11. He spoke these things, and after this he saith to them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him.12. Then his disciples said, Lord, if he sleepeth, he will recover.13. Now Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep.14. Then Jesus, therefore, said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.15. And I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there, that you may believe. But let us go to him.16. Then Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.17. Jesus therefore came, and found that he had been already four days in the tomb.
11. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. Having formerly asserted that the disease was not deadly, that his disciples may not be too much distressed at seeing what they did not expect, he now informs them also that Lazarus is dead, and excites a hope of his resurrection. It is a proof of amazing ignorance, that they believe that Christ spoke about sleep; for, though it is a metaphorical form of expression, still it is so frequent and common in Scripture, that it ought to have been familiarly known to all the Jews.
12. If he sleepeth, he will recover. Replying that sleep will have a salutary effect on Lazarus, they thus endeavor indirectly to dissuade Christ from going thither. And yet they do not craftily or deceitfully turn aside Christ's words to suit their own purpose, on the pretense of not understanding what he said; but, thinking that he spoke about sleep, they gladly seize this opportunity of avoiding danger. Augustine, and many writers since his time, speculate about the word sleep, alleging that the reason why it is applied to death is, because it is as easy for God to raise the dead to life, as it is for us to perform the customary act of awaking those who are asleep. But that nothing of this sort came into the mind of Christ, may be inferred from the constant use of the term in Scripture; and since even profane writers usually apply this word Sleep to Death, there was unquestionably no other reason why it came into use, but because a lifeless corpse lies without feeling, just as the body of a man who is in a profound sleep. Hence, also, sleep is not inappropriately called the image of death, and Homer calls it the brother of death, (kasignetos thanatouu.) Since this word denotes only the sleep of the body, it is prodigiously absurd to apply it -- as some fanatics have done -- to souls, as if, by being deprived of understanding, they were subject to death.
But I go to awake him. Christ asserts his own power, when he says that he will come to awake Lazarus; for, though, as we have said, the word sleep does not express the facility of the resurrection, yet Christ shows that he is Lord of death, when he says, that he awakes those whom he restores to life.
14. Then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead. The goodness of Christ was astonishing, in being able to bear with such gross ignorance in the disciples. And indeed the reason why he delayed, for a time, to bestow upon them the grace of the Spirit in larger measure, was, that the miracle of renewing them in a moment might be the greater.
15. And I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there. He means that his absence was profitable to them, because his power would have been less illustriously displayed, if he had instantly given assistance to Lazarus. For the more nearly the works of God approach to the ordinary course of nature, the less highly are they valued, and the less illustriously is their glory displayed. This is what we experience daily; for if God immediately stretches out his hand, we do not perceive his assistance. That the resurrection of Lazarus, therefore, might be acknowledged by the disciples to be truly a Divine work, it must be delayed, that it might be very widely removed from a human remedy.
We ought to remember, however, what I formerly observed, that the fatherly kindness of God towards us is here represented in the person of Christ. When God permits us to be overwhelmed with distresses, and to languish long under them, let us know that, in this manner, he promotes our salvation. At such a time, no doubt, we groan and are perplexed and sorrowful, but the Lord rejoices on account of our benefit, and gives a twofold display of his kindness to us in this respect, that he not only pardons our sins, but gladly finds means of correcting them.
That you may believe. He does not mean that this was the first feeble commencement of faith in them, but that it was a confirmation of faith already begun, though it was still exceedingly small and weak. Yet he indirectly suggests that, if the hand of God had not been openly displayed, they would not have believed.
16. Then Thomas. Hitherto the disciples had endeavored to hinder Christ from going. Thomas is now prepared to follow, but it is without confidence; or, at least, he does not fortify himself by the promise of Christ, so as to follow hint with cheerfulness and composure.
Let us go, that we may die with him. This is the language of despair, for they ought to have entertained no fears about their own life. The phrase, with him, may be explained as referring either to Lazarus or to Christ. If we refer it to Lazarus, it will be ironical, as if Thomas had said, |Of what use will it be to go thither, unless it be that we cannot discharge the duty of friends in any other manner than by seeking to die along with him?| Yet I greatly prefer the other meaning, that Thomas does not refuse to die with Christ But this, as I have said, proceeds from inconsiderate zeal; for he ought rather to have taken courage from faith in the promise.