. Many such characteristic names are found in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets (comp. on ch. John 1:43); and we also find them among the Apostles (comp. on ch. John 6:71). The Apostle who is always in the lists paired with Thomas, Matthew, bears a name which belonged to him as a disciple, and referred to his relation with the Lord. His original name was Levi. But what is the meaning of the name Thomas? It signifies one at sight of whom we are reminded of twins.—תאם occurs only as a plural in the Old Testament; an ἀ?νὴ?ρ δίψυχος , a double-minded man, James 1:8, comp. δίψυχοι , in ch. John 4:8. Inward discordance is, alas, common to all who still live in the flesh; but the vehement disposition of Thomas brought his double-mindedness into special exhibition, so as to make him an apt exemplification of an undecided character. The proper key to the name is found in Genesis 25:23-24: “And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manners of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb:” Sept. τῇ?δε ἦ?ν δίδυμα ἐ?ν τῇ? κοιλίᾳ? . Thomas had his Esau also, the firstborn, and his Jacob—the old and the new man. But this reference to the passage in Genesis is not only humiliating; there is in it consolation also for Thomas, and for all of whom he is the type: the elder must at last serve the younger, and this was gloriously exemplified in the later self-sacrificing character of the missionary Thomas. The interpretation we have given is confirmed by the fact that it gives a sufficient reason for the appendage, ὁ? λεγόμενος Δίδυμος , which does not indeed always accompany the name of Thomas. In the two earlier passages the affix is added to the name under circumstances which especially display the undecided character of Thomas: the word of doubt in ch. John 20:25 belonged to the one twin, to the other the energetic confession of faith in ver. 28. In ch. John 21:2, Thomas is paired with Simon Peter,—the man of rock and the man of double-mind—unity and doubleness. This juxtaposition points out to us what we are by nature, and what we ought more and more to become by grace.
We have now, in vers. 17-44, the narrative of the raising of Lazarus.
Vers. 17, 18, 19. “Then, when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. (Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.) And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.”
As to ἔ?χειν , ver. 17, see the notes on ch. John 5:5. The ἀ?πό , ver. 18, is used of distance from a place. This peculiar phraseology is found in the New Testament—besides the Gospel, where it occurs in ver. 8 of the disputed chapter 21.—only in the Apocalypse, ch. John 14:20. The use of the πρό , in ch. John 12:1, is analogous, as well as its employment by the Sept. in Amos 1:1; Amos 4:7. The statement of the distance of Bethany from Jerusalem serves to explain the following statement, viz. that many sympathizers came thence to the house of mourning. It is said that Bethany was nigh to Jerusalem. John’s design required him only to observe that such was at that time the relation between the two places: whether that relation still continued, was in itself an indifferent matter. It can hardly be inferred from the ἦ?ν that John meant to speak of Jerusalem and Bethany as already destroyed: in that case it must also be inferred from ch. John 18:1, that John spoke of the garden as having disappeared: comp. also ch. John 19:41. Quite parallel is “Nineveh was a great city,” Jonah 3:3, which does not mean to say that it was no longer—the continuance of Nineveh in the time of the author is an assumption which lies at the basis of the book—but only that Jonah found it ch.
It is clear that the Jews, in ver. 19, are not the “Jewish party in opposition to Jesus.” The position of affairs in the house requires us to suppose that the company was a mixed one, and so we find by the result it was: comp. on ch. John 1:19. The words are literally, “to those about Martha and Mary.” The phrase was originally employed in classical Greek only of eminent persons, who were surrounded by attendants; its use as a mere circumlocution was a later debasement. The New Testament never sanctions this degenerate use. In Acts 13:13, those around Paul are the Apostle and his companions; a mere pleonasm is not to be thought of in John. The expression points to the fact that the house was an important one, and that we must regard Mary the mistress, in whose honour her sister partakes, as surrounded by a number of female servants; and the connection with the name Martha is in favour of the same view. Esther 4:16 throws some light upon it, where Esther says, “I also and my maidens will fast.” The mistress and the maidens make up one whole. In harmony with the αὶ? περὶ? Μάρθαν we have the statement of ver. 20, that Martha, the real centre of a circle, knows at once of the arrival of Jesus, while Mary, who only virtually partakes of her dignity, has heard nothing about it.
Ver. 20. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.”
Connecting with this the parallel, Luke 10:39, we must explain “sat as usual in the house.” (Berl. Bible: “Here John refers us to Luke 10:39, he having written after Luke.”) It forms a contrast to Proverbs 7:12, where it is said of the adulteress: “Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.” This had been true of Mary in former days, but now, after her conversion, she is all the more anxious to live in still seclusion. That word of the Old Testament had now become a sharp goad ( Ecclesiastes 12:11). It is probable that Martha had secretly been informed of the arrival of Jesus, ver. 28, so that neither Mary nor those around her knew of it. This secrecy sprang from the internal relations of the house at the time.
Vers. 21, 22. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.”
If Thou hadst been here—at the time of the sickness. It is a clear misapprehension to suppose that Martha, in ver. 21, utters a reproach against Jesus. The word of Christ, in ver. 4, forms the foundation for vers. 21 and 22. That word guaranteed, if Jesus were present, the healing of the sick man, as Jesus Himself admits in ver. 15; but if Lazarus died before His coming, it guaranteed the resurrection of the dead man. Martha does no more, therefore, than give expression to her faith in the word of Christ. That He would be able to make good even this word, which would indeed involve very great things (ὅ?σα ), she could all the less doubt, inasmuch as His miraculous power had already approved itself in raising the dead, and given practical demonstration that even death, the most awful of all our enemies, had no power against Him: and the νεκροὶ? ἐ?γείρονται , Matthew 11:5, had already had its glorious illustration. And Calvin’s remark as to the utterance of Martha’s hope being the result of wandering, rests upon a total misunderstanding of the matter. This charge would be well-founded only if Jesus had not given the word of ver. 4 as a staff for her hope. Then, indeed, she must have been contented with the consolation common to all believers; and then it would have been wild presumption to expect anything extraordinary for herself. And such presumption would not have been rewarded by the granting of an irrational request.
Jesus makes trial, before He proceeds to verify His word, in ver. 4, whether the subjective conditions necessary in the two sisters (represented by Martha) for the realization of that word are present in them; or rather, as the presence of those conditions was taken for granted by His words, He gives her opportunity of expressing herself satisfactorily on the matter. Her faith that the power of Jesus could call back the dead to earthly life, she had already freely spoken out in ver. 22. But that was not enough. It must be clearly established that she also stood firm in the fundamental truth as it respects the resurrection. This was all the more important, as the whole transaction was to have a symbolical meaning; as Jesus purposed to exhibit in it a prelude of the general resurrection at the end of the world,—a practical demonstration of the power by which He will then call back all believers from death to life. This colloquy between Martha and Christ has, as it were, a liturgical significance. Nothing occurs in it which does not hold good of all who bury their beloved dead. There is no allusion in it to the recalling of Lazarus back to this poor earthly life. Assurance of that had been given in ver. 4. Jesus tests first Martha’s faith in the resurrection itself, vers. 23, 24; and then He requires her to confess, in the presence of the Church represented by the Apostles, her faith in Himself, as the author of the resurrection.
Vers. 23, 24. “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
The “Believest thou this?” of ver. 26, is in effect to be understood also in ver. 23. This is evidenced by the answer of Martha, who recognises in the address of Christ a demand for her faith in the great article of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus propounds the objective Divine truth; and it is for Martha, as the representative or mouth of all believers, to avow her faith in it. Primarily, she represents her sister with herself. That the examination into her subjective standing-point of faith is not here the great matter, but only the bringing into exhibition a faith which was present and known to Jesus, is plain, from the circumstance that our Lord does not pursue the same examination with Mary. The whole transaction was intended to be significant for all ages of the Church of God upon earth.
The ἀ?ναστήσεται , “he shall rise again,” cannot, in the Lord’s mouth, refer to a return into the sphere of the present miserable earthly life. This is shown by the answer of Martha, as well as by the current Christian and Jewish phraseology. In this it signifies the transition into a new glorious condition, which lies beyond the present existence of men. Ver. 25 altogether excludes the reference to a mere restoration to life: the ζωή , the ζήσεται , accord not with the present state of existence.
The New Testament teaches a twofold stage of being in that other world: the one which begins for believers with their departure from this life; the other which begins with the last day. To the former refers what the Lord said to the thief on the cross; as also John 14:2-3; John 13:36; John 17:24; Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth;” John 7:9-17, John 14:1-5, John 15:1-4. To the latter refer, for example, Matthew 19:28; John 5:25; John 5:28-29; John 6:39-40; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:22. In the Revelation the two stages are often combined in the unity of life or salvation, e.g. ch. John 2:7; John 2:10; John 2:17, John 3:5. That the former may be included under the term “resurrection,” is evidenced by Revelation 20:5, where it is expressly described as the first resurrection. There can be the less objection to this, inasmuch as the figurative use of the resurrection holds extensively, and in various ways, throughout the Scripture; every transition from misery to blessedness, from a lower to a higher condition, being described by the terms: comp. my commentary on Revelation 20:5. Martha, in her answer, here looks alone on the second stage of blessedness, the resurrection at the last day; and it cannot be doubted, taking the current phraseology, and especially ch. John 5:25; John 5:28-29, into view, that Jesus pre-eminently referred to the same. But that in connection with this. He has also the former in view,—that the resurrection here means the whole of that future life—that we consequently have here the basis of the “first resurrection” in the Apocalypse,—is plain from ver. 25, where Jesus unites resurrection and life inseparably together, so that the sphere of the resurrection must be just as extensive as that of life. If there is, according to the most unambiguous and oft-repeated declarations of our Lord and His Apostles, a life, a blessedness, before the commonly so-called resurrection, so must there be also a resurrection before the resurrection commonly so-called, or before the last day. With such an all-comprehending meaning the resurrection occurs in Matthew 22:30. For the idea of resurrection is there also, according to ver. 32, as extensive as that of life. But it is the first stage which is in that chapter predominantly in question. For when we read there (and also Mark 12:25), “In the resurrection they are as the angels in heaven,” we must not refer the ἐ?ν οὐ?ρανῷ? to the angels; in that case the οἱ? must have come first, as many MSS. in Mark have interpolated the οἱ? before ἐ?ν οὐ?ρανοῖ?ς . We must rather construe ἀ?λλʼ? ἐ?ν οὐ?ρανῷ? εἰ?σι ὡ?ς ἄ?γγελοι : but in heaven are as the angels. The explanation of Fritzsche and others, “But they are as the angels of God in heaven (are),” is not so obvious; and the reason which is made to sustain it, “that in the New Testament the Messianic kingdom for the dead recalled to life is not heaven, but on this earth itself,” rests, according to the intimation already given, upon a partial apprehension of the truth. It is the first stage of the resurrection which is especially regarded, because, among the blessed spirits in heaven, the inappropriateness of marriage is especially prominent. Php_3:20 is parallel: ἡ?μῶ?ν γὰ?ρ τὸ? πολίτευμα ἐ?ν οὐ?ρανοῖ?ς ὑ?πάρχει . The blessed spirits, in their resurrection, attain to the place where already, during their earthly life, their proper home was.
Vers. 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: and whosoever liveth, and believeth in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this?”
From the resurrection the Lord turns to its Author and Agent. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Christ is the antitype of the tree of life in Paradise: he that eateth of Him shall live for ever. He is the resurrection and the life, not only as the giver, but as the procurer of both. The root is His atoning death, by which He hath assuaged the wrath of God and vanquished death, 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14. It reads, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is this already virtually, according to His indwelling power; just as, according to ch. John 1:4, the life was in Him before He appeared in the flesh. But not until the resurrection will the power already existing in Him approve itself in act. Bengel is not correct here: Ego praesens, non adstrictus ad longinquum. Noli putare, Martha, te differri in longinquum. Mors cedit vitae ut caligo luci, protinus. The recall of Lazarus to this wretched life stood in no direct and immediate connection with the words, “I am the resurrection and the life;” it had to do with them only so far as the power immanent in Christ, which will one day effect the resurrection and life, had its prelude in Lazarus’ restoration. In the Old Testament we find that all salvation, whether in the world to come or in the present world, is connected with the name of the Messiah. Of the Messianic age we read in Isaiah 25:8, “He will , swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces,”—the tears which flow with peculiar bitterness on account of death. In ch. Isaiah 26:19 it is said, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs (light or salvation), and the earth shall cast out the dead.” According to Daniel 12:2, in the Messiah’s days “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” That the “life” of believers begins immediately after death, is proved by the parable of Lazarus. The poor man is, according to Luke 16:22, carried, when he dies, by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, where he is comforted, ver. 25. The distinctive character which hell with its torments bears in that description—the wide gulf which is firmly established between the one and the other, go to prove that life also in that world must bear a not less distinctive character. If life, according to this parable, which stands in a near and peculiar connection with the event before us, commences with the departure from the present state, the resurrection also, which goes hand in hand with it, must have a similar beginning. Resurrection and life are, in Hosea 6:2, connected together; and both as describing the transition from a miserable to a happy existence. Πᾶ?ς ὁ? ζῶ?ν , whosoever liveth, forms the antithesis to κἂ?ν ἀ?ποθάνῃ? , though he die, and must therefore refer only to the natural life. The οὐ? μὴ? ἀ?ποθάνῃ? , shall not die, corresponds to the ζήσεται , shall live; and thus the dying here cannot be used in the ordinary sense, as in the κἂ?ν ἀ?ποθάνῃ? , but with an emphasis: death, which is no more than the transition to true life, is not death at all. The two members of the clauses are an advance respectively on each other’s meaning. In the former, life after death is assured to believers; in the latter, it is declared that they shall not die at all. The death of which Jesus speaks in the former clause, accommodating Himself to our common phrase, is, when more clearly viewed, no real death. There is not here any distinction of two classes. It is true that the former clause holds good only of those who, with Lazarus, are already dead; but for living believers like Martha, both clauses are valid. Jesus, however, has the living primarily in view. The ζήσεται of itself shows this. His design is to arm His living believers against all the terrors of death.
Ver. 27. “She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
Martha does not avow her faith distinctively in Jesus, as the resurrection and the life, but as the super-worldly (comp., in reference to “coming into the world,” on ch. John 1:9) Redeemer and Son of God. If He be this—if the triple honour which Martha ascribes to Him be truly His, then it is sufficiently plain of itself that He must be the resurrection and the life. Quesnel: “Nothing in respect to Christ seems incredible or transcending hope, when we have a living faith in His divinity; but the whole building falls to the ground when this foundation is disturbed.” Martha says, “I have believed.” The perfect (comp. ch. John 6:69) is significant, as showing that she does not now attain for the first time to that faith, but is only avowing the faith which she already possessed; that, consequently, it is not His design to produce faith in her soul, but only to give her opportunity to confess the faith she had.
Ver. 28. “And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.”
Why did not Martha earlier give Mary information? It was natural that at first she was wholly possessed by the thought of going out to meet Jesus, and of strengthening her faith in the promise sent to her (ver. 4), by beholding Him, and hearing His words. As soon as her heart had received this invigoration, she hastened at once to her sister. “Secretly,” leads to the inference that, among those who according to ver. 19 were present, many were included who stood in a hostile or alienated relation to Christ. In Martha’s purpose these were to be kept aloof. God’s purpose, however, was different from hers. All who were in Bethany should be present at the miracle. “The Master is come.” Quesnel: “Jesus had no other name in this family than Lord and Master; for it was a family of faith and of obedience.” That Jesus called for Mary, was the necessary consequence of His presence, and of the end of His coming, according to ver. 4. Those out of love to whom the miracle took place, must needs be present to behold it.
Ver. 29. “As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.”
Mary, says Quesnel, leaves without delay comforters who were a burden to her grief, in order to find out the true Comforter. It is only at His feet that we can find a consolation that penetrates the heart.
Ver. 30. “Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him.” Why did not Jesus come to the place? It appears that He remained outside, in the neighbourhood of the sepulchre. For it is evident from what follows, that the sepulchre was very near the village. The Jews followed Mary on her way to Jesus, supposing that she was going to the place of sepulture: therefore that must have been near to the place where Jesus was. Our Lord’s conduct on the occasion was shaped by the unequal character of the visitors at the house. The mixed multitude were to be present at the raising of Lazarus (ut tam grande miraculum quatriduani mortui resurgentis testes plurimos inveniret,
Augustin), but yet Jesus would not go to the scene accompanied by such a crowd. They were to be present, but it must be without any seeming or direct arrangement on His part. He would come into contact with them at, but not before, the performance of the sacred act.
Ver. 31. “The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.”
Ver. 32. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
There is not the most distant hint of any reproach here. Reproaches are not lightly uttered against the Lord by one who sits at His feet. The words of Mary are the very same which Martha had spoken in the former part of her first address, ver. 21. Doubtless the sisters had often interchanged this kind of observation with each other. To the second part of Martha’s address corresponds Mary’s prostration: comp. the προσκυνοῦ?σα καὶ? αἰ?τοῦ?σά τι ἀ?πʼ? αὐ?τοῦ? , Matthew 20:20. This form of supplicating the salvation which ver. 4 had placed before her vision, was appropriate to the forgiven sinner, whose consciousness was anew and most vividly affected by a sense of unworthiness in the presence of that new manifestation of grace which was especially intended for her: comp. the “Lord, I am not worthy” of the centurion, in Matthew 8:8. The whole deportment of Mary evidences her firm confidence in the miraculous power of Jesus, which, according to ver. 4, He must put forth upon her dead brother, though it had not pleased Him to put it forth upon her brother while sick and alive.
Vers. 33, 34. “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They say unto Him, Lord, come and see.”
It has long been fully established that the ἐ?μβριμᾶ?σθαι can denote no other passion than that of holy anger. That the phrase accepts no other meaning, is confessed even by those who, not knowing how otherwise to evade it, enforce another signification upon the word here. Lücke, for example, says: “The lexical definition of a scholiast upon Aristophanes, Equit. 851, βριμᾶ?σθαι τὸ? ὀ?ργίζεσθαι καὶ? ἀ?πειλεῖ?ν , is accepted by all lexicographers. If we hold to the strict meaning, then Jesus was angry, and saw Mary and the Jews weeping with displeasure.” The ancient Greek expositors, who had still before their eyes the living phraseology, gave the verb the signification of anger. “Only this interpretation, that of loud and violent indignation, is the literal one that ἐ?μβριμᾶ?σθαι accepts,” Gumlich asserts and amply proves in his exhaustive tractate on the resurrection of Lazarus (S. and K. 1862). But the indignation of our Lord could not have been directed at the weeping of Mary and the Jews: this is plain from the fact that Jesus Himself afterwards wept. The same reason decides against the assumption that Jesus was wroth with and strove against His own emotion, excited by the weeping of those around him; an assumption which is also refuted by the consideration that there is nothing recorded of any such preceding involuntary emotion on the part of our Lord. Moreover, it would then have been more in keeping that He should have composed rather than excited Himself. No further illustration is necessary to show how little any thus or thus originated anger is worthy of Jesus the Saviour, who sympathizes with us in our infirmities. His vehement wrath being occasioned by the weeping, it must have been excited only by that which caused this weeping. And that was no other than the great enemy of the human race. Death. To this our thoughts are at once directed by the words which follow the mention of our Lord’s deep feeling. He asks, “Where have ye laid him?”—a question which is the introduction to His actual advance towards Death, and His wresting from him the prey which he had carried off. The anger was manifestly the internal feeling which precedes the act of revivification, and in which that act had its psychological root. It is not the passion which brings about the resolution of Jesus; that, according to ver. 4, had been long fixed. The weeping around Him was only a subordinate factor. It would be altogether out of harmony with the Divine dignity of Jesus, to regard Him as raised solely by the weeping to so high a state of emotion, and to the sublime act that followed upon it. The weeping could not be wanting; but it was only one of the subordinate circumstances: the Lord’s determination was already formed.
The Redeemer’s wrath will appear all the more appropriate when we consider that the event had a symbolical meaning; that Lazarus was the representative of all believers fallen asleep; and that we have here the pledge and assurance of the abolition of the last enemy, ἔ?σχατος ἐ?χθρὸ?ς καταργεῖ?ται ὁ? θάνατος , 1 Corinthians 15:26. It may be objected that the auger seems to be directed against a personal enemy; but such an objection comes very flatly. We are accustomed, in the Old Testament, to see impersonal and transitory powers assuming life, personality, and form, in order that their defeat and destruction may be all the more effectually exhibited: comp. e.g. Hosea 13:14. Jesus, according to Matthew 8:26, not only threatens the wind and the sea,—to abate the force of this analogy, it may be pleaded that the act was symbolical, living powers lying concealed behind the wind and the sea: comp. on ch. John 6:14-21,—but He rebukes the fever also in Luke 4:39. If we take into view the whole Scripture doctrine, it will be plain that behind death also there is concealed a personal enemy. Death, according to Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19, came upon the human race through the deceit of Satan: comp. the book of Wisdom, ch. John 2:24. Our Lord calls Satan a murderer from the beginning, ch. John 8:44; and in Hebrews 2:14 Satan is described as the ruler of death himself destroyed by Christ. Thus, when our Lord advances against death. He at the same time advances against Satan. Death and the devil are in the Scripture view inseparably connected.
Jesus was angry in spirit. A comparison with Mark 8:12, Luke 10:21, John 13:21, Acts 17:16, παρωξύνετο τὸ? πνεῦ?μα αὐ?τοῦ? ἐ?ν αὐ?τῷ? , will show that τῷ? πνεύματι , defines the passion to have been an internal one, and consequently full of force, in contrast with emotions which are merely put on for appearance, or go no lower than the surface. The nil is, in the Old Testament, the seat of all strong passions: Genesis 41:8; Proverbs 25:28; Psalms 34:19. The remark that “the spirit, as contradistinguished from the soul, the seat of natural human sensibility, is here named as the sacred domain in which that violent emotion was exhibited,” will not stand the test of the passages we have quoted. It is a mistake also to conclude from the τῷ? πνεύματι that the anger of Jesus was restricted to the inner spirit. It is rather self-understood that His passion, which had its proper seat in the spirit, must have had an external expression,—as generally the measure of the internal strength of an emotion is the measure of its outward utterance,—otherwise it could not have been matter of historical record. Vatable rightly observes: Vultum mutavit Jesum et vocem et gestum prae dolore. “And was troubled.” Τάρασσειν occurs in the New Testament, so far as it refers to men, always and only of mental emotions; and it must here, in opposition to those who think of a “bodily shivering,” all the rather be referred to the spiritual sphere, inasmuch as the ἑ?αυτόν is defined by the preceding τῷ? πνεύματι . Ἐ?τάραξεν ἑ?αυτόν is the same as ἐ?ταράχθη τῷ? πνεύματι ch. John 13:21, with this difference, that in the other instance the emotion was more passive, while here it is active and intentionally called up. Jesus excites Himself to an energetic conflict with the wicked enemy of the human race. Any reference to the Divine nature of Christ, and His elevation above all mere passivity of physical emotions, as resting upon that Divine nature (Augustin: Turbaris tu nolens, turbatus est Christus quia voluit. In illius potestate erat sit vel sic affici. And even Lücke: “A purely involuntary emotion would be too passive for the Johannine Christ”), is not to be sought in the ἐ?τάραξεν ἑ?αυτόν . The same would be said of a human hero, who roused himself to a sharp contest. Isaiah 42:13 gives us some illustration: “The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man. He shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; He shall cry, yea roar; He shall prevail against His enemies.” If we explain the active sense of the emotion by reference to the Divine nature of Christ, there is no reason why the same active verb was not used in ch. John 12:27, John 13:21.
The question which immediately follows the Lord’s excitement, Where have ye laid him? serves only to introduce and prepare for the act which flowed from it, and has, as it were, a liturgical significance. We can no more conclude from His asking the question, that Jesus knew not the place of sepulture, than we can conclude from Where art thou? in Genesis 3:9, that God knew not the retreat of Adam. How little our Lord’s questioning generally was based upon His ignorance (as if He asked because He knew not) we have seen in ch. John 6:6, and still more clearly in the style in which the disciples going to Emmaus were questioned, Luke 24:17-19. If Jesus, at a distance, and without any human information, knew that Lazarus was dead,—if He was so sure beforehand that the sickness would issue to the glory of God, and that the journey would be without peril to Himself,—if we move in the sphere of miracle from the beginning to end of this whole transaction,—it seems a strange transition to another sphere when Christ is made to ask information about the burial-place becau.se He knew it not. (Augustin: Scisti quia mortuns sit et non ubi sit sepultus?) We have already seen that our Lord had remained in the neighbourhood of the sepulchre, and this of itself proves that He was acquainted with it. The question was not intended to furnish Him with information upon a matter in which He was ignorant; it served only to define the boundary between the domain of the Son of God and that of men, who have to transfer as it were their dead to Him, being unable to accomplish aught themselves. Men can only lay their dead in the grave. One alone can raise from the dead.
The Κύριε , Lord, reflects the impression of the dignity of His person which the deportment of Jesus had created in the mourners’ minds. The “come and see” is seemingly a reminiscence of Psalms 66:5; Psalms 46:8, springing from the impulse to use Scripture language in solemn moments; and the very words were all the more carefully preserved by the narrator, because those passages in the Psalms—“Come and see the works of God: He is terrible in His doings toward the children of men;” and, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, who doeth wonders in the earth”—were to receive a new confirmation. The ἔ?ρχου καὶ? ἴ?δε can scarcely be used indifferently here, seeing that John everywhere else uses it with a significant reference.
Ver. 35. “Jesus wept.”
Gumlich rightly observes that both His wrath and tears were occasioned by one thing, death. That Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus is proved by ver. 36, on which Heumann, holding the opinion that the tears had another cause, is obliged to say, “The Jews were mistaken, when they supposed that He wept over the death of Lazarus.” Surely there is no need to seek diligently for any other reason than the same which called forth the tears of all who were present. Had there been any such reason, the weeping of our Lord would have been carefully distinguished from that of all others. Death and tears are connected in the Old Testament, e.g. in Isaiah 25:8,—“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it,”—a passage with which ours stands in close external connection; for here Jesus pours out the tears in order to make that saying true, in order that He might be able to wipe away all other tears. It is thrice recorded that Jesus wept: in this passage,—over Jerusalem,—and in Gethsemane, Hebrews 5:7. Δακρύειν , only here in the New Testament, is milder than κλαίειν : it signifies only that tears filled the Lord’s eyes. That literal weeping was not in itself improper for Jesus, is evidenced by Luke 19:41, Hebrews 5:7; but it is out of keeping with the present case, because our Saviour’s tone is pre-eminently active, and the excitement of sympathy with the suffering race of mankind serves only as a foundation for His rigorous resolve to come to the rescue of that race. In Gethsemane it was otherwise. There the tone of our Saviour was predominantly passive. So also was it when He wept over Jerusalem, when He was enforced to give it up to ruin. But in the present instance, the tears which are devoted to the misery of mankind as exemplified in Lazarus, are preceded by the wrath of His spirit against the wretched enemy of mankind.
With the weepers Jesus had not wept. When He saw them weeping—the only thing by which they could exhibit their love to the deceased
He, the only one who could do more than that, was angered in spirit, preparing Himself for practical help. This shows us, by the way, that in circumstances when human help may be of service. He who can be helpful should not spend much time in inactive tearful sympathy. But when He comes to the very place and abode of death, He gives Himself up to softer sensibility, that He may by His pattern sanctify sympathy. (Augustin: Flevit Christus, fleat se homo. Quare enim flevit Christus, nisi quia flere hominem docuit.) But in the Lord this sympathy does not so much accompany the vigorous assault on death, as form part of its foundation. Lampe’s remark, repeated by Baur and others, is based upon a thorough misunderstanding: “There was no reason for weeping over Lazarus, who, as Jesus certainly knew, would now be awakened to God’s and His own glorification.” Lampe concludes, that the Lord must have wept over the Jews; Baur decides for the spuriousness of the narrative. They overlooked the fact that the weeping of Jesus was the necessary postulate of His action, even as all the miracles of Christ proceeded out of a similar profound emotion of soul. A cold or stony-hearted raiser of the dead would belong to the region of fiction. The living Saviour could only as a helper approach the place of corruption; and only with tears in His own eyes wipe away the tears of ours.
Vers. 36, 37. “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 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?”
That the exclamation and question of the Jews proceeded from sincere hearts, and that they had some foundation of truth—the thought, to wit, that Jesus at the death of Lazarus could not consistently maintain a purely passive attitude—is evident from the influence which both have, according to ver. 38, upon our Lord. His indignation at the enemy is excited by it afresh. That shows that the Jews had given prominence only to one element in the matter, which has still its force when those die who love Jesus. Both His love and His power warrant the supposition that He cannot be in such a case simply passive, but that He must recall them to life. Certainly there is concealed behind the “Behold how he loved him!” the question, “How has he then thus let him die?” And behind the question of ver. 37, another, to wit, “If he could have done so, why did he not?” But that they do not put these secret questions in the spirit of reproach, is shown by the fact that the reverence which, at this crisis, impressed the most violent minds, hinders them from speaking out what they think. It is not in itself sinful to question in uncertainty and awe the ways of God and His message, provided only the hand be laid on the mouth, and the questioner does not murmur, or make himself a judge. This latter is that sinning with the tongue against which, in all the unsearchable providences of God, we have to be on our guard. We cannot doubt, however, that there was something else latent in their thoughts. “Will he not even now give some further demonstration of his love and power?” The thought was only a germ, and did not take expression; but that it was there, is proved by the influence which the Jews’ words excited upon our Lord.
The question of ver. 37 could be answered by every one only with Yes. They believe in the opening of the eyes of the blind man; and that was so absolutely a creative work, that He who could perform it could also heal a man sick unto death. Why do they not rather mention the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, and the young man of Nain? Because they simply confine themselves to an event that had occurred only a short time before, and in their own midst; and the rather as, in the present case, it was primarily the healing of a sick man that was concerned, and not the raising of a dead one.
Ver. 38. “Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, Cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”
The new access of our Lord’s indignation is chiefly excited by the words of the Jews. They tend to renew and quicken His zeal against the fearful foe of the human race. “Because Christ,” says Calvin, “does not come to. the grave like an idle spectator, but as a strong hero, who prepares himself for war, it is not to be marvelled at that He is again angry; for He sees only that awful tyranny of death which He is come to vanquish and destroy.” And Gumlich well observes, “The finished act of the miracle was the goal, at which alone the Lord’s displeasure would find its perfect solace, and His zeal its perfect satisfaction.”
Ver. 39. “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”
It is a very unfortunate supposition which some have hazarded, that Martha did not believe the Lord purposed to restore her brother’s life when He came to the sepulchre, but only desired to see the remains of His friend once more,—a design from which therefore she dissuaded Him. The right view is, that Martha, by reference to the corruption begun, would place before Jesus the greatness of the work which He designed to accomplish. We see by what follows what end she wished to attain. She would thereby give occasion to Jesus for a new confirmation of His promise, and thus strengthen her own faith: “Lord, he already stinketh: I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” Death and corruption seem to the natural reason to lie beyond the domain in which even miraculous power may display itself; and believers have evermore to struggle against the same natural reason. It is more especially vigorous in Martha here, inasmuch as the crisis of decision was immediately impending. “The sister of him that was dead:” the most vehement conflict would naturally begin in her mind, at this moment of supreme decision, because she was most nearly affected. She, whose heart and soul were directed entirely to the dead man, would be specially affected by the signs of corruption. That “he stinketh” was only her inference—cannot be proved by “he hath been dead four days.” For this latter gives the reason of the witnessed fact: he stinketh, as it could not be otherwise with one who has been four days dead. The ἤ?δη ὄ?ζει must necessarily have been an actual truth. For—that is the reason why the Evangelist records the expression. It was intended to show emphatically the greatness of the miracle. But even if it be made a mere inference, the ἤ?δη ὄ?ζει asserts still its actual truth. “The reason,” remarks Gumlich, “for Martha’s confident assertion is, in fact, so plain, that nothing but the vain imagination of a miracle before the miracle prevents its being seen.”
From the words “by this time he stinketh,” as connected with ver. 44, it has been justly concluded that the body was not embalmed. And this bears testimony to the faith which Mary and Martha reposed in the word of their Master, ver. 4. They did not bury their brother after the manner of the Jews, ch. John 19:40, because they hoped that he would not permanently inhabit the grave.
Ver. 40. “Jesus saith unto her. Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”
Jesus affords the desired help to the rising unbelief of believing Martha. In the presence of corruption He renews His promise. “If thou wouldest believe” refers only to vers. 23-27. There Jesus had based the demand for faith, not on the confirmation which the present case would afford to His miraculous power, but on His own person, and on His own absolute power over death. The words, “thou shouldest see the glory of God,” refer solely to ver. 4. Only there do we find mentioned that glory of God which was to be manifested in Lazarus. The seeing God’s glory points us back to Isaiah 40:5: “And the glory of God shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
Ver. 41. “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.”
The old covenant furnishes repeated instances of prayer offered in the form of anticipated thanksgiving. “The Church is distinguished from the world by this, that she does not pray in the way of experiment; she rests in her petitions on God’s word and promise; so that she can ask in faith without wavering, James 1:6.” This is the explanation of the fact that in the Mosaic economy there were no specific prayer-offerings; these were latently involved in the thank-offerings, which we not seldom find presented amidst circumstances of sorrow, when they could refer only to a deliverance expected, and not a deliverance attained. (See further in my Treatise on Sacrifice.) The anticipatory confidence which, even in the Old Testament, gave birth to this form of petition from the lips of believers, was infinitely more appropriate to Christ on account of His unity with the Father. Looking away from the mere form of the petition, Jesus here announces that He will perform, in the strength of God, the work which present circumstances brought before Him. It is not the hearing of any former prayer that is referred to. No such prayer is alluded to; the actual granting of the prayer does not in any sense follow until ver. 44, which altogether excludes the notion that Lazarus had here already begun to rise from the dead and live again. Accordingly, the words can be explained only on the ground of that anticipating confidence which was already inwardly assured of the actuality of the future salvation from death. We have something similar in Psalms 54:6, where David in the midst of his distress expresses a full confidence of deliverance: “I will freely sacrifice unto Thee; I will praise Thy name, Lord, for it is good;” and also Psalms 56:13.
Ver. 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.”
Our Lord refers to 1 Kings 18:37, where Elijah says, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God.” The express petition, uttered in the form of confident assurance, was not designed to obtain the granting of the request; it might indeed have been omitted, since the relation of Jesus to God was so intimate and perfect that no express utterance of a request was ever needed: every the slightest wish of His soul, every glance of His eye, was regarded; and to Him the words of Isaiah 65:24 applied in their fullest sense, “Before they call, I will answer.” It is not signified here that His prayer generally is, in relation to God, superfluous,—this would contradict Mark 6:46, which shows that Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, Luke 9:28, etc.,—but prayer as formally expressed in words. So far as concerned His relation to God, “He lifted up His eyes” was enough, and more than enough. Something analogous to these high prerogatives of Christ we find in the experience of advanced saints, Romans 8:26. There is even among mere men a stage of sinking into God, in which the words of prayer rather recede and are lost. The ἀ?κούειν of itself shows that, not prayer generally, but a certain kind of prayer, is declared to be unnecessary. That Jesus on this occasion did, however, express His prayer in words, was solely on account of those who were around; in order that the connection between the sequel and the person of Christ might be abundantly clear, and thus faith in His Divine mission might be wrought in their minds.
That which our Lord here says in the form of address to God, He might, as in ch. John 12:30, have said in the form of an address to the multitude. But that, on the present occasion, would have been less solemn, and less befitting the sublimity of the crisis. The effect of the Lord’s act upon the standers-by, was produced by the circumstance that they were raised with Jesus into the posture of prayer; they were elevated to that prayerful sentiment which was the habitual frame of Christ, the ceaseless breathing of His soul, and which made the present form of words the most appropriate to Himself.—Πάντοτέ , ever,—whether I expressly put the petition or not.
Ver. 43. “And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
In regard to the cry of Jesus here, that holds good which He had said in regard to the praying, ver. 42. The loud voice, the outward demonstration of confidence and decision (comp. on ch. John 1:15), was intended only to symbolize to those around the connection between the will of Jesus and the resurrection act. The parallels in the other Evangelists, Mark 5:41, Luke 7:14; Luke 8:54, in which Jesus utters His cry on occasions of raising the dead, show that the call was addressed to the dead man, and that the revivification was simultaneous with that call. Comp. also ch. John 5:25, according to which the dead shall hear the voice of God. Further, as Lücke observes, “If we compare ver. 43 with ver. 11, the δεῦ?ρο ἔ?ξω is the moment of revival itself.” Lampe’s objection, that Jesus addressed Lazarus not as a dead man, but as a living, is dismissed by a reference to Ezekiel 37:4: “Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” There also the dead were addressed. That which Jesus here does, is the type and prelude of that which He will do at the last day. This is shown by the connection of our passage with ch. John 5:28-29.
Ver. 44. “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”
The grave-clothes that bind the dead express the consolatory assurance that the departed has now rest from his hard toil upon the earth, which lies under the Lord’s curse. They say symbolically what Isaiah said in words: “They enter into peace, they rest upon their beds.” The hands and feet were bound by them, for a sign that, with death, the painful toil of hand and foot is over; as Paul Gerhard sings, “The head, and hands, and feet rejoice, that rest has come at last.” The grave-clothes proper were there besides. The wrappings, which are here expressly limited to the hands and the feet, were added over and above the shroud; and as they served no practical purpose, but had only a symbolical use, their binding was of a looser nature, and the raised man could, although not without some trouble, move forward a few steps. By the supposition that each foot was specially bound about, the significance of the whole is lost. Why then would the word “loose” have been used? The napkin corresponds to these grave-clothes. It had its origin in Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” It intimated that the dead had departed from labour and sorrow. Genesis 3:17, Psalms 90:10, Revelation 14:13, and out of “great tribulation,” Revelation 7:14; that they “rest from their labours.” According to chap. John 20:7, the napkin was “on the head.” Accordingly ὄ?ψις , the face, is here used as pars pro toto. It covered the forehead, on which the sweat stands. That the eyes were covered, is plain from the words, “Loose him, and let him go,” which refer to the napkin also, and show that the napkin was a hindrance to going. Nor is it a mere accident that the countenance is here designated by a word which is derived from seeing.
In the “let him go” it is not signified that Lazarus went alone to the house, which would have been unnatural. They were to let him go, inasmuch as they were to remove those bandages which they had laid upon the supposed dead man. The “let him” refers to the restraints which they had caused, and which were the only ones left, after Jesus Himself had removed the main hindrance. As in ver. 34 the burial is ascribed to the whole company present, so here with the unloosing.—“Death, sin, devil, life, and grace are all in His hand. He can save all who come to Him—that is the great practical result which the whole narrative teaches.”
In vers. 45, 46, we have the effect of the miracle upon the people around.
Ver. 45. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him.”
It does not mean many of the Jews who had come to Mary, τῶ?ν ἐ?λθόντων , but many Jews (among those present generally) who had come to Mary. It is taken for granted that they had not all come to Mary. What is alone intimated here, receives its illustration from the relations of the household as we have explained them. Mary had come solely on Simon’s account. Mary is mentioned, and not Martha, because the latter, the mistress of the house, could not be separated from Simon. The believing acquaintance had come to Mary in the first place, and only subordinately to Martha, who in this point of view depended on Mary. And we must suppose that they brought with them the beginnings of faith. When they saw what Jesus had here done, their germ of faith was more fully developed; comp., for a similar process and use of faith, the remarks on John 7:5. But we may also assume that οἱ? ἐ?λθόντες here stands irregularly for τῶ?ν ἐ?λθόντων—as an abbreviated relative clause. Mary would in that case be mentioned as the chief mourner. (In favour of this a whole series of analogies may be adduced from the Apocalypse: comp. Winer and Buttmann.) We have a similar construction in ch. John 1:14. But such irregularities seldom occur in the simple historical style; and the fact that only Mary is mentioned here, differently from ver. 19, leads to the grammatically obvious interpretation. That αὐ?τῶ?ν , in ver. 46, refers to those who came to Mary, is a construction which will not harmonize. But we must suspend our judgment.
Ver. 46. “But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.”— ἐ?ξ αὐ?τῶ?ν—if we adopt the former of the explanations offered upon ver. 45, τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων ,—some of those who, in contradistinction to those who came to Mary, had come to Martha, in her character of mistress of the house and wife of Simon, probably in concert and co-operation with that Pharisee (Luke 7, “chief of the Pharisees”), Luke 14:1. Grotius remarks: Impios hos fuisse necesse est, quod genus hominum ne conspecta quidem mortuorum resurrectione resipiscere solet, Luke 16:31. “He contrasts them, as untouched and uninfluenced, with the many believers; and gives it plainly to be understood that their zealous information occasioned the assembling of the synagogue, and the bloody counsel of Caiaphas.” Bengel: Citius cedit mors virtuti Christi quam infidelitas. Death yields to Christ’s virtue sooner than unbelief. The difference in disposition among the Jews had not appeared during the course of the event itself. The majesty of Christ had, for the time, overcome their unbelief. But it afterwards betrayed itself among those whose minds were unfriendly; and ch. John 12:10 probably gives us the true solution of the manner in which the matter was solved. Then the rulers of the Jews resolve to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. This presupposes that they had found some fault in him. Doubtless they imagined some preconcerted plan between Jesus and the family in Bethany.
In ver. 47-53 we have the plans which were devised by the Council in consequence of this event, and their result.
Vers. 47, 48. “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 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.”
Anton: “When God displays His greatest works before the world, the world is provoked to the highest pitch of bitterness and wrath.” For ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς and Φαρισ . see on ch. John 7:32. The precedence of the high priests shows that by the Pharisees are meant the Pharisaic party among the assessors of the council. Συνέδριον here signifies a session. The word was chosen in allusion to the nomen proprium of the supreme spiritual authority. This proper name does not occur in John, as it does in the first Evangelists and the Acts; just as he omits to mention the scribes and the νομικοί . Having the most accurate acquaintance with Jewish institutions, he always avoids expressly alluding to them. Thus he names not the Sanhedrim, but describes its sitting by a word which alludes to the proper name. “What shall we do?” is the ordinary question of those who are pondering: Judges 21:16; 1 Samuel 5:8; Jonah 1:11; Acts 4:16. Here it is strictly, What do we? Since the circumstances are urgent, and demanding instant action, and since there can be no doubt that something must at once be done, the present and the present of the indicative is strictly appropriate.
The proper motive of the opposition to Jesus was, among the Pharisaic members of the high council, a different one from that exhibited in ver. 48. It was, in one word, that which Matthew 27:18 gives, where it is said of Pilate, “He knew that through envy they had delivered Him.” Compare what was said on ch. John 10:8 concerning the true character of the conflict between Christ and the Pharisees. But this self-seeking ground of their hatred to Jesus they cannot lay bare. They make pretence of another reason, and represent it as if they were alone actuated by love to the people. The specifically Pharisaic reasons were the less brought forward because the council had in it many Sadducee members, and the influential high priest himself belonged to that party. Had the Pharisees urged any of their own characteristic arguments, some such conflict might have arisen between the two parties as Acts 23:10 records. They therefore abandoned the domain of theology, and contented themselves with such political arguments as were common to the Sadducees with themselves. Their anxiety was not altogether baseless. Although the kingdom of Christ was not of this world, yet at that time of general excitement insurrectionary movements might easily have connected themselves with His appearance (comp. John 6:15); the Romans might give a political interpretation to events which had in them no political meaning, entirely ignorant as they were of the spiritual character of the new kingdom. Characteristic in this view is Pilate’s “Thou art a king then?” The intelligence of the Jewish Messianic expectations had at that time penetrated far and deep in the heathen world. Percrebuerat toto Oriente vetus et constans opinio, esse in fatis ut eo tempore Judaea profecti rerum potirentur, says Suetonius (Vespasian, iv.); and Tacitus (Hist. v. 13) speaks in the same style (comp. Christol. iii. 2). And as these expectations bore a political character, it was obvious that the same political character would be referred to the historical appearance of the Messiah. Nor was it a contradiction that those who longed for the Messiah as a deliverer from the hateful Roman dominion, were disposed to league against Christ on account of the danger threatened from the Romans. For Christ would never from the beginning yield Himself up as the instrument of their insurrectionary schemes; and they, on their part, were not inclined to lose what they had in favour of a passive Messiah, who would not favour them in their dearest desires. Of any spiritual victory over the heathen world which Christ was preparing for, they had no presentiment. But what they did in order to prevent the ruin of the Temple and the destruction of their national existence, precisely brought about that ruin and destruction. (Augustin: Temporalia perdere timuerunt et vitam aeternam non cogitaverunt; ac sic utrumque amiserunt.) “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” says the Christ whom they rejected in Matthew 23:38, and history has approved His word. Lyser: “As the Evangelist tells us that Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied concerning the fruits of Christ’s death, so we may say of these counsellors that they unwittingly prophesied concerning the future destinies of the Jewish people.” In the prophecies of the Old Testament, the rejection of the good Shepherd is followed by the wasting of the land, and the destruction of the people, Zechariah 11; and, according to Daniel 9:24-27, the consequence of the murder of the Anointed was that the greater part of the people became a prey to the army of a strange prince, which, an instrument in the hand of an avenging God, should utterly destroy the fallen city and the desecrated Temple.
“The Romans will come:” comp. Jeremiah 36:29, “The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land;” Daniel 9:26, “And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”—he that shall come being a non-theocratic ruler coming from without. To these passages the Pharisees here refer. We have shown in the Christology that the passage in Daniel was generally understood of an impending destruction of Jerusalem. Αἴ?ρειν , to take away, remove, destroy (comp. John 19:15; John 19:31), so that the place, as such, and the people should no longer exist. The ὑ?μῶ?ν preceding the place is to be well noted; those who omitted it were ill-advised. That the word place here of itself signifies the Temple, cannot be established from 2Ma_5:19 ,—ἀ?λλ̓? οὐ? διὰ? τὸ?ν τόπον τὸ? ἔ?θνος , ἀ?λλὰ? διὰ? τὸ? ἔ?θνος τὸ?ν τόπον ὁ? κύριος ἐ?ξελέξατο ,—for it is only the connection with ver. 15 that makes the place the Temple in that passage. But “our place” can only be the Temple. It is the habitual style of the New Testament not to mention the city so much as the Temple, the seat and dwelling-place of the entire people. In the books of Moses we read of the “tabernacle of the congregation,” the place where the Lord had communion with His people, and dwelt with them. Psalms 84:4 refers to the Temple, “The sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself;” and so also ver. 5, where the Israelites are spoken of who dwell in the house of the Lord; Psalms 27:4; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 61:5; Psalms 63:3. The Temple is called in Isaiah 64:10 our holy and beautiful house. “Your house” the Lord in Matthew 23:38 calls the Temple, referring to these Old Testament passages. If Jerusalem is included in our present passage, it can only be on account of the Temple.
Place and people correspond to each other. The Temple was the spiritual centre and the soul of the people. Were the Temple gone, there would be no people. Israel is an ἔ?θνος , as a people among the peoples; ὁ? λαός , as the elect people. Τὸ? ἔ?θνος could hardly be used concerning Israel without some addition like ἡ?μῶ?ν here. If ἡ?μῶ?ν had been wanting, it must have been τὸ?ν λαόν . The Pharisees feared that the Romans might say, with the sons of the wilderness, in Psalms 83:5, δεῦ?τε καὶ? ἐ?ξολεθρεύσωμεν αὐ?τοὺ?ς ἐ?ξ ἔ?θνους . Anton: “They thought only of the ruin ad extra; about the ruin ad intra they made no question.”
Vers. 49, 50. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them. 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.”
The name of Caiaphas is the same as Cephas, the difference being merely that between the Syriac and the Chaldee pronunciation. The same change of forms is found in the name of the town Kaifa (v. Raumer, s. 156), called by William of Tyre Porphyria, which was probably a translation of Kaifa. Caiaphas was only a surname: his proper name was Joseph. Josephus says, in Antiq. xviii. 2, 2, καὶ? Ἰ?ώσηπος ὁ? καὶ? Καϊάφας διάδοχος ἦ?ν αὐ?τῷ? and in xviii. 4, 3, καὶ? τὸ?ν ἀ?ρχιερέα Ἰ?ώσηπον τὸ?ν καὶ? Καΐφαν ἐ?πικαλούμενον ἀ?παλλάξας τῆ?ς ἱ?ερωσύνης . No doubt Joseph took the name Caiaphas when he entered on his office: it was, properly speaking, his official name. It designated the high-priesthood as the rock on which the edifice of the theocracy rested. Caiaphas bore that name at the very time when Jesus gave it to the first of the Apostles, the rock on which He built His Church. It may therefore be assumed that the Lord had a polemical object in giving Simon his new name, setting against the imaginary rock the true one. Consequently the name Cephas was a declaration of war against the religion of the times, and an announcement of a new building to be set up: comp. ch. John 10:8.
The remark that Caiaphas was high priest that year occurs three times, vers. 51, 58, 13. Josephus gives evidence of the frequency with which the high-priesthood changed hands during his time, Antiq. xviii. 2, 2; and it is a remarkable fact, that several high priests, and specially the immediate predecessors of Caiaphas, had enjoyed the dignity only one year. “And not long after, having displaced this man, he appointed Eleazar, the son of Annas, the high priest; and the year having passed, he gave the high-priesthood to Simon, he having held the dignity not more than one year, Joseph,” etc. The more the high-priesthood became the centre of the national existence, the more it became the interest of the Romans to provide that single persons should not establish their roots too firmly. The words, “being high priest that year,” stand in special and plain relation to these facts. Although Caiaphas administered the high-priesthood during several years (in connection with which it is to be remembered that Vitringa, Obs. vi. 13, 2, has suggested doubts as to the continuance in office ascribed to him by Josephus), yet every year the people expected a change; and if he remained in office after the current year, it was only for the next year that he was supposed to hold it. Very characteristic is the delicate reference to these peculiar relations of time, which are not recorded so much as taken for granted. Eusebius, H. E. 1, 10, recognised these relations, but he apprehended them too vaguely. Caiaphas, according to Acts 5:17, belonged to the party of the Sadducees; and that very circumstance, doubtless, enabled him to retain his office longer than others. The rough manner peculiar to this party may be discerned here. “Ye know nothing at all, nor consider,” seems to be a rather needless impertinence. He might have begun his answer to the question, “What do we?” without any such rough introduction, by the simple words, “It is expedient for us.” We have here only a single example of that which Josephus says generally in the Jewish War, ii. 8. 14: Καὶ? Φαρισαῖ?οι μὲ?ν φιλάλληλοί τε καὶ? τὴ?ς εἰ?ς τὸ? κοινὸ?ν ὁ?μόνοιαν ἀ?σκοῦ?ντες , Σαδδυκαίων δὲ? καὶ? πρὸ?ς ἀ?λλήλους τὸ? ἦ?θος ἀ?γριώτερον . It is usually explained, “Ye consider not that it is expedient for us.” But it is better to give ὅ?τι the meaning for or because: first, the objection that they had spoken inconsiderately what they had said, “What do we?” then the establishment of this objection, by showing them that the course to be taken, about which they were in doubt, was plainly marked out. In the two other passages, where ὅ?τι follows διαλογίζεσθαι , Matthew 16:8 and Mark 8:16-17 (in John, διαλογίζεσθαι , occurs only here), the ὅ?τι does not bear the signification that, but means because, and is independent of the verb. Even in Luke 5:21, the διαλογ . stands without direct connection with the verb. The notion that διαλογίζεσθε is not appropriate, as connected with ὅ?τι , gave occasion to the reading λογίζεσθε . First comes ὁ? λαός , the people in their specific character and dignity; then ὅ?λον τὸ? ἔ?θνος , the people in mass, in opposition to the one man. Ἔ?θνος is like גוי , the most comprehensive designation. It means, properly, host or crowd, and is used by Homer even of swarms of flies. Ὁ? λαός , העם , is the preferential name of Israel, because the people of God were the only people in the fullest sense, as united by an internal bond: the heathen were לא עם , οὐ? λαός , according to Deuteronomy 32:21, 1 Peter 2:10, because they were without the true and real bond of unity, fellowship with God.
Vers. 51, 52. “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
What Caiaphas said flowed, as is evident, from an evil fountain, and had a wicked intention; but John regards the Divine influence that was upon him as so overruling his words, that the spiritual ruler of the covenant people should express his bad purpose in such words as might most aptly utter a profound truth. He who, with John, believes in a living God, whose secret operation pervades the hearts of the ungodly, scarcely needs the express assurance that the Evangelist gives. Without the Divine influence, another instead of Caiaphas might have delivered the sentiment, or Caiaphas might have been able to express his opinion in words which could not have admitted a sacred interpretation. In the προφητεύειν there is regarded only the Divine suggestion or inspiration, which had for its foundation the fact that Caiaphas was the high priest at the time. It was appropriate and so ordered that he, in that office, should bear testimony to the true propitiation which the true High Priest would effect by His representative death. It was a parallel to this when Pilate, the holder of the civil authority, was constrained to bear witness, in the superscription on the cross, that Jesus was King of the Jews, and to reply to those who urged the change of this inscription, that “what he had written he had written.” Pilate was under the same Divine guidance as that which here makes Caiaphas prophesy. And it was also a parallel, when the people cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children,” Matthew 27:25; when the high priests and scribes mocked Christ on the cross, with words which they, as it were involuntarily, borrowed from Psalms 22, and by which they spoke their own condemnation, Matthew 27:43; when the soldiers, to fulfil Psalms 22, must cast lots upon the vesture of Christ, ch. John 19:23. In regard to all these things, the “not of himself” holds good, as well as the positive answering to this negative, that the persons concerned prophesied, without on that account being prophets. For more appertains to the being a prophet, than such momentary and partial influences.
It is noteworthy that John does not, like Caiaphas, say ὑ?πὲ?ρ τοῦ? λαοῦ? , but ὑ?πὲ?ρ τοῦ? ἔ?θνους . He could not have made Caiaphas say anything but ὁ? λαός when speaking of the Jews: comp. ver. 50, John 18:14. He himself speaks from the standing-point of his own time and the Church of Christ. Then the distinction between ὁ? λαός and τὰ? ἔ?θνη had vanished: comp. Isaiah 42:6; Gesenius, Thes. i. v. גוי . Another people of God had taken the place of the Jews, 1 Peter 2:10; Revelation 18:4; Revelation 21:3. The Jews were only an ἔ?θνος , like the rest. That the Jews were in question here, is evidenced by the article pointing to the word of Caiaphas. But this delicate distinction itself shows how faithfully John reproduced the expression of the high priest. In ver. 52 John supplements the saying of Caiaphas, which, in its divinely-designed meaning, contained the truth indeed, but not the whole truth. In relation to the “children of God,” that is most fully applicable which was remarked upon the sheep not of this fold, ch. John 10:16. The children of God scattered abroad are not single believers, or individuals predisposed to believe, who were scattered amongst the unbelieving Gentiles, but the Dispersion generally. This has been, since Genesis 11, the essential character of the whole world of heathenism, as the kernel and centre of which the children of God here appear: the abandoned refuse of them, not predestined to become children of God, are not taken into account. The correctness of this view is manifest from the original passages in Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:32, compared with John 7:35. Local dispersion is here regarded only as the reflection of the internal dispersion. From the tower of Babel the bond of fellowship was broken which previously united the human race, and all had been dissolved and confused. With the external dispersion, the most decisive separation of temper and spirit between the several national personalities runs parallel. The commencement of the regathering was made in the Old Testament by the call of the Israelitish people. That created a centre of aggregation. Christ gathers into this fold the scattered sheep of the Gentile world (comp. on ch. John 10:16), and that by His atoning death, the result of which was, that “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” enter into the fold. A fundamental passage in the Old Testament is Isaiah 49:6, where the Lord says to His servant, “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” But Isaiah 56:8 still more closely touches our present passage. There we read, after the reception of the “sons of the stranger” into the kingdom of God had been spoken of, as it would take place in the Messiah’s days: “The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith. Yet will I gather others to Him, besides those that are gathered to Him” (LXX.: συνάγων and συνάξω ).
Ver. 53. “Then, from that day forth, they took counsel together for to put Him to death.”
Among the Pharisees as a party, the death of Christ had been long decided on, ch. John 5:16; John 5:18, John 7:1; John 7:19; John 7:25, John 8:37; but the council itself only now adopted that resolution, and from this time onward plotted for its accomplishment. Thus they realized, remarks Lampe, the type of Joseph’s brethren, who took counsel concerning his death. Genesis 37:18.
Ver. 54. “Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.”
Ephraim is thus specifically mentioned as the name of the tribe; and all expository combinations which do not bear this in mind must be rejected. Thus we must give up the combination with Ophra, a town of the Benjamites, עָ?פְ?רָ?ה , Joshua 18:23; or with Ephron, עֶ?פְ?רוֹ?ן , 2 Chronicles 13:19, where the Masorites led the way in this confusion. For the Keri, Ephrain, appears there to rest upon the collocation with Ephraim; and the suggestions of the Masorites have no more weight than those of a modern critic. We are assisted in defining the locality of Ephraim, not only by the name itself, which suggests a place hard upon or beyond the borders of the tribe of Ephraim, but by a passage of Josephus also (De Bell. Jud. iv. 9, 9), the existence of which enables us to confute the evil-disposed industry of our moderns, who strive to prove that the Evangelist has made the name of the tribe into the name of a town. Josephus says there that Vespasian had conducted from Cassarea an expedition of horsemen to subdue the hitherto unsubdued parts of Judea; that he went into the hill country and occupied two districts, the Gophnitic and the Acrabatene, afterwards seizing the little towns Bethel and Ephraim, μεθʼ? ἅ?ς Βηθηλᾶ? τε καὶ? Εφραῒ?μ πολίχνια ; and that, finally, after he had left garrisons in these places, he journeyed to Jerusalem. Accordingly Ephraim must have lain in the mountain country, near Bethel; which agrees very well with the fact, that Bethel in the tribe of Benjamin was situated near the border of the tribe of Ephraim. As there is no record in the Old Testament of any town named Ephraim, we are obliged to assume that the place is there represented by some other name; and we are disposed to find it in the “Baal-hazor, which is by Ephraim”—עם , near, as in Genesis 35:4; Joshua 7:2—where Absalom, according to 2 Samuel 13:23, held his sheep-shearing. The place, like Ephraim, lay hard by the border of the tribe of Ephraim; and it is quite consistent with John’s intimation, of Ephraim being close upon the desert, that Absalom kept his flocks there (מדבר is properly pasture). The name Baal-hazor might have been all the more easily rejected, because it was not strictly speaking a proper name of a town, but merely the designation of a place by the name of certain property in it (Gesenius: villam habens), which the narrative in Samuel makes prominent. That the name Baalhazor no longer existed in the time of Jesus is plain, from the fact that Josephus mentions instead Baal-zephon, the name currently known to him of the Egyptian town, and transposes this Baal-zephon into the Ephraimite territory. This could hardly have occurred to him if the place had still borne its old name.
Ephraim was situated in the district “near to the wilderness.” That was the reason why our Lord chose this locality. The wilderness forms an antithesis to publicity, the παρρησία . It isolated the place, and excluded it from human intercourse: it afforded also a refuge from approaching persecution, and gave opportunity for seeking yet deeper seclusion. We have, in Matthew 24:26, an echo of this sojourn of our Lord (comp. on the διέριβε , John 3:32) near and in the wilderness. At an earlier period also Jesus had occasionally repaired to the wilderness, Luke 5:16. His retreat at the present time was the beginning of the end, a prelude to the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 32:20: “And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be;” and of Hosea 5:6: “They shall go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them.” The article in ἡ? ἔ?ρημος stands generically (comp. Acts 21:38); it does not denote a particular wilderness, but the wilderness in opposition to other localities. The wilderness is meant which, according to Joshua 16:1, “goeth up from Jericho throughout Mount Bethel,” the hill-range in the neighbourhood of Bethel. “This desert,” observes Keil, “is no other than that which, in ch. John 18:12, is called the wilderness of Bethaven, since Bethaven lay east of Bethel.” In Joshua 8:15; Joshua 8:24, reference is made to the same desert. Epiphanius mentions a man who accompanied him in the wilderness of Bethel of Ephraim, when he went up from Jericho to the hill country (συνοδεύσαντός μοι ἐ?ν τῇ? ἐ?ρήμῳ? τῆ?ς Βαιθὴ?λ καὶ? Εφραῒ?μ ). This was indeed the same way which Jesus took when He returned from Ephraim to Jerusalem. John goes on in what follows to describe the impression which was produced by the circumstance that our Lord retreated from publicity into seclusion.
Vers. 54-57. Jesus, who would die at the Passover as the paschal lamb, repairs, on account of the persecution which threatened Him, to Ephraim.
Ver. 55. “And the Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand; and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.”
We learn from Acts 21:24; Acts 21:26, that this cleansing consisted primarily in external ceremonies; but more reflecting souls regarded these as only the symbol of the sanctification of hearts, James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3. The law contains no specific injunction with regard to this purification before the Passover. But the propriety of such a preparation, for the highest and holiest of the feasts, was obvious in the nature of things; and it was, moreover, sanctioned by a series of historical types, which taught the doctrine, that every approach to God, and every reception of His grace, must be preceded by a worthy preparation. In Genesis 35:2, Jacob says to his people, when he would go with them to Bethel to celebrate Divine service, “Be clean, and change your garments.” In Exodus 19:10-11, we read: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people and sanctify them (Sept. καὶ? ἅ?γνισον αὐ?τούς ) to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai.” In Joshua 3:5, Joshua says to the people, “Sanctify yourselves (Sept. ἁ?γνίσασθε ), for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” That the doctrine lying at the basis of all these passages was applied also to the Passover, we learn from 2 Chronicles 30:16-20. There we read of an exception in favour of those whose circumstances would not allow them to be cleansed and prepared for coming to the Passover. “If the Jews,” says Lyser, “during several days prepared themselves for eating the shadowy and transitory Passover, with what earnest prayer and careful examination should Christians approach the mysterious table on which the true Passover of the New Testament is exhibited!” comp. 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Ver. 56. “Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple. What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?”
These questions start from the fact of the seclusion of Christ. According to their tenor, “the mixed multitude, who in religious matters are full of variations and uncertainty,” doubt whether Jesus will or will not come to the feast: that He will not come, seems the more probable supposition. “Wait only a while, ye good people,” says Lyser, “and ye will see with what publicity and stately dignity He will enter your city.” In John’s record of the impression which the seclusion of Jesus made upon the people, there is evident a certain gentle irony. It was somewhat as if they had been dubious whether the sun, for the moment hidden behind the clouds, would ever come forth again. We have two questions before us: What think ye about his concealment? Do ye think that he will not come to the feast? (comp. Winer.) If we assume only one question, and explain it, “What can be the cause that he does not come to the feast?” we disturb the connection with ver. 54, and overlook the chronological relations. It was still a long time to the feast, and Jesus might yet come. Nothing is in harmony with this but the question whether the Lord would come at all.
Ver. 57. “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where He were, he should show it, that they might take Him.”
The “also” is not to be overlooked. In the preceding we saw the impression which the concealment of Jesus made on the multitude. Here we have the measures which the spiritual authorities were thereby induced to adopt. Not merely the people, but their religious rulers also, deduced from the transitory seclusion of Jesus the inference that He desired to withdraw altogether from publicity; and they therefore proceeded against Him in the full confidence that their measures, even if they failed of any tangible result, would at least stamp Jesus as an impostor shunning the light. How must they have been confounded when our Lord suddenly appeared among them free and unrestrained!
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 11". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent