l. Now one named Lazarus, of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha, was sick.2. And it was that Mary who 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, lo, he whom thou lovest is sick.4. And Jesus, having heard this, said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.6. Having therefore heard that he was sick, he then remained two days in the place where he was.7. And after this he saith to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again.8. The disciples say to him, The Jews but lately sought to stone thee, and dost thou go thither again? 9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk by day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.10. But if any man walk by night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
1. And one named Lazarus was sick. The Evangelist passes on to another narrative, which contains a miracle eminently worthy of being recorded. For not only did Christ give a remarkable proof of his Divine power in raising Lazarus, but he likewise placed before our eyes a lively image of our future resurrection. This might indeed be said to be the latest and concluding action of his life, for the time of his death was already at hand. We need not wonder, therefore, if he illustrated his own glory, in an extraordinary manner, in that work, the remembrance of which he wished to be deeply impressed on their minds, that it might seal, in some respects, all that had gone before. There were others whom Christ had raised from the dead, but he now displays his power on a rotting corpse. But the circumstances which tend to magnify the glory of God in this miracle shall be pointed out in their proper place and order.
Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The probable reason why this circumstance is mentioned is, that Lazarus had not acquired so great celebrity among believers as his sisters had; for these holy women were accustomed to entertain Christ with their hospitality, as is evident from what is related by the Evangelist Luke, (Luke 10:38.) It is really too ridiculous a blunder, to suppose that Monks, and such fry as the Papists have, made this small town or village a castle.
2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord. It is a similar display of ignorance, to imagine that this Mary, the sister of Lazarus, was that woman of wicked and infamous life, who is mentioned by Luke, (Luke 7:37.) This mistake was occasioned by the anointing; as if it were not evident enough that Christ was anointed on various occasions, and even at different places. The woman who was a sinner, of whom Luke gives an account, anointed Christ at Jerusalem, where he dwelt; but Mary afterwards anointed him at Bethany, which was her own village. The past tense employed by the Evangelist, who anointed, must be referred, not to the time of the occurrence which he is now relating, but to the time when he wrote; as if he had said, |It was this Mary who afterwards poured on the head of Christ the ointment, on account of which a murmuring arose among the disciples,| (Matthew 26:7.)
3. Lo, he whom thou lovest is sick. The message is short, but Christ might easily learn from it what the two sisters wished; for, under this complaint, they modestly state their request that he would be pleased to grant them relief. We are not forbidden, indeed, to use a longer form of prayer; but our principal object ought to be, to pour into the bosom of God all our cares, and every thing that distresses us, that he may afford deliverance. Such is the manner in which the women act towards Christ: they plainly tell him their distress, in consequence of which they expect some alleviation. We ought also to observe that, from Christ's love, they are led to entertain a confident hope of obtaining assistance, he whom thou lovest; and this is the invariable rule of praying aright; for, where the love of God is, there deliverance is certain and at hand, because God cannot forsake him whom he loveth
4. Now Jesus, having heard this, said, This sickness is not to death. He intended by this reply to free his disciples from anxiety, that they might not take it amiss, when they saw him giving himself so little concern about the danger of his friend. That they might not be alarmed, therefore, about the life of Lazarus, he declares that the disease is not deadly, and even promises that it will be an additional occasion of promoting his own glory. Though Lazarus died, yet as Christ soon afterwards restored him to life, he now declares, looking to this result, that the disease is not to death
But for the glory of God. This clause is not contrasted with death, as if it were an argument that would always hold; for we know that, even though the reprobate die, the glory of God is not less strikingly displayed in their destruction than in the salvation of believers. But Christ strictly meant, in this passage, the glory of God, which was connected with his office. The power of God, which was displayed in the miracles of Christ, was not fitted to strike terror, but was kind and gentle. When he says that there is no danger of death, because he intends to display in it his own glory and the glory of his Father, we ought to inquire for what purpose, and with what intention, he was sent by the Father; which was, to save, and not to destroy.
For the glory, of God, that the Son of God may be glorified. This expression is highly emphatic; for we learn from it that God wishes to be acknowledged in the person of his Son in such a manner, that all the reverence which he requires to be given to his own majesty may be ascribed to the Son. Hence we were told formerly,
He who doth not honor the Son doth not honor the Father, (John 5:23.)
It is in vain for Mahometans and Jews, therefore, to pretend to worship God; for they blaspheme against Christ, and even endeavor, in this manner, to rob God of himself.
5. And Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. These two things appear to be inconsistent with each other, that Christ remains two days beyond Jordan, as if he did not care about the life of Lazarus, and yet the Evangelist says, that Christ loved him and his sisters; for, since love produces anxiety, he ought to have hastened immediately. As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught by this delay on his part, that we ought not to judge of the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes. When we have prayed to him, he often delays his assistance, either that he may increase still more our ardor in prayer, or that he may exercise our patience, and, at the same time, accustom us to obedience. Let believers then implore the assistance of God, but let them also learn to suspend their desires, if he does not stretch out his hand for their assistance as soon as they may think that necessity requires; for, whatever may be his delay, he never sleeps, and never forgets his people. Yet let us also be fully assured that he wishes all whom he loves to be saved.
7. And after this, he saith to his disciples. At length he now shows that he cared about Lazarus, though the disciples thought that he had forgotten him, or, at least, that there were other matters which he reckoned of more importance than the life of Lazarus. He therefore enjoins them to cross the Jordan, and go to Judea
8. Rabbi, the Jews but lately sought to stone thee. When the disciples dissuade him from going, they do so, not so much perhaps on his account as on their own, for each of them is alarmed about himself, as the danger was common to all. Avoiding the cross, and being ashamed to own it, they allege -- what is more plausible -- that they are anxious about their Master. The same thing happens every day with many. For they who, through a dread of the cross, shrink from the performance of their duty, eagerly seek excuses to conceal their indolence, that they may not be thought to rob God of the obedience due to him, when they have no good cause to do so.
9. Are there not twelve hours in the day? This passage has been explained in various ways. Some have thought the meaning of these words to be, that men sometimes adopt a new and different resolution every hour. This is very far from Christ's meaning; and indeed I would not have reckoned it worthy of being mentioned, had it not been that it has passed into a common proverb. Let us therefore be satisfied with the simple and natural meaning.
First, Christ borrows a comparison from Day and Night. For if any man perform a journey in the dark, we need not wonder if he frequently stumble, or go astray, or fall; but the light of the sun by day points out the road, so that there is no danger. Now the calling of God is like the light of day, which does not allow us to mistake our road or to stumble. Whoever, then, obeys the word of God, and undertakes nothing but according to his command, always has God to guide and direct him from heaven, and with this confidence he may safely and boldly pursue his journey. For, as we are informed,
Whosoever walketh in his ways hath angels to guard him, and, under their direction, is safe, so that he cannot strike his foot against a stone, (Psalm 91:11.)
Relying on this protection, therefore, Christ advances boldly into Judea, without any dread of being stoned; for there is no danger of going astray, when God, performing the part of the sun, shines on us, and directs our course.
We are taught by these words, that whenever a man allows himself to be guided by his own suggestions, without the calling of God, his whole life is nothing else than a course of wandering and mistake; and that they who think themselves exceedingly wise, when they do not inquire at the mouth of God, and have not his Spirit to govern their actions, are blind men groping in the dark; that the only proper way is, to be fully assured of our divine calling, and to have always God before our eyes as our guide. This rule of regulating our life well is followed by a confident expectation of a prosperous result, because it is impossible that God shall not govern successfully. And this knowledge is highly necessary to us; for believers can scarcely move a foot to follow him, but Satan shall immediately interpose a thousand obstructions, hold out a variety of dangers on every side, and contrive, in every possible way, to oppose their progress. But when the Lord invites us to go forward, by holding out, as it were, his lamp to us, we ought to go forward courageously, though many deaths besiege our path; for he never commands us to advance without at the same time adding a promise to encourage us, so that we may be fully convinced, that whatever we undertake agreeably to his command will have a good and prosperous issue. This is our chariot, and whoever betakes himself to it will never fail through weariness; and even though the obstacles were so formidable that we could not be conveyed through them by a chariot, yet, furnished with these wings, we shall always succeed, till we reach the goal. Not that believers never meet with any adversity, but because adverse occurrences are aids to their salvation.
It amounts to this, that the eyes of God will always be attentive to guard those who shall be attentive to his instructions. Hence we learn also that, whenever men overlook and disregard the word of God, and consequently indulge themselves foolishly, and undertake whatever they think right, the whole course of their life is accursed by God, and vengeance is always ready to punish their presumption and their blind passions. Again, Christ here divides the day into twelve hours, according to ancient custom; for though the days are longer in summer and shorter in winter, yet they had always twelve hours of the day, and twelve of the night.