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Bible Commentaries
John 11

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-57

John 11:2 . It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment. The allusion to this anointing is obscure. It could not be to the similar occurrence in Luke 7:0., for that was a woman of the city; and Mary Magdalene is distinguished from this Mary by two of the evangelists. Luke 10:39; Luke 24:10. John 20:1. See the note also on Matthew 26:7.

John 11:9 . Are there not twelve hours in the day? Then, though the jews sought to stone the Saviour, he assigns a reason why we should go on in the path of duty, and walk in the light of day. Being under the guardian care of heaven, and of the holy angels, we must not be idle while the enemy is on the alert.

John 11:14 . Lazarus is dead. A little before he had said, that he slept. He would not shock the feelings of the disciples by an abrupt disclosure of the exit of a man so dear to them. I am glad for your sakes, as a nation, that I was not there; but I go that I may awake him, that the nation may believe.

John 11:18 . Bethany was about fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, nearly two miles.

John 11:21 . Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Martha’s faith was perfect, as regards his miraculous powers, and as to the prevalence of his intercession, but she had no distinct idea of his omnipresence. In this view the Roman centurion eclipsed the Hebrews. Divine knowledge gradually opens on the mind.

John 11:25 . I am the resurrection and the life. Here a radiance of the Godhead was allowed to shine out; for in the dark gloomy shadow of death, our faith needs divine support. Christ is the life eternal that came down from heaven, the very life of the soul, even as the soul is the life of the body. We cannot support the loss of friends, nor joyfully resign our breath, without the hopes and assurances of a world to come. Martha, on hearing this, made a full confession of faith, that he was the Christ, the Son of God.

John 11:28 . The Master is come, and calleth for thee. These were sweet words in Mary’s ears, whose help and hope were in the Lord. Yea, he calls to every follower, My son, give me thy heart. Mary knew her place of refuge.

John 11:31 . The jews which were with her in the house followed her. Chiefly ladies of rank known to the council of elders, but still unbelievers in Christ.

John 11:33 . Jesus groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. Yea, he wept, shedding tears, as well as breathing short but audible prayers, as appears from the words which follow. “For their sakes I said it, that they might believe that thou hast sent me,” the Messiah, to seek and to save a ruined nation. He wept with those that wept, but he groaned beneath the obduracy and unbelief of the nation, which was more than all the other miseries of man. But how are those prayers and tears to be understood? Undoubtedly, as all the prayers, the tears, the exhortations, and entreaties of all the holy prophets; they were, that the nation might believe that God had sent his Christ into the world for their salvation. It is not possible here to admit CALVIN’S comment, that, being moved with compassion, he wept when he saw Mary and the others weeping! Oh no, the Lord had higher views; the resurrection of Lazarus was a miracle of crisis to the Hebrew nation. The stone being taken away, a cloud of angels gathered round the trembling earth, while Jesus cried in the Spirit, Lazarus, come forth.

John 11:51 . Being highpriest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. God gave the Spirit to Saul after his consecration; and Chrysostom says here of Caiaphas, that Satan held his heart, while God moved his tongue. The leading persons in this council must have known, at least obscurely, that Jesus was the Messiah. They knew his declarations, that he had called God his Father, that he had asserted his preĆ«xistence, and divine descent. Our Saviour admits that they knew him, by the parable of the husbandmen, who had said, “This is the heir, come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” After the council had thus agreed to kill the Saviour, as well as in several of their former sittings, God gave them up to judicial blindness. In righteous judgment he blinded their minds, and shut their ears: otherwise they had not assented to the assertions of Caiaphas, Better that one die for the people, than that the whole nation perish. Thus they crucified the Lord of glory; and in a few years, rebelling against the Romans, as against the Saviour, the Romans really did come to burn their city and temple, and denationalized them for future ages.


The amiable family at Bethany has its praise in all the churches in all ages. It was what we should now call a genteel family, as may be gathered from the costly jar of ointment, the purchase of Mary in her days of pride; from the sepulchre excavated out of the rock; from their entertaining Christ and the whole apostolate, and from their supping with Simon, a nobleman, to whom they are said to have been related. This whole family was converted in the early part of our Saviour’s ministry; and the fruit of its conversion was abundance of peace, and mutual love. This family confessed Jesus openly, and was set for a sign to all the families in Judea.

They who are highly favoured of Christ are generally greatly tried. Honour requires the ballast of humility. Lazarus, the prop of his house; Lazarus, on whose life the prosperity of our Saviour’s cause seemed so much to depend; yea, Lazarus, the favourite of Jesus, suddenly sickened and died. Providence is often surrounded with clouds; but in the darkest day let confidence compose the mind, and let us patiently wait till the Lord shall clear up the severest counsel of his love. Grace does not exempt us from the cross, but enables us to bear it.

The two sisters in their trouble sent to Jesus. A time of sickness should be a time of recollection and prayer; and it is good to send for ministers that they may assist our faith and devotion. We then need the support of faith, and we want others to help us in the Lord.

When Jesus heard of Lazarus’s sickness, he abode yet two days in the place where he was. To human passions he often seems slow to help and save his afflicted people, but he knows how to time his visits, and turn adversity to advantage. Had he come immediately, the jews would have said that Lazarus was not dead. But staying till he was dead four days, and actually buried, and buried by the carnal relatives and friends of the family, who did not believe in Jesus, the unbelief of the nation had no excuse. How good, how indulgent and wise was Jesus to avail himself of Lazarus’s death, a man so well known and so much esteemed, to save the nation from obduracy of heart.

We may farther remark, that Lazarus lying in his grave, is a striking figure of the sinner lying in the wicked one, dead in trespasses and sins. He has lost the life and glory in which he was created; he is covered with darkness, and has lost both the will and the power to rise. So man by nature is dead to God, and dead in a legal view. Yet we must own that the term is figurative, and that the grace of the new- covenant light, through the gospel and good desires, is imparted to men. On that account, we call upon the dry bones to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to rise.

Before a sinner can be raised, his grave must be opened. Take away the stone, said Jesus. Yes, the heart must be searched, and the conscience sounded. The celestial day must shine into the deep recesses of the sinner’s breast. There can be no hope of restoring the soul to the life of regeneration, till the thoughts of the heart are made manifest by Jesus Christ. But why is Martha so reluctant to have the stone removed? What self-love, what pride, what fond desire is there buried in that heart, and covered with a smiling countenance, which we blush to have exposed? The stone must be removed.

Prayers and tears must presede the glorious work. Jesus wept, and Jesus prayed. So he still weeps over sinners hardened like the jews, as illustrated in the nineteenth of St. Luke. So he still prays for their sakes that they may believe. While Jesus intersedes for sinners there is abundance of hope; and this very much shows the temper and deep concern which ministers should have for immortal souls. We do not sufficiently lay the sad case of sinners to heart. Did we weep and pray more, Christ would honour us with more success.

The quickening and resurrection of a sinner requires the powerful voice of the Son of God. Jesus spake, and Lazarus opened his eyes Lazarus raised his head Lazarus came forth, and with all his grave clothes about him. What a proof of our Saviour’s Godhead! He is Lord both of the living and of the dead. Poor trembling soul, fettered with the chains of sin, the Lord is ready to do the same for thee. Only believe, and thou shalt see the glory of God.

The quickening of one sinner is often the means of quickening more. Then many of the jews, who had come to comfort Mary, believed on Jesus. What a day of glory for Bethany. What proofs of immortality did they now receive. What a profusion of grace was now shed on an unworthy nation.

If extraordinary displays of grace do not procure our conversion, they most assuredly procure for us the deeper damnation. The rulers, on hearing of this miracle, so fully substantiated, took fresh counsel against Jesus to put him to death, and on the ground of policy. If we let him alone, said they, the Romans, construing his congregations into so many seditious banditti, will come and take away our holy temple, and destroy our national existence. Better one die, than all perish. We had better have the Romans for our friends, than the hosts of a righteous God. What policy! Truly now their eyes were shut, and their understanding blinded. Instead of believing, and rising at once to the glory of the Messiah’s kingdom, they imbrued their hands in the blood of the Holy and Just One. And their crimes commissioned the Romans to come and realize all their fears. So Moses has said, even as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure. Psalms 90:11.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/john-11.html. 1835.
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