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The Four-fold Gospel by J. W. McGarvey

XCIII. PerÆa to Bethany. Raising of Lazarus.

^D John XI.1-46.

^d 1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. [For Bethany and the sisters, see p.478.] 2 And it was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair [John xii.3 ], whose brother Lazarus was sick. [The anointing had not yet taken place, as John himself shows. For a similar anticipation see Matt. x.4. There are five prominent Marys in the New Testament: those of Nazareth, Magdala and Bethany; the mother of Mark, and the wife of Clopas.] 3 The sisters therefore sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. [The message and its form both indicate the close intimacy between this family and Christ. They make no request, trusting that Jesus' love will bring him to Bethany.] 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby. [The sickness of Lazarus was for the purpose or design of a resurrection, so that death was a mere preceding incident. By this resurrection the Son of God would be glorified by manifesting more clearly than ever before that death came under his Messianic dominion, and by gathering believers from amongst his enemies. In all this the Father would also be glorified in the Son.] 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. [In this passage we have two Greek words for love. In verses 3 and 36 we have philein, which expresses natural affection such as a parent feels for a child. In this verse we have agapan, an affection resulting from moral choice, loftier and less impulsive. We are told of the Lord's love that we may understand that his delay was not due to indifference.] 6 When therefore he heard that he was sick, he abode at that time two days in the place where he was. [It is urged that the exigencies of his ministry delayed Jesus in Peræa. But the import of the texts is that he kept away because of his love for the household of Lazarus and his desire to bless his disciples. He delayed that he might discipline and perfect the faith of the sisters and disciples. He withheld his blessing that he might enlarge it. Strauss pronounces it immoral in Christ to let his friend die in order to glorify himself by a miracle. In the vocabulary of Strauss, glorification means the gratification of personal vanity, but in the language of Christ it means the revelation of himself as the divine Saviour, that men may believe and receive the blessing of salvation.] 7 Then after this he saith to the disciples, Let us go into Judæa again. [The word |again| refers back to John x.40. Jesus does not propose to them to return to Bethany, where he has friends, but to go back to Judæa, the land of hostility. In so doing he caused them to think of his death, of which he had some time been seeking to accustom them to think.] 8 The disciples say unto him, Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone thee. [John x.31]; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him. [This parabolic expression resembles that at John ix.4. See p.462. In this passage, day represents the alloted season of life which was to be terminated by what Jesus called |his hour.| Until this |hour| came, Jesus felt no fear. He did not thrust himself into danger, thus tempting God; but he feared not to go whither his duty and the Spirit led him. As yet it was still day, but the evening shadows were falling, and the powers of darkness were soon to prevail (Luke xxii.53), and then the further prosecution of the work would lead to death, for death was part of the work, and had its allotted time and place.] 11 These things spake he: and after this he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleepeth, he shall do well.13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death: but they thought that he spake of taking of rest in sleep. [Jesus had before this spoken of death under the figure of sleep (Luke viii.52, see p.355), and the disciples might have understood him to mean death in this case had they not misunderstood his promise given at verse 4. As it was, they looked upon the mentioned sleep as marking the crisis of the disease, as it so often does in cases of fever. They were glad to urge it as an evidence of complete recovery, and thus remove one of the causes of the dreaded journey into Judæa.] 14 Then Jesus therefore said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. [Had Jesus been present during the sickness of Lazarus, he would have felt constrained to heal him, and so would have lost the opportunity of presenting to his disciples a more striking proof of his divine power, a proof which has been the joy of each succeeding age. The disciples were soon to learn by sad experience how little belief they really had -- Mark xiv.50; xvi.11; Luke xxiv.11, 21, 25.] 16 Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus [see p.224], said unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. [I. e., die with Christ, see verse 8. They could not die with Lazarus, as some have foolishly supposed, for he was already dead. This mention of Thomas is closely connected with the thought in verse 15. Jesus was about to work a miracle for the express purpose of inducing his disciples to believe in him, especially as to his power over death. In this despairing speech Thomas shows how little faith he had in Christ's ability to cope with death. Thomas sadly needed to witness the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, and even after seeing it, it proved insufficient to sustain his faith in the ordeal through which he was about to pass -- John xx.25-29.] 17 So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already. [If Lazarus was buried on the day he died, as is the custom in the East, and in hot climates generally ( Acts v.6, 10), he probably died on the day that the messengers brought word to Jesus about his sickness. If so, Jesus set forth for Bethany on the third day and arrived there on the fourth. The resurrections wrought by Jesus are progressional manifestations of power. Jairus' daughter was raised immediately after death, the young man of Nain was being carried to his grave, and Lazarus was buried four days. All these were preparatory to that last and greatest manifestation of resurrectional power -- the raising of his own body.] 18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off [the furlong, or stadium, was six hundred feet, so that the distance here was one and seven-eighths miles]; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. [These Jews were present four days after the death because Jewish custom prolonged the season of mourning (Gen. i.3, 10; Num. xx.29; Deut. xxxiv.8; I. Sam. xxviii.13). The Mishna prescribed seven days for near relatives, and the rules as laid down by rabbis, required seven days' public and thirty days' private mourning for distinguished or important personages.] 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary still sat in the house. [Jesus evidently paused on the outskirts of the town. He probably wished to avoid the noisy conventional wailing, the hypocrisy of which was distasteful to him (Mark v.40). It comports with the businesslike character of Martha as depicted by Luke to have heard of our Lord's arrival before Mary. She was probably discharging her duty towards the guests and new arrivals, as was her wont. See p.478.] 21 Martha therefore said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.22 And even now I know that, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee. [We might take it that Martha confidently expected the Lord to raise Lazarus, were it not for the subsequent conversation and especially verse 39. We must therefore look upon her hope as more vague than her words would indicate. Such vague and illusive hopes are common where a great expectation, such as she had before indulged, had but lately departed.] 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 on me, though he die, yet shall he live; 26 and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this? [Instead of saying |I will raise Lazarus,| Jesus uses the wholly impersonal phrase |thy brother shall rise again,| for it was this very impersonal feature of faith which he wished to correct. Martha assents to it at once. The doctrine of a resurrection was commonly held by all the Jews except the Sadducees. It was in their view, however, a remote, impersonal affair, a very far distant event powerless to comfort in bereavement. From this comparatively cheerless hope, Jesus would draw Martha to look upon himself as both resurrection and life. Where he is there is life, and there also is resurrection at his word without limitation. No mere man, if sane, could have uttered such words. They mean that Jesus is the power which raises the dead and bestows eternal life -- John vi.39-54; x.28.] 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, even he that cometh into the world. [She could not say she believed it, for Lazarus had believed in Jesus and yet he had died. So, evading the question, she confessed her faith in him. Believing him, she accepted whatever he might say. She responds in the words of that apostolic creed which, in its ultimate application, embraces all that is true and discards all that is false (Matt. xvi.16; John vi.68, 69; xx.31; I. John v.1-5). See p.411.] 28 And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Teacher is here, and calleth thee. [She called Mary secretly, for she wished that Mary might have a private word with Jesus such as she had just had.] 29 And she, when she heard it, arose quickly [moved by ardent feeling], and went unto him.30 (Now Jesus was not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha met him.) 31 The Jews then 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, supposing that she was going unto the tomb to weep there. [Rather, to wail (Matt. ii.18; Mark v.38). According to Eastern custom, the Jews followed her as friends, to assist in the demonstration of mourning. This frustrated the effort of Martha to keep secret the Lord's coming, and caused the miracle to be wrought in the presence of a mixed body of spectators.] 32 Mary therefore, when she came where Jesus was, and saw him, fell down at his feet [in grief and dependence, but with less self-control than Martha], saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. [That both sisters used this phrase, shows that it is an echo of the past feelings and conversations of the sisters. It is clear that they felt hurt at his not coming sooner, as he could have done.] 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled [The verb translated |groaned| carries in it the idea of indignation. But the fact that sin had brought such misery to those he loved was enough to account for the feeling], 34 and said, Where have ye laid him? [This question was designed to bring all parties to the tomb; it was not asked for information. See pp.353, 354, 376.] They [the sisters] say unto him, Lord, come and see.35 Jesus wept. [This is not the verb for wailing, but for shedding tears. On another occasion, when Jesus saw with prophetic eye a vast city, the center of God's chosen nation, sweeping on to destruction, he lamented aloud (Luke xix.41), but here, as a friend, he mingled his quiet tears with the two broken-hearted sisters, thus assuring us of his sympathy with the individual grief of each lowly disciple (Rom. xii.15). Nor did the nearness of comfort prevent his tears. They were tears of sympathy. |A sympathetic physician,| says Neander, |in the midst of a family drowned in grief, -- will not his tears flow with theirs, though he knows that he has the power of giving immediate relief?|] 36 The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him! 37 But some of them said, Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die? [Knowing the miracle which he had performed upon a blind man (John ix.1-13), they could therefore see no reason why he should not have performed one here.] 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. [These stones were frequently in the shape of large grindstones resting in a groove, so that they could be rolled in front of the door of the tomb. Tombs had to be closed securely to keep out jackals and other ravenous beasts.] 39 Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone. [Miracles only begin where human power ends.] Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time the body decayeth; for he hath been dead four days. [She evidently thought that Jesus wished to see the remains of his friend, and her sisterly feeling prompted her to conceal the humiliating ravages of death. Her words show how little expectation of a resurrection she had.] 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God? [Jesus reminds her of his words which are recorded in verses 25 and 26, and of the message which he sent, found in verse 4, thus removing her objections.] 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me.42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the multitude that standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me. [Jesus, dwelling in constant communion with the Father, knew that the Father concurred in his wish to raise Lazarus. He therefore makes public acknowledgment, and offers a prayer of thanksgiving, for the Father's gracious answer to this and all his petitions. He states, too, that the prayer is publicly made that it may induce faith in the bystanders. He wished all present to know that the miracle about to be wrought is not the work of some independent wonder-worker, but is performed by him as one commissioned and sent of God. In other words, the miracle was wrought to prove the concord between the Son and the Father, the very fact which the Jews refused to believe. Rationalists criticize this prayer as a violation of the principle at Matt. vi.5, 6, and Weisse called it |prayer for show.| But it shows on its face that it is not uttered by Jesus to draw admiration to himself as a praying man, but to induce faith unto salvation in those who heard.] 43 And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. [The loud cry emphasized the fact that the miracle was wrought by personal authority, and not by charms, incantations, or other questionable means. His voice was as it were an earnest of the final calling which all shall hear (Rev. i.5; John v.28, 29; I. Thess. iv.16). It has been happily said he called Lazarus by name, lest all the dead should rise.] 44 He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. [It is thought by some that Lazarus walked forth from the tomb, and the fact that the Egyptians sometimes swathed their mummies so as to keep the limbs and even the fingers separate is cited to show that Lazarus was not so bound as to prevent motion. But the grave-clothes were like a modern shroud, wrapped around arms and legs, and mummies also were thus wrapped after their limbs were swathed. It was part of the miracle that Lazarus came out bound hand and foot, and John puts emphasis upon it.] 45 Many therefore of the Jews, who came to Mary and beheld that which he did, believed on him.46 But some of them [some of the class mentioned in verse 37] went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. [By the miracle Jesus had won many from the ranks of his enemies, but others, alarmed at this deflection, rush off to tell the Pharisees about this new cause for alarm. Farrar argues that these may have gone to the Pharisees with good intentions toward Jesus, but surely no friend of Jesus could have been so hasty to communicate with his enemies. But the way in which the Evangelist separates these from the believers of verse 45, stamps their action as unquestionably hostile.]

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