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Bible Commentaries
John 11

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Bethany was a small town a short distance from Jerusalem. Though small, it was a noted place because of the frequent visits Jesus made to it, and because of the famous sisters who lived there. The importance of Lazarus was due to the relation he had with these sisters, and that importance was increased by the miracle performed upon him described in this chapter.

Verse 2

2 There were several Marys in those times, and John wanted his readers to know which one he was writing about, so he specified by referring to her deed of wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair. That event had not occurred at the time of Lazarus' sickness, but it had been done at the time John wrote his record. He knew it would be read, and mentioned the incident as a mark of identification. Note that John did not merely say "it was that woman which anointed the Lord," etc., for that deed was performed by another woman a!so (Luk 7:36-50), and the cases were different in some respects. The other woman was classed as a "sinner" which did not apply to Mary. That woman washed the feet of Jesus with tears (of penitential sorrow), while Mary only anointed his feet before wiping them with her hair. Hence the writer says it was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, etc.

Verse 3

3 He whom thou lovest. We are taught that Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners, and that he loved everybody. That is true, of course, but Jesus was human as well as divine, and he could have his per sonal favorites as well as other human beings could have. There is nothing wrong in such affection as long as one does not allow that sentiment to influence him in the wrong direction, which we know it did not do with Jesus. But the word love is so much used in the New Testament, and has so many applications because of the definitions of the original Greek, that I insist the reader see the long critical note given at Mat 5:43.

Verse 4

4 Not unto death means the death of Lazarus was not to be permanent. Jesus knew he was going to die, but that he would be restored to life after a few days. The purpose of the event was that the Son of God might have an opportunity to be glorified by performing the miracle upon Lazarus.

Verse 5

5 This is commented upon at verse 3.

Verse 6

6 When he had heard has virtually the same meaning as "when the Lord knew" in Joh 4:1; see the comments at that place. At the time the news was sent to Jesus, Lazarus was still living but nearing death. In order to have an unquestionable proof of His power, he remained two days longer where he was (verse 6), which place is named in chapter 10:40.

Verse 7

7 Going into Judea did not necessarily mean going to Bethany. When Jesus proposed going into that general territory, the disciples did not know that the conditions with Lazarus had anything to do with it.

Verse 8

8 This intended stoning of Jesus is recorded in chapter 8:59 and 10:31. Having escaped the wrath of the Jews, the disciples wondered why Jesus would expose himself again and thus give them another opportunity to carry out their evil intentions.

Verse 9

9 Jesus used the hours of literal daylight to illustrate the idea of acting according to the light of truth and right doing. It was necessary for him to go even into Judea, in order to perform the righteous deed of raising Lazarus in the presence of witnesses. That being a proper act, it would be like a man working while he had the light of day so that he could see what he was doing. It would follow, then, that the Father would see after the safety of his Son.

Verse 10

0 This verse is to be understood in the light of the comments on the preceding one. That is, the night is just the opposite of the day in that passage.

Verse 11

1 Having given the disciples the preliminaries of the great subject, Jesus named that subject in a manner that will need further information.

Verse 12

2 All the disciples knew about Lazarus' condition so far was that he was sick, and they thought that since "sleep is the best medicine," it would be well not to disturb him. They did not realize the uses of figurative and literal language, which the Bible as well as other compositions uses. The reader may see a full explanation of these forms of speech in the comments at Mat 9:24.

Verse 13

3 The literal fact about Lazarus was that he was dead. The figurative appearance was that of sleep, and that is what the disciples had in mind.

Verse 14

4 Plainly is the same as saying that Jesus spoke literally.

Verse 15

5 This verse explains why Jesus tarried the two days in verse 6.

Verse 16

6 Thomas was one of the apostles, and is the one who is popularly referred to as "doubting Thomas," on account of the incident in Joh 20:24-29. He was called Didymus as a surname, but the word in the Greek means "a twin." Why the title was applied to him as part of his name is not very clearly stated in the reference works I have seen. Die with him was said according to verse 8. He was so certain that Jesus would be slain as soon as he reached Judea, that he proposed to the other apostles that they share in his fate.

Verse 17

7 This verse with verse 39 indicates that people were buried the same day of death. When Martha suggested that the body of Lazarus was decaying, she based it on the fact that it had been dead four days. That cause for the decay would have been the same whether the body had been put into the cave or retained in the home.

Verse 18

8 This verse gives us about two miles for distance from Bethany to Jerusalem.

Verse 19

9 Jerusalem being so near to Bethany explains how many of the Jews could come to the home to show their sympathy for the sisters.

Verse 20

0 No specific reason is given why Martha only went to meet Jesus. It was not for any lack of interest or confidence in Jesus on the part of Mary, for each of them expressed the same belief in his ability to prevent death. However, from the account in Luk 10:38-42, it seems that Martha was the head of the house and generally more forward in social and personal demonstrations.

Verse 21

1 Martha presumed that Jesus would have prevented the death of her brother had he been there. Whether he would have seen lit to prevent it is another matter, for he would have been able to prevent it though absent. He prevented the death of the nobleman's son though absent (chapter 4:46-53). But the remark of Martha showed her faith in Jesus, and the feeling of friendship on which she based it.

Verse 22

2 Her faith was not put to any strain even by the death of her brother. Yet she recognized the cooperation that existed between Jesus and his Father, and based her expectation on their joint wills.

Verse 23

3 This statement was so indefinite that it did not satisfy the sorrowing sister. But Jesus took that plan of introducing the subject.

Verse 24

4 Martha thought Jesus had reference to the general resurrection at the last day. She spoke of that as if she had previously been informed of its truth and had fully believed it. Doubtless it was often the subject of conversation between Jesus and these dear personal friends as he was passing the time in their humble home.

Verse 25

6 It would be difficult to do justice to these verses without including them in one paragraph. In thought or subject matter they correspond with Rev 20:5-6. In the forepart of the chapter we are studying, Jesus spoke of the physical death of Lazarus in both figurative and literal language. In this paragraph the language is partially figurative, but Jesus is speaking of spiritual death and life. I am the resurrection means that Jesus is the giver of life. It is true of him in two senses; in him all mankind will be brought to life physically at the last day whether good or bad (chapter 5:28, 29; 1Co 15:22). But the spiritual death is that of men in sin, referred to by the words though he be dead. Such a person will be brought to spiritual life, saved from his past sins, if he will believe on Christ. After he has thus been made alive through belief in Christ (which includes primary obedience to the commands of the Gospel), he becomes one of the persons designated by the word liveth. But he must be faithful to the rest of the commands and so continue to show that he believeth, by a faithful life as a Christian. Such a person has the assurance that he shall never die. This death means the second one, when those who are not faithful to the end of life will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels, which is the second death (Rev 20:14).

Verse 27

7 In answer to the question of Jesus, Martha made the good confession of the divinity of him as the Son of God. She coupled her confession of faith with the fact that it had been predicted of him as the one to come into the world.

Verse 28

8 We did not hear when Jesus made the request for Mary to come, but the statement of Martha gives us that information.

Verse 29

9 How sweet it was for Mary to go quickly to Jesus.

Verse 30

0 Jesus was not far from the town, but tarried until Martha could return with her sister.

Verse 31

1 Verse 28 says Martha called her sister "secretly," which explains why the others in the house did not know why she left the room. Goeth to the grave to weep there. While that was not the reason Mary left, yet the remark shows it was a practice in those times to manifest sorrow for a departed loved one in such a manner. It is natural and right for us to sorrow for our dead friends, but it is worse when we have to sorrow as those without hope. In the case of the sisters of Lazarus it was the sorrow that was lightened by their hope for the resurrection of the just.

Verse 32

2 Mary expressed the same faith in the power of Jesus to control disease as did Martha. See the comments on the subject at verse 21.

Verse 33

3 Groaned is from EMBRI-MAOMAI, and Thayer defines it, "To be very angry, to be moved with indignation." Weeping is from KLAIO, and Thayer's definition is, "To mourn, weep, lament." It has the idea of outward and audible demonstrations. We should note that Jesus not only saw Mary weeping, but also the Jews that were with her. Mary's actions were genuine and prompted by true sorrow for her dead. The Jews were merely going through it as the usual formality of mourning for the dead. Jesus knew the hearts of all of them and could see the coldness therein, notwithstanding their outward show of sympathy. It was this fact that moved him to indignation. Yet he restrained himself from expressing his feelings, but groaned in the spirit.

Verse 34

4 Jesus never had to ask a question for information, but he wished to show a sympathetic interest in the case, and asked where they had laid him. Have you ever visited a home where death has entered? You asked to see the form of their dear dead and were told to "come this way." The look of utter dejection on the faces of the relatives as they said this, then started toward the silent chamber where lay the loved one, could not be described in words.

Verse 35

5 Such a look as the preceding verse describes was doubtless on the faces of these sisters as they led Jesus to the tomb of their brother. There could be no question as to the sincerity of that look or of the tone of voice when they bade the Lord to "come and see." Jesus wept. The second word is different from the one in verse 33. It is from DAKRTJO, which Thayer defines, "To weep, shed tears." This is the only place in the Greek New Testament where this word is used. It does not indicate any audible expressions. Jesus had restrained himself from such demonstrations, even when he saw Mary convulsed in sor-sow, because he wanted to ignore the hypocritical performances of the Jews. But the sight of these sorrowing sisters, and the pathos in their sweetly-sad voices, was so overyhelming that he burst into tears that were so generous that they could be seen.

Verse 36

6 The Jews missed the point as to why Jesus wept. It is true he loved Lazarus, and that feeling blended with his sympathy for the sisters. Yet he had as much love for him at the time of his death, although he was many miles away; but there is no indication that he wept then. This flow of tears was caused by his sympathy for the sisters. (See the comments on Verses 33-35.)

Verse 37

7 The Lord did not see fit to prevent the death of Lazarus, and the people implied that it was because he could not do so.

Verse 38

8 Jesus therefore. Because of these cruel words of the people, it caused Jesus to have a renewal of the feelings described in verse 33. Mof-fatt's rendering of this place is, "This made Jesus chafe afresh." By this time he had reached the grave or tomb, and found it closed by a stone.

Verse 39

9 Jesus told them to take the stone away. "The Lord helps those who help themselves," is an old and true saying. The people could not restore Lazarus to life, but they could remove the stone. The statement of Martha about the condition of Lazarus' body was a mild protest against opening the tomb. We are not given any explanation of this, in the light of her great faith as expressed in verse 22. She could not have doubted the ability of Jesus to raise him even out of his state of decay, when she had already affirmed belief in his ability to resurrect him out of death at the last day (verse 24), at which time the entire body will have returned to dust. Her statement was a suggestion that Jesus restore her brother to life before removing the stone, to save those present from the offensiveness clue to decomposition of the body.

Verse 40

0 Sometimes people will propose faith in the Lord's power to do the greater things, and then manifest doubt concerning the lesser ones. For instance, they will ascribe to Him the power necessary to create the universe with its millions of items, then question his ability to cleanse a man's soul by washing his body in water. Not that one miracle really is greater than another, only it might appear to be so. Martha professed to believe that Jesus could raise the body of Lazarus out of the grave long after it had been absorbed by the elements of the earth, but manifested doubt about his ability to care for the sense of smell over a decaying body after but four days since death.

Verse 41

1 In obedience to the instruction of Jesus, they removed the stone from the grave or cave that was being used for burial. Before proceeding with the act of resurrecting the dead, Jesus first went to God in prayer, thereby setting a good example for others who claim to be children of God. This also was to demonstrate to the ones present that He was accomplishing his great works in cooperation with his Father. If the prayer is answered, it will show also that God is recognizing that cooperation. It was appropriate to express gratitude for the past support his Father had given him.

Verse 42

2 Jesus never had any doubts of his Father's assistance, but the people might have had some questioning in their minds about it. This thought is suggested by verse 37, where they intimated that Jesus had been unable to prevent the death of Lazarus. Now if these same people hear him appeal to his Father, and then see the favorable response to that appeal, they will know they were wrong in their accusation as to his failure to intervene and prevent Lazarus from dying.

Verse 43

3 Loud is from MEGAS, and in the King James Version it has been translated by "loud" 33 times, and by "great" 145 times. It means here that the voice was not only of great volume as to degree of tone, but was one that indicated authority.

Verse 44

4 Even after reviving *Lazarus from death, it required miraculous power to enable him to come out of the tomb, for he had been bound hand and foot. That is why Jesus instructed them to loose him., and let him go.

Verse 45

5 This miracle caused many of the Jews to believe on Jesus. That was one of the purposes for which the deed was done. (See chapter 20:30,31.)

Verse 46

6 While many of the Jews believed, some of them did not. And of that class, some went to the Pharisees in the spirit of talebearers and reported the event of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Verse 47

7 This council was the Sanhedrin, the highest court the Jews were allowed to have in the time of Christ. Upon the report brought to the Pharisees from the tomb of Lazarus, they became alarmed and called a special session of the council. For detailed information about the Sanhedrin, see the note with comments on Mat 26:3.

Verse 48

8 The Jews finally lost their place (Palestine, with Jerusalem as the capital) and nation as a governmental unit. But it was because they persecuted Jesus, and not because they allowed him to teach the people. (See Mat 23:38-39; Mat 27:25.) The first reference in the parentheses is a prediction of the desolation of Jerusalem, and the second is the rash proposition of the Jews for that very thing to happen, although they did not realize what their mad statement would mean to their people.

Verse 49

9 Ye know nothing at all means the same as if Caiaphas had said: "You have not gone far enough in your suggestion." The speakers in the Sanhedrin had suggested only that something should be done to stop the miraculous works of Jesus.

Verse 50

0 The proposition the high priest had to offer was the very thing that God intended should come to pass. However, the motive Caiaphas had was only that it would be a short and sure way of stopping the work of Jesus. But God used the mouth of the high priest to deliver this weighty speech to the Sanhedrin.

Verse 51

1 Such a use of the high priest as stated in the preceding verse was nothing new. (See Lev 10:11; Deu 17:9; Mal 2:7.) As time went on after the writings of Moses were completed, it was necessary occasionally to give the people further revelation of truth. That was done through the words of prophets or the lips of the priests as the passages cited show. That is why it says he spake this not of himself, which means it was not something that originated with him. The Holy Ghost (Spirit) was guiding him in this lofty speech, just as it had done to the prophets in Old Testament times. (See 2Pe 1:20-21.)

Verse 52

2 No mere human being, especially a wicked man like Caiaphas, would or could make such a grand statement as this verse. Not for that nation only denotes that Jesus was to be the sacrifice for all nations of the world. The children of God is spoken prospectively, just as Jesus spoke of his "other sheep" in chapter 10:16, referring to the Gentiles who would accept the Gospel when it was offered to them.

Verse 53

3 The Jews accepted the proposition made by the priest, and began at once to plot the death of Jesus. In so doing they would not only gratify their wicked personal designs upon the Lamb of God, but would unconsciously carry out the great work of Jehovah in "providing for himself a. Lamb" for the atonement of the human race.

Verse 54

4 Jesus knew the Jews were plotting to kill him, but his time for death had not yet come, hence he maintained some privacy in his walk. He went to a city called Ephraim that was near the wilderness, and thus evaded the evil schemes of his enemies.

Verse 55

5 Nigh at hand is a comparative phrase, for the first verse of the next chapter shows that it was at least six days before. To purify themselves. The law of Moses required all persons to be both physically and ceremonially clean before participating in the passover. (See Lev 22:1-6).

Verse 56

6 When these Jews gathered in the temple in the days before the feast, they became curious as to whether Jesus would come to it. He had disappeared sometime previously and gone into the region of the wilderness. This fact led some to intimate that he would be afraid to attend the passover.

Verse 57

7 This was like an official advertisement for the whereabouts of some wanted criminal. The Jews did not realize that whenever his "time had come," Jesus would be at hand and not make any effort to escape from them. The truth of this statement is clearly shown in chapter 18:4-11. Jesus fully intended to let his presence be known as soon as it was the proper time. In the meantime he associated with his disciples and personal friends, making his last visit in the town of Bethany near Jerusalem, as the next chapter shows.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on John 11". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/john-11.html. 1952.
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