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Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
John 11:24

Martha *said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Condolence;   Friendship;   Jesus, the Christ;   Miracles;   Readings, Select;   Resurrection;   Sorrow;   Thompson Chain Reference - Day;   Dead, the;   Last Day, the;   Martha;   Miracles;   Mortality-Immortality;   Resurrection;   Young People;   Young Women, Godly;   Youthful Piety;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Miracles of Christ, the;   Resurrection, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Bethany;   Day;   Lazarus;   Martha;   Mary;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - John, gospel of;   Lazarus;   Miracles;   Women;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Paradise;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Council;   Lazarus;   Martha;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Lazarus;   Mary, Sister of Lazarus;   Holman Bible Dictionary - John, the Gospel of;   Life;   Martha;   Resurrection;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Bethany;   John, Theology of;   Lazarus;   Martha;   Mary;   Resurrection;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Day;   Day of Judgment;   Dominion (2);   Eschatology (2);   Immanence ;   Immortality (2);   Israel, Israelite;   Martha ;   Mary;   Redemption (2);   Resurrection of the Dead;   Time;   Woman (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Day;   Lazarus ;   Mary, Sister of Lazarus and Martha;   New Testament;   Resurrection;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Bethany;   Miracle;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Bethany;   Judgment the day of;   Lazarus;   Martha;   Smith Bible Dictionary - John, Gospel of;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Resurrection;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Day, Last;   Dial of Ahaz, the;   Immortal;   Martha;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for November 19;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 24. I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection — The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was then commonly received; and though it was our Lord who fully exemplified it by his own resurrection, yet the opinion was common, not only among God's people, but among all those who believed in the God of Israel. The Jewish writings after the captivity are full of this doctrine. See 2 Macc. 7:9, 14, 23, 36; 12:43; 14:46; Wisd. 5:1, 7, 17; 6:6, 7. See also Josephus and the Targums, passim.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 11:24". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​john-11.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


BACK TO JUDEA

116. Resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-44)

While Jesus was still in the region between the Jordan and Jerusalem, he heard that his friend Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was seriously ill. Jesus did not hurry to Bethany, because he knew that Lazarus was already dead. By raising him to life, Jesus would give unmistakable evidence of his unity with the Father (John 11:1-6).

After waiting two days, Jesus decided to set out for Bethany. The disciples tried to stop him, fearing that the Jews of that area would try to kill him. Jesus assured them that the time for his death had not yet come. He would travel safely as a person walking in broad daylight. Because he walked in God’s light, he would be unharmed by the evil powers of darkness (John 11:7-10). His raising of Lazarus would show his power over death and so strengthen the disciples’ faith. Such words of assurance gave the disciples courage to go with him in spite of the dangers (John 11:11-16).

A distressed Martha met Jesus along the way. She believed that although, humanly speaking, it was too late to do anything for her dead brother, Jesus may yet be able to call upon his Father’s power and bring Lazarus back to life (John 11:17-22).

It was small comfort to Martha to know that Lazarus would be raised to life at the resurrection of the just. Jesus enlightened her by saying that he is the resurrection and the life. Here and now, in this life, those who are spiritually dead because of sin may have eternal life through him. They will go on living and enjoying this life even though their physical bodies may die (John 11:23-26). Martha fully believed all that Jesus was saying, and added her confident confession that he was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (John 11:27). She then hurried home and brought Mary to meet him (John 11:28-32).

Jesus’ statement about eternal life (v. 26) did not mean that physical death was of no concern to him. He saw it as an enemy that had to be destroyed, for it was a weapon of Satan, who had the power of death (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 2:14-15). When he saw how Satan used this weapon to fill his beloved friends with grief, he was filled with sorrow and anger (John 11:33-37).

Determined to win a victory over Satan, Jesus went to the tomb. Before raising Lazarus to life, he thanked God publicly (so that those standing by could hear) for always hearing his prayers. The Father and the Son were united in power and purpose (John 11:38-42). Jesus then called out in a loud voice (again for the benefit of those standing by) and Lazarus miraculously was raised to life (John 11:43-44).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​john-11.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Martha said unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

Although, in context, a limitation of the power of Jesus, this statement of Martha is one of tremendous hope and consolation. The intimacy of that family with the Lord gives great weight to her confidence of the resurrection at the last day. She associated the resurrection with the "last day," as conspicuously taught by Jesus; and in this instance of Martha’s knowledge, it certainly exceeds that of exegetes who deny that John’s Gospel has any teachings of the "last" things.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​john-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

At the last day - The day of judgment. Of this Martha was fully convinced; but this was not all which she desired. She in this manner delicately hinted what she did not presume expressly to declare her wish that Jesus might even now raise him up.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​john-11.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

24.I know that he shall rise again. We now see Martha’s excessive timidity in extenuating the meaning of Christ’s words. We have said that she went farther than she had a right to do, when she fabricated a hope for herself out of the feelings of her own mind. She now falls into an opposite fault; for when Christ stretches forth his hand, she stops short, as if she were alarmed. We ought, therefore to guard against both of these extremes. On the one hand, we must not, without the authority of God’s word, drink in empty hopes, which will prove to be nothing but wind; and, on the other hand, when God opens his mouth, it is not proper that he should find our hearts either blocked up, or too firmly closed. Again, by this reply, Martha intended to ascertain more than she ventured to expect from the words of Christ, as if she had said: “If you mean the last resurrection, I have no doubt that my brother will be raised again at the last day, and I comfort myself with this confident expectation, but I do not know if you direct my attention to something greater.”

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​john-11.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

The gospel according to John, chapter 11.

Now we remember that John is carefully picking out certain incidents in the life of Jesus by which he might prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, bringing people to a faith in Him, as such, that through that faith they might have the life of Christ imparted to them. And he testifies there were many other things that Jesus did which he did not record, but these he recorded that you might believe. And so John is writing from a slant, trying to encourage faith. At the end of the epistle, he again declared that if all of the things were written that should be written, all of the libraries could not hold the books that should be written on the subject of Jesus Christ. So, he is carefully choosing certain events, and he has been pointing out different types of miracles that Jesus did. And in our last study, we studied the miracle of the man who was born blind. And the proof that it offered, that no man can open the eyes of the blind, except he is from God.

Now, he comes to one of the most powerful proofs of the deity of Jesus Christ and of His Messiahship, as we come to the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

There was a certain man who was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany ( John 11:1 ),

Bethany is just a little village just over the top of the Mount of Olives on the eastern slope toward the Judean wilderness away from Jerusalem. It's just adjacent there to Jerusalem. And it is called here, interestingly enough,

the town of Mary ( John 11:1 )

Which gives us just a little insight into Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Mary was a special kind of a person that, when you think of Bethany, you think of Mary. She is that kind of a sociable person, so friendly, so sociable, that everybody knew her and it was just her town. It was just the town that Mary just sort of had captivated, no doubt, by her friendliness and sociability and all. It was just the town of Mary. You say, "Oh, Bethany? Yeah, that's the town of Mary." She was very devoted to Jesus, was sitting at His feet just drinking in and learning, when Martha, her sister, said, "Lord, make her come and help me. It's not fair." And Jesus said, "She's chosen the better part, Martha. You're always so busy, wanting to make sure everything is set just right, and all, and everything is just so, but Mary has really chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her" ( Luke 10:40-42 ). And, of course, she was the one that anointed the feet of Jesus with the costly perfumes. So the town of Mary--very special. I'm looking forward to meeting Mary. I'm certain that she's just a special kind of a person that you'll just like knowing. Her sister Martha was also a very outstanding person, but of a different temperament than was Mary.

(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) ( John 11:2 )

So, John is identifying for us that it's Mary, because actually, in the New Testament there are probably four Mary's that are involved around the story of Jesus. Of course, his mother, and then Mary Magdalene, and then Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and then there was a Mary who was the wife of Cleopas. There at the cross there were: Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Cleopas. And so, you have at least four Mary's in the New Testament record. And so, John felt it necessary to identify that Mary.

Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick ( John 11:3 ).

It is interesting to me that they did not make any demands that Jesus heal him. All they did was inform Him, "The one you love is sick." And they knew that Jesus would respond, respond to the need because of that relationship they had with Him. And so, they didn't feel it was necessary to tell Him how to respond or to demand the response. Just to declare, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

So, 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 ( John 11:4 ).

Now, there was a purpose. God had allowed this sickness in order that God might demonstrate His power through Jesus Christ in the raising of Lazarus.

Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. And when he heard therefore that he was sick, he abode for two days still in the same place where he was ( John 11:5-6 ).

So John felt it was necessary to point out that Jesus really loved them. It wasn't a lack of concern, but there was a deliberate waiting of Jesus for two days. At this point, Jesus was down at the Jordan River, about twenty miles from Bethany. And in those days, you figured with travelling with a group that you make about ten miles a day. And that was just an average day's journey. So, just about every ten miles along wherever you were going you would come either to a village, or if there were no villages in that span, then they would have the inns, the enclosures where you could stay. And inasmuch as it's pretty barren between Bethany and Jericho, no villages at all, about halfway there is an inn. This is what was quite common in those times. If no villages, then the establishing of an inn, so you make your ten miles. Your goal is to get the ten miles to the end where you go into the courtyard.

And an inn isn't like a hotel or a motel, either one. All it is is a walled-in area with a little house where the innkeeper stays, and there is a well, usually, in the center of the courtyard. But you could just get next to the wall and be sheltered from the wind. It was just a place to spend the night, get water. They provided no food. Just a shelter was all that it was, not even a covered shelter.

And so, being at the Jordan River, He was a two-day journey from Bethany. So they sent the message to Jesus. It took two days for the messenger to get from Bethany to the Jordan River. And after He received the message, He stayed two more days at the Jordan River before He began His two-day journey back to Bethany. So, you have about six days involved here. Or, if the messenger, say, ran all the way in one day, the fact that He stayed an extra two days and then made the two-day journey, you've got between five and six days from the time that the message went out to Jesus and Jesus' arrival at Bethany. But we notice that it was a deliberate delay on the part of Jesus. And during this deliberate delay, Jesus knew exactly what was going on in Bethany. "So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed for two days at the same place there at the Jordan River."

After that he said to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again ( John 11:7 ).

That is, into the area of Jerusalem.

His disciples said unto him, Master, the last time you were there the Jews sought to stone thee ( John 11:8 );

You remember, it was when Jesus was there and they said, "Tell us plainly if You're the Messiah." And Jesus again asserted His relationship with the Father, and they took up stones to stone Him. So they said, "Hey, Lord, the last time you were there, they tried to stone You. What do You want to go back for?" So,

Jesus said, Are there not twelve hours in a day? ( John 11:9 )

That is, twelve hours of light. And He's talking about what we call, well, the daytime, twelve hours of light. So, just the daytime.

If any man walk in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him ( John 11:9-10 ).

So, it's "I've got to do My work while it is yet day" is what He is basically saying.

These things he said: and after that he said unto them, Our friend Lazarus is sleeping; but if I go, I may awake him out of his sleep ( John 11:11 ).

Now, what happens to a child of God is different from what happens to a person who is not a child of God in what we call death. And because there is a vast difference, the Bible did not use the term death to signify the departing of a believer's soul from his body. They just called it sleep. You remember when Jesus went to heal Jarius' daughter, and when He got to the house, the people were all wailing because she had died. And Jesus said, "She's not dead, she's only sleeping." And they laughed Him to scorn, and so He put them out. Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, said, "Now, concerning those that are asleep in Christ; I write to you that you sorrow not as those who have no hope" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ). And so, it was a term that was used, and yet, not an accurate term, because there are those who have taken the idea of sleep then and created a doctrine of soul sleep. Your soul is asleep until the resurrection according to the soul sleep doctrine. But the Bible does not teach that. As we pointed out this morning, the Bible teaches that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. So, in order that we might distinguish, though, the difference between a believer and a non-believer, as far as death is concerned; to the believer the term sleep was often used. And Jesus used it here of Lazarus. He said, "He is sleeping." Now, His disciples did not understand Him, and they thought sleeping like we think of sleeping. So, they said, "Well, if he's sleeping he ought to be getting better."

Jesus was speaking of his death. So Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that ye may believe ( John 11:13-15 );

Now, as John said, these things that he recorded were recorded in order that they might believe. And so Jesus is now again calling upon His works as a witness to His deity. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake" ( John 14:11 ). "The works that I do," He said, "they do testify of Me." Now, "I'm glad for your sakes I wasn't there..." Because had He been there, He would have healed him from his sickness. That would have been a glorious miracle, but He wanted even a more glorious miracle. He waited until Lazarus had died. In fact, He waited until he was buried. And they usually bury the person the same day, because they really didn't practice embalming in Israel to any great extent at all. And they would bury the person the same day that they died. And so, Jesus said, "I'm glad for your sakes that I wasn't there that you might believe when you see this miracle. You might really know and believe who I am."

So, "Nevertheless, let us go unto him." Now Thomas probably didn't understand completely what was going on at this point and felt he had to say something, and usually when you say something not knowing really what to say, you say something stupid. Someone said, "It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think that you're a fool than to open it and dispel all their doubts."

Thomas, which is called Didymus, said unto his fellow disciples, Let us go also, that we may die with him ( John 11:16 ).

Now, he probably...you remember they said, "Lord, why do you want to go back there? The last time you were there they tried to stone you." And he's probably saying, "Lord, it's fool-hardy for you to go back there. They're going to kill you." And so, he's saying, "Well, if He wants to go back, well, let's all go back and die with Him." In other words, "We're heading towards our death," in a sense.

When Jesus came, he found that he had been in the grave for four days already. Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off ( John 11:17-18 ):

A furlong is about an eighth of a mile, so it's just about two miles from Jerusalem over to Bethany.

And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house ( John 11:19-20 ).

Now, Bethany is up near the top of the Mount of Olives on the eastern slope, and you can see from Bethany all the way down to the Dead Sea. And you can see the road coming from Jericho for miles, as it winds on up the hill towards Jerusalem. So, as you're looking out from Bethany, you can see them coming from a long distance. And so, they saw a company of people coming and they realized it must be Jesus and the disciples. And so, Martha left the people that had gathered to mourn and she came out on the path and met Jesus before He ever got to Bethany.

And then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died ( John 11:21 ).

Bitterness in her voice, no doubt, disappointment at least. "Lord, where were you? Why didn't you respond?" It was really sort of a rebuke of Jesus. "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died. Why didn't you come, Lord, when we called you? Don't you realize it's been six days?"

But I know, that even now, whatsoever you will ask of God, God will give it to you ( John 11:22 ).

Now there's a tremendous expression of faith, but I don't think that Martha was anticipating the resurrection of her brother. But yet, here is a very remarkable statement of faith, and maybe a hint, "Lord, you know, maybe--who knows? Whatsoever You ask of the Father, I know He'll give it to You." And it may be that she is suggesting at this point that He raise him from the dead. However, when they came to the tomb and He said, "Roll back the stone," they said, "Oh, he's been there for four days. He smells by now." But it could be that Martha somehow had that kind of faith, "Lord, I know that anything you ask the Father, He will give it to You."

And Jesus said unto her, Your brother is going to rise again. And Martha said unto him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. And Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: and he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And he who lives and believes in me shall never die. Believest thou this? ( John 11:23-26 )

A very radical statement that Jesus would not dare to make unless He were the Son of God. This statement is so radical, no man could dare make this statement without immediately being classified as a lunatic, a madman. For someone to stand before you and say, "I'm the resurrection and the life. If you live and believe in me, you'll never die." The guy's got to be diluted, or he has to be the Son of God. And in this case, He was the Son of God. And then Jesus said, "Believest thou this?"

Jesus always demanded a "yes" or a "no." You could not be neutral. He said, "He who is not for Me is against me. You're not neutral. If you don't have a positive attitude towards Me, then you're against Me." Now, when He said, "Do you believe this?" you can either answer "yes" or "no." "Yes, I believe that; no, I don't believe that." And you can't move to a middle position. There is none. I either believe it or I don't believe it. It's a radical statement that marks Him as the Son of God, or as a raving madman. And you believe it or not. If you believe it, then you have the hope of eternal life; if you don't believe it, you have no hope for eternal life. There is no other hope, there is no other way. And so Jesus challenged Martha on her faith, and she responded,

Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Messiah, the Son of God, which was to come into the world ( John 11:27 ).

Now, because of this statement of Jesus, we realize that He said in the previous chapter concerning, "My sheep hear My voice," verse John 11:27 , "and I know them and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish." Now, you see how inconsistent it would be to say that someone who had eternal life died. It's a total inconsistency of terms. "Oh, he has eternal life. Yes, he died yesterday." No, if you have eternal life, you can't die. And this is the record that God has given unto us life, eternal life. This life is in the Son, and he who has the Son has life. "I'm the resurrection and the life."

So then, what happens to the child of God that we say died? What has happened is that he has his spirit, which is the real me, has moved out of the tent, the temporary abode that God has made for my spirit, into the house, the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. This tent in which I am living is only a temporary measure for me. You never think of a tent as a permanent residence. It's always transient; we're moving on.

It's interesting that in the Holy Land today there are still the Bedouins, a nomadic people who live still in their tents, and they move their tents from place to place. They keep their sheep and their goats and all, and they'll let them sort of work out a pasture area and then they'll fold up their tents--the ladies will, the men don't know how to handle tents--and they will move to another place where the ladies will set the tents up again. They are nomadic people. Now, it is also interesting that the Bedouins are, some of them, beginning to settle in areas, and when they start to settle in an area, when you know that the Bedouins have decided this is where they're going to settle, they move from tents into little shacks that they make. They start to build a houses.

And so, God has a new body for me. It's a body that's designed for the heavenly environment. It is a body that is my eternal abode; it is a body that cannot and will not age. It is a body that cannot know pain or suffering. It is a body that can't be incapacitated by a virus or disease or whatever. It is a body that won't get tired, and won't have a bulge in the middle. The new body, the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Now I am living in this body that is designed for the environment of the earth. God has a new body for me designed for the environmental conditions of heaven. For me to come into the heavenly scenes, I have to have a metamorphosis, the change of a body. And we think of the little caterpillars, which go through a metamorphosis. Their body is designed for the ground. They have all those little legs, and they go crawling through the fields. And as they get to the highways, they crawl across the highways. And you get into some places, there are so many caterpillars and all going across the highway, it's dangerous to drive, it gets slick. And as they are crossing those highways, the black asphalt during the fall of the year, I can imagine the little caterpillar thinking to himself, "Oh, it's rough having all these hot dirty feet, coming out of the field to the highway. Oh, I wish I could fly. This is hot! If I could only fly." But the poor little caterpillar, his body is not designed to fly. It's designed only to crawl on the ground. The aerodynamic design isn't there; it's designed for the environment of just crawling on the ground, not for the environment of flying through the air.

But one day that little caterpillar crawls up the wall of your house, exudes a little glue, sticks himself under your windowsill and spins a chrysalis around himself. And if you take that chrysalis and you pop it, you'll find just juices come shooting out. But, if you let that chrysalis go, after a period of time you'll see the thing begin to wiggle a lit bit. And you want to keep watching it, because it'll begin to wiggle more and more, and then get sort of convulsive kind of jerks. Then that chrysalis will pop open and two beautiful golden black wings will emerge, and the tiger-swallow tail butterfly will sit perched on the chrysalis for just a moment, as the wings just seem to expand and then it starts flying around the yard. Pretty soon it flies over the fence, across the fields, away. No more hot dirty feet. It has had a metamorphosis. It has now a new body, designed for a new environment. It can now exist where it used to not be able to exist. Had the little caterpillar tried to fly, he had had a real problem. If he had climbed up on a tree and out on a twig and jumped and wiggled himself as fast as he can, his body isn't designed for flying. It's only going to plop on the ground. But once it is gone through the metamorphosis, now flight is very natural.

We, too, the Bible says, are to be changed. We, too, will experience a metamorphosis. I look around and I see the world in which we live. I see the corruption. I see the hurt, the pain. I see the child abuse. I see the threat of the holocaust. And I say, "God, I'm so tired of hot dirty feet. I wish I could fly." And one day there's going to be a metamorphosis, for we shall be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. For this corruption must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality. I'm going to get a new body; I'm not going to die. Oh, people may say, "Oh, Chuck Smith died." No, not so. I've just moved into the new body, the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. So, the metamorphosis, I have the new body now designed to exist in a whole new environment. And I dwell now, as David said, in the house of the Lord forever.

So, "He who lives and believes in me," Jesus said, "shall never die. They shall not perish. I have given to them eternal life, eternal LIFE." And it is impossible that one with eternal could die, else it isn't eternal life. All it is is a change for the better, to be sure. From the tent to the house. From the temporary to the permanent. From the restricted to the unrestricted. It'll be fascinating indeed for us to discover what that new life and body will be like with Jesus.

I have a brother who was a great tinker, who went to be with the Lord. I'm anxious to see him, because I'm sure he's got a lot of things figured out that other people haven't yet. He was one who pressed his body to its limits. He had no fears, and he was always pushing his body to its limits. And I'm just anxious to see what he can do in that new body of his. "The building of God not made with hands eternal in the heavens." So, the glorious hope.

"Do you believe this?" Jesus said. Martha said, "Yes, Lord: I believe."

And when she had said this, she went ahead, and she called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master has come, and he's asked for you. So as soon as Mary heard that, she arose quickly, and came to Jesus. Jesus was still at that place outside of the village, where Martha had met him. And the Jews which were with her in the house, who were comforting her, when they saw Mary rise up hastily and going out, they followed her, saying, Oh, she's probably going to weep at the tomb. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hast been here, my brother would not have died ( John 11:28-32 ).

So, He's getting the accusation now from the other sister. You see, Martha said the same thing, "Lord, where were You? Why didn't You respond? If You'd only have been here, things would have been different." And He's getting it again now from Mary.

And when Jesus therefore saw her weeping ( John 11:33 ),

He realized the grief, the pain she had gone through, and He loved her, He loved Martha, and He saw the pain. The pain of human limitations.

Jesus groaned in his own spirit, and was troubled ( John 11:33 ),

It bothered Him to see the pain of humanity.

And he said, Where have you laid him? They said, Come and see. Jesus wept ( John 11:34-35 ).

Now, there are those who suppose that Jesus wept, they say, because His friend Lazarus was dead. That's ridiculous. Why would He weep because Lazarus was dead? He knew that He was going to raise him from the dead in a few minutes. Don't you remember that Jesus said to His disciples down there at the Jordan River, "I must go to wake him out of his sleep"? And He said, "This is happened that the Son of God may be glorified, and I go that I may awake him out of his sleep." And then He said, "He's dead. I'm going to raise him from the dead." So, those commentators who say that Jesus was weeping because His friend was dead haven't really read the whole text. He was weeping when He saw the pain and the sorrow of humanity, when He saw the pain that His friends Mary and Martha were experiencing as a result of death. And He wept for their grief. Jesus is moved by our infirmities; we have such a great High Priest, who is touched by our weaknesses. He sees us in our frailties. He sees us in our griefs. And He's touched by our feelings of grief and sorrow, by our weaknesses. He's just a loving and compassionate Lord, and One who is moved by our own sorrow and grief. And so, He wept for them.

It is interesting that in death, in reality we usually weep not for the person who is gone, but for those that are left. When my father and brother were killed, I didn't weep for them, I wept for me. I lost the greatest supporter any man could ever have when my dad was killed. And I'd just lost a fabulous brother when they were killed together. I experienced a tremendous loss, and I wept for me. A little upset that they were going to get there so far ahead of me and get a head start, envious for them. But I've lost so much loving support, a companion with my brother. We always had a great time together. We purchased boats together, skied together, and did everything together, and we had a great time together; though he was several years younger than me, we just had a neat bond between us. And I knew I was going to miss them, I knew I was going to miss all their input. And I wept for me. It was a selfish weeping. "That dirty guy...he's going on and leaving me here!" I was weeping, though, for me.

Jesus wept not for Lazarus. You don't weep for the dead if they are in the Lord. If they're not in the Lord, then that's a different thing. "Them we sorrow as those who have no hope."

Then said the Jews, Oh, look how he loved him! ( John 11:36 )

They misunderstood completely His weeping too.

And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind ( John 11:37 ),

Referring to the last notable miracle there in Jerusalem,

Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man would not have died? And Jesus again just groaning in himself came to the grave. It was a cave, and there was a stone there upon it. And Jesus said, Take away the stone ( John 11:37-39 ).

Now Martha, you remember, said, "Lord, I know that anything you ask God, He would do." And it was Martha who said,

Oh, Lord, by this time he stinks: he's been dead for four days. Jesus said unto her, Didn't I tell you, that, if you would believe, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me: but because of the people which stand by I'm saying it, that they may believe that you have sent me ( John 11:39-42 ).

"Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me....the works that I do I do not of Myself, but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works. Believe Me, or else believe for the works' sake," Jesus said. Now He's giving another great proof that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father, that He is one with the Father. He's offering now another great proof. "And so, I'm only saying this, Father, not for My sake, but for the sake of the people that are here; that they may believe that You have sent Me."

And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come foRuth ( John 11:43 ).

One commentator said that had He just called "Come forth," the whole graveyard would have been resurrected. So He said, "Lazarus, come forth!"

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound with a napkin. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their way to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done. And so, there gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and they said, What are we going to do? for this man is doing many miracles. And if we let him alone, all of the people will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and our nation ( John 11:44-48 ).

Now, John gives us here a little bit of the insight to the conspiracy to put Jesus to death. It was that these religious leaders were fearing their position. You know, "We won't be the big shots any more. We'll loose our jobs. And we'll loose our position. What are we going to do? We've got to do something. If we don't, our jobs are threatened."

And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, You know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not ( John 11:49-50 ).

Now, John is saying he didn't understand what he was saying fully. He was the high priest, and because of that position, he was now prophesying that one man should die for the nation--a very interesting prophecy. The high priest later offered a prophecy when Jesus was hanging on the cross. He said, "Others He saved, Himself He cannot save." Very true! If He saved himself, He couldn't save others...you can't do both in His position. Had Jesus come down off the cross, He could not save us. So he said, "Others He saved, Himself He cannot save." Very interesting statement, and yet, very true because he was a high priest speaking prophetically. Here now, speaking prophetically as the high priest, "Don't you realize it's necessary that one man die that the whole nation perish not?" Die for the people in order that the whole nation perish not.

And so, John points out that he was not really saying this of himself:

but being the high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation; And not for the nation only, but that also that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took council together to put him to death. Therefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews; but went from there unto the country near to the wilderness, unto a city called Ephraim, and there he stayed with his disciples ( John 11:51-54 ).

So Jesus went back down towards the Jordan River, did not stay around Jerusalem after the raising of Lazarus.

And the Jews' Passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves ( John 11:55 ).

Now, it was necessary to go through the purification rites in order to participate in the Passover. And you would go up to Jerusalem and you'd take a vow before the Lord and you'd go through these purification rites.

You remember when Paul returned to Jerusalem, there was a feast coming that Paul was desiring to get to Jerusalem for this feast. And so, when he arrived, because he wanted to participate in the Jewish feast, he was going through the purification rites. And that's when someone from Asia spotted him and said, "Hey, isn't that the guy that's been preaching to the Gentiles everywhere?" And they raised a big ruckus over Paul when they saw him in the temple going through purification rites. And so, many of the Jews would go early in order that they might go through these purification rites, in order that they might participate then in the feast.

And so,

They sought for Jesus, and they were talking among themselves, as they were standing in the temple, [and they said,] Do you think he's going to come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he was, they should let them know, that they might arrest him ( John 11:56-57 ).

"



Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​john-11.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The seventh sign: raising Lazarus 11:1-44

Jesus had presented Himself as the Water of Life, the Bread of Life, and the Light of Life. Now He revealed Himself as the resurrection and the life. This was the seventh and last of Jesus’ miraculous signs that John recorded, and it was the most powerful revelation of His true identity. [Note: See Edersheim, 2:308.] It shows Jesus’ authority over humankind’s greatest and last enemy: death. Some scholars view Jesus’ resurrection as one of His signs. Others prefer to view it as in a different class from the miracles that Jesus performed while He was living on the earth. I favor the second option.

"The claim of Jesus to be working in complete and conscious union with His Father led the Jews to attempt unsuccessfully to stone Him [John 10:31]. But it was His claim to bestow upon believers the gift of eternal life by raising them from spiritual death which led, according to the Johannine narrative, to His crucifixion [John 11:53]." [Note: Tasker., p. 137.]

"Physical death is the divine object lesson of what sin does in the spiritual realm. As physical death ends life and separates people, so spiritual death is the separation of people from God and the loss of life which is in God (John 1:4). Jesus has come so that people may live full lives (John 10:10)." [Note: Blum, p. 312.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The revelation of the resurrection and the life 11:17-29

The scene now shifts from the region near Bethany of Perea (John 1:28; John 10:40) to the Bethany in Judea. Both towns became sites where people believed on Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Jesus’ response was also typical of Him. His words had an obvious literal meaning, but they were truer than anyone present realized at the moment. Jesus offered Martha comfort based on the Old Testament assurance that God would resurrect believers (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; cf. John 5:28-29). Martha, as the Pharisees, believed this Old Testament revelation, though the Sadducees did not (cf. Acts 23:7-8). The "last day" refers to the end of the present age as the Jews viewed history, namely, just before Messiah would inaugurate the new kingdom age (cf. John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 12:48).

"When we find ourselves confronted by disease, disappointment, delay, and even death, our only encouragement is the Word of God." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:334.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-11.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 11

ON THE ROAD TO GLORY ( John 11:1-5 )

11:1-5 There was a man Lazarus, who came from Bethany from the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived, and he was ill. It was Mary who had anointed the Lord with perfumed ointment, and who had wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus. "Lord," they said, "See! The one you love is ill." When Jesus heard the message, he said: "This illness is not going to prove fatal; rather it has happened for the sake of the glory of God, so that God's Son should be glorified by means of it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

It is one of the most precious things in the world to have a house and a home into which one can go at any time and find rest and understanding and peace and love. That was doubly true for Jesus, for he had no home of his own; he had nowhere to lay his head ( Luke 9:58). In the home at Bethany he had just such a place. There were three people who loved him; and there he could find rest from the tension of life.

The greatest gift any human being can give another is understanding and peace. To have someone to whom we can go at any time knowing that they will not laugh at our dreams or misunderstand our confidences is a most wonderful thing. It is open to us all to make our own homes like that. It does not cost money, and does not need lavish hospitality. It costs only the understanding heart. Sir William Watson, in his poem Wordsworth's Grave, paid a great tribute to Wordsworth:

"What hadst thou that could make so large amends,

For all thou hadst not and thy peers possessed?

Motion and fire, swift means to radiant ends?

Thou hadst for weary feet, the gift of rest."

No man can have a greater gift to offer his fellow men than rest for weary feet; and that is the gift which Jesus found in the house in Bethany, where Martha and Mary and Lazarus lived.

The name Lazarus means God is my help, and is the same name as Eleazar. Lazarus fell ill, and the sisters sent to Jesus a message that it was so. It is lovely to note that the sisters' message included no request to Jesus to come to Bethany. They knew that was unnecessary; they knew that the simple statement that they were in need would bring him to them. Augustine noted this. and said it was sufficient that Jesus should know; for it is not possible that any man should at one and the same time love a friend and desert him. C. F. Andrews tells of two friends who served together in the First World War. One of them was wounded and left lying helpless and in pain in no-man's-land. The other, at peril of his life, crawled out to help his friend; and, when he reached him, the wounded man looked up and said simply: "I knew you would come." The simple fact of human need brings Jesus to our side in the twinkling of an eye.

When Jesus came to Bethany he knew that whatever was wrong with Lazarus he had power to deal with it. But he went on to say that his sickness had happened for God's glory and for his. Now this was true in a double sense--and Jesus knew it. (i) The cure would undoubtedly enable men to see the glory of God in action. (ii) But there was more to it than that. Again and again in the Fourth Gospel Jesus talks of his glory in connection with the Cross. John tells us in John 7:39 that the Spirit had not yet come because Jesus was not yet glorified, that is to say, because he had not yet died upon his Cross. When the Greeks came to him, Jesus said: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" ( John 12:23). And it was of his Cross that he spoke, for he went straight on to speak of the corn of wheat which must fall into the ground and die. In John 12:16 John says that the disciples remembered these things after Jesus had been glorified, that is after he had died and risen again. In the Fourth Gospel it is clear that Jesus regarded the Cross both as his supreme glory and as the way to glory. So when he said that the cure of Lazarus would glorify him, he was showing that he knew perfectly well that to go to Bethany and to cure Lazarus was to take a step which would end in the Cross--as indeed it did.

With open eyes Jesus accepted the Cross to help his friend. He knew the cost of helping and was well prepared to pay it.

When some trial or affliction comes upon us, especially if it is the direct result of fidelity to Jesus Christ, it would make all the difference in the world if we saw that the cross we have to bear is our glory and the way to a greater glory still. For Jesus there was no other way to glory than through the Cross; and so it must ever be with those who follow him.

TIME ENOUGH BUT NOT TOO MUCH ( John 11:6-10 )

11:6-10 Now, when Jesus had received the news that Lazarus was ill, he continued to stay where he was for two days. But after that he said to his disciples: "Let us go to Judaea again." His disciples said to him: "Rabbi, things had got to a stage when the Jews were trying to find a way to stone you, and do you propose to go back there?" Jesus answered: "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walks in the day-time, he does not stumble because he has the light of this world. But if a man walks in the night-time, he does stumble because the light is not in him."

We may find it strange that John shows us Jesus staying two whole days where he was when he received the news about Lazarus. Commentators have advanced different reasons to explain this delay. (i) It has been suggested that Jesus waited so that when he arrived Lazarus would be indisputably dead. (ii) It has therefore been suggested that Jesus waited because the delay would make the miracle he proposed to perform all the more impressive. The wonder of raising to life a man who had been dead for four days would be all the greater. (iii) The real reason why John tells the story in this way is that he always shows us Jesus taking action entirely on his own initiative and not on the persuasion of anyone else. In the story of the turning of the water into wine at Cana of Galilee ( John 2:1-11) John shows us Mary coming to Jesus and telling him of the problem. Jesus' first answer to Mary is: "Don't bother about this. Let me handle it in my own way." He takes action, not because he is persuaded or compelled to do so, but entirely on his own initiative. When John tells the story of Jesus' brothers trying to dare him into going to Jerusalem ( John 7:1-10), he shows us Jesus at first refusing to go to Jerusalem and then going in his own good time. It is always John's aim to show that Jesus did things, not because he was pressed to do them, but because he chose to do them in his own good time. That is what John is doing here. It is a warning to us. So often we would like Jesus to do things in our way; we must leave him to do them in his own way.

When Jesus finally announced that he was going to Judaea, his disciples were shocked and staggered. They remembered that the last time he was there the Jews had tried to find a way to kill him. To go to Judaea at that time seemed to them--as indeed humanly speaking it was--the surest way to commit suicide.

Then Jesus said something which contains a great and permanent truth. "Are there not," he asked, "twelve hours in the day?" There are three great truths implied in that question.

(i) A day cannot finish before it ends. There are twelve hours in the day, and they will be played out no matter what happens. The day's period is fixed, and nothing will shorten or lengthen it. In God's economy of time a man has his day, whether it be short or long.

(ii) If there are twelve hours in the day there is time enough for everything a man should do. There is no need for a rushed haste.

(iii) But, even if there are twelve hours in the day, there are only twelve hours. They cannot be extended; and therefore, time cannot be wasted. There is time enough, but not too much; the time we have must be used to the utmost.

The legend of Dr. Faustus was turned into great drama and poetry by Christopher Marlowe. Faustus had struck a bargain with the devil. For twenty-four years the devil would be his servant and his every wish would be realized; but at the end of the years the devil would claim his soul. The twenty-four years have run their course, the last hour has come, and Faustus now sees what a terrible bargain he has struck.

"Ah, Faustus,

Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,

And then thou must be damn'd perpetually;

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,

That time may cease, and midnight never come.

Fair Nature's eye, rise, rise again and make

Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

A year, a month, a week, a natural day,

That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,

The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn'd."

Nothing in the world could give Faustus more time. That is one of the great threatening facts in the life of man. There are twelve hours in the day--but there are only twelve hours in the day. There is no necessity for haste; but, equally, there is no room for waste. There is time enough in life, but there is never time to spare.

THE DAY AND THE NIGHT ( John 11:6-10 continued)

Jesus goes on to develop what he has just said about time. He says that if a man walks in the light, he will not stumble; but if he tries to walk in the night, he will stumble.

John again and again says things which have two meanings, one which lies on the surface and is true, and another which lies below the surface and is truer yet. It is so here.

(i) There is a surface meaning which is perfectly true and which we must learn. The Jewish day, like the Roman day, was divided into twelve equal hours, from sunrise to sunset. That of course means that the length of an hour varied according to the length of the day and the season of the year. On the surface Jesus simply means that a man will not stumble when the sun is shining, but when the dark comes down he cannot see the way. There was no street lighting in those days, at least not in the country places. With the dark, the time for journeying was done.

Jesus is saying that a man must finish the day's work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended. If a man had one wish it might well be that he might come to the end of each day with its work completed. The unrest and the hurry of life are so often simply due to the fact that we are trying to catch up on work which should have been done before. A man should so spend his precious capital of time and not dissipate it on useless extravagances, however pleasant, that at the end of each day he is never in debt to time.

(ii) But below the surface meaning is another meaning. Who can hear the phrase the light of the world without thinking of Jesus? Again and again John uses the words the dark and the night to describe life without Christ, life dominated by evil. In his dramatic account of the last meal together, John describes how Judas went out to make the dreadful final arrangements for the betrayal. "So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night" ( John 13:30). The night is the time when a man goes from Christ and when evil possesses him.

The gospel is based on the love of God; but whether we like it or not, there is a threat also at its heart. A man has only so much time to make his peace with God through Christ; and if he does not do so the judgment must follow. So Jesus says: "Finish your greatest work; finish the work of getting yourself right with God while you have the light of the world; for the time comes when for you, too, the dark must come down and then it will be too late."

No gospel is so sure that God loved the world as the Fourth Gospel is; but also no gospel is so sure that love may be refused. It has in it two notes--the glory of being in time; and the tragedy of being too late.

THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT QUIT ( John 11:11-16 )

11:11-16 Jesus said these things, and then he went on to say: "Our friend Lazarus is sleeping; but I am going to waken him up." "Lord," the disciples said to him, "if he is sleeping he will recover." But Jesus had spoken about his death. They thought that he was speaking about the sleep of natural sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly: "Lazarus has died, and, for your sakes, I am glad that I was not there, because it is all designed in order that you may come to believe. But let us go to him." Thereupon Thomas, who was called Didymus, said: "Let us, too, go that we may die with him."

John here uses his normal method of relating a conversation of Jesus. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus' conversations always follow the same pattern. Jesus says something which sounds quite simple. His saying is misunderstood, and he goes on to explain more fully and unmistakably what he meant. So it is with his conversation with Nicodemus about being born again ( John 3:3-8); and his conversation with the woman at the well about the water of life ( John 4:10-15).

Jesus here began by saying that Lazarus was sleeping. To the disciples that sounded good news, for there is no better medicine than sleep. But the word sleep has always had a deeper and a more serious meaning. Jesus said of Jairus' daughter that she was asleep ( Matthew 9:24); at the end of Stephen's martyrdom we are told that he fell asleep ( Acts 7:60). Paul speaks about those who sleep in Jesus ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13); and of those witnesses of the Resurrection who are now fallen asleep ( 1 Corinthians 15:6). So Jesus had to tell them plainly that Lazarus was dead; and then he went on to say that for their sake this was a good thing, because it would produce an event which would buttress them even more firmly in their faith.

The final proof of Christianity is the sight of what Jesus Christ can do. Words may fail to convince, but there is no argument against God in action. It is the simple fact that the power of Jesus Christ has made the coward into a hero, the doubter into a man of certainty, the selfish man into the servant of all. Above all, it is the plain fact of history that again and again the power of Christ has made the bad man good.

That is what lays so tremendous a responsibility on the individual Christian. The design of God is that every one of us should be a living proof of his power. Our task is not so much to commend Christ in words--against which there is always an argument, for no one can ever write Q.E.D. after a Christian verbal proof--but to demonstrate in our lives what Christ has done for us. Sir John Reith once said: "I do not like crises; but I like the opportunities which they supply." The death of Lazarus brought a crisis to Jesus, and he was glad, because it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate in the most amazing way what God can do. For us every crisis should be a like opportunity.

At that moment the disciples might well have refused to follow Jesus; then one lonely voice spoke up. They were all feeling that to go to Jerusalem was to go to their deaths, and they were hanging back. Then came the voice of Thomas: "Let us, too, go that we may die with him."

All Jews in those days had two names--one a Hebrew name by which a man was known in his own circle, the other a Greek name by which he was known in a wider circle. Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus ( G1324) the Greek for a twin. So Peter is the Greek and Cephas ( H3710 and G2786) is the Hebrew for a rock; Tabitha ( H5000) is the Hebrew, and Dorcas ( G1393) the Greek for a gazelle. In later days the apocryphal Gospels wove their stories around Thomas, and they actually in the end came to say that he was the twin of Jesus himself.

At this moment Thomas displayed the highest kind of courage. In his heart, as R. H. Strachan said, "There was not expectant faith, but loyal despair." But upon one thing Thomas was determined--come what may, he would not quit.

Gilbert Frankau tells of an officer friend of his in the 1914-18 war, an artillery observation officer. His duty was to go up in a captive balloon and to indicate to the gunners whether their shells fell short of or over the target. It was one of the most dangerous assignments that could be given. Because the balloon was captive, there was no way to dodge; he was a sitting target for the guns and planes of the enemy. Gilbert Frankau said of his friend: "Every time he went up in that balloon he was sick with nerves, but he wouldn't quit."

That is the highest form of courage. It does not mean not being afraid. If we are not afraid it is the easiest thing in the world to do a thing. Real courage means being perfectly aware of the worst that can happen, being sickeningly afraid of it, and yet doing the right thing. That was what Thomas was like that day. No man need ever be ashamed of being afraid; but he may well be ashamed of allowing his fear to stop him doing what in his heart of hearts he knows he ought to do.

THE HOUSE OF MOURNING ( John 11:17-19 )

11:17-19 So, when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, less than two miles away. Many of the Jews had gone to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.

In order to visualize this scene we must first see what a Jewish house of mourning was like. Normally in Palestine, because of the climate, burial followed death as quickly as possible. There was a time when a funeral was an exceedingly costly thing. The finest spices and ointments were used to anoint the body; the body itself was clothed in the most magnificent robes; all kinds of valuables were buried in the tomb along with the body. By midway through the first century all this had become a ruinous expenditure. Naturally no one wished on such an occasion to be outdone by his neighbour, and the wrappings and robes with which the body was covered, and the treasures left in the tomb, became ever more expensive. The matter had become almost an intolerable burden which no one liked to alter--until the advent of a famous Rabbi called Gamaliel the Second. He gave orders that he was to be buried in the simplest possible linen robe, and so broke the extravagance of funeral customs. To this day at Jewish funerals a cup is drunk to Rabbi Gamaliel who rescued the Jews from their own ostentatious extravagance. From his time on the body was wrapped in a simple linen dress which was sometimes called by the very beautiful name of the travelling-dress.

As many as possible attended a funeral. Everyone who could was supposed, in courtesy and respect, to join the procession on its way. One curious custom was that the woman walked first, for it was held that since woman by her first sin brought death into the world, she ought to lead the mourners to the tomb. At the tomb memorial speeches were sometimes made. Everyone was expected to express the deepest sympathy, and, on leaving the tomb, the others stood in two long lines while the principal mourners passed between them. But there was this very wise rule--the mourners were not to be tormented by idle and uninvited talk. They were to be left, at that moment, alone with their sorrow.

In the house of mourning there were set customs. So long as the body was in the house it was forbidden to eat meat or to drink wine, to wear phylacteries or to engage in any kind of study. No food was to be prepared in the house, and such food as was eaten must not be eaten in the presence of the dead. As soon as the body was carried out all furniture was reversed, and the mourners sat on the ground or on low stools.

On the return from the tomb a meal was served, which had been prepared by the friends of the family. It consisted of bread, hard-boiled eggs and lentils; the round eggs and lentils symbolized life which was always rolling to death.

Deep mourning lasted for seven days, of which the first three were days of weeping. During these seven days it was forbidden to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to engage in any kind of study or business, and even to wash. The week of deep mourning was followed by thirty days of lighter mourning.

So when Jesus found a crowd in the house at Bethany, he found what anyone would expect to find in a Jewish house of mourning. It was a sacred duty to come to express loving sympathy with the sorrowing friends and relations of one who had died. The Talmud says that whoever visits the sick shall deliver his soul from Gehenna; and Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, declared that to visit the sick takes precedence of all other good works. Visits of sympathy to the sick, and to the sorrowing, were an essential part of Jewish religion. A certain Rabbi expounded the text in Deuteronomy 13:4: "You shall walk after the Lord your God." He said that text commands us to imitate the things which God is depicted as doing in scripture. God clothed the naked ( Genesis 3:21); God visited the sick ( Genesis 18:1). God comforted the mourners ( Genesis 25:11); God buried the dead ( Deuteronomy 34:6). In all these things we must imitate the actions of God.

Respect for the dead and sympathy for the mourner were an essential part of Jewish duty. As the mourners left the tomb, they turned and said: "Depart in peace," and they never mentioned the name of the one who had died without invoking a blessing on it. There is something very lovely in the way in which the Jews stressed the duty of showing sympathy to the mourner.

It would be to a household crowded with sympathizers that Jesus came that day.

THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE ( John 11:20-27 )

11:20-27 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained sitting in the house. So Martha said to Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even as things are, I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you." Jesus said to her: "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him: "I know that he will rise at the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her: "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live even if he has died; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him; "Yes, Lord. I am convinced that you are God's Anointed One, the Son of God, the One who is to come into the world."

In this story, too, Martha is true to character. When Luke tells us about Martha and Mary ( Luke 10:38-42), he shows us Martha as the one who loved action, and Mary as the one whose instinct was to sit still. It is so here. As soon as it was announced that Jesus was coming near, Martha was up to meet him, for she could not sit still, but Mary lingered behind.

When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. Here is one of the most human speeches in all the Bible, for Martha spoke, half with a reproach that she could not keep back, and half with a faith that nothing could shake. "If you had been here." she said, "my brother would not have died." Through the words we read her mind. Martha would have liked to say: "When you got our message, why didn't you come at once? And now you have left it too late." No sooner are the words out than there follow the words of faith, faith which defied the facts and defied experience: "Even yet," she said with a kind of desperate hope, "even yet, I know that God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered: "I know quite well that he will rise in the general resurrection on the last day." Now that is a notable saying. One of the strangest things in scripture is the fact that the saints of the Old Testament had practically no belief in any real life after death. In the early days, the Hebrews believed that the soul of every man, good and bad alike, went to Sheol. Sheol is wrongly translated Hell; for it was not a place of torture, it was the land of the shades. All alike went there and they lived a vague, shadowy, strengthless, joyless ghostly kind of life. This is the belief of by far the greater part of the Old Testament. "In death there is no remembrance of thee: in Sheol who can give thee praise?" ( Psalms 6:5). "What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?" ( Psalms 30:9). The Psalmist speaks of "the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom thou dost remember no more; for they are cut off from thy hand" ( Psalms 88:5). "Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave," he asks, "or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" ( Psalms 88:10-12). "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence" ( Psalms 115:17). The preacher says grimly: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10). It is Hezekiah's pessimistic belief that: "For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness" ( Isaiah 38:18). After death came the land of silence and of forgetfulness, where the shades of men were separated alike from men and from God. As J. E. McFadyen wrote: "There are few more wonderful things than this in the long history of religion, that for centuries men lived the noblest lives, doing their duties and bearing their sorrows, without hope of future reward."

Just very occasionally someone in the Old Testament made a venturesome leap of faith. The Psalmist cries: "My body also dwells secure. For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the pit. Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore" ( Psalms 16:9-11). "I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide the with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory" ( Psalms 73:23-24). The Psalmist was convinced that when a man entered into a real relationship with God, not even death could break it. But at that stage it was a desperate leap of faith rather than a settled conviction. Finally in the Old Testament there is the immortal hope we find in Job. In face of all his disasters Job cried out:

"I know that there liveth a champion,

Who will one day stand over my dust;

Yea, another shall rise as my witness,

And, as sponsor, shall I behold--God;

Whom mine eyes shall behold, and no stranger's."

( Job 14:7-12; translated by J. E. McFadyen).

Here in Job we have the real seed of the Jewish belief in immortality.

The Jewish history was a history of disasters, of captivity, slavery and defeat. Yet the Jewish people had the utterly unshakable conviction that they were God's own people. This earth had never shown it and never would; inevitably, therefore, they called in the new world to redress the inadequacies of the old. They came to see that if God's design was ever fully to be worked out, if his justice was ever completely to be fulfilled, if his love was ever finally to be satisfied, another world and another life were necessary. As Galloway (quoted by McFadyen) put it: "The enigmas of life become at least less baffling, when we come to rest in the thought that this is not the last act of the human drama." It was precisely that feeling that led the Hebrews to a conviction that there was a life to come.

It is true that in the days of Jesus the Sadducees still refused to believe in any life after death. But the Pharisees and the great majority of the Jews did. They said that in the moment of death the two worlds of time and of eternity met and kissed. They said that those who died beheld God, and they refused to call them the dead but called them the living. When Martha answered Jesus as she did she bore witness to the highest reach of her nation's faith.

THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE ( John 11:20-27 continued)

When Martha declared her belief in the orthodox Jewish belief in the life to come, Jesus suddenly said something which brought to that belief a new vividness and a new meaning. "I am the Resurrection and the Life," he said. "He who believes in me will live even if he has died; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." What exactly did he mean? Not even a lifetime's thinking will reveal the full meaning of this; but we must try to grasp as much of it as we can.

One thing is clear--Jesus was not thinking in terms of physical life; for, speaking physically, it is not true that the man who believes in him will never die. The Christian experiences physical death as any other man does. We must look for a more than physical meaning.

(i) Jesus was thinking of the death of sin. He was saying: "Even if a man is dead in sin, even if, through his sins, he has lost all that makes life worth calling life, I can make him alive again." In point of historical fact that is abundantly true. A. M. Chirgwin quotes the example of Tokichi Ishii. Ishii had an almost unparalleled criminal record. He had murdered men, women and children in the most brutal way. Anyone who stood in his way was pitilessly eliminated. Now he was in prison awaiting death. While in prison he was visited by two Canadian women who tried to talk to him through the bars, but he only glowered at them like a caged and savage animal. In the end they abandoned the attempt; but they gave him a Bible, hoping that it might succeed where they had failed. He began to read it, and, having started, could not stop. He read on until he came to the story of the Crucifixion. He came to the words: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." and these words broke him. "I stopped," he said. "I was stabbed to the heart, as if pierced by a five-inch nail. Shall I call it the love of Christ? Shall I call it his compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that I believed, and my hardness of heart was changed." Later, when the condemned man went to the scaffold, he was no longer the hardened, surly brute he once had been, but a smiling radiant man. The murderer had been born again; Christ had brought Tokichi Ishii to life.

It does not need to be so dramatic as that. A man can become so selfish that he is dead to the needs of others. A man can become so insensitive that he is dead to the feelings of others. A man can become so involved in the petty dishonesties and the petty disloyalties of life, that he is dead to honour. A man can become so hopeless that he is filled with an inertia, which is spiritual death. Jesus Christ can resurrect these men. The witness of history is that he has resurrected millions and millions of people like them and his touch has not lost its ancient power.

(ii) Jesus was also thinking of the life to come. He brought into life the certainty that death is not the end. The last words of Edward the Confessor were: "Weep not, I shall not die; and as I leave the land of the dying I trust to see the blessings of the Lord in the land of the living." We call this world the land of the living; but it would in fact be more correct to call it the land of the dying. Through Jesus Christ we know that we are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise; we know, as Mary Webb put it, that death is a gate on the sky-line. In the most real sense we are not on our way to death, but on our way to life.

How does this happen? It happens when we believe in Jesus Christ. What does that mean? To believe in Jesus means to accept everything that Jesus said as absolutely true, and to stake our lives upon that in perfect trust. When we do that we enter into two new relationships.

(i) We enter into a new relationship with God. When we believe that God is as Jesus told us that he is, then we become absolutely sure of his love; we become absolutely sure that he is above all a redeeming God. The fear of death vanishes, for death means going to the great lover of the souls of men.

(ii) We enter into a new relationship with life. When we accept Jesus' way, when we take his commands as our laws, and when we realize that he is there to help us to live as he has commanded, life becomes a new thing. It is clad with a new loveliness, a new winsomeness, a new strength. And when we accept Christ's way as our way, life becomes so lovely a thing that we cannot conceive of it ending incomplete.

When we believe in Jesus, when we accept what he says about God and about life and stake everything on it, in truth we are resurrected for we are freed from the fear which is characteristic of the godless life; we are freed from the frustration which is characteristic of the sin-ridden life; we are freed from the futility of the Christless life. Life is raised from sin's death and becomes so rich that it cannot die but must find in death only the transition to a higher life.

THE EMOTION OF JESUS ( John 11:28-33 )

11:28-33 When Martha had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister. Without letting the rest of the people know, she said to her: "The Teacher has arrived and is calling for you." When she heard this, she rose quickly and began to go to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but he was still in the place where Martha met him. So when the Jews, who were in the house with Mary, and who were condoling with her, saw her rise quickly and go out, they followed her, for they thought that she was going back to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was, when she saw him, she knelt at his feet. "Lord" she said, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and when he saw the Jews who had come with her weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit so that an involuntary groan burst from him, and he trembled with deep emotion.

Martha went back to the house to tell Mary that Jesus had come. She wanted to give the news to her secretly, without letting the visitors know, because she wanted Mary to have a moment or two alone with Jesus, before the crowds engulfed them and made privacy impossible. But when the visitors saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they immediately assumed that she had gone to visit the tomb of Lazarus. It was the custom, especially for the women, for a week after the burial to go to the tomb to weep on every possible occasion. Mary's greeting was exactly the same as that of Martha. If only Jesus had come in time, Lazarus would still be alive.

Jesus saw Mary and all the sympathizing crowd weeping. We must remember that this would be no gentle shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking, for it was the Jewish point of view that the more unrestrained the weeping, the more honour it paid to the dead.

Now we have a problem of translation. The word which the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version translate as deeply moved in spirit comes from the verb embrimasthai ( G1690) . It is used three other times in the New Testament. It is used in Matthew 9:30 when Jesus sternly charged the blind men not to publish abroad the fact that he had given them their sight. It is used in Mark 1:43 when Jesus sternly charged the leper not to publish the fact that he had healed him. It is used in Mark 14:5 when the spectators reproached the woman who anointed Jesus' head with the costly ointment, because they thought that this deed of love was wastefully extravagant. In every one of these instances the word has a certain sternness, almost anger, in it. It means rather to rebuke, to give a stern order to. Some who wish to take it in that way and would translate: "Jesus was moved to anger in his spirit."

Why the anger? It is suggested that the display of tears by the Jewish visitors to Bethany was sheer hypocrisy, that this artificial grief raised Jesus' wrath. It is possible that this was true of the visitors, although there is no indication that their grief was synthetic. But it was certainly not true of Mary and it can hardly be right here to take embrimasthai ( G1690) to imply anger. Moffatt translates it: "Jesus chafed in spirit," but chafed is weak. The Revised Standard Version translates: "Jesus was deeply moved in spirit," but again that is colourless for this most unusual word. Rieu translates: "He gave way to such distress of spirit as made his body tremble." With this we are getting nearer the real meaning. In ordinary classical Greek the usual usage of embrimasthai ( G1690) is of a horse snorting. Here it must mean that such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from his heart.

Here is one of the most precious things in the gospel. So deeply did Jesus enter into men's sorrows that his heart was wrung with anguish

"In every pang that rends the heart,

The Man of Sorrows had a part."

But there is more. To any, Greek reading this--and we must remember that it was written for Greeks--this would be a staggering and incredible picture. John had written his whole gospel on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God. To the Greek the primary characteristic of God was what he called apatheia, which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever.

How did the Greeks come to attribute such a characteristic to God? They argued like this. If we can feel sorrow or joy, gladness or grief, it means that someone can have an effect upon us. Now, if a person has an effect upon us, it means that for the moment that person has power over us. No one can have any power over God; and this must mean that God is essentially incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever. The Greeks believed in an isolated, passionless and compassionless God.

What a different picture Jesus gave. He showed us a God whose heart is wrung with anguish for the anguish of his people. The greatest thing Jesus did was to bring us the news of a God who cares.

THE VOICE THAT WAKES THE DEAD ( John 11:34-44 )

11:34-44 Jesus said to them: "Where have you laid him?" "Lord," they said to him: "Come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said: "Look how he loved him!" Some of them said: "Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind have so acted that Lazarus would not have died?" Again a groan was wrung from Jesus' inner being. He went to the tomb. It was a cave; and a stone had been laid upon it. Jesus said: "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him: "Lord, by this time the stench of death is on him, for he has been in the tomb for four days." Jesus said to her: "Did I not tell you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" So they took the stone away. Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me. But I said this for the sake of the crowd which is standing round, because I want them to believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice: "Lazarus, come out!" The man who had been dead came out, bound hand and foot in grave-clothes, and with his face encircled with a napkin. Jesus said to them: "Set him free from his wrappings and let him go!"

We come to the last scene. Once again we are shown the picture of Jesus wrung with anguish as he shared the anguish of the human heart. To the Greek reader that little sentence: "Jesus wept," would be the most astonishing thing in an astonishing story. That the Son of God could weep would be almost beyond belief.

We must have in our minds a picture of the usual Palestinian tomb. It was either a natural cave or hewn out of the rock. There was an entrance in which the bier was first laid. Beyond that was a chamber, usually about six feet long, nine feet wide and ten feet high. There were usually eight shelves cut in the rock, three on each side and two on the wall facing the entrance, and on these shelves the bodies were laid. The bodies were enveloped in linen but the hands and feet were swathed in bandage-like wrappings and the head was wrapped separately. The tomb had no door, but in front of the opening ran a groove in which was set a great stone like a cartwheel that was rolled across the entrance to seal the grave.

Jesus asked that the stone should be moved. Martha could think of only one reason for opening the tomb--that Jesus wished to look on the face of his dead friend for the last time. Martha could see no consolation there. She pointed out that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. The point is this. It was Jewish belief that the spirit of the departed hovered around his tomb for four days, seeking an entrance again into his body. But after four days the spirit finally left for the face of the body was so decayed that it could no longer be recognized.

Then Jesus spoke his word of command which even death was powerless to oppose.

"He speaks, and, listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive."

And Lazarus came forth. It is weird to think of the bandaged figure staggering out from the tomb. Jesus told them to unloose the hampering grave-clothes and wrappings and let him go.

There are certain things to note.

(i) Jesus prayed. The power which flowed through him was not his; it was God's, "Miracles," said Godet, "are just so many answered prayers."

(ii) Jesus sought only the glory of God; he did not do this to glorify himself. When Elijah had his epic contest with the prophets of Baal, he prayed: "Answer me, O Lord, that this people may know that thou art God" ( 1 Kings 18:37).

Everything Jesus did was due to the power of God and designed for the glory of God. How different men are! So much that we do is attempted in our own power and designed for our own prestige. It may be that there would be more wonders in our life, too, if we ceased to act by ourselves and for ourselves and set God in the central place.

THE RAISING OF LAZARUS ( John 11:1-44 )

We have tried to expound the raising of Lazarus simply as the story stands written. But we can not evade the fact that of all the miracles of Jesus this presents the greatest problem. Let us honestly face the difficulties.

(i) In the other three gospels there are accounts of people being raised from the dead. There is the story of the raising of Jairus' daughter ( Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56). There is the story of the raising of the widow's son at Nain ( Luke 7:11-16). In both cases the raising followed immediately after death. It would be quite possible to believe that in both these miracles the person raised was in a coma. We have seen how burial had to follow hard upon death in the climate of Palestine; and we know from the evidence of the graves that people were not infrequently buried alive, because of that haste. It could well be that these were miracles of diagnosis in which Jesus saved two young people from a dreadful death. But there is no parallel whatever for the raising of a man who had been dead for four days and whose body had begun to putrefy.

(ii) In the other three gospels there is no account, not even a mention, of the raising of Lazarus. If the other writers knew about this miracle, how could they possibly omit it? If it actually happened, how could they fail to know of it? It has been suggested that the answer is this. We know that Mark drew his information from Peter. The fact is that Peter does not appear in the Fourth Gospel at all in John 5:1-47 and John 7:1-53; John 8:1-59; John 9:1-41; John 10:1-42; John 11:1-57; John 12:1-50. Thomas is, in fact, the spokesman of the disciples. It has been suggested that Peter was not with Jesus at this time, and only came up later to the Passover Feast. On the face of it that does not seem likely, and, even if Peter was not there, surely the writers of the gospels must have heard from other sources of so amazing a miracle.

(iii) Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that John sees in this miracle the essential cause which moved the Jewish authorities to take definite steps to have Jesus eliminated ( John 11:47-54). In other words, the raising of Lazarus was the direct cause of the Cross. In the other three gospels the great moving cause of the crucifixion was the Cleansing of the Temple. It is difficult to understand why the other three gospel writers have nothing to say of it, if indeed it was the immediate cause of Jesus' crucifixion.

(iv) On the other hand, it might well be argued that the Triumphal Entry is inexplicable without this miracle to go before it. Why otherwise did Jesus receive that tremendous reception when he arrived in Jerusalem? Yet the fact remains that, in the story as the other three gospels tell it, there is just no space into which this miracle can be fitted.

If, then, this is not a record of actual historical fact, how can we explain it?

(i) Renan suggested that the whole thing was a deliberate fraud arranged by Jesus and Martha and Mary and Lazarus. That explanation has only to be stated to be dismissed as incredible; and, later, Renan himself departed from it.

(ii) It has been suggested that Lazarus was in a coma. It would be impossible to argue that from the story as it stands. The details of death are too vivid.

(iii) It has been suggested that the story is an allegory written round the saying of Jesus: "I am the Resurrection and the Life," a story composed to illustrate that saying and to give it a setting. That may be an oversimplified and overstated version of the truth.

(iv) It has been suggested that the story is to be connected with the Parable of Dives and Lazarus ( Luke 16:19-31). That story ends with the saying that even if someone was raised from the dead the Jews would still not believe. It is suggested that the story was produced to show that someone did rise from the dead and the Jews did not believe.

When we consider the difficulties of this story, we are in the end compelled to say that we do not know what happened, although undoubtedly something tremendous did happen. It is worth noting that to this day Bethany is known as Azariyeh, which is derived from the name Lazarus. But we do know for certain the truth which it teaches.

Robert McAfee Brown, an American professor, tells of something which this story did. He was an American army chaplain on a troopship in which 1,500 marines were returning from Japan to America for discharge. Greatly to his surprise he was approached by a small group to do Bible study with them. He leapt at the opportunity. Near the end of the voyage, they were studying this chapter and afterwards a marine came to him. "Everything in that chapter," he said, "is pointing at me." He went on to say that he had been in hell for the last six months. He had gone straight into the marines from college. He had been sent out to Japan. He had been bored with life; and he had gone out and got into trouble--bad trouble. Nobody knew about it--except God. He felt guilty; he felt his life was ruined; he felt he could never face his family although they need never know; he felt he had killed himself and was a dead man. "And," said this young marine, "after reading this chapter I have come alive again. I know that this resurrection Jesus was talking about is real here and now, for he has raised me from death to life." That lad's troubles were not finished; he had a hard road to go; but in his sin and his sense of guilt he had found Jesus as the resurrection and the life.

That is the end of the whole matter. It does not really matter whether or not Jesus literally raised a corpse to life in A.D. 30, but it matters intensely that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for every man who is dead in sin and dead to God today. There may be problems in this story; we may never know what exactly happened at Bethany so many years ago; but we do know for certain that Jesus is still the Resurrection and the Life. That is what this story tells us--and that is what really matters.

THE TRAGIC IRONY ( John 11:47-53 )

11:47-53 The chief priests and Pharisees assembled the Sanhedrin: "What are we going to do?" they said, "because this man does many signs. If we leave him alone like this, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and will take away our place and will destroy our nation." One of them, called Caiaphas, who was High Priest for that year, said to them: "You are witless creatures. You do not think it out that it is to our good that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish." It was not he who was responsible for what he said; but, since he was High Priest for that year, he was really prophesying that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and, not only for the nation, but that the scattered children of God should be gathered into one. So from that day they plotted to kill him.

The Jewish authorities are very vividly sketched before us. The wonderful happening at Bethany had forced their hand; it was impossible to allow Jesus to continue unchecked, otherwise the people would follow him in ever larger numbers. So the Sanhedrin was called to deal with the situation.

In the Sanhedrin there were both Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were not a political party at all; their sole interest was in living according to every detail of the law; and they cared not who governed them so long as they were allowed to continue in meticulous obedience to the law. On the other hand, the Sadducees were intensely political. They were the wealthy and aristocratic party. They were also the collaborationist party. So long as they were allowed to retain their wealth, comfort and position of authority, they were well content to collaborate with Rome. All the priests were Sadducees. And it is clear that it was the priests who dominated this meeting of the Sanhedrin. That is to say, it was the Sadducees who did all the talking.

With a few masterly strokes John delineates their characteristics. First, they were notoriously discourteous. Josephus said of them (The Wars of the Jews 2: 8, 14) that: "The behaviour of the Sadducees to one another is rather rude, and their intercourse with their equals is rough, as with strangers." "You know nothing at all," said Caiaphas ( John 11:49). "You are witless, brainless creatures." Here we see the innate, domineering arrogance of the Sadducees in action; this was exactly in character. Their contemptuous arrogance is an implicit contrast to the accents of love of Jesus.

Second, the one thing at which the Sadducees always aimed was the retention of their political and social power and prestige. What they feared was that Jesus might gain a following and raise a disturbance against the government. Now, Rome was essentially tolerant, but, with such a vast empire to govern, it could never afford civil disorder, and always quelled it with a firm and merciless hand. If Jesus was the cause of civil disorder, Rome would descend in all her power, and, beyond a doubt the Sadducees would be dismissed from their positions of authority. It never even occurred to them to ask whether Jesus was right or wrong. Their only question was: "What effect will this have on our ease and comfort and authority?" They judged things, not in the light of principle but in the light of their own career. And it is still possible for a man to set his own career before the will of God.

Then comes the first tremendous example of dramatic irony. Sometimes in a play a character says something whose full significance he does not realize; that is dramatic irony. So the Sadducees insisted that Jesus must be eliminated or the Romans would come and take their authority away. In A.D. 70 that is exactly what happened. The Romans, weary of Jewish stubbornness, besieged Jerusalem, and left it a heap of ruins with a plough drawn across the Temple area. How different things might have been if the Jews had accepted Jesus! The very steps they took to save their nation destroyed it. This destruction happened in A.D. 70; John's gospel was written about A.D. 100; and all who read it would see the dramatic irony in the words of the Sadducees.

Then Caiaphas, the High Priest, made his two-edged statement. "If you had any sense," he said, "you would come to the conclusion that it is far better that one man should perish for the nation than that the whole nation should perish." It was the Jewish belief that when the High Priest asked God's counsel for the nation, God spoke through him. In the old story Moses chose Joshua to be his successor in the leadership of Israel. Joshua was to have a share in his honour and when he wished for God's counsel he was to go to Eleazar the High Priest: "And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him ... at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in" ( Numbers 27:18-21). The High Priest was to be the channel of God's word to the leader and to the nation. That is what Caiaphas was that day.

Here is another tremendous example of dramatic irony. Caiaphas meant that it was better that Jesus should die than that there should be trouble with the Romans. It was true that Jesus must die to save the nation. That was true--but not in the way that Caiaphas meant. It was true in a far greater and more wonderful way. God can speak through the most unlikely people; sometimes he sends his message through a man without the man being aware; he can use even the words of bad men.

Jesus was to die for the nation and also for all God's people throughout the world. The early Church made a very beautiful use of these words. Its first service order book was called the Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It dates back to shortly after A.D. 100. When the bread was being broken, it was laid down that it should be said: "Even as this bread was scattered upon the mountains, and was brought into one, so let thy Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into the kingdom" (Didache 9: 4). The bread had been put together from the scattered elements of which it was composed; so some day the scattered elements of the Church must be united into one. That is something about which to think as we look on the broken bread of the Sacrament.

JESUS THE OUTLAW ( John 11:54-57 )

11:54-57 So Jesus walked no longer openly among the Jews, but he went away from them to a place near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with his disciples.

Now the Passover Feast of the Jews was near; and many from the country areas went up to Jerusalem before the Passover Feast to purify themselves. So they were looking for Jesus; and, as they stood in the Temple precincts, they were talking with each other and saying: "What do you think? Surely it is impossible that he should come to the Feast?" Now the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he should lodge information with them, that they might seize him.

Jesus did not unnecessarily court danger. He was willing to lay down his life, but not so foolishly reckless as to throw it away before his work was done. So he retired to a town called Ephraim, which was near Bethel in the mountainous country north of Jerusalem (compare 2 Chronicles 13:19).

By this time Jerusalem was beginning to fill up with people. Before the Jew could attend any feast he had to be ceremonially clean; and uncleanness could be contracted by touching a vast number of things and people. Many of the Jews, therefore, came up to the city early to make the necessary offerings and go through the necessary washings in order to ensure ceremonial cleanness. The law had it: "Every man is bound to purify himself before the Feast."

These purifications were carried out in the Temple. They took time, and in the time of waiting the Jews gathered in excited little groups. They knew what was going on. They knew about this mortal contest of wills between Jesus and the authorities; and people are always interested in the man who gallantly faces fearful odds. They wondered if he would appear at the feast; and concluded that he could not possibly come. This Galilean carpenter could not take on the whole might of Jewish ecclesiastical and political officialdom.

But they had underrated Jesus. When the time arrived for him to come, nothing on earth would stop him coming. Martin Luther was a man who hurled defiance at cautious souls who sought to hold him back from being too venturesome. He took what seemed to him the right course "despite all cardinals, popes, kings and emperors, together with all devils and hell." When he was cited to appear at Worms to answer for his attack on the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, he was well warned of the danger. His answer was: "I would go if there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the housetops." When told that Duke George would capture him, he answered: "I would go if it rained Duke Georges." It was not that Luther was not afraid, for often he made his greatest statements when both voice and knees were shaking; but he had a courage which conquered fear. The Christian does not fear the consequences of doing the right thing; he fears rather the consequences of not doing it.

From the concluding verses of the chapter, it seems that by this time, Jesus had been classed as an outlaw. It may be that the authorities had offered a reward for information leading to his apprehension and that it was this that Judas sought and received. In spite of that Jesus came to Jerusalem, and not skulking in the back streets but openly and in such a way as to focus attention upon himself. Whatever else we may say of Jesus, we must bow in admiration before his death-defying courage. For these last days of his life he was the bravest outlaw of all time.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 11:24". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​john-11.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

The Resurrection Day (His Second Coming, -- Cf. "Last Day" singular) 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff to 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 ff; John 14:1-3;

John 5:28; John 11:24; John 6:39; John 6:40; John 6:44;

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on John 11:24". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/​john-11.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Martha saith unto him,.... Being desirous of knowing the sense and meaning of Christ, as well as to express her own faith;

I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day. The Jews were divided about the doctrine of the resurrection, the Sadducees denied it, the Pharisees asserted it; and on this latter side was Martha; she believed there would be a resurrection of the dead; that this would be at the last day, or at the end of the world; and that her brother would rise at that general resurrection: wherefore, if Christ meant no more than that, this was what she always believed. The Syriac version renders it, "in the consolation at the last day"; and so the time of the resurrection is, by the Jews, called "the days of consolation" o. And good reason there is for it in those who shall have part in the first resurrection, or come forth to the resurrection of life; their bodies will rise glorious, powerful, spiritual, and incorruptible, fashioned like to the glorious body of Christ; they will no more be attended with infirmities, disorders, and diseases; they will feel no more pain, nor die any more; being reunited to their souls they will meet the Lord in the air, and in the judgment they will stand at his right hand; they will enter into his joy, and be for ever with him; with their bodily eyes they will behold Christ, and see him for themselves, and not another; they will meet their spiritual friends and acquaintance, and enjoy their company for ever; they will have uninterrupted communion with angels and saints, and with God, Father, Son, and Spirit; their consolation will be inconceivable and inexpressible.

o Targum Jon. in Gen i. 21. & in Hos. vi. 2.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​john-11.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Christ at Bethany.


      17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.   18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:   19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.   20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.   21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.   22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.   23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.   24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.   25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:   26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?   27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.   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.   29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.   30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.   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.   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.

      The matter being determined, that Christ will go to Judea, and his disciples with him, they address themselves to their journey; in this journey some circumstances happened which the other evangelists record, as the healing of the blind man at Jericho, and the conversion of Zaccheus. We must not reckon ourselves out of our way, while we are in the way of doing good; nor be so intent upon one good office as to neglect another.

      At length, he comes near to Bethany, which is said to be about fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, about two measured miles, John 11:18; John 11:18. Notice is taken of this, that this miracle was in effect wrought in Jerusalem, and so was put to her score. Christ's miracles in Galilee were more numerous, but those in or near Jerusalem were more illustrious; there he healed one that had been diseased thirty-eight years, another that had been blind from his birth, and raised one that had been dead four days. To Bethany Christ came, and observe,

      I. What posture he found his friends there in. When he had been last with them it is probable that he left them well, in health and joy; but when we part from our friends (though Christ knew) we know not what changes may affect us or them before we meet again.

      1. He found his friend Lazarus in the grave,John 11:17; John 11:17. When he came near the town, probably by the burying-place belonging to the town, he was told by the neighbours, or some persons whom he met, that Lazarus had been four days buried. Some think that Lazarus died the same day that the messenger came to Jesus with the tidings of his sickness, and so reckon two days for his abode in the same place and two days for his journey. I rather think that Lazarus died at the very instant that Jesus, "Our friend sleepeth, he is now newly fallen asleep;" and that the time between his death and burial (which among the Jews was but short), with the four days of his lying in the grave, was taken up in this journey; for Christ travelled publicly, as appears by his passing through Jericho, and his abode at Zaccheus's house took up some time. Promised salvations, though they always come surely, yet often come slowly.

      2. He found his friends that survived in grief. Martha and Mary were almost swallowed up with sorrow for the death of their brother, which is intimated where it is said that many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them. Note, (1.) Ordinarily, where death is there are mourners, especially when those that were agreeable and amiable to their relations, and serviceable to their generation, are taken away. The house where death is called the house of mourning,Ecclesiastes 7:2. When man goes to his long home the mourners go about the streets (Ecclesiastes 12:5), or rather sit alone, and keep silence. Here was Martha's house, a house where the fear of God was, and on which his blessing rested, yet made a house of mourning. Grace will keep sorrow from the heart (John 14:1; John 14:1), not from the house. (2.) Where there are mourners there ought to be comforters. It is a duty we owe to those that are in sorrow to mourn with them, and to comfort them; and our mourning with them will be some comfort to them. When we are under the present impressions of grief, we are apt to forget those things which would minister comfort to us, and therefore have need of remembrancers. It is a mercy to have remembrancers when we are in sorrow, and our duty to be remembrancers to those who are in sorrow. The Jewish doctors laid great stress upon this, obliging their disciples to make conscience of comforting the mourners after the burial of the dead. They comforted them concerning their brother, that is, by speaking to them of him, not only of the good name he left behind, but of the happy state he was gone to. When godly relations and friends are taken from us, whatever occasion we have to be afflicted concerning ourselves, who are left behind and miss them, we have reason to be comforted concerning those who are gone before us to a happiness where they have no need of us. This visit which the Jews made to Martha and Mary is an evidence that they were persons of distinction, and made a figure; as also that they behaved obligingly to all; so that though they were followers of Christ, yet those who had no respect for him were civil to them. There was also a providence in it, that so many Jews, Jewish ladies it is probable, should come together, just at this time, to comfort the mourners, that they might be unexceptionable witnesses of the miracle, and see what miserable comforters they were, in comparison with Christ. Christ did not usually send for witnesses to his miracles, and yet had none been by but relations this would have been excepted against; therefore God's counsel so ordered it that these should come together accidentally, to bear their testimony to it, that infidelity might stop her mouth.

      II. What passed between him and his surviving friends at this interview. When Christ defers his visits for a time they are thereby made the more acceptable, much the more welcome; so it was here. His departures endear his returns, and his absence teaches us how to value his presence. We have here,

      1. The interview between Christ and Martha.

      (1.) We are told that she went and met him,John 11:20; John 11:20. [1.] It should seem that Martha was earnestly expecting Christ's arrival, and enquiring for it. Either she had sent out messengers, to bring her tidings of his first approach, or she had often asked, Saw you him whom my soul loveth? so that the first who discovered him ran to her with the welcome news. However it was, she heard of his coming before he arrived. She had waited long, and often asked, Is he come? and could hear no tidings of him; but long-looked-for came at last. At the end the vision will speak, and not lie. [2.] Martha, when the good news was brought that Jesus was coming, threw all aside, and went and met him, in token of a most affectionate welcome. She waived all ceremony and compliment to the Jews who came to visit her, and hastened to go and meet Jesus. Note, When God by his grace or providence is coming towards us in ways of mercy and comfort, we should go forth by faith, hope, and prayer to meet him. Some suggest that Martha went out of the town to meet Jesus, to let him know that there were several Jews in the house, who were no friends to him, that if he pleased he might keep out of the way of them. [3.] When Martha went to meet Jesus, Mary sat still in the house. Some think she did not hear the tidings, being in her drawing-room, receiving visits of condolence, while Martha who was busied in the household-affairs had early notice of it. Perhaps Martha would not tell her sister that Christ was coming, being ambitious of the honour of receiving him first. Sancta est prudentia clam fratribus clam parentibus ad Christum esse conferre--Holy prudence conducts us to Christ, while brethren and parents know not what we are doing.--Maldonat. in locum. Others think she did hear that Christ was come, but was so overwhelmed with sorrow that she did not care to stir, choosing rather to indulge her sorrow, and to sit poring upon her affliction, and saying, I do well to mourn. Comparing this story with that in Luke 10:38, c., we may observe the different tempers of these two sisters, and the temptations and advantages of each. Martha's natural temper was active and busy she loved to be here and there, and at the end of every thing; and this had been a snare to her when by it she was not only careful and cumbered about many things, but hindered from the exercises of devotion: but now in a day of affliction this active temper did her a kindness, kept the grief from her heart, and made her forward to meet Christ, and so she received comfort from him the sooner. On the other hand, Mary's natural temper was contemplative and reserved. This had been formerly an advantage to her, when it placed her Christ's feet, to hear his word, and enabled her there to attend upon him without those distractions with which Martha was cumbered; but now in the day of affliction that same temper proved a snare to her, made her less able to grapple with her grief, and disposed her to melancholy: But Mary sat still in the house. See here how much it will be our wisdom carefully to watch against the temptations, and improve the advantages, of our natural temper.

      (2.) Here is fully related the discourse between Christ and Martha.

      [1.] Martha's address to Christ, John 11:21; John 11:22.

      First, She complains of Christ's long absence and delay. She said it, not only with grief for the death of her brother, but with some resentment of the seeming unkindness of the Master: Lord if you hadst been here, my brother had not died. Here is, 1. Some evidence of faith. She believed Christ's power, that, though her brother's sickness was very grievous, yet he could have cured it, and so have prevented his death. She believed his pity, that if he had but seen Lazarus in his extreme illness, and his dear relations all in tears about him, he would have had compassion, and have prevented so sad a breach, for his compassions fail not. But, 2. Here are sad instances of unbelief. Her faith was true, but weak as a bruised reed, for she limits the power of Christ, in saying, If thou hadst been here; whereas she ought to have known that Christ could cure at a distance, and that his gracious operations were not limited to his bodily presence. She reflects likewise upon the wisdom and kindness of Christ, that he did not hasten to them when they sent for him, as if he had not timed his business well, and now might as well have staid away, and not have come at all, as to come too late; and, as for any help now, she can scarcely entertain the thought of it.

      Secondly, Yet she corrects and comforts herself with the thoughts of the prevailing interest Christ had in heaven; at least, she blames herself for blaming her Master, and for suggesting that he comes too late: for I know that even now, desperate as the case is, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to thee. Observe, 1. How willing her hope was. Though she had not courage to ask of Jesus that he should raise him to life again, there having been no precedent as yet of any one raised to life that had been so long dead, yet, like a modest petitioner, she humbly recommends the case to the wise and compassionate consideration of the Lord Jesus. When we know not what in particular to ask or expect, let us in general refer ourselves to God, let him do as seemeth him good. Judicii tui est, non præsumptionis meæ--I leave it to thy judgment, not to my presumption.--Aug. in locum. When we know not what to pray for, it is our comfort that the great Intercessor knows what to ask for us, and is always heard. 2. How weak her faith was. She should have said, "Lord, thou canst do whatsoever thou wilt;" but she only says, "Thou canst obtain whatsoever thou prayest for." She had forgotten that the Son had life in himself, that he wrought miracles by his own power. Yet both these considerations must be taken in for the encouragement of our faith and hope, and neither excluded: the dominion Christ has on earth and his interest and intercession in heaven. He has in the one hand the golden sceptre, and in the other the golden censer; his power is always predominant, his intercession always prevalent.

      [2.] The comfortable word which Christ gave to Martha, in an answer to her pathetic address (John 11:23; John 11:23): Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha, in her complaint, looked back, reflecting with regret that Christ was not there, for then, thinks she, my brother had been now alive. We are apt, in such cases, to add to our own trouble, by fancying what might have been. "If such a method had been taken, such a physician employed, my friend had not died;" which is more than we know: but what good does this do? When God's will is done, our business is to submit to him. Christ directs Martha, and us in her, to look forward, and to think what shall be, for that is a certainty, and yields sure comfort: Thy brother shall rise again. First, This was true of Lazarus in a sense peculiar to him: he was now presently to be raised; but Christ speaks of it in general as a thing to be done, not which he himself would do, so humbly did our Lord Jesus speak of what he did. He also expresses it ambiguously, leaving her uncertain at first whether he would raise him presently or not till the last day, that he might try her faith and patience. Secondly, It is applicable to all the saints, and their resurrection at the last day. Note, It is a matter of comfort to us, when we have buried our godly friends and relations, to think that they shall rise again. As the soul at death is not lost, but gone before, so the body is not lost, but laid up. Think you hear Christ saying, "Thy parent, thy child, thy yoke-fellow, shall rise again; these dry bones shall live."

      [3.] The faith which Martha mixed with this word, and the unbelief mixed with this faith, John 11:24; John 11:24.

      First, She accounts it a faithful saying that he shall rise again at the last day. Though the doctrine of the resurrection was to have its full proof from Christ's resurrection, yet, as it was already revealed, she firmly believed it, Acts 24:15. 1. That there shall be a last day, with which all the days of time shall be numbered and finished. 2. That there shall be a general resurrection at that day, when the earth and sea shall give up their dead. 3. That there shall be a particular resurrection of each one: "I know that I shall rise again, and this and the other relation that was dear to me." As bone shall return to his bone in that day, so friend to his friend.

      Secondly, Yet she seems to think this saying not so well worthy of all acceptation as really it was: "I know he shall rise again at the last day; but what are we the better for that now?" As if the comforts of the resurrection to eternal life were not worth speaking of, or yielded not satisfaction sufficient to balance her affliction. See our weakness and folly, that we suffer present sensible things to make a deeper impression upon us, both of grief and joy, than those things which are the objects of faith. I know that he shall rise again at the last day; and is not this enough? She seems to think it is not. Thus, by our discontent under present crosses, we greatly undervalue our future hopes, and put a slight upon them, as if not worth regarding.

      [4.] The further instruction and encouragement which Jesus Christ gave her; for he will not quench the smoking flax nor break the bruised reed. He said to her, I am the resurrection and the life,John 11:25; John 11:26. Two things Christ possesses her with the belief of, in reference to the present distress; and they are the things which our faith should fasten upon in the like cases.

      First, The power of Christ, his sovereign power: I am the resurrection and the life, the fountain of life, and the head and author of the resurrection. Martha believed that at his prayer God would give any thing, but he would have her know that by his word he could work anything. Martha believed a resurrection at the last day; Christ tells her that he had that power lodged in his own hand, that the dead were to hear his voice (John 5:25; John 5:25), whence it was easy to infer, He that could raise a world of men that had been dead many ages could doubtless raise one man that had been dead but four days. Note, It is an unspeakable comfort to all good Christians that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, and will be so to them. Resurrection is a return to life; Christ is the author of that return, and of that life to which it is a return. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, and Christ is both; the author and principle of both, and the ground of our hope of both.

      Secondly, The promises of the new covenant, which give us further ground of hope that we shall live. Observe,

      a. To whom these promises are made--to those that believe in Jesus Christ, to those that consent to, and confide in, Jesus Christ as the only Mediator of reconciliation and communion between God and man, that receive the record God has given in his word concerning his Son, sincerely comply with it, and answer all the great intentions of it. The condition of the latter promise is thus expressed: Whosoever liveth and believeth in me, which may be understood, either, (a.) Of natural life: Whosoever lives in this world, whether he be Jew or Gentile, wherever he lives, if he believe in Christ, he shall live by him. Yet it limits the time: Whoever during life, while he is here in this state of probation, believes in me, shall be happy in me, but after death it will be too late. Whoever lives and believes, that is, lives by faith (Galatians 2:20), has a faith that influences his conversation. Or, (b.) Of spiritual life: He that lives and believes is he that by faith is born again to a heavenly and divine life, to whom to live is Christ--that makes Christ the life of his soul.

      b. What the promises are (John 11:25; John 11:25): Though he die, yet shall he live, nay, he shall never die,John 11:26; John 11:26. Man consists of body and soul, and provision is made for the happiness of both.

      (a.) For the body; here is the promise of a blessed resurrection. Though the body be dead because of sin (there is no remedy but it will die), yet it shall live again. All the difficulties that attend the state of the dead are here overlooked, and made nothing of. Though the sentence of death was just, though the effects of death be dismal, though the bands of death be strong, though he be dead and buried, dead and putrefied, though the scattered dust be so mixed with common dust that no art of man can distinguish, much less separate them, put the case as strongly as you will on that side, yet we are sure that he shall live again: the body shall be raised a glorious body.

      (b.) For the soul; here is the promise of a blessed immortality. He that liveth and believeth, who, being united to Christ by faith, lives spiritually by virtue of that union, he shall never die. That spiritual life shall never be extinguished, but perfected in eternal life. As the soul, being in its nature spiritual, is therefore immortal; so if by faith it live a spiritual life, consonant to its nature, its felicity shall be immortal too. It shall never die, shall never be otherwise than easy and happy, and there is not any intermission or interruption of its life, as there is of the life of the body. The mortality of the body shall at length be swallowed up of life; but the life of the soul, the believing soul, shall be immediately at death swallowed up of immortality. He shall not die, eis ton aiona, for ever--Non morietur in æternum; so Cyprian quotes it. The body shall not be for ever dead in the grave; it dies (like the two witnesses) but for a time, times, and the dividing of time; and when time shall be no more, and all the divisions of it shall be numbered and finished, a spirit of life from God shall enter into it. But this is not all; the souls shall not die that death which is for ever, shall not die eternally, Blessed and holy, that is, blessed and happy, is he that by faith has part in the first resurrection, has part in Christ, who is that resurrection; for on such the second death, which is a death for ever, shall have no power; see John 6:40; John 6:40. Christ asks her, "Believest thou this? Canst thou assent to it with application? Canst thou take my word for it?" Note, When we have read or heard the word of Christ, concerning the great things of the other world, we should seriously put it to ourselves, "Do we believe this, this truth in particular, this which is attended with so many difficulties, this which is suited to my case? Does my belief of it realize it to me, and give my soul an assurance of it, so that I can say not only this I believe, but thus I believe it?" Martha was doting upon her brother's being raised in this world; before Christ gave her hopes of this, he directed her thoughts to another life, another world: "No matter for that, but believest thou this that I tell thee concerning the future state?" The crosses and comforts of this present time would not make such an impression upon us as they do if we did but believe the things of eternity as we ought.

      [5.] Martha's unfeigned assent yielded to what Christ said, John 11:27; John 11:27. We have here Martha's creed, the good confession she witnessed, the same with that for which Peter was commended (Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:17), and it is the conclusion of the whole matter.

      First, Here is the guide of her faith, and that is the word of Christ; without any alteration, exception, or proviso, she takes it entire as Christ had said it: Yea, Lord, whereby she subscribes to the truth of all and every part of that which Christ had promised, in his own sense: Even so. Faith is an echo to divine revelation, returns the same words, and resolves to abide by them: Yea, Lord, As the word did make it so I believe and take it, said queen Elizabeth.

      Secondly, The ground of her faith, and that is the authority of Christ; she believes this because she believes that he who saith it is Christ. She has recourse to the foundation for the support of the superstructure. I believe, pepisteuka, "I have believed that thou art Christ, and therefore I do believe this." Observe here,

      a. What she believed and confessed concerning Jesus; three things, all to the same effect:-- (a.) That he was the Christ, or Messiah, promised and expected under this name and notion, the anointed one. (b.) That he was the Son of God; so the Messiah was called (Psalms 2:7), not by office only, but by nature. (c.) That it was he who should come into the world, the ho erchomenos. That blessing of blessings which the church had for so many ages waited for as future, she embraced as present.

      b. What she inferred hence, and what she alleged this for. If she admits this, that Jesus is the Christ, there is no difficulty in believing that he is the resurrection and the life; for if he be the Christ, then, (a.) He is the fountain of light and truth, and we may take all his sayings for faithful and divine, upon his own word. If he be the Christ, he is that prophet whom we are to hear in all things. (b.) He is the fountain of life and blessedness, and we may therefore depend upon his ability as well as upon his veracity. How shall bodies, turned to dust, live again? How shall souls, clogged and clouded as ours are, live for ever? We could not believe this, but that we believe him that undertakes it to be the Son of God, who has life in himself, and has it for us.

      2. The interview between Christ and Mary the other sister. And here observe,

      (1.) The notice which Martha gave her of Christ's coming (John 11:28; John 11:28): When she had so said, as one that needed to say no more, she went her way, easy in her mind, and called Mary her sister. [1.] Martha, having received instruction and comfort from Christ herself, called her sister to share with her. Time was when Martha would have drawn Mary from Christ, to come and help her in much serving (Luke 10:40); but, to make her amends for this, here she is industrious to draw her to Christ. [2.] She called her secretly, and whispered it in her ear, because there was company by, Jews, who were no friends to Christ. The saints are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ by an invitation that is secret and distinguishing, given to them and not to others; they have meat to eat that the world knows not of, joy that a stranger does not intermeddle with. [3.] She called her by order from Christ; he bade her go call her sister. This call that is effectual, whoever brings it, is sent by Christ. The Master is come, and calleth for thee. First, She calls Christ the Master, didaskalos, a teaching master; by that title he was commonly called and known among them. Mr. George Herbert took pleasure in calling Christ, my Master. Secondly, She triumphs in his arrival: The Master is come. He whom we have long wished and waited for, he is come, he is come; this was the best cordial in the present distress. "Lazarus is gone, and our comfort in him is gone; but the Master is come, who is better than the dearest friend, and has that in him which will abundantly make up all our losses. He is come who is our teacher, who will teach us how to get good by our sorrow (Psalms 94:12), who will teach, and so comfort." Thirdly, She invites her sister to go and meet him: "He calls for thee, enquires what is become of thee, and would have thee sent for." Note, When Christ our Master comes, he calls for us. He comes in his word and ordinances, calls us to them, calls us by them, calls us to himself. He calls for thee in particular, for thee by name (Psalms 27:8); and, if he call thee, he will cure thee, he will comfort thee.

      (2.) The haste which Mary made to Christ upon this notice given her (John 11:29; John 11:29): As soon as she heard this good news, that the Master was come, she arose quickly, and came to him. She little thought how near he was to her, for he is often nearer to them that mourn in Zion than they are aware of; but, when she knew how near he was, she started up, and in a transport of joy ran to meet him. The least intimation of Christ's gracious approaches is enough to a lively faith, which stands ready to take the hint, and answer the first call. When Christ was come, [1.] She did not consult the decorum of her mourning, but, forgetting ceremony, and the common usage in such cases, she ran through the town, to meet Christ. Let no nice punctilios of decency and honour deprive us at any time of opportunities of conversing with Christ. [2.] She did not consult her neighbours, the Jews that were with her, comforting her; she left them all, to come to him, and did not only not ask their advice, but not so much as ask their leave, or beg their pardon for her rudeness.

      (3.) We are told (John 11:30; John 11:30) where she found the Master; he was not yet come into Bethany, but was at the town's end, in that place where Martha met him. See here, [1.] Christ's love to his work. He staid near the place where the grave was, that he might be ready to go to it. He would not go into the town, to refresh himself after the fatigue of his journey, till he had done the work he came to do; nor would he go into the town, lest it should look like ostentation, and a design to levy a crowd to be spectators of the miracle. [2.] Mary's love to Christ; still she loved much. Though Christ had seemed unkind in his delays, yet she could take nothing amiss from him. Let us go thus to Christ without the camp,Hebrews 13:13.

      (4.) The misconstruction which the Jews that were with Mary made of her going away so hastily (John 11:31; John 11:31): They said, She goes to the grave, to weep there. Martha bore up better under this affliction than Mary did, who was a woman of a tender and sorrowful spirit; such was her natural temper. Those that are so have need to watch against melancholy, and ought to be pitied and helped. These comforters found that their formalities did her no service, but that she hardened herself in sorrow: and therefore concluded when she went out, and turned that way, it was to go to the grave and weep there. See, [1.] What often is the folly and fault of mourners; they contrive how to aggravate their own grief, and to make bad worse. We are apt in such cases to take a strange pleasure in our own pain, and to say, We do well to be passionate in our grief, even unto death; we are apt to fasten upon those things that aggravate the affliction, and what good does this do us, when it is our duty to reconcile ourselves to the will of God in it? Why should mourners go to the grave to weep there, when they sorrow not as those that have no hope? Affliction of itself is grievous; why should we make it more so? [2.] What is the wisdom and duty of comforters; and that is, to prevent as much as may be, in those who grieve inordinately, the revival of the sorrow, and to divert it. Those Jews that followed Mary were thereby led to Christ, and became the witnesses of one of his most glorious miracles. It is good cleaving to Christ's friends in their sorrows, for thereby we may come to know him better.

      (5.) Mary's address to our Lord Jesus (John 11:32; John 11:32): She came, attended with her train of comforters, and fell down at his feet, as one overwhelmed with a passionate sorrow, and said with many tears (as appears John 11:33; John 11:33), Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, as Martha said before, for they had often said it to one another. Now here, [1.] Her posture is very humble and submissive: She fell down at his feet, which was more than Martha did, who had a greater command of her passions. She fell down not as a sinking mourner, but fell down at his feet as a humble petitioner. This Mary had sat at Christ's feet to hear his word (Luke 10:39), and here we find her there on another errand. Note, Those that in a day of peace place themselves at Christ's feet, to receive instructions from him, may with comfort and confidence in a day of trouble cast themselves at his feet with hope to find favour with him. She fell at his feet, as one submitting to his will in what was done, and referring herself to his good-will in what was now to be done. When we are in affliction we must cast ourselves at Christ's feet in a penitent sorrow and self-abasement for sin, and a patient resignation of ourselves to the divine disposal. Mary's casting herself at Christ's feet was in token of the profound respect and veneration she had for him. Thus subjects were wont to give honour to their kings and princes; but, our Lord Jesus not appearing in secular glory as an earthly prince, those who by this posture of adoration gave honour to him certainly looked upon him as more than man, and intended hereby to give him divine honour. Mary hereby made profession of the Christian faith as truly as Martha did, and in effect said, I believe that thou art the Christ; bowing the knee to Christ, and confessing him with the tongue, are put together as equivalent, Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10; Philippians 2:11. This she did in presence of the Jews that attended her, who, though friends to her and her family, yet were bitter enemies to Christ; yet in their sight she fell at Christ's feet, as one that was neither ashamed to own the veneration she had for Christ nor afraid of disobliging her friends and neighbours by it. Let them resent it as they pleased, she falls at his feet; and, if this be to be vile, she will be yet more vile; see Song of Solomon 8:1. We serve a Master of whom we have no reason to be ashamed, and whose acceptance of our services is sufficient to balance the reproach of men and all their revilings. [2.] Her address is very pathetic: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Christ's delay was designed for the best, and proved so; yet both the sisters very indecently cast the same in his teeth, and in effect charge him with the death of their brother. This repeated challenge he might justly have resented, might have told them he had something else to do than to be at their beck and to attend them; he must come when his business would permit him: but not a word of this; he considered the circumstances of their affliction, and that losers think they may have leave to speak, and therefore overlooked the rudeness of this welcome, and gave us an example of mildness and meekness in such cases. Mary added no more, as Martha did; but it appears, by what follows, that what she fell short in words she made up in tears; she said less than Martha, but wept more; and tears of devout affection have a voice, a loud prevailing voice, in the ears of Christ; no rhetoric like this.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 11:24". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​john-11.html. 1706.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Though He Were Dead

September 14th, 1884 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 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?" John 11:24-26 .

Martha is a very accurate type of a class of anxious believers. They do believe truly, but not with such confidence as to lay aside their care. They do not distrust the Lord, or question the truth of what He says, yet they puzzle their brain about "How shall this thing be?" and so they miss the major part of the present comfort which the word of the Lord would minister to their hearts if they received it more simply. How? and why? belong unto the Lord. It is His business to arrange matters so as to fulfil His own promises. If we would sit at our Lord's feet with Mary, and consider what He has promised, we should choose a better part than if we ran about with Martha, crying, "How can these things be?"

Martha, you see, in this case, when the Lord Jesus Christ told her that her brother would rise again, replied, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." She was a type, I say, of certain anxious believers, for she set a practical bound to the Saviour's words. "Of course there will be a resurrection, and then my brother will rise with the rest." She concluded that the Saviour could not mean anything beyond that. The first meaning and the commonest meaning that suggests itself to her must be what Jesus means. Is not that the way with many of us? We had a statesman once, and a good man too, who loved reform; but whenever he had accomplished a little progress, he considered that all was done. We called him at last "Finality John," for he was always coming to an ultimatum, and taking for his motto "Rest, and be thankful." Into that style Christian people too frequently drop with regard to the promises of God. We limit the Holy one of Israel as to the meaning of His words. Of course they mean so much, but we cannot allow that they intend more. It were well if the spirit of progress would enter into our faith, so that we felt within our souls that we had never beheld the innermost glory of the Lord's words of grace. We often wonder that the disciples put such poor meanings upon our Lord's words, but I fear we are almost as far off as they were from fully comprehending all His gracious teachings. Are we not still as little children, making little out of great words? Have we grasped as yet a tithe of our Lord's full meaning, in many of His sayings of love? When He is talking of bright and sparkling gems of benediction, we are thinking of common pebble-stones in the brook of mercy; when He speaketh of stars and heavenly crowns, we think of sparks and childish coronals of fading flowers. Oh that we could but have our intellect cleared; better still, could have our understanding expanded, or, best of all, our faith increased, so as to reach to the height or our Lord's great arguments of love!

Martha also had another fault in which she was very like ourselves: she laid the words of Jesus on the shelf, as things so trite and sure that they were of small practical importance. "Thy brother shall rise again." Now, if she had possessed faith enough, she might truthfully have said, "Lord, I thank Thee for that word! I expect within a short space to see him sitting at the table with Thee. I put the best meaning possible upon Thy words, for I know that Thou art always better than I can think Thee to be; and therefore I expect to see my beloved Lazarus walk home from the sepulchre before the sun sets again." But no, she lays the truth aside as a matter past all dispute, and says, "I know that my brother shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." A great many precious truths are laid up by us like the old hulks in the Medway, never to see service any more, or like aged pensioners at Chelsea, as relics of the past. We say "Yes, quite true, we fully believe that doctrine." Somehow it is almost as bad to lay up a doctrine in lavender as it is to throw it out of the window. When you so believe a truth as to put it to bed and smother it with the bolster of neglect, it is much the same as if you did not believe it at all. An official belief is very much akin to infidelity. Some persons never question a doctrine: that is not their line of temptation; they accept the gospel as true, but then they never expect to see its promises practically carried out; it is a proper thing to believe, but by no means a prominent, practical factor in actual life. It is true but it is mysterious, misty, mythical, far removed from the realm of practical common sense. We do with the promises often as a poor old couple did with a precious document, which might have cheered their old age had they used it according to its real value. A gentleman stepping into a poor woman's house saw framed and glazed upon the wall a French note for a thousand francs. He said to the old folks, "How came you by this?" They informed him that a poor French soldier had been taken in by them and nursed until he died, and he had given them that little picture when he was dying as a memorial of him. They thought it such a pretty souvenir that they had framed it, and there it was adorning the cottage wall. They were greatly surprised when they were told that it was worth a sum which would be quite a little fortune for them if they would but turn it into money. Are we not equally unpractical with far more precious things? Have you not certain of the words of your great Lord framed and glazed in your hearts, and do you not say to yourselves, "They are so sweet and precious"? and yet you have never turned them into actual blessing never used them in the hour of need. You have done as Martha did when she took the words, "Thy brother shall rise again," and put round about them this handsome frame, "in the resurrection at the last day." Oh that we had grace to turn God's bullion of gospel into current coin, and use them as our present spending money.

Moreover, Martha made another blunder, and that was setting the promise in the remote distance. This is a common folly, this distancing the promises of the Most High. "In the resurrection at the last day" no doubt she thought it a very long way off, and therefore she did not get much comfort out of it. Telescopes are meant to bring objects near to the eye, but I have known people use the mental telescope in the wrong way: they always put the big end of it to their eye, and then the glass sends the object further away. Her brother was to be raised that very day: she might so have understood the Saviour, but instead of it she looked at His words through the wrong end of the glass, and said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Brethren, do not refuse the present blessing. Death and heaven, or the advent and the glory, are at your doors. A little while and He that will come shall come, and will not tarry. Think not that the Lord is slack concerning His promise. Do not say in your heart, "My Lord delayeth His coming"; or dream that His words of love are only for the dim future. In the ages to come marvels shall be revealed, but even the present hour is bejewelled with loving-kindness. To-day the Lord has rest, and peace, and joy to give to you. Lose not these treasures by unbelief.

Martha also appears to me to have made the promise unreal and impersonal. "Thy brother shall rise again"; to have realized that would have been a great comfort to her, but she mixes Lazarus up with all the rest of the dead. "Yes, he will rise in the resurrection at the last day; when thousands of millions shall be rising from their graves, no doubt Lazarus will rise with the rest." That is the way with us; we take the promise and say, "This is true to all the children of God." If so it is true to us; but we miss that point. What a blessing God has bestowed upon the covenanted people! Yes, and you are one of them; but you shake your head, as if the word was not for you. It is a fine feast, and yet you are hungry; it is a full and flowing stream, but you remain thirsty. Why is this? Somehow the generality of your apprehension misses the sweetness which comes of personal appropriation. There is such a thing as speaking of the promises in a magnificent style, and yet being in deep spiritual poverty; as if a man should boast of the wealth of old England, and the vast amount of treasure in the Bank, while he does not possess a penny wherewith to bless himself. In your case you know it is your own fault that you are poor and miserable, for if you would but exercise an appropriating faith you might possess a boundless heritage. If you are a child of God all things are yours, and you may help yourself. If you are hungry at this banquet it is for want of faith: if you are thirsty by the brink of this river it is because you do not stoop down and drink. Behold, God is your portion: the Father is your shepherd, the Son of God is your food, and the Spirit of God is your comforter. Rejoice and be glad, and grasp with the firm hand of a personal faith that royal boon which Jesus sets before you in His promises.

I beg you to observe how the Lord Jesus Christ in great wisdom dealt with Martha. In the first place, He did not grow angry with her. There is not a trace of petulance in His speech. He did not say to her, "Martha, I am ashamed of you that you should have such low thoughts of me." She thought that she was honouring Jesus when she said, "I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee." Her idea of Jesus was that He was a great prophet Who would ask of God and obtain answers to His prayers; she has not grasped the truth of His own personal power to give and sustain life. But the Saviour did not say, "Martha, these are low and grovelling ideas of your Lord and Saviour." He did not chide her, though she lacked wisdom, wisdom which she ought to have possessed. I do not think God's people learn much by being scolded; it is not the habit of the great Lord to scold His disciples, and therefore they do not take it well when His servants take upon themselves to rate them. If ever you meet with one of the Lord's own who falls far short of the true ideal of the gospel, do not bluster and upbraid. Who taught you what you know? He that has taught you did it of His infinite love and grace and pity, and He was very tender with you, for you were doltish enough; therefore be tender with others, and give them line upon line, even as your Lord was gentle towards you. It ill becomes a servant to lose patience where his Master shows so much.

The Lord Jesus, with gentle spirit, proceeded to teach her more of the things concerning Himself. More of Jesus! More of Jesus! That is the sovereign cure for our faults. He revealed Himself to her, that in Him she might behold reasons for a clearer hope and a more substantial faith. How sweetly fell those words upon her ear: "I am the resurrection and the life"! Not "I can get resurrection by my prayers," but "I am, myself, the resurrection." God's people need to know more of what Jesus is, more of the fullness which it has pleased the Father to place in Him. Some of them know quite enough of what they are themselves, and they will break their hearts if they go on reading much longer in that black-letter book: they need, I say, to rest their eyes upon the person of their Lord, and to spy out all the riches of grace which lie hidden in Him; then they will pluck up courage, and look forward with surer expectancy. When our Lord said, "I am the resurrection and the life," He indicated to Martha that resurrection and life were not gifts which He must seek, nor even boons which He must create; but that He Himself was the resurrection and the life: these things were wherever He was. He was the author, and giver, and maintainer of life, and that life was Himself. He would have her to know that He was Himself precisely what she wanted for her brother. She did know a little of the Lord's power, for she said, "If Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," which being very kindly interpreted might mean, "Lord, Thou art the life." "Ah, but," saith Jesus, "you must also learn that I am the resurrection! You already admit that if I had been here Lazarus would not have died; I would have you further learn that I being here your brother shall live though he has died; and that when I am with my people none of them shall die for ever, for I am to them the resurrection and the life." Poor Martha was looking up into the sky for life, or gazing down into the deeps for resurrection, when the Resurrection and the Life stood before her, smiling upon her, and cheering her heavy heart. She had thought of what Jesus might have done if He had been there before; now let her know what He is at the present moment.

Thus I have introduced the text to you, and I pray God the Holy Spirit to bless these prefatory observations; for if we learn only these first lessons we shall not have been here in vain. Let us construe promises in their largest sense, let us regard them as real, and set them down as facts. Let us look to the Promisor, even to Jesus the Lord, and not so much to the difficulties which surround the accomplishment of the promise. In beginning the divine life let us look to Jesus, and in afterwards running the heavenly race let us still be looking unto Jesus, till we see in Him our all in all. When both eyes look on Jesus we are in the light; but when we have one eye for Him, and one eye for self, all is darkness. Oh, to see Him with all our soul's eyes!

Now, I am going to speak as I am helped of the Spirit; and I shall proceed thus first, by asking you to view the text as a stream of comfort to Martha and other bereaved persons; and, secondly, to view it as a great deep of comfort to all believers.

I. First, I long for you to VIEW THE TEXT AS A STREAM OF COMFORT TO MARTHA AND OTHER BEREAVED PERSONS.

Observe, in the beginning, that the presence of Jesus Christ means life and resurrection. It meant that to Lazarus. If Jesus comes to Lazarus, Lazarus must live. Had Martha taken the Saviour's words literally, as she should have done, as I have already told you, she would have had immediate comfort from them; and the Saviour intended her to understand them in that sense. He virtually says, "I am to Lazarus the Power that can make him live again; and I am the Power that can keep him in life. Yea, I am the resurrection and the life." A statement so understood would have been very comfortable to her. Nothing could have been more so. It would there and then have abolished death so far as her brother was concerned. Somebody says, "But I do not see that this is any comfort to us , for if Jesus be here, yet it is only a spiritual presence, and we cannot expect to see our dear mother, or child, or husband raised from the dead thereby." I answer that our Lord Jesus is able at this moment to give us back our departed ones, for He is still the resurrection and the life. But let me ask you whether you really wish that Jesus would raise your departed ones from the dead. You say at first, "Of course I do wish it"; but I would ask you to reconsider that decision; for I believe that upon further thought you will say, "No, I could not wish it." Do you really desire to see your glorified husband sent back again to this world of care and pain? Would you have your father or mother deprived of the glories which they are now enjoying in order that they might help you in the struggles of this mortal life? Would you discrown the saints? You are not so cruel. That dear child, would you have it back from among the angels, and from the inner glory, to come here and suffer again? You would not have it so. And to my mind it is a comfort to you, or should be, that it is not within your power to have it so; because you might be tempted in some selfish moment to accept the doubtful boon. Lazarus could return, and fit into his place again, but scarcely one in ten thousand could do so. There would be serious drawbacks in the return of those whom we have loved best. Do you cry, "Give back my father! Give me back my friend"? You know not what you ask. It might be a cause of regret to you as long as they lingered here, for you would each morning think to yourself, "Beloved one, I have brought you out of heaven by my wish. I have robbed you of infinite felicity to gratify myself." For my own part, I had rather that the Lord Jesus should keep the keys of death than that He should lend them to me. It would be too dreadful a privilege to be empowered to rob heaven of the perfected merely to give pleasure to imperfect ones below. Jesus would raise them now if He knew it to be right; I do not wish to take the government from His shoulder. It is more comfortable to me to think that Jesus Christ could give them back to me, and would if it were for His glory and my good. My dear ones that lie asleep could be awakened in an instant if the Master thought it best; but it would not be best, and therefore even I would hold His skirt, and say, "Tread softly, Master! Do not arouse them! I shall go to them, but they shall not return to me. It is not my wish they should return: it is better that they should be with Thee where Thou art, to behold Thy glory." It does not seem to me, then, dear friend, that you are one whit behind Martha: and you ought to be comforted while Jesus says to you, "I am even now the resurrection and the life."

Furthermore, here is comfort which we may each one safely take, namely, that when Jesus comes the dead shall live. The Revised Version has it, "He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live." We do not know when our Lord will descend from heaven, but we do know the message of the angel, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." The Lord will come; we may not question the certainty of His appearing. When He cometh, all His redeemed shall live with Him. The trump of the archangel shall startle the happy sleepers, and they shall wake to put on their beauteous array; the body transformed and made like unto Christ's glorious body shall be once more wrapt about them as the vesture of their perfected and emancipated spirits. Then our brother shall rise again, and all our dear ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus the Lord will bring with Him. This is the glorious hope of the church, wherein we see the death of death, and the destruction of the grave. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Then we are also told that when Jesus comes, living believers shall not die. After the coming of Christ there shall be no more death for His people. What does Paul say? "Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed." Did I see a little school-girl put up her finger? Did I hear her say, "Please, sir, you made a mistake." So I did; I made it on purpose. Paul did not say, "We shall not all die," for the Lord had already said, "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" ; Paul would not say that any of us should die, but he used his Master's own term, and said, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." When the Lord comes there will be no more death; we who are alive and remain (as some of us may be we cannot tell) will undergo a sudden transformation for flesh and blood, as they are, cannot inherit the kingdom of God and by that transformation our bodies shall be made meet to be "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." There shall be no more death then. Here, then, we have two sacred handkerchiefs with which to wipe the eyes of mourners: when Christ cometh the dead shall live; when Christ cometh those that live shall never die. Like Enoch, or Elias, we shall pass into the glory state without wading through the black stream, while those who have already forded it shall prove to have been no losers thereby. All this is in connection with Jesus. Resurrection with Jesus is resurrection indeed. Life in Jesus is life indeed. It endears to us resurrection, glory, eternal life, and ultimate perfection, when we see them all coming to us in Jesus. He is the golden pot which hath this manna, the rod which beareth these almonds, the life whereby we live.

But further, I have not made you drink deep enough of this stream yet, I think our Saviour meant that even now His dead are alive. "He that believeth on me, though he die, but yet they live. They are not in the grave, they are for ever with the Lord. They are not unconscious, they are with their Lord in Paradise. Death cannot kill a believer, it can only usher him into a freer form of life. Because Jesus lives, His people live. God is not the God of the dead but of the living: those who have departed have not perished. We laid the precious body in the cemetery, and we set up stones at the head and foot; but we might engrave on them the Lord's words, "She is not dead, but sleepeth." True, and unbelieving generation may laugh us to scorn, but we scorn their laughing.

Again, even now His living do not die. There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father's palace: to the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors: death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory. To die in the Lord is a covenant blessing. Death is ours; it is set down in the list of our possessions among the "all things", and it follows life in the list as if it were an equal favour. No longer is it death to die. The name remains, but the thing itself is changed. Wherefore, then, are we in bondage through fear of death? Why do we dread the process which gives us liberty? I am told that persons who in the cruel ages had lain in prison for years suffered much more in the moment of the knocking off of their fetters than they had endured for months in wearing the hard iron; and yet I suppose that no man languishing in a dungeon would have been unwilling to stretch out his arm or leg, that the heavy chains might be beaten off by the smith. We should all be content to endure that little inconvenience to obtain lasting liberty. Now, such is death the knocking off of the fetters; yet the iron may never seem to be so truly iron as when that last liberating blow of grace is about to fall. Let us not mind the harsh grating of the key as it turns in the lock; if we understand it aright it will be as music to our ears. Imagine that your last hour is come! The key turns with pain for a moment; but, lo, the bolt is shot! The iron gate is open! The spirit is free! Glory be unto the Lord for ever and ever!

II. I leave the text now as a stream of comfort for the bereaved, for I wish you to VIEW IT AS A GREAT DEEP OF COMFORT FOR ALL BELIEVERS. I cannot fathom it, any more than I could measure the abyss, but I can invite you to survey it by the help of the Holy Ghost.

Methinks, first, this text plainly teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is the life of His people. We are dead by nature, and you can never produce life out of death: the essential elements are wanting. Should a spark be lingering among the ashes, you may yet fan it to a flame; but from human nature the last spark of heavenly life is gone, and it is vain to seek for life among the dead. The life of every Christian is Christ. He is the beginning of life, being the Resurrection: when He comes to us we live. Regeneration is the result of contact with Christ: we are begotten again unto living hope by His resurrection from the dead. The life of the Christian in its commencement is in Christ alone; not a fragment of it is from himself, and the continuance of that life is equally the same; Jesus is not only the resurrection to begin with, but the life to go on with. "I have life in myself," saith one. I answer not otherwise than as you are one with Christ: your spiritual life in every breath it draws is in Christ. If you are regarded for a moment as separated from Christ, you are cast forth as a branch and are withered. A member severed from the head is dead flesh and no more. In union to Christ is your life. Oh that our hearers would understand this! I see a poor sinner look into himself, and look again, and then cry, "I cannot see any life within!" Of course you cannot; you have no life of your own. "Alas," cries a Christian, "I cannot find anything within to feed my soul with!" Do you expect to feed upon yourself? Must not Israel look up for the manna? Did one of all the tribes find it in his own bosom? To look to self is to turn to a broken cistern which can hold no water. I tell you you must learn that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Hearken to that great "I" that infinite EGO! This must cover over and swallow up your little ego. "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." What are you? Less than nothing, and vanity; but over all springs up that divine, all-sufficient personality, "I am the resurrection and the life." Take the two first words together, and they seem to me to have a wondrous majesty about them "I AM!" Here is Self-Existence. Life in Himself! Even as the Mediator, the Lord Jesus tells us that it is given Him to have life in Himself, even as the Father hath life in Himself (John 5:26 ). I am fills the yawning mouth of the sepulchre. He that liveth and was dead and is alive for evermore, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, declares, "I am the resurrection and the life." If, then, I want to live unto God, I must have Christ; and if I desire to continue to live unto God I must continue to have Christ; and if I aspire to have that life developed to the utmost fullness of which it is capable, I must find it all in Christ. He has come not only that we may have life, but that we may have it more abundantly. Anything that is beyond the circle of Christ is death. If I conjure up an experience over which I foolishly dote, which puffs me up as so perfect that I need not come to Christ now as a poor empty-handed sinner, I have entered into the realm of death, I have introduced into my soul a damning leaven. Away with it! Away with it! Everything of life is put into this golden casket of Christ Jesus: all else is death. We have not a breath of life anywhere but in Jesus, Who ever liveth to give life. He saith, "Because I live, ye shall live also," and this is true. We live not for any other reason not because of anything in us or connected with us, but only because of Jesus. "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

Now, further, in this great deep to which we would conduct you, faith is the only channel by which we can draw from Jesus our life. "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me": that is it. He does not say, "He that loves me," though love is a bright grace, and very sweet to God: He does not say, "He that serves me," though every one that believes in Christ will endeavour to serve Him: but it is not put so: He does not even say, "He that imitates me," though every one that believes in Christ must and will imitate Him; but it is put, "He that believeth in me." Why is that? Why doth the Lord so continually make faith to be the only link between Himself and the soul? I take it, because faith is a grace which arrogates nothing to itself, and has not operation apart from Jesus, to Whom it unites us. You want to conduct the electric fluid, and, in order to this, you find a metal which will not create any action of its own; if it did so, it would disturb the current which you wish to send along it. If it set up an action of its own, how would you know the difference between what came of the metal and what came of the battery? Now, faith is an empty-handed receiver and communicator; it is nothing apart from that upon which it relies, and therefore it is suitable to be a conductor for grace. When an auditorium has to be erected for a speaker in which he may be plainly heard, the essential thing is to get rid of all echo. When you have no echo, then you have a perfect building: faith makes no noise of its own, it allows the Word to speak. Faith cries, "Non nobis Domine! Not unto us! Not unto us! Christ puts His crown on faith's head, exclaiming, "Thy faith hath saved thee;" but faith hastens to ascribe all the glory of salvation to Jesus only. So you see why the Lord selects faith rather than any other grace, because it is a self-forgetting thing. It is best adapted to be the tubing through which the water of life runs, because it will not communicate a flavour of its own, but will just convey the stream purely and simply from Christ to the soul. "He that believeth in me."

Now notice, to the reception of Christ by faith there is no limit. "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever" I am deeply in love with that word "whosoever." It is a splendid word. A person who kept many animals had some great dogs and some little ones, and in his eagerness to let them enter his house freely he had two holes cut in the door, one for the big dogs and another for the little dogs. You may well laugh, for the little dogs could surely have come in wherever there was room for the larger ones. This "whosoever" is the great opening, suitable for sinners of every size. "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Has any man a right to believe in Christ? The gospel gives every creature the right to believe in Christ, for we are bidden to preach it to every creature, with this command, "Hear, and your soul shall live." Every man has a right to believe in Christ, because he will be damned if he does not, and he must have a right to do that which will bring him into condemnation if he does it not. It is written, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned," and that makes it clear that I, whoever I may be, as I have a right to endeavour to escape from damnation, have a right to avail myself of the blessed command, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live." Oh that "whosoever," that hole in the door for the big dog! Do not forget it! Come along with you, and put your trust in Christ. If you can only get linked with Christ you are a living man; if but a finger touches His garment's hem you are made whole. Only the touch of faith, and the virtue flows from Him to you, and He is to you the resurrection and the life.

I desire you to notice that there is no limit to this power. Before I was ill this time, and even since, I have had to deal with such a swarm of despairing sinners, that if I have not pulled them up they have pulled me down. I have been trying to speak very large words for Christ when I have met with those disconsolate ones. I hear one say, "How far can Christ be life to a sinner? I feel myself to be utterly wrong, I am altogether wrong; there is nothing right about me: though I have eyes I cannot see, though I have ears I do not hear; if I have a hand I cannot use it, if I have a foot I cannot run with it I seem altogether wrong." Yes, but if you believe in Christ, though you were still more wrong that is to say, though you were dead, which is the wrongest state in which a man's body can be, though you were dead yet shall you live. You look at the spiritual thermometer, and you say, "How low will the grace of God go? will it descend to summer heat? will it touch the freezing point? will it go to zero?" Yes, it will go below the lowest conceivable point, lower than any instrument can indicate: it will go below the zero of death. If you believe in Jesus, though you are not only wrong, but dead, yet shall you live.

But, says another, "I feel so weak. I cannot understand, I cannot lay hold of things; I cannot pray. I cannot do anything. All I can do is feebly to trust in Jesus." All right! Though you had gone further than that, and were so weak as to be dead, yet should you live. Though the weakness had turned to a dire paralysis, that left you altogether without strength, yet it is written, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "Oh, Sir," says one, "I am so unfeeling." Mark you, these generally are the most feeling people in the world. "I am sorry every day because I cannot be sorry for my sin" that is the way they talk; it is very absurd, but still very real to them. "Oh," cries one, "the earth shook, the sun was darkened, the rocks rent, the very dead came out of their graves at the death of Christ.

"Of feeling all things show some sign But this unfeeling heart of mine." Yet if thou believest, unfeeling as thou art, thou livest; for if thou wert gone further than numb-ness to deadness, yet if thou believest in Him thou shalt live.

But the poor creature fetches a sigh, and cries, "Sir, it is not only that I have no feeling, but I am become objectionable and obnoxious to everybody. I am a weariness to myself and to others. I am sure when I come to tell you my troubles you must wish me at Jericho, or somewhere else far away." Now, I admit that such a thought has occurred to us sometimes when we have been very busy, and some poor soul has grown prosy with rehearsing his seven-times-repeated miseries; but if you were to get more wearisome still, if you were to become so bad that people would as soon see a corpse as see you, yet remember Jesus says, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

"Oh, sir, I have no hope; my case is quite hopeless!" Very well; but if you had got beyond that, so that you were dead, and could not even know you had no hope, yet if you believed in Him you should live. "Oh, but I have tried everything, and there is nothing more for me to attempt. I have read books, I have spoken to Christians, and I am nothing bettered." No doubt it is quite so; but if you had even passed beyond that stage, so that you could not try anything more, yet if you did believe in Jesus you should live. Oh, the blessed power of faith! Nay, rather say the matchless power of Him Who is the resurrection and the life; for though the poor believer were dead, yet shall he live! Glory be to the Lord Who works so wonderfully.

To conclude, if you once do believe in Christ, and come to live, there is this sweet reflection for you, " Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Our Arminian friends say that you may be a child of God to-day and a child of the devil to-morrow. Write out that statement, and place at the bottom of it the name "Arminius," and then put the scrap of paper into the fire: it is the best thing you can do with it, for there is no truth in it. Jesus says, "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Here is a very literal translation "And every one who lives and believes on me, in no wise shall die forever." This is from "The Englishman's Greek New Test-ament," and nothing can be better. The believer may pass through the natural change called death, as far as his body is concerned; but as for his soul it cannot die, for it is written, "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." "He that believeth in me hath everlasting life." "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." These are not "ifs" and "buts," and faint hopes; but they are dead certainties, nay, living certainties, out of the mouth of the living Lord Himself. You get the life of God in your soul, and you shall never die. "Do you mean that I may do as I like, and live in sin?" No, man, I mean nothing of the sort; what right have you to impute such teaching as that to me? I mean that you shall not love sin and live in it, for that is death; but you shall live unto God. Your likes shall be so radically changed that you shall abhor evil all your days, and long to be holy as God is holy; and you shall be kept from transgression, and shall not go back to wallow in sin. If in some evil hour you back-slide, yet shall you be restored; and the main current of your life shall be from the hour of your regeneration towards God, and holiness, and heaven. The angels that rejoiced over you when you repented made no mistake; they shall go on to rejoice till they welcome you amidst the everlasting songs and Hallelujahs of the blessed at the right hand of God. Believest thou this? Come, poor soul, believest thou this? Who are you? That does not matter, you can get into the "whosoever." That ark will hold all God's Noahs. What is any man that he should have the filth of another man's drains poured into his ear? No, no: confess to God, but not to man unless you have wronged him, and confession of the wrong is due to him.

"Ah," saith one, "you don't know what I am." No, and I don't want to know what you are; but if you are so far gone that there seems to be not even a ghost of a shade of a shadow of a hope anywhere about you, yet if you believe in Jesus you shall live. Trust the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is worthy to be trusted. Throw yourself upon Him, and He will carry you in His bosom. Cast your whole weight upon His atonement; it will bear the strain. Hang on Him as the vessel hangs on the nail, and seek no other support. Depend upon Christ with all your might just as you now are, and as the Lord liveth you shall live, and as Christ reigneth you shall reign over sin, and as Christ cometh to glory you shall partake of that glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 11:24". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​spe/​john-11.html. 2011.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The point at which we have arrived gives me an opportunity of saying a little on the beginning of this chapter, and the end of the last; for it is well known that many men, and, I am sorry to add, not a few Christians, have allowed appearances to weigh against John 7:53 John 8:11 a very precious portion of God's word. The fact is, that the paragraph of the convicted adulteress has been either simply left out in some copies of Scripture, or a blank equivalent to it appears, or it is given with marks of doubt and a good deal of variety of reading, or it is put in elsewhere. This, with many alleged verbal peculiarities, acted on the minds of a considerable number, and led them to question its title to a place in the genuine gospel of John. I do not think that the objections usually raised are here understated. Nevertheless, mature as well as minute consideration of them fails to raise the slightest doubt in my own mind, and therefore to me it seems so much the more a duty to defend it, where the alternative is a dishonour to what I believe God has given us.

In its favour are the strongest possible proofs from such a character in itself, and such suitability to the context, as no forgery could ever boast. And these moral or spiritual indications (though, of course, only to such as are capable of apprehending and enjoying God's mind) are incomparably graver and more conclusive than any evidence of an external sort. Not that the external evidence is really weak, far from it. That which gives such an appearance is capable of reasonable, unforced, and even of what seems almost to amount to an historical solution. The meddling was probably due to human motives no uncommon thing in ancient or modern times. With good and with bad intentions men have often tried to mend the word of God. Superstitious persons, unable to enter into its beauty, and anxious after the good opinion of the world, were afraid to trust the truth which Christ was here setting forth in deed. Augustine,* an unimpeachable witness of facts, nearly as old as the most ancient manuscripts which omit the paragraph, tells us that it was from ethical difficulties some dropped this section out of their copies. We know for certain that dogmatic motives similarly influenced some in Luke 22:42-43. One of the considerations, adverted to already, ought to weigh exceedingly with the believer. The account, I shall show, is exactly in harmony with the Scripture that follows it not less so than the Lord's refusal to go up to the feast and show Himself to the world, with His words which follow on the gift of the Holy Ghost in John 7:1-53; or, again, the miracle of the miraculous bread, with the discourse appended on the needed food for the Christian inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71. In a word, there is here, as there, an indissoluble link of connected truth between the facts related and the communication our Lord makes afterwards in each instance respectively.

* The suspicion that some weak believers or enemies of the faith omitted the section, as the Bishop of Hippo suggests, would expose the passage to be tampered with. It is very likely that the Christians who read the Shepherd of Hermas in their public services would omit John 8:1-11. Similar unbelief inclines critical judgment in that direction now. Judgment of facts is apt to be swayed and formed by the will.

For, let me ask, what is the salient divine principle which runs through our Lord's conduct and language when the scribes and Pharisees confront Him with the woman taken in adultery? A flagrant case of sin was produced. They manifest no holy hatred of the evil, and certainly feel no pity for the sinner. "They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?* This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him." Their hope was to ensnare Christ, and to leave Him only a choice of difficulties: either a useless repetition of the law of Moses, or open opposition to the law. If the latter, would it not prove Him God's adversary? If the former, would He not forfeit all His pretensions to grace? For they were well aware, that in all the ways and language of Christ, there was that which totally differed from the law and all before Him. Indeed, they counted on His grace, though they felt it not, relished it not, in no way valued it as of God; but still they so expected grace in our Lord's dealing with so heinous a sinner as the one before them, that they hoped thereby to commit Him fatally in the eyes of men. Enmity to His person was their motive. To agree with Moses or to annul him seemed to them inevitable, and almost equally prejudicial to the claims of Jesus. No doubt, they most expected that our Lord in His grace would oppose the law, and thus put Himself and grace in the wrong.

* It is the remark of a critic unfriendly to the passage, that this question belongs to the last days of our Lord's ministry, and cannot well be introduced chronologically here. Unconsciously, however, this is really a strong confirmation; for morally John starts with the rejection of Jesus, and gives at the beginning even (as in the cleansing of the temple) similar truths to those which the rest attest at the close.

But the fact is, the grace of God never conflicts with His law, but, on the contrary, maintains its authority in its own sphere. There is nothing which clears, establishes, and vindicates the law, and every other principle of God, so truly as His grace. Even the proprieties of nature were never so made good as when the Lord manifested grace on the earth. Take, for instance, His ways inMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30. Who ever developed God's idea and will in marriage as Christ did? Who cast light on the value of a little child till Christ did? When a man left Himself, who could look so wistfully and with such love upon him as Jesus? Grace therefore is in no way inconsistent with, but maintains obligations at their true height. It is precisely thus, only still more gloriously, with our Lord's conduct on this occasion; for He weakens not in the least either the law or its sanctions, but contrariwise sheds around divine light in His own words and ways, and even applies the law with convincing power, not merely to the convicted criminal, but to the more hidden guilt of her accusers. Not a single self-righteous soul was left in that all-searching presence none indeed of those who came about the matter, except the woman herself.

Choose for me in all Scripture a preface of fact so suited to the doctrine of the chapter that follows. The whole chapter, from first to last, beams with light the light of God and of His word in the person of Jesus. Is not this undeniably what comes out in the opening incident? Does not Christ present Himself in discourse just after as the light of the world (so continually in John), as God's light by His word in Himself, infinitely superior even to law, and yet at the same time giving the law its fullest authority? Only a divine person could thus put and keep everything in its due place; only a divine person could act in perfect grace, but at the same time maintain immaculate holiness, and so much the more because it was in One full of grace.

This is just what the Lord does. Therefore, when the charge was brought thus heartlessly against outward evil, He simply stoops down, and with His finger writes on the ground. He allowed them to think of the circumstances, of themselves, and of Him. As they still continued asking, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." And again, stooping down, He writes on the round. (Verses John 8:6-8) The first act allows the full iniquity of their aim to be realized. They hoped, no doubt, it might be an insuperable difficulty to Him. They had time to weigh what they had said and were seeking. When they continued to ask, and He lifted Himself up and spoke to them those memorable words, He again stoops, that they might weigh them in their consciences. It was the light of God cast on their thoughts, words, and life. The words were few, simple, and self-evidencing. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." The effect was immediate and complete. His words penetrated to the heart. Why did not some of the witnesses rise and do the office? What! not one? "They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." (v. John 8:9) The law had never done this. They had learnt and trifled with the law up to this time; they had freely used it, as men do still, to convict other people. But here was the light of God shining full on their sinful condition, as well as on the law. It was the light of God that reserved all its rights to the law, but itself shone with such spiritual force as had never reached their consciences before, and drove out the faithless hearts which desired not the knowledge of God and His ways. And this a waif tossed haphazard on the broken coast of our gospel! Nay, brethren, your eyes are at fault; it is a ray of light from Christ, and shines just where it should.

It was not exactly, as Augustine says, "Relicti sunt duo, misera, et misericordia" ( In Jo. Evang. Tr., xxxiii. 5); for here the Lord is acting as light. Therefore, instead of saying, Thy sins are forgiven, He asks, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."* It is not pardon, nor mercy, but light. "Go, and sin no more" (not, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace"). Man invented such a story as this! Who since the world began, had he set to work to imagine an incident to illustrate the chapter, could or would have framed such an one as this? Where is there anything like it, that poet, philosopher, historian ever wrote, ever conceived? Produce the Protevangelion, the gospel of Nicodemus, or any other such early writing. These, indeed, are the genuine productions of man; but what a difference from that before us! Yet is it in the truest sense original, entirely distinct from any other fact, either in the Bible, or anywhere else, not, of course, excepting John himself. Nevertheless, its air, scope, and character can be proved, I think, to suit John, and no other; and this particular context in John, and no other. No theory is less reasonable than that this can be either a mere floating tradition stuck in here by some chance, or the work of a forger's mind. I do not think it harsh, but charitable to speak thus plainly; for the course of incredulity is now running strong' and Christians can hardly avoid hearing of these questions. I therefore do not refuse this opportunity of leading any simple souls to see how truly divine the whole bearing of this portion is how exactly apposite to that which the Lord insists on throughout the chapter. For, immediately after, we have doctrine unfolded which, no doubt, goes farther, but is intimately connected, as no other chapter is, with the story.†

*The fact that κατακρίνω is found here twice, and here only in John, is of no weight against the genuineness of the passage. It is the strict judicial term for passing an adverse sentence among men. How, where, could this be anywhere else in John? It is not true that κρίνω is ever used in this sense anywhere in John. It means, and should always be rendered, "judge," not "condemn," though the effect for the guilty (and man is guilty) be necessarily condemnation.

†Among the detailed objections to the genuineness of the passage (John 7:53; John 8:1-11), it is contended that the evidence of Augustine and Nicon (who distinctly tell us that it was expunged wilfully on account of the supposed license it gave to sin) does not account for the omission ofJohn 7:53; John 7:53. But this is short-sighted. For the going of each to his home is in evident connection with, and contra-distinction to, the going of Jesus to the mount of Olives. He was ever the stranger here. And what gospel, or whose style, does this simple but profound contrast suit so much as John? (Compare John 20:10-11) We know, fromJohn 18:2; John 18:2, that this neighbourhood was the frequent resort of Jesus with His disciples.

Next, the idea of many distinct and independent texts (as distinguished from abundance of various readings) seems an evident exaggeration. Take the fact, that this is eked out by putting the Received Text as one; the text of D (or Beza's Cambridge Uncial) as another; and that of most of the MSS. E F G H K M S U, etc., as a third. Now, what right has the Received Text to be thus ranged? It was formed by collating some of those very manuscripts which are thrown together as a third text. The true conclusion, therefore, is simply the not at all unprecedented phenomenon that D differs considerably from almost if not all other manuscripts, and that the Received Text is but a poor approximation to a text based on a collation of manuscripts. A really standard text, which gives just but discriminating value to an worthy witnesses, is as yet a desideratum.

Thirdly, what the contents of the passage are which countenances the notion that there is some inherent defect in the text to invalidate its claim to a place in the sacred narrative I cannot divine, as it is not here explained.

The fourth objection is the very general concurrence of the MSS. that contain the passage in placing it here. Why this place, of all others, should have been selected, will be no difficulty to those who feel with me; but, on the contrary, in my judgment, it refutes the "desperate resource" (as it is even allowed to be, strange to say, by those who adopt it), that the evangelist may have in this solitary case incorporated a portion of the current oral tradition into his narrative, which was afterwards variously corrected from the gospel to the Hebrews, or other traditional sources, and from different diction put in at the end ofLuke 21:1-38; Luke 21:1-38, or elsewhere. I am convinced, that where there is a real understanding of John 8:1-59 as a whole, the opening incident will be felt to be a necessary exordium of fact before the discourse which, to my mind, manifestly and certainly grew out of it, as surely as it happened then, and at no other time. Lastly, the mind which could conceive that the fact, as well as the tone or the moral drift of this incident, fits in to the end of Luke 21:1-38 rather than to the beginning ofJohn 8:1-59; John 8:1-59, seems so decidedly imaginative, that reasoning is here out of place, particularly as it is allowed, along with this, that its occurrence here (spite of the evidence of some cursive MSS. for Luke 21:1-38) seems much in its favour. Lastly, I have examined with care, and satisfied myself, that the alleged weightiest argument against the passage, in its entire diversity from the style of John's narrative, is superficial and misleading. Some peculiar words are required by the circumstance; and the general cast and character of the passage, so far from being alien to the evangelist's manner, seems to me, on the contrary, in his spirit, rather than in any other inspired writer's, no matter in which of the manuscripts we read it. D is the copy which makes the chief inroads; this is a common thing with that venerable, but most faulty document.

Jesus spoke again to them (the interrupters having disappeared). "I am the light of the world." He had just acted as light among those who had appealed to law; He here goes on, but widens the sphere. He says, "I am the light of the world." it is not merely dealing with scribes and Pharisees. Further, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The life was the light of men, the perfect display and guide of the life He was to His followers. The law never is this good if a man use it lawfully, but not for a righteous man whose Christ is. So Christ tells the Pharisees who objected that He knew whence He came, and whither He was going: they were in the dark, and knew nothing of it. They were in the unrelieved darkness of the world, they judged after the flesh. Not so Jesus: He did not judge. Yet, if He did, His judgment was true; for He was not alone, but His Father was with Him. And their law bid them bow to two witnesses. But what witnesses? His testimony was so decided, that the reason why they did not then lay hands on Him was simply this His hour was not yet come. (Verses John 8:12-20)

The Lord throughout the chapter speaks with more than usual solemnity, and with increasing plainness to His enemies, who knew neither Him nor His Father. They should die in their sins; and whither He went, they could not come. They were from beneath of this world; He from above, and not of this world.

The truth is, that throughout the gospel He speaks as One consciously rejected, but morally judging all things as the Light. He therefore does not scruple to push things to an extremity, to draw out their real character and state most distinctly; to pronounce on them as from beneath, as He Himself from above; to show that there was no resemblance between them and Abraham, but rather Satan, and not the smallest communion in their thoughts with His Father's. Hence it is, too, that later on He lets them know that the time is coining when they should know who He was, but too late. He is the rejected light of God, and light of the world, from the first, and all through; but, more than this, He is the light of God, not only in deed, but in His word; as elsewhere He let them know they would be judged by it in the last day. Hence, when they asked Him who He was, He answers them to that effect; and I refer to it the more, because the force is imperfectly given, and even wrongly, in verse 25: "Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning." Not only is there no need of adding "the same," but there is nothing that answers to "from the beginning." And this, again, has involved our translators in a change of tense, which is not merely uncalled for, but spoils the true idea. Our Lord does not refer to what He had said at or from any starting-point, but to what He speaks always, as then also. In every respect the sense of the Holy Ghost is enfeebled, changed, and even destroyed in the common version. What our Lord did answer is incomparably more forcible, and in exact accordance with the doctrine of the chapter, and the incident that begins it. They asked Him who He was. His answer is this: "Absolutely that which I also am speaking to you." I am thoroughly, essentially what I also speak. It is not only that He is the light, and that there is no darkness in Him as there is none in God, so none in Him; but, as to the principle of His being, He is what He utters. And, indeed, of Him only is this true. A Christian may be said to be light in the Lord; but of none, save Jesus, could it be said, that the word he discourses is the expression of what he is. Jesus is the truth. Alas! we know that, so false is human nature and the world, nothing but the power of the Spirit, revealing Christ to us through the Word, keeps us even as believers from departure into error, misconduct, and evil of any kind. None but One could say, "I am what I speak." And this is precisely what Christ is showing throughout the scene. He was the light to convict the doers of darkness, however hidden; He was the light which made others no matter what they might have been in the world to be light, if they followed Himself, God manifest in flesh. He manifested God, and made man manifest also. Everything was manifested by the light. Who is He? "Absolutely ( τὴν ἀρχὴν ) what I speak." What He utters in speech is what He is. There was not the smallest deflection from the truth; His every word and way declared it. There was never the appearance of what He was not. He is always, and in every particular, what He speaks.

How entirely this falls in with what we have elsewhere, does not need to be pressed. We see farther on the same doctrine, only ever expanding; revelation clearer, and more antagonistic to more and more determined unbelief. He lets them know, that when they have lifted up the Son of man, then they shall know that Jesus is He (the truth would be thoroughly out), "and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." It is not miracles here, but the truth. He not only is the truth in His own person, but He speaks it. He speaks it to the world also; for all through John's gospel, although it be the eternal life that was with the Father, the Word that was with God in the beginning, still, He is also (from John 1:14) a man on earth a real, true man here below, however truly God. And so it is in this chapter. It began by showing that He is so in act; then it opens out that He is so in word. He said to the world what He heard from Him that sent Him as they rightly understood, from the Father.

He pursues the same line in dealing with the Jews who believed in Him (verse John 8:31): "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Thus His word (not the law) is the sole means of knowing the truth and its liberty. It was not merely a question of commands, or of something God wanted from man. That had been given, and tried; and what was the end of it for them and Him? Now much more was at stake, even the manifestation of God in Christ to the world, and this also in His word, in the truth. It became a test, therefore, of the truth; and if they continued in His word, they should be His disciples indeed; and should know the truth, and the truth should make them free.

But then there is another thing required to set free, or rather which does à fortiori set free. The truth learnt in the word of Jesus is the only foundation. But if received, it is not merely that I have the truth, so to speak, as an expression of His mind, but of Himself of His person. Hence it is that He touches on this point in verse 36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." It is not merely, then, the truth making free, but the Son. He who pretends to receive the truth, but does not bow before the glory of the Son, proves that there is no truth in him. He that receives the truth might at first be very ignorant; the truth may be, then, nothing more than that which lets in the light of God graciously, but in a limited measure. It is rarely that all at once the full glory of Christ bursts in upon the soul. As with the disciples, so it might be with any soul now. There might be real, but gradual perception; but the truth invariably works thus, where God is the teacher. Then, as light increases, and the glory of Christ shines more distinctly, the heart welcomes Him; and so much the more rejoices as He is exalted. On the contrary, where it is not the truth, but theory or tradition a mere reasoning or sentiment about Christ, the heart is offended by the full presentation of His glory, stumbles at it, and turns away from Him, just because it cannot bear the strength and brightness of that divine fulness which was in Christ: it knows not God, nor Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Eternal life is unknown and unenjoyed.

Further, the Lord brings out here another thing worthy of all attention; especially as the same principle runs through from the incident at the beginning of the chapter. It is not merely light, truth, and the Son known in the person of Christ, but also as contrasted with the law. Did they boast in the law? What place had they under it? Slaves! Yes, and they were faithless to it; they broke the law; they were slaves of sin. It is not the slave, but the Son, who abides in the house. Thus the law is not in any way lowered, but at the same time there is the bright contrast of Christ with it. The law has its just place; it is for servants, and deals with them justly. The consequence is, there is no permanence for them, any more than liberty. Law could not meet the case; nothing, and none short of the Son. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Was not this precisely what He had brought home to the conscience at the beginning of the chapter? Before God (and He was God) it was not what the poor woman had done that was all, but what they were, and they were convicted of sin; they were not without sin. He had said, "The servant abideth not in the house;" and this was precisely the case with them; they were obliged to go.* "But the Son abideth ever," and so He does in the best, and highest, and truest estate. Thus the doctrine entirely harmonizes with the fact, and in a way that does not appear at first sight, but only as we look into it a little more closely, and search into the depths of the living word of God, though none of us can boast of the progress we have made. Nevertheless, we may be permitted to say, that the more closely we are given of God to apprehend the truth, the more the divine perfectness of the entire picture becomes manifest to our souls.

*"They were struck by the power of the word of Christ," says an opponent of the claim of the commencing section to a genuine and divinely given place in the chapter, unconscious that he is thereby illustrating its connection with the whole current of the chapter.

I need not go through the particulars which the Lord brings out in laying bare the condition of the Jews, the seed (not the children) of Abraham, but really of their father the devil, and manifesting it in the two characters of liar and murderer. They did not know His speech, because they could not hear His word. The truth meant is the key to the outer vehicle of it just the reverse of man's knowledge. In fine, all is shown in its true essential character here, the convicted one and her accusers, the Jews, the world, the disciples, the truth, the Son, Satan himself, God Himself. Not only is Abraham* seen truly (not as misrepresented in his seed), but One who was greater than "our father" Abraham, who would say, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; but who could say (with a verily, verily), "BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM." He is the light in deed and word. He says so. Then He deals with them, convicting them more and more. He shows that the truth is found here only in His word. He, the witness, testifies that He is the Son. But the chapter does not end before He announces His eternal Godhead. He is God Himself, yet hides Himself when they took up stones to stone Him. His hour was not yet come. This is the truth of them, as of Him. He was God. Such is the truth. Short of this, we have not the truth of Christ. But it is the growing rejection of Christ's word that leads Him on step by step to the assertion that He was very God, though a man upon the earth.

* I apprehend that by "my day" He means the day of Christ's glory; not vaguely the time of Christ, but the day when He will be displayed in glory. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day." He looked for that day of Christ's appearing in glory, and he "saw it, and was glad." It was the day when the promises would be accomplished, and very naturally he who had the promises looked for the time when they are to be made good in Christ.

Like the preceding, John 9:1-41 shows us the Lord rejected here in His work, as there in His word. The difference a little answers to what we have seen in John 5:1-47; John 6:1-71. In the fifth chapter He is the quickening Son of God; but all testimonies are vain, and judgment awaits the unbeliever a resurrection of judgment. In John 6:1-71. He is seen as the suffering Son of man, who takes the place of humiliation, instead of the kingdom which they wanted to force on Him. But no; this was not the purpose for which He had come, though true in its own time; but what He took, and took because His eye was ever single, viewed as man, was for God's glory, not for His own; and the real glory of God in a ruined world is only met by the service and death of the Son of man dying for sinners and for sin. Somewhat similarly in John 8:1-59 He is the rejected Word, who confesses Himself (when most scorned and men are ready to stone Him) to be the everlasting God Himself. As man becomes more hardened in unbelief, Christ becomes more pointed and plain in the assertion of the truth. Thus the more it is pressed down, the more the brightness of the truth makes its way out, that He is God. They had fully heard now who He was, and therefore must He be ignominiously cast out. His words brought God too close, too really; and they would not bear them.

But now He is rejected in another way, and in this it is as man, though declaring Himself and worshipped as Son of God. We shall see that there is stress on His manhood, more especially as the necessary mould or form which divine grace took to effect the blessing of man, to work the works of God in grace on the earth. Accordingly, here it is not merely that man is seen to be guilty, but blind from his birth. Doubtless there is light that discovers man in his evil and. unbelief; but man is sought and met by His grace; for here the man had no thought of being healed never asked Jesus to heal him. There was no cry here to the Son of David. This we hear most properly in the other gospels, which develop the last offer of the Messiah to the Jews. In every one of the gospels, indeed, we have Him finally presented as the Son of David; and therefore, although it be the proper province of Matthew, yet inasmuch as all the synoptic gospels dwell on our Lord at the close as Son of David, all the gospels give the story of the blind man at Jericho. Matthew, however, gives blind men over and over again, crying to Him, "Son of David." The reason is, I suppose, that not merely is He so presented at the last, but all through in Matthew. In John this case does not appear at all; no blind man cries to the Son of David throughout. What is brought before us in the man, blind from his birth, is a wholly different truth. It was, indeed, the most desperate case. Instead of the man looking to Christ, it is Christ that looks at the man, without a single cry or appeal to Him. It is absolute grace. If it be not the Father seeking, at any rate it is the Son. It is One who had deigned to become man in love to man. He is seeking, though rejected, to display the grace of God toward this poor blind beggar in his abject need: "As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

They had nothing better than Jewish thoughts about the case. But all through the gospel of John Christ is setting aside these thoughts on every side, whether in enquirers outside, or more particularly in disciples, who were under this pernicious influence like other people. Here the Lord answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." The ways of God are not as man's; and their revelation stands in contrast with Jewish notions of retributive justice. The reason lay deeper than what his parents deserved, or the foresight of what he would do amiss. Not that the man and his parents were not sinners; but the eye of Jesus saw beyond nature, or law, or government, in the man's blindness from his birth. To divine goodness, the inner and true and ultimate reason, God's reason if one may be permitted such a phrase was to furnish an opportunity for Christ to work the works of God on the earth. How blessedly grace operates in, and judges of, a hopeless case! That it was wholly outside the resources of man made it just the occasion for Jesus, for the works of God. This is the point of the chapter Jesus working the works of God in free unconditional grace. In John 8:1-59 the prominent feature. is the word of God; here, the works of God made effectual and manifest in grace. "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day." Therefore can one say, that it is unqualified grace, because it is not merely God mercifully answering man's appeal, and blessing man's work, but God sending, and Christ working. "I must work the works of him that sent me." What grace (save in Jesus all through) can be compared with this? Jesus, then, was doing this work "while it is day." Day was while He was present with them. Night was coming, which would be, for the Jew, the personal absence of the Messiah; indeed, such for any would be the departure of the Son of God. "The night cometh when no man can work." (Verse 4) Higher things might follow in their season, and brighter light suited to them when the day should dawn, and the day-star arise in hearts established with grace. But here it is the time of the absence of Jesus in contrast with His presence on earth as He then was. "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (Verse 5)

This establishes very plainly the fact, that these two chapters are so far linked together, in that they look at Christ as light, and the light of the world too. But, far from being confined to Israel, it rather sets aside the Jewish system, which assumes to order things justly now according to man's conduct, thus ignoring man's ruin by sin, and God's grace in Christ as the sole deliverance. Here it is not so much the light by the word convicting man, and bringing out God's nature and the reality of His own personal glory, but "the light of the world" as manifesting God graciously working in power contrary to nature. It was a question not of light for eyes, but of giving power to see the light to one wholly and evidently incapable of seeing as he was. Hence we do well to remark the peculiarity in the Lord's manner of working. He lays clay upon the man's eyes; an extraordinary step at first sight. In truth, it was the shadow of Himself become man, an apt figure of the human body which He took in order therein to do God's will. He was not simply Son of God, but Son of God possessed of a body prepared of God. (Hebrews 10:1-39) He became man; and yet the fact of the body of Christ of God's Son being found in fashion as a man only and greatly increases the difficulty at first sight, because nobody, apart from the word of God, would look for a divine person in such a guise. But when faith bows to the word, and accepts the will of God in it, how precious the grace, how wise the ordering yea, how indispensable it is learnt to be! So with the man already blind before. Putting the plaster of clay over his eyes did not at once mend his blindness in the least; but, if anything, the contrary would have hindered his seeing, had he seen before. But when he goes at the word of Jesus, and washes in the pool of Siloam that is, when the word is applied in the Holy Ghost to his case, revealing Jesus as the sent One of God (compareJohn 5:24; John 5:24), all was so far plain. It was not a mere man who had spoken; he apprehended in Jesus One Sent (for the pool to which the Lord directed the man to wash his clay-covered eyes in was called "Siloam;" that is, it bore the very name of "sent"). It was then understood that Jesus had a mission on earth to work the works of God. Though, of course, man born of a woman, He was more than human: He was the Sent One the Sent of the Father in love into this world, to work effectually where man was entirely incapable even of helping in any way.

Thus the truth was in process of application, so to speak. The man goes his way, washes, and comes seeing. The word of God explains this mystery. The Son's taking humanity is ever a blinding fact to nature; but he who is not disobedient to the word will assuredly not fail to find in the acknowledgment of the truth Christ's glory under His manhood, as well as the need of his own soul met with a power and promptness which answers, as it is due, to His glory who wrought in grace here below.

Nevertheless, the word of the Lord tried him as ever; other hearts were tested by it too. The neighbours were astonished, and questions arise; the Pharisees are stirred but divided (for this miracle, also, was wrought on a sabbath). The parents being summoned, as well as himself questioned, all stand to the great and indisputable fact: the man just healed was their child, and he had been born blind. The man indeed witnessed what he believed of Jesus, and the threat of the consequences was only made the clearer, even though there was a total avoidance of all dangerous answers on the parents' part, and a determination to reject Christ and those who confessed Him in the Pharisees. The work of grace was hated, and especially because it was wrought on the sabbath day. For this bore solemn witness, that in the truth of things before God there was no sabbath possible for them: He must work if man was to be delivered and blessed. Of course, there was the holy form, and there was no doubt as to the duty; but if God revealed Himself on earth, neither forms nor duties, paid after a sort by sinful men, could hide the awful reality that man was incapable of keeping such a sabbath as God could recognise. The day had been sanctified from the beginning; the duty of the Jew was unquestionable; but sin was man's state; after every remedial measure, he was thoroughly and only evil continually.

In fact, so far the Jew quite understood, as far as that went, the moral meaning of the Lord's working thus both either on the impotent man before, and now on the blind man. For such deeds on the sabbath did pronounce sentence of death on that whole system, and on the great badge of relationship between God and Israel. If Jesus was true God as well as man, if He was really the light of the world, yet wrought on the sabbath day, there was plain evidence on God's part of what He thought of Israel. They felt it to be a matter of life and death. But the man was led on by these conscienceless attacks, as is always the case where there is simple faith. The effort to destroy the person of Christ and to undermine His glory only developed, in the goodness of God, that divine work which had already touched his soul, as well as given him eyes to see. Thus was his faith exercised and cleared, side by side with the unbelief and hostility of the enemies of Christ. The consequence is, that we have a beautiful history in this chapter of the man led on step by step; first owning the work the Lord had wrought with simplicity, and therefore in force of truth: what he does not know he owned with just the same frankness. Then, when the Pharisees were divided, and he was appealed to once more, "He is a prophet" was his distinct answer. Then, when the fact was only the more established by the parents, spite of their timidity, the hypocritical effort to honour God at the expense of Jesus draws out the most withering refutation (not without a taunt) from him who had been blind. (Verses 24-33) This closed, they could not answer, and cast him out. (Verse 34)

How beautiful to mark the Spirit's love, dwelling fully and minutely on a blind beggar taught of God, thus gradually and evermore beating their in credulous objections smaller than when they cast him out as dirt in the streets! What a living picture of the new witness for Christ! A character plain, honest, energetic, not always the most gracious, but certainly confronted with the most heartless and false of adversaries. But if the man finds himself out of the synagogue, he is soon in the presence of Christ. The religious world of that day could not endure a witness of divine power and grace which they themselves, feeling not the need, denied, denounced, and did all they could to destroy. Outside them, but with Jesus, he learns more deeply than ever, so as to fill his soul with profound joy and gladness, that the wondrous healer of his blindness was not merely a prophet, but the Son of God just object of faith and worship. Thus clearly we have in this case the rejection of Jesus viewed, not in open attack on His own person, as in the. chapter before, where they took up stones to stone Him, but here rather in His friends, whom He had first met in sovereign grace, and did not let them go till fully blessed, ending in Jesus worshipped outside the synagogue as the Son of God. (Verses 38-40)

Then the Lord declares the issues of His coming. "For judgment," He says, "I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." In this gospel He ]lad said before, that it was to save and give life, not to judge, that He came. Such was the aim of His heart, at all cost to Himself; but the effect was moral in one way or the other, and this now. Manifest judgment awaits the evil by-and-by. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." They were offended at the notion of their not seeing. Did they insist that they saw? The Lord admits the plea. If they felt their sin and shortcoming, there might be a hope. As it was, then, sin remained. The boast, like the excuse, of unbelief is invariably the ground of divine judgment.

John 10:1-42 pursues the subject and opens out into a development, not of the spiritual history of a sheep of Christ, but of the Shepherd Himself, from first to last, here below. Hence, the Lord does not rest in a judgment extorted by their unbelief, and in contrast with the deliverance of faith, but develops the ways of grace here, as always in marked antithesis with the Jewish system, though connected with the man for His sake turned out of the synagogue, then found by Himself, and led into the fullest perception of His own glory outside the Jews, where alone real worship is possible. Accordingly our Lord traces this new history His own from the beginning.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." It was not so with Jesus. He had entered in by the door, according to every requisition of the Scriptures. Although Son, He had submitted to each ordinance which God had laid down for the Shepherd of His earthly people. He accomplished the work that God had marked out for Him in prophecy and type. What had been required or stipulated, according to the law, that had He not rendered in full tale? He was born at the measured time, in the due place, from the sworn stock, and of the defined mother, according to the written word. God had taken care beforehand to make each important point plain, by which the true Christ of God was to be recognised; and all had been fulfilled thus far in Jesus thus far; for it is quite allowed that all the prophecies of subjugation and judgment, with the reign over the earth, remain to be accomplished. "To him," He says, "the porter openeth." This had been realized. Witness the Holy Ghost's action in Simeon and Anna, not to speak of the mass; and, above all, in John the Baptist. God had wrought by His grace in Israel, and there were godly hearts prepared for Him there.

"And the sheep hear his voice." (VerseJohn 10:3; John 10:3) So we find in the gospels, particularly Luke's, from the beginning. And he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" an evident allusion to what had befallen the blind man. No doubt he had been turned out of the synagogue; but Christ imprints, on this, their wicked act, His own interpretation, according to divine counsels. Little did the man know at that painful moment, that it was in reality grace which was leading him out. If it was a little before His own public and final rejection, it was, after all, the same principle at the bottom. The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. "He goeth before them." This seems to refer to the manner in which it had been, and should be, accomplished. Already had the Lord tasted the enmity and scorn of man, and especially of the Jews; but He also knew the depths of shame and suffering which He must soon pass through, before there was an open separation of the sheep. Thus, whether it were done virtually or formally, in either case Jesus went before, and the sheep followed; "for they know his voice." This is their spiritual instinct, as it is their security not skill in determining or refuting error, but simple cleaving to Christ and the truth. See this exemplified in the once blind man. What weight had the Pharisees with his conscience? None whatever. They, on the contrary, felt he taught them. "A stranger will they not follow," any more than he would follow the Pharisees. For now, by the new eyes which the Lord had given him, he could discern their vain pretensions, and their hostility against Jesus so much the worse, because coupled with "Give God the praise." "A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him" not because they are learned in the injurious jargon of strangers, "for they know not the voice of strangers." They know the Shepherd's voice, and this they follow. It is the love of what is good, and not skill in finding out what is evil. Some may have power to sift and discern the unsound; but this is not the true, direct, divine means of safety for the sheep of Christ. There is a much more real, immediate, and sure way. It is simply this: they cannot rest without the voice of Christ; and that which is not the voice of Christ they do not follow. What more suitable to them, or more worthy of Him?

As these things were not understood, the Lord opens out the truth still more plainly in what follows. Here (verse John 10:7) He begins by taking the place of "the door of the sheep;" not, be it observed, of the sheepfold, but of the sheep. He had entered in Himself by the door, not of the sheep, of course, but by the door into the sheepfold. He entered in according to each sign and token moral, miraculous, prophetic, or personal which God had given to His ancient people to know Him by. But enter as He might, the people who broke the law refused the Shepherd; and the end of it was, that He leads His own sheep outside, Himself going before them. Now, there is more, and He says, "I am the door of the sheep." The contrast of pretended or merely human shepherds is given in the next verse, which is parenthetical. "All that ever came before me [such as Theudas and Judas] are thieves and robbers [they secretly or openly enriched themselves by the sheep]: but the sheep did not hear them."

In verse 9 He enlarges. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." The portion He gives the sheep is a contrast with the law in another way; not as light simply, as in the beginning of John 8:1-59, in detecting all sin and every sinner. Now, it is grace in its fulness. "By me," He says not by circumcision, or the law "By me if any man enter in." There was no question of entering in by the law; for it dealt with those who were already in a recognised relation with God. But now there is an invitation to those without. "By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Salvation is the first need of a sinner, and certainly the Gentile needs it as much as the Jew. "By me if any man" no matter who he may be, if he enter, he shall be saved. Nevertheless, it is only for those that enter in. There is no salvation for such as abide outside Christ. But this is not all; for grace with Christ freely gives, not salvation alone, but all things. Even now, too, "he shall go in and out." It is not only that there is life and salvation in Christ, but there is liberty, in contrast with the law. "And he shall find pasture." Besides, there is food assured. Thus we have here an ample provision for the sheep. To him that enters by Christ there is salvation, there is liberty, there is food.

Again, the Lord contrasts others with Himself. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." By their fruits they should know them. How could the sheep trust such shepherds as these? "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." There had been life when there was only a promise; there had been life all through the dealings of law. Clearly Christ had ever been the means of life from the day death entered the world. But now He was come, it was not only that they might have life, but that they might have it "more abundantly." This was the effect of the presence of God's Son in this world. Was it not right and becoming, that when the Son of God did humble Himself in this world, even to death, the death of the cross, dying also in atonement for sinners, God should mark this infinite fact and work and person by an incomparably richer blessing than ever had been diffused before? I cannot conceive it otherwise than the Word shows it is, consistently with the glory of God, even the Father.

Further, He was not only the door of the sheep, and then the door for others to enter in, but He says (verse John 10:11), "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." It is no longer only in contrast with a thief or a robber, with murderous intent or evidently selfish purposes of the worst kind, but there might be others characterised by a milder form of human iniquity not destroyers of the sheep, but self-seeking men. "He that. is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." Christ, as the good shepherd, does nothing of the kind, but remains to suffer all for them, instead of running away when the wolf came. "I am the good shepherd, and know those that are mine, and am known by mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." Such is the true sense of the verse. The John 10:14 th andJohn 10:15; John 10:15 th verses really form one sentence. They are not divided as we have them in our Bibles. The meaning is, that He showed Himself as the good Shepherd because He knew the sheep, and was known of them, just. as He knew the Father, and was known of the Father. The mutuality of knowledge between the Father and the Son is the pattern of the knowledge between the Shepherd and the sheep. In what a wondrous. place this puts us and the character of knowledge we possess. The knowledge which grace gives to the sheep is so truly divine that the Lord has nothing to compare it with, except the knowledge that exists between the Father and the Son. Nor is it merely a question of knowledge, intimate and perfect and divine as it is; but, moreover, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Other sheep, too, He intimates here, He had, who were to be brought in, that did not belong to the Jewish fold; He clearly looks out into the world, as always in the gospel of John. There was to be one flock (not fold), one Shepherd.

Moreover, in order to open yet more the ineffable complacency of the Father in His work abstractedly, He adds, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life." Not here "for the sheep," but simply, "that I might take it again." (VerseJohn 10:17; John 10:17) That is to say, besides laying down His life for the sheep, He laid down His life to prove His perfect confidence in His Father. Impossible for another, or all others, to give so much. Even He could not give more than His life. Any other thing would not be comparable to the laying down of His life. It was the most complete, absolute giving up of Himself; and He did give up Himself, not merely for the gracious end of winning the sheep to God from the spoiler, but with the still more blessed and glorious aim of manifesting, in a world where man had from the first dishonoured God, His own perfect confidence in His Father, and this as man. He laid it down that He might take it again. Thus, instead of continuing His life in dependence on His Father, He gives it up out of a still profounder and truly absolute dependence. "Therefore," says He, "doth my Father love me." This becomes a positive ground for the Father to love Him, additional to the perfection which had ever been seen in Him all His pathway through. Even more than this; although it is so expressly an act of His own, another astonishing principle is seen the union of absolute devotedness on His own part, in perfect freeness of His will, with obedience. (Verse 18) Thus the very same act may be, and is (as we find it in all its perfection in Christ) His own will, and yet along with this simple submission to His Father's commandment. In truth, He and the Father were one; and so He does not stop till we have this fully expressed in verse John 10:30. He and His Father were one one in everything; not only in love and gracious counsel for the sheep, but in nature, too in that divine nature which, of course, was the ground of all the grace.

But, besides this, the unbelief of the Jews brings out another thing; that is, the perfect security of the sheep a very important question, because He was going to die. His death is in view: what will the sheep do then? Would the death of Christ in any way imperil the sheep? The very reverse. The Lord declares this in a most distinct manner. He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (VersesJohn 10:27-28; John 10:27-28) First of all, the life is everlasting. But then it is not merely that the thing itself is eternal, but they shall never perish; for it might be pretended, that though the life lasts for ever, this is conditional on something in its recipients. Nay, "they shall never perish" the sheep themselves. Thus, not merely the life, but those who have it by grace in Christ, shall never perish. To conclude and crown all, as far as their security was concerned, the question is answered as to any hostile power. What about some one external to them? Nay; there again, as there was no internal source of weakness that could jeopard the life, so there should be no external power to cause anxiety. If there was any power that might do so righteously, surely it must be God's own; but, contrariwise, they were in the Father's hand, no less than in the Son's hand none could pluck them out. Thus the Lord fenced them round even by His death, as well as by that eternal life which was in Him, the superiority of which over death was proved by His authority to take it again in resurrection. This was the life more abundantly which they derived from Him. Why should any one wonder at its power? He was, for the sheep, against all adversaries; and so was the Father. Yea, "I and the Father are one." (VersesJohn 10:29-30; John 10:29-30)

As there had been a division among the Jews for His sayings, and their appeal in doubt to Him had drawn out both His treatment of them as unbelievers, and the security of the sheep who heeded His voice and followed Him, as He knew them (ver. John 10:19-30) so our Lord, in the presence of their hatred and still growing enmity (ver. John 10:31; John 10:31), convicts them of the futility of their objection on their own ground. Did they find fault because He took the place of being the Son of God? Yet they must allow that kings, governors, judges, according to their law, were called gods. "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" A fortiori had He not a place which no king ever had? Did He, on their own principles, blaspheme then, because He said He was the Son of God? But He goes far beyond this. If they regarded not God's word, nor His words, He appeals to His works. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." This connects, as I apprehend, the tenth chapter with the foregoing, and is in contrast with the eighth. They had thus repeatedly sought to kill Him, and He abandons them for the place in which John first baptized. In the face of total rejection, and in every point of view, both as the expression of God in the world, and of His working the works of grace in the world, the result was plain. Man, the Jew especially, settles down in resolute unbelief and deadly hostility; but, on the other hand, the indefeasible security of the sheep, the objects of grace, only comes out with so much the greater clearness and decision.

Nevertheless, though all was really closed, God would manifest by a full and final testimony what was the glory of Christ, rejected as He was, and previous to His death. And accordingly, in John 11:1-57; John 12:1-50 is given a strikingly rich presentation of the Lord Jesus, in many respects entirely differing from all the others; for while it embraces what is found in the synoptists (that is, the accomplishment of prophecy in His offer of Himself to Zion as the Son of David), John brings in a fulness of personal glory that is peculiar to his gospel.

Here we begin with that which John alone records the resurrection of Lazarus. Some have wondered that it appears only in the latest gospel; but it is given there for a very simple and conclusive reason. The resurrection of Lazarus was the most distinct testimony possible, near Jerusalem, in the face of open Jewish enmity. It was the grandest demonstrative proof that He was the Son of God, determined to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Who but He on earth could say, I am the resurrection and the life? Who had ever looked for more in Messiah Himself than Martha did raising up the dead at the last day?

Here I may just observe, that Romans 1:4 does not restrict the meaning to the fact that He was determined to be the Son of God with power by His own resurrection. This is not what the verse states, but that resurrection of the dead, or the raising of dead persons, was the great proof that defined Him to be the Son of God with power. No doubt His own resurrection was the most astonishing instance of it; but His raising of dead persons in His ministry was a witness also, as the resurrection of His saints by-and-by will be the display of it. Hence the verse in Romans 1:1-32 expresses the truth in all its extent, and without specifying any one in particular. So Lazarus, as being the most conspicuous case of resurrection any where appearing in the gospels, except Christ's own, which all give, was the fullest testimony that even John rendered to that great truth. Hence, then, as one might expect from its character, the account is given with remarkable development in that gospel which is devoted to the personal glory of Jesus as the Son of God. To this attaches the revelation of the resurrection, and the life in Him as a, present thing, superior to all questions of prophetic time, or dispensations. It could be found nowhere else so appropriately as in John. The difficulty, therefore, in its occurrence here and not elsewhere, is really none whatever to any one who believes the object of God as apparent in the gospels themselves.

But, then, there is another feature that meets us in the story. Christ was not only the Son of God, but the Son of man. He was the Son of God, and a perfect man, in absolute dependence on His Father. He was not to be acted upon by any feeling, except the will of God. Thus He carries His divine sonship into His position as a man on earth, and He never allows that the glory of His person should in the smallest degree interfere with the completeness of His dependence and obedience. Hence, when the Lord hears the call, "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" the strongest possible appeal to the heart for acting at once on it He does not go. His answer is most calm, and, if God be not before us, to mere human feeling it might seem indifferent. It was not so, but was utter perfection. "This sickness," He says, "is not unto death." Events might seem to contradict this; appearances might say it was to death, but Jesus was and is the truth always. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." And so it was. "Now, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Whatever, therefore, it might appear, His affection was unquestionable. But, then, there are other and even deeper principles. His love for Mary, for Martha, and for Lazarus weakened in no respect His dependence on God; He waited on His Father's direction. So, "when he heard that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. They say, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 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." In Jesus there was nothing but perfect light. He was Himself the light. He walked in the sunshine of God. He was the very perfection of that which is only partially true with us in practice. "If, then, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Indeed, He was the light, as well as full of it. Walking accordingly in this world, He waited for the word of His Father. At once, when this came, He says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." There was no darkness in Him. All is plain, and He go" forth promptly with the knowledge of all He is going to do.

Then we have the ignorant thoughts of the disciples, though not unmixed with devotedness to His person. Thomas proposes that they should go to die with him. How marvellous is the unbelief even of the saints of God! He was going really to raise the dead; their only thought was to go and die with him. Such was a disciple's sombre anticipation. Our Lord does not say a word about it at the moment, but calmly leaves the truth to correct the error in due time. Then we have the wonderful interview with the sisters; and, finally, our Lord is at the grave, a consciously divine person, the Son of the Father, but in the perfectness of manhood, yet with such deep feeling as Deity alone could produce not only sympathy with sorrow, but, above all, the sense of what death is in this world. Indeed, our Lord did not raise up Lazarus from the dead, until His own spirit had just as thoroughly taken, as it were, the sense of death on His soul, as when, in the removal of any sickness, He habitually felt its burden (Matthew 8:1-34); not, of course, in a low, literal, physical manner, but weighing it all in His spirit with His Father. Of us it is said, "with groanings that cannot be uttered." If Christ groaned, His could not but be a groan in accordance with the Spirit justly and perfectly uttering the real fulness of the grief that His heart felt. In our case this could not be, because there is that which mars the perfectness of what is felt by us; but in the case of Christ, the Holy Ghost takes up and groans out that which we cannot fully express. Even in us He gives the sorrow a divine expression to God; and, of course, in Christ there was no shortcoming, no mingling of the flesh, but all was absolutely perfect. Hence, along with this, there comes the full answer of God to the divine glory and perfection of Christ. Lazarus comes forth at the word of Christ.

This seems to me of deep interest; for we are too apt to look on Christ merely as One whose power dealt with sickness and with the grave. But does it not weaken His power if the Lord Jesus Christ enters into the reality of the case before God? On the contrary, it better manifests the perfectness of His love, and the strength of His sympathy, to trace intelligently the way in which His spirit took up the reality of the ruin here below to bear and spread it before God. And I believe that this was true of everything in Christ. So it was before and when He came to the cross. Our Lord did not go there without feeling the past and present and future: the atoning work is not the same as the anguish of being cast off by His people, and the utter weakness of the disciples. Then the sense of what was coming was realized by His spirit before the actual fact. It is not true, but positively and wholly false doctrine, to confine our Lord Jesus to the matter of bearing our sin, though this was confessedly the deepest act of all. Of course, the atonement was only on the cross: the bearing of the wrath of God, when Christ was made sin, was exclusively then and there. But to find fault with the statement that Christ did in His own spirit realize beforehand what He was going to suffer on the cross, is to overlook much of His sufferings, to ignore truth, and despise Scripture either leaving out a large portion of what God records about it, or confounding it with the actual fact, and only a part of it after all.

It is true that many Christians have been absorbed with the bare exertion of power in the miracles of Christ. In His healing of disease they have passed by the truth expressed inIsaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:4, which Matthew applies to His life, and to which I have referred more than once. It seems undeniable, that not only was the power of God exhibited in those miracles, but that they afforded opportunity for the depth of His feelings to display itself, who had before Him the creature as God made it, and the deplorable havoc sin had wrought. Thus Jesus did perfectly what saints do with a mixture of human infirmity. Take again the fact that the Lord is pleased at times to put us through some exercise of heart before the actual trial comes: what is the effect of this? Do we bear the trial less because the soul has already felt it with God? Surely not. On the contrary, this is just what proves the measure of our spirituality; and the more we go through the matter with God, the power and blessing are so much the greater; so that when the trial comes, it might appear to an outside observer as if all was perfect calmness, and so indeed it is, or should be; and this because all has been out between ourselves and God. This, I admit, increases the pain of the trial immensely; but is this a loss? especially as at the same time there is strength vouchsafed to bear it. Thus the principle applies even to our little trials.

But Christ endured and did everything in perfection. Hence, even before Lazarus was raised up at the grave, we do not see or hear of One coming with divine power and majesty, and doing the miracle, if I may so say, off-hand. What can be more opposed to the truth? He who has such a meagre notion of the scene has everything to learn about it. Not that there was the smallest lack of consciousness of His glory; He is the Son of God unmistakably; He knows that His Father hears Him always; but none of these things hindered the Lord from groans and tears at the grave which was about to witness His power. None of them hindered the Lord from taking on His spirit the sense of death as no one else did. This is described by the Holy Ghost in the most emphatic language. "He groaned in spirit, and was troubled." But what was all this, compared with what. was soon to befall Himself when God entered into judgment with Him for our sins? It is not only granted, but insisted, that the actual expiation of sin, under divine wrath, was entirely and exclusively on the cross; but thence to assume that He did not previously go through with God the coming scene, and what was leading on to it, and everything that could add to the anguish of our Lord, is defective and erroneous teaching, however freely it is allowed that there was in the scene itself the endurance of wrath for sin which separates that hour from all that ever was or can be again.

Then, before the end of the chapter, the effect of all this divine testimony is shown. Man decides that the Lord must die; their intolerance of Jesus becomes now more pronounced. It was well known before. The giddy multitude may never have realised it till it came; but the religious folk, and the leaders at Jerusalem, had made up their minds about it long before. He must die. And now he who was high priest takes up the word, and gives though a wicked man, yet not without the Spirit acting the authoritative sentence about it which is recorded in our chapter. The resurrection power of the Son of God brought to a head the enmity of him who had the power of death. Jesus might have done such works at Nain or elsewhere, but to display them publicly at Jerusalem was an affront to Satan and his earthly instruments. Now that the glory of the Lord Jesus shone out so brightly, threatening the dominion of the prince of this world, there was no longer a concealment of the resolution taken by the religious world Jesus must die.

In John 12:1-50, accordingly, we have this, the under-current, still, but in a beautiful contrast. The Spirit of God here works in grace touching the death of Jesus, just as much as Satan was goading on his children to hatred and murder. God knows how to guide a beloved one of His where Jesus was abiding for a little season before He suffered. It was Mary; for John lets us hear the Lord Jesus calling His own sheep by name; and however rightly Matthew and Mark do not disclose it, it was not consistent with John's view of the Lord that she should be called merely "a woman," In his gospel such touches come out distinctly; and so we have Mary, and Mary's act with greater fulness as to its great principles, than anywhere else the part Mary took at this supper, where Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table. Everything, every one, is found in the just place and season; the true light makes all manifest as it was, Jesus Himself being there, but about to die. "Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." She did anoint His head, and other gospels speak of this; but John mentions what was peculiar. It was natural to anoint the head; but the special thing for the eye of love to discern was the anointing of the feet. This was specially shown in two ways.

The woman in Luke 7:1-50 did the very same thing; but this was not Mary, nor is there any good reason to suppose that it was even Mary Magdalene, any more than the sister of Lazarus. It was "a woman that was a sinner;" and I believe there is much moral beauty in not giving us her name, for obvious reasons. What could it do but become an evil precedent, besides indulging a prurient curiosity about her? The name is here dropped; but what of that, if it be written in heaven? There is a delicate veil cast over (not the grace shown by the Lord, but) the name of this woman who was a sinner; but there is an eternal record of the name and deed of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who at this much later moment anoints the feet of Christ. Yet, as far as this goes, both women did the same thing. The one, in the abasement of feeling her sin before His ineffable love, did what Mary did in the sense of His deep glory, and with an instinctive feeling withal of some impending evil that menaced Him. Thus the sense of her sin, and the sense of His glory, brought them, as it were, to the same point. Another point of analogy is, that neither woman spoke; the heart of each expressed itself in deeds intelligible, at least, to Him who was the object of this homage, and He understood and vindicated both.

In this case the house was filled with the odour of the ointment; but this manifestation of her love who thus anointed Jesus brought out the ill-feeling and covetousness of one soul who cared not for Jesus, but was, indeed, a thief under his high pretensions of care for the poor. It is a very solemn scene in this point of view, the line of treachery alongside of the offering of grace. How often the self-same circumstances, which draw out fidelity and devotedness, manifest either heartless treachery or self-seeking and worldliness 1

Such, in brief, was the interior of Bethany. Outside Jewish rancour was undisguised. The heart of the chief priests was set on blood. The Lord, in the next scene, enters Jerusalem as the Son of David. But I must pass on, merely noting this Messianic witness in its place. When Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered these things. The subsequent notice we have is the remarkable desire expressed by the Greeks, through Philip, to see Jesus. Here the Lord at once passes to another testimony, the Son of man, where the introduction of His most efficacious death is couched under the well-known figure of the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, as the harbinger, and, indeed, the means, of much fruit. In the path of His death they must follow who would be with Him. Not that here again the destined Head of all, the Son of man, is insensible at the prospect of such a death, but cries to the Father, who answers the call to glorify His name by the declaration that He had ( i.e., at the grave of Lazarus), and would again ( i.e., by raising up Jesus Himself).

The Lord, in the centre of the chapter just after this, opens out once more the truth of the world's judgment, and of His cross as the attractive point for all men, as such, in contrast with Jewish expectation. There is, first, perfect submission to the Father's will, whatever it may cost; then, the perception of the results in all their extent. This is followed by their unbelief in His proper glory, as much as in His sufferings. Such must ever be for man, for the world, the insuperable difficulty. They had heard it in vain in the law; for this is always misused by man, as we have seen in the gospel of John. They could not reconcile it with the voice of grace and truth. Both had been fully manifested in Jesus, and above all, would be yet more in His death. The voice of the law spoke to their ears of a Christ continuing for ever; but a Son of man humbled, dying, lifted up! Who was this Son of man? How exactly the counterpart of an Israelite's objections to this day! The voice of grace and truth was that of Christ come to die in shame, yet a sacrifice for sinners, however true also it was that in His own person He should continue for ever. Who could put these things together, seemingly so opposed? He who only heeds the law will never understand either the law or Christ.

Hence the chapter concludes with two closing warnings. Had they heard their own prophets? Let them listen also to Jesus. We have seen their ignorance of the law. In truth, the prophet Isaiah had shown long before that this was no new thing. He had predicted it inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71, though a remnant should hear. The light of Jehovah might be ever so bright, but the heart of the people was gross. "Seeing they saw, but they did not understand." There was no reception of the light of God. Even if they believed after a sort, there was no confession to salvation, for they loved the praise of men, Jesus the Son of God, Jehovah Himself stands on earth and cries His final testimony. He pronounces upon it claims once more to be the light. He was "come a light into the world." This we have seen all through, from John 1:1-51 down toJohn 12:1-50; John 12:1-50. He was come a light into the world, that those that believed on Him should not abide in darkness. The effect was plain from the first; they preferred darkness to light. They loved sin; they had God manifested in love, manifested in Christ. The darkness was thus rendered only more visible in consequence of the light. "If any man hear my words, and believe not. I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Christ had not spoken from Himself, but as the sent One from the Father, who had charged Him what to say and what to speak. "And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."

Time does not admit of more than a few words on the next two chapters (John 13:1-38; John 14:1-31), which introduce a distinct section of our gospel, where (testimony having been fully rendered, not indeed with hope of man, but for the glory of God,) Christ quits association with man (though supper time was come, not "ended" ver. 2) for a place suited to His glory, intrinsic and relational, as well as conferred; but alone with this (blessed to say), to give His own a part with Him in that heavenly glory (instead of His reigning over Israel here below).

Before concluding tonight, this I can notice but briefly, in order to bring my subject within the space allotted for it. Happily there is the less need to dwell on the chapters at the length they might claim, since many here are familiar with them, comparatively speaking. They are especially dear to the children of God in general.

First of all, our Lord has now terminated all question of testimony to man, whether to the Jew or to the world. He now addresses Himself to His own in the world, the unwavering, abiding objects of His love, as one just about to leave this world actually for that place which suits His essential nature, as well as the glory destined Him by the Father. Accordingly our Lord, as one about to go to heaven, new to Him as man, would prove His increasing love to them, (though fully knowing what the enemy would effect through the wickedness of one of their number, as well as through the infirmity of another,) and hence proceeds to give a visible sign then of what they would only understand later. It was the service of love that He would continue for them, when Himself out of this world and themselves in it; a service as real as any that He had ever done for them while He was in this world, and if possible, more important than any they had yet experienced. But, then, this ministration of His grace was also connected with His own new portion in heaven. That is, it was to give them a part with Him outside the world. It was not divine goodness meeting them in the world, but as He was leaving the world for heaven, whence He came, He would associate them with Himself, and give them a share with Himself where He was going. He was about to pass, though Lord of all, into the presence of God His Father in heaven, but would manifest Himself the servant of them all, even to the washing of their feet soiled in walking here below. The point, therefore, was (not here exactly suffering for sins, but) the service of love for saints, to fit them for having communion with Him, before they have their portion with Him in that heavenly scene to which He was going at once. Such is the meaning suggested by the washing of the disciples' feet. In short, it is the word of God applied by the Holy Ghost to deal with all that unfits for fellowship with Christ in heaven, while He is there. It is the Holy Ghost's answer here to what Christ is doing there, as one identified with their cause above, the Holy Ghost meanwhile carrying on a like work in the disciples here, to keep them in, or restore them to, communion with Christ there. They are to be with Him alone; but, meanwhile, He is producing and keeping up, by the Spirit's use of the word, this practical fellowship with Himself on high. While the Lord, then, intimates to them that it had a mystical meaning, not apparent on the face of it, nothing could be more obvious than the love or the humility of Christ. This, and more than this, had been abundantly shown by Him already, and in His every act. This, therefore, was not, and could not be, what was here meant, as that which Peter did not know then, but should know hereafter. Indeed, the lowly love of His Master was so apparent then, that the ardent but hasty disciple stumbled over it. There ought to be neither difficulty nor hesitation in allowing that a deeper sense lay hidden under that simple but suggestive action of Jesus a sense which not even the chief of the twelve could then divine, but which not only he, but every one else, ought to seize now that it is made good in Christianity, or, more precisely, in Christ's dealing with the defilements of His own.

This should be borne in mind, that the washing meant is not with blood, but with water. It was for those who would be already washed from their sins in His blood, but who need none the less to be washed with water also. Indeed, it were well to look more narrowly into the words of our Lord Jesus. Besides the washing with blood, that with water is essential, and this doubly. The washing, of regeneration is not by blood, though inseparable from redemption by blood, and neither the one nor the other is ever repeated. But in addition to the washing of regeneration, there is a continual dealing of grace with the believer in this world; there is the constant need of the application of the word by the Holy Ghost discovering whatever there may be of inconsistency, and bringing him to judge himself in the detail of daily walk here below.

Note the contrast between legal requirement and our Lord's action in this case. Under the law the priests washed themselves, hands as well as feet. Here Christ washes their feet. Need I say how highly the superiority of grace rises over the typical act of the law? Then follows, in connection and in contrast with it, the treachery of Judas. See how the Lord felt it from His familiar friend! How it troubled His spirit! It was a deep sorrow, a fresh instance of what has been referred to already.

Finally, at the end of the chapter, when the departure of Judas on his errand brought all before Him, the Saviour speaks again of death, and so glorifying God. It is not directly for the pardon or deliverance of disciples; yet who does not know that nowhere else is their blessing so secured? God was glorified in the Son of man where it was hardest, and even more than if sin had never been. Hence, as fruit of His glorifying God in His death, God would glorify Him in Himself "straightway." This is precisely what is taking place now. And this, it should be observed again, is in contrast with Judaism. The hope of the Jews is the manifestation of Christ's glory here below and by-and-by. What John shows is here in the immediate glorification of Christ on high. It does not depend upon any future time and circumstance, but was immediately consequent on the cross. But Christ was alone in this; none now could follow no disciple, any more than a Jew, as Peter, bold but weak, would prove to his cost. The ark must go first into Jordan, but we may follow then, as Peter did triumphantly afterwards.

John 14:1-31 (and here, too, I must be brief) follows up the same spirit of contrast with all that belonged to Judaism; for if the ministration of love in cleansing the saints practically was very different from a glorious reign Over the earth, so was the hope here given them of Christ just as peculiar. The Lord intimates, first of all, that He was not going to display Himself now as a Jewish Messiah, visible to the world; but as they believed in God, so they were to believe in Him. He was going to be unseen: quite a new thought to the Jewish mind as regards the Messiah, who, to them, always implied One manifested in power and glory in the world. "Ye believe in God," He says, "believe also in me." But then He connects the unseen condition He was about to assume with the character of the hope He was giving them. It was virtually saying that He was not going merely to bless them here. Nor would it be a scene for man to look on with his natural eyes in this world. He was going to bless them in an infinitely better way and place. "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you." This is what the Son tells. Very different is the burden of the prophets. This was a new thing reserved most fitly for Him. Who but He should be the first to unveil to disciples on earth the heavenly scene of love and holiness and joy and glory He knew so well? "If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." This is the turning-point and secret "where I am." All depends on this precious privilege. The place that was due to the Son was the place that grace would give to the sow. They were to be in the same blessedness with Christ. It was not merely, therefore, Christ about to depart and be in heaven, maintaining their communion with Himself there, but wondrous grace! in due time they, too, were to follow and be with Him; yea, if He went before them, so absolute was the grace, that He would not devolve it on any one else, so to speak to usher them there. He would come Himself, and thus would bring them into His own place "That where I am, there ye may be also." This, I say, in all its parts, is the contrast of every hope, even of the brightest Jewish expectations.

Besides, He would assure them of the ground of their hope. In His own person they ought to have known how this could be. "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." They were surprised. Then, as ever, it was the overlooking of His glorious person that gave occasion to their bewilderment. In answer to Thomas, He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He was the way to the Father, and therefore they ought to have known. because no man comes to the Father but by Him. By receiving Jesus, by believing in Him, and only so, one comes to the Father, whom they had seen in Him, as Philip should have known. He was the way, and there was none other. Besides, He was the truth, the revelation of every one and everything as they are. He was also the life, in which that truth was, by the Spirit's power, known and enjoyed. In every way Christ was the only possible means of their entering into this blessedness. He was in the Father, and the Father in Him; and as the words were not spoken from Himself, so the Father abiding in Him did the works. (Verses 1-11)

Then our Lord turns, from what they should even then have known in and from His person and words and works, to another thing which could not then be known. This divides the chapter. The first part is the Son known on earth in personal dignity as declaring the Father imperfectly, no doubt, but still known. This ought to have been the means of their. apprehending whither He was going; for He was the Son not merely of Mary but of the Father. And this they then knew, however dull in perceiving the consequences. All His manifestation in this gospel was just the witness of this glory, as they certainly ought to have seen; and the new hope was thoroughly in accordance with that glory. But now he discloses to them that which they could only do and understand when the Holy Ghost was given. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." This supposes the Holy Ghost given. First, it is the Son present, and the Father known in Him, and He in the Father. Next, the Holy Ghost is promised. When He was given, these would be the blessed results. He was going away indeed; but they might better prove their love by keeping His commandments, than in human grief over His absence. Besides, Christ would ask the Father, who would give them their ever-abiding Comforter while He Himself was away. The Holy Ghost would be not a passing visitor on the earth, even as the Son who had been with them for a season. He would abide for ever. His dwelling with them is in contrast with any temporary blessing; and besides, He would be in them the expression of an intimacy which nothing human can fully illustrate.

Observe, the Lord uses the present tense both for Himself and for the Comforter the Holy Spirit in this chapter, in a way that will be explained shortly. In the early part of verse 2 He says about Himself, "I go to Prepare a place for you." He does not mean that He was in the act of departure, but just about to go. He uses the present to express its certainty and nearness; He then was on the point of going. So even of coming back again, where likewise He uses the present, "I come again." He does not precisely say, as in the English version, "I will come." This passage of Scripture suffices to exemplify a common idiomatic usage in Greek, as in our own and other tongues, when a thing is to be regarded as sure, and to be constantly expected. It seems to me an analogous usage in connection with the Holy Ghost "He dwelleth with you." I apprehend that the object is simply to lay the stress on the dwelling. The Holy Ghost, when He comes, will not come and go soon after, but abide. Hence, says the Lord, Jesus, "He abideth with you" the same word so often used for abiding throughout the chapter; and next, as we saw, "He shall be in you:" a needful word to add; for otherwise it was not implied in His abiding with them.

These, then, are the two great truths of the chapter: their future portion with Christ in the Father's house; and, meanwhile, the permanent stay of the Holy Ghost with the disciples, and this, too, as indwelling on the footing of life in Christ risen. (Ver. 19) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Thus, having the Holy Ghost as the power of life in Him, they would know Him nearer to them, and themselves to Him, when they should know Him in the Father, than if they had Him as Messiah with them and over them in the earth. These are the two truths which the Lord thus communicates to them.

Then we have a contrast of manifestation to the disciples, and to the world, connected with another very important point the Holy Ghost's power shown in their obedience, and drawing down a love according to the Father's government of His children. It is not merely the Father's love for His children as such, but Father and Son loving them, because of having and keeping the commandments of Jesus. This would be met by a manifestation of Jesus to the soul, such as the world knows nothing of. But the Lord explains further, that if a man loves Him, he will keep His word, and His Father will love him, "and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." (v. 23) This is not a commandment, but His word a simple intimation of His mind or will; and, therefore, as a more thorough test, so followed by a fuller blessing. This is a beautiful difference, and of great practical value, being bound up with the measure of our attentiveness of heart. Where obedience lies comparatively on the surface, and self-will or worldliness is not judged, a commandment is always necessary to enforce it. People therefore ask, " Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?" To such the Lord's will is solely a question of command. Now there are commandments, the expression of His authority; and they are not grievous. But, besides, where the heart loves Him deeply, His word* will give enough expression of His will to him that loves Christ. Even in nature a parent's look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches her mother's desire. before the mother has uttered a word. So, whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus the heart and life be formed in obedience. And what is not the joy and power where such willing subjection to Christ pervades the soul, and all is in the communion of the Father and the Son? How little can any of us speak of it as our habitual unbroken portion!

* It is difficult to say why Tyndale, Cranmer, the Geneva, and the Authorised Versions give the plural form, which has no authority whatever. Wiclif and the Rhemish, adhering to the Vulgate, happen to be right. His word has a unity of character which is of moment. He that loves Christ keeps His word; he that does not love Him keeps not His words; if he observes some of them only, other motives may operate; but if he loved Christ, he would value His word as a whole.

The concluding verses (25-31) bring before them the reason of the Lord's communication, and the confidence they may repose in the Spirit, both in His own teaching them all things, and in His recalling all things which Jesus said to them. "Peace," He adds, "I leave [fruit of His very death; nor this only, but His own character of peace, what He Himself knew] with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." "Not as the world," which is capricious and partial, keeping for itself even where it affects most generosity. He alone who was God could give as Jesus gave, at all cost, and what was most precious. And see what confidence He looks for, what affections superior to self! "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I." Little remained for Him to talk with them. Another task was before Him not with saints, but with Satan, who coming would find nothing in Him, save, indeed, obedience up to death itself, that the world might know that He loves the Father, and does just as He commands. And then He bids the disciples rise up, and go hence, as inJohn 13:1-38; John 13:1-38. He rose up Himself (both being, in my opinion, significant actions, in accordance with what was opening out before Him and them).

But I need and must say no more now on this precious portion. I could only hope to convey the general scope of the contents, as well as their distinctive character. May our God and Father grant that what has been said may help His children to read His word with ever deepening intelligence and enjoyment of it, and of Him with whose grace and glory it is filled!

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 11:24". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​john-11.html. 1860-1890.
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