Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

John 11:1-32 (web)

The Resurrection of Lazarus: Part I

1  Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany,
of the village of Mary and her sister, Martha.
2  It was that Mary who had anointed the Lord with ointment,
and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother, Lazarus, was sick.
3  The sisters therefore sent to him, saying,
"Lord, behold, he for whom you have great affection is sick."
4  But when Jesus heard it, he said,
"This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God,
that God’s Son may be glorified by it."
5  Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6  When therefore he heard that he was sick,
he stayed two days in the place where he was.

7  Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let’s go into Judea again."
8  The disciples told him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and are you going there again?"
9  Jesus answered, "Aren’t there twelve hours of daylight?
If a man walks in the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world.
10  But if a man walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light isn’t in him."
11  He said these things, and after that, he said to them,
"Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep,
but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep."
12  The disciples therefore said, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover."
13  Now Jesus had spoken of his death,
but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep.
14  So Jesus said to them plainly then, "Lazarus is dead.
15  I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe.
Nevertheless, let’s go to him."
16  Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
"Let’s go also, that we may die with him."

17  So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already.
18  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia away.
19  Many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary,
to console them concerning their brother.
20  Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him,
but Mary stayed in the house.
21  Therefore Martha said to Jesus,
"Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.
22  Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you."
23  Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24  Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25  Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me, though he die, yet will he live.
26  Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27  She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ,
God’s Son, he who comes into the world."

28  When she had said this, she went away, and called Mary,
her sister, secretly, saying, "The Teacher is here, and is calling you."
29  When she heard this, she arose quickly, and went to him.
30  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was in the place where Martha met him.
31  Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and were consoling her,
when they saw Mary, that she rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying,
"She is going to the tomb to weep there."
32  Therefore when Mary came to where Jesus was,
and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him,
"Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died."

Discussion Questions

vs 2 What prior incident was John referring to?
vs 4 In what sense did Jesus mean that the sickness was not to death?
vs 6 Why didn't Jesus heal him before he died?
Was that cruel? Why is it that Jesus appears tougher on his friends than on strangers?
vs 9,10 Paraphrase this to clarify Jesus' answer to his disciples.
vs 11 Why does Jesus speak of Lazarus sleeping even though he was dead?
And why did he speak in this manner if he knew his disciples would misunderstand him?
vs 22 What was Martha implying by this statement?
And what does this indicate about her faith?
vs 24 What is the resurrection at the last day of which Martha speaks?


vs 1-2 Bethany was quite close to Jerusalem. What event is John referring to concerning Mary's anointing of Jesus? He's either referring
to the event which Luke wrote about in Luke 7:36 or else he's writing in a proleptical sense, referring to the event he is about to mention in chapter 12, but which many of the readers at the time were already aware of.  In defense of the first interpretation, the gospel of Luke was written before the gospel of John and thus the Christians would have been familiar with that account, although the name "Mary" is not mentioned there. According to that account there was a woman who had a reputation for living a sinful lifestyle and was not welcomed among the religious elite. Jesus described her also as one much in debted to God for her multitude of sins, or at least gave deference to the Pharisee's point of view towards her as such. But having come to faith in Christ and repented of her sins, she was now forgiven and reconciled into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If indeed it was Mary who anointed the Lord in an act of repentance it is interesting to note she would have anointed him again to prepare him for his death. The first was for her and the second for him, but both were acts of faith. Or it might have been that the sinful woman of Luke's gospel was not this Mary, but perhaps nonetheless Mary identified with her in the act of anointing the Lord we'll read about in chapter 12. John's accounts give the impression that Mary was unmarried, which perhaps gives some credence to the idea that she was Luke's sinful woman, for even a repentant prostitute or the like may find difficulty find an appropriate marriage partner. But on the other hand if that is the case there appears a discepancy of her social status between the two accounts. For in the first account she is a social outcast, but we get no sense of that in these two chapters, and even though she had repented we wouldn't expect the crowd to be so forgiving. So whether she was or was not the sinful woman of Luke's account is a matter of opinion.

vs 3,5 It appears that Jesus revealed a special attachment to this family. The word used in verse 3 is "phileo", the word for "like" or affection. But we know very little of the details of this relationship. Jesus does mention a "Lazarus" in one of his parables concerning resurrection in Luke 16. And although it wasn't literally the Lazarus of Bethany, yet no doubt there is some connection of which I will elaborate upon later.

What do we know of Martha and Mary prior to this? Mary was probably not the Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus drove out seven demons. That Mary was from the town of Magdala which was on the west bank of the sea of Galilee way up in the north. But this Mary is from Bethany. We notice also that Mary Magdalene was introduce in Luke 8, but just 2 chapters later Luke speaks of Martha that "She had a sister called Mary" (no doubt the Mary here of Bethany). But Luke seems to introduce her as if a new character, and not the Mary Magdalene he had spoken of previously. And thus were two different Marys.

vs 3-6 Notice that while Christ quickly answered requests of others, even strangers, and even healing from afar, yet with one so close to him he leaves in his sickness to die. Yet this is not inconsistent with what he has called us to do. For he said, "Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it."Mark 8:34,35 Consider that God took one who was closest to him, his own Son and sent him on a suicide mission. So those who are closest to God and to his Son are called to give their lives that the Son of God may be glorified. While it appears that God is easy upon others, yet he is tough on his own. Outsiders may view this as cruel and abusive, but those of us who have been born of God are grateful to be allowed the honor of such service, much as the apostles "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus’ name." Acts 5:41 But such sacrifices come in many forms.

I wonder what Lazarus was thinking as he lie sick and dying and the Lord not coming to him. Perhaps he responded as Abraham when God told him to kill is son Isaac. He responded in faith trusting God to the end. Though we make requests of God, in faith we have to leave it in God's hands how he will respond to such requests. When we go through such experiences of death and humiliation in our lives, others may treat us with contempt or slander us reckoning us accursed of God for the sufferings we go through. It was because of his love that he stayed away and waited for Lazarus to die.

"Not to death" But it was "to death" in quite a literal sense. But then again we see Jesus here and throughout much of the gospels speaking of things not in a literal sense but in a spiritual sense. But as is often the case, Jesus knows that his audience (in this case his own disciples) are misunderstanding what he was saying. I think Jesus delays speaking to them plainly because he was training them to think in different terms concerning such circumstances.

vs 7-16 Though he did indeed withdraw himself from areas in which he faced persecution, yet Jesus had a mission to fulfill. If he hadn't raised Lazarus at this point, at his return to Judea he may indeed have face arrest, trial and crucifixion at this time. But it wasn't time for that. The resurrection would indeed proved to glorify the Son in the eyes of much of the society and thus win him safety in Judea for a time. Thomas (at times today referred to as doubting Thomas) perceived that entering Judea meant death, not realizing what the Lord had planned. But what is commendable is that even in face of certain death, Thomas was willing to follow the Lord. (Though of course we know he failed to do so when faced with the cross)

In verse 9,10 Jesus was simply saying that he was meant to be the light of the world and as such must allow himself to be seen regardless of the conseqences. This is also a lesson for us. We are the light of the world. Let us not "hide" God's Word, but expose it to the world. And yes we will experience persecution both from the secular and religious communities. We've got a job to do regardless of the resistance we face. Let's get the job done.

vs 11-14 "Sleep" versus "death". Jesus is reluctant to apply the word "dead" to those who are his even when they are physically dead, but rather speaks of "sleeping". This practiced is carried on by the apostles as well speaking of "sleep", but meaning physical death.

1 Corinthians 11:30
"For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep."
1 Corinthians 15:51  "Behold, I tell you a mystery.
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed"
For life and death is not measured by one's physical state, but by one's spiritual state.
1John 5:12 "He who has the Son has the life.
He who doesn’t have God’s Son doesn’t have the life."
And that in fact the passage from death to life occurs not in the physical realm, but when believes.
John 5:24 "Most assuredly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."
vs 17-27 In Luke 10 when visiting the sisters, Jesus commended Mary for her listening to him over Martha who busied herself with the chores. But here we see that Martha understood the Lord deeply reckoning him as Christ, the Son of God. But also her statement in verse 22 alludes to his ability to raise the dead, of which it appears she had a sort of tongue in cheek request of Jesus concerning her brother. She showed a great deal of faith and understanding of the stituation more so than it appears Jesus' disciples had portrayed.

The Jews were well aware of the resurrection on the last day. That was not a new belief introduced by Jesus. All the way back in the book of Job such faith was expressed.

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;  I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Job 19:25-27

"As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." Daniel 12:13

But the resurrection of Lazarus would be of a different character in that he would be raised to die again. 1Corinthians chapter 15 elaborates on the nature of the resurrection on the last day.

vs 28-32 Mary approaches Jesus in grief but with the same initial statement as Martha. Her degree of grief may indicate a lack of faith in what Jesus was capable of doing. Paul writes, "But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope." 1Thess 4:13 Grieving at the death of a loved one is appropriate of course but the Christian has the feeling of anticipation that they will be reunited again in the future.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020