Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
RAISED FROM THE
1. of Bethany--at the east side of Mount Olivet.
the town of Mary and her sister Martha--thus distinguishing it
from the other Bethany, "beyond Jordan." (See on
2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, &c.--This,
though not recorded by our Evangelist till
was so well known in the teaching of all the churches, according to our
that it is here alluded to by anticipation, as the most natural way of
identifying her; and she is first named, though the younger, as the
more distinguished of the two. She "anointed THE
LORD," says the Evangelist--led doubtless to the
use of this term here, as he was about to exhibit Him illustriously as
the Lord of Life.
3-5. his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, he whom thou lovest is
sick--a most womanly appeal, yet how reverential, to the known
affection of her Lord for the patient. (See
Joh 11:5, 11).
"Those whom Christ loves are no more exempt than others from their
share of earthly trouble and anguish: rather are they bound over to it
more surely" [TRENCH].
4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death--to
result in death.
but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified
thereby--that is, by this glory of God. (See Greek.) Remarkable
language this, which from creature lips would have been intolerable. It
means that the glory of GOD manifested in the resurrection of dead
Lazarus would be shown to be the glory, personally and immediately,
5. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus--what a picture!--one
that in every age has attracted the admiration of the whole Christian
Church. No wonder that those miserable skeptics who have carped at the
ethical system of the Gospel, as not embracing private friendships in
the list of its virtues, have been referred to the Saviour's peculiar
regard for this family as a triumphant refutation, if such were needed.
6. When he heard he was sick, he abode two days still . . . where he
was--at least twenty-five miles off. Beyond all doubt this was just to
let things come to their worst, in order to display His glory. But how
trying, meantime, to the faith of his friends, and how unlike the way in
which love to a dying friend usually shows itself, on which it is plain
that Mary reckoned. But the ways of divine are not as the ways of
human love. Often they are the reverse. When His people are sick,
in body or spirit; when their case is waxing more and more desperate
every day; when all hope of recovery is about to expire--just then and
therefore it is that
"He abides two days still in the same place where He is." Can they
still hope against hope? Often they do not; but "this is their
infirmity." For it is His chosen style of acting. We have been well
taught it, and should not now have the lesson to learn. From the
days of Moses was it given sublimely forth as the character of His
grandest interpositions, that "the Lord will judge His people and repent
Himself for His servants"--when He seeth that their power is gone
7-10. Let us go into Judea again--He was now in Perea, "beyond
8. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought,
&c.--literally, "were (just) now seeking" "to stone thee"
goest thou thither again?--to certain death, as
shows they thought.
9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the
Our Lord's day had now reached its eleventh hour, and having till now
"walked in the day," He would not mistime the remaining and more
critical part of His work, which would be as fatal, He says, as
omitting it altogether; for "if a man (so He speaks, putting
Himself under the same great law of duty as all other men--if a man)
walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him."
11-16. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may wake him out
of sleep--Illustrious title! "Our friend Lazarus." To
Abraham only is it accorded in the Old Testament, and not till
after his death,
to which our attention is called in the New Testament
When Jesus came in the flesh, His forerunner applied this name, in a
certain sense, to himself
and into the same fellowship the Lord's chosen disciples are declared
to have come
"The phrase here employed, "our friend Lazarus," means more than "he
whom Thou lovest" in
for it implies that Christ's affection was reciprocated by
Lazarus" [LAMPE]. Our Lord had been told only
that Lazarus was "sick." But the change which his two days' delay had
produced is here tenderly alluded to. Doubtless, His spirit was all the
while with His dying, and now dead "friend." The symbol of "sleep" for
death is common to all languages, and familiar to us in the Old
Testament. In the New Testament, however, a higher meaning is put into
it, in relation to believers in Jesus (see on
a sense hinted at, and clearly, in
[LUTHARDT]; and the "awaking out of sleep"
acquires a corresponding sense far transcending bare resuscitation.
12. if he sleep, he shall do well--literally, "be preserved"; that
is, recover. "Why then go to Judea?"
14. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead--Says
BENGEL beautifully, "Sleep is the death of the
saints, in the language of heaven; but this language the disciples here
understood not; incomparable is the generosity of the divine manner of
discoursing, but such is the slowness of men's apprehension that
Scripture often has to descend to the more miserable style of human
15. I am glad for your sakes I was not there--This certainly implies
that if He had been present, Lazarus would not have died; not because He
could not have resisted the importunities of the sisters, but because,
in presence of the personal Life, death could not have reached His
friend [LUTHARDT]. "It is beautifully congruous to the divine decorum
that in presence of the Prince of Life no one is ever said to have died"
that ye may believe--This is added to explain His "gladness" at not
having been present. His friend's death, as such, could not have been to
Him "joyous"; the sequel shows it was "grievous"; but for them it
16. Thomas, . . . called Didymus--or "the twin."
Let us also go, that we may die with him--lovely spirit, though
tinged with some sadness, such as reappears at
showing the tendency of this disciple to take the dark view of
things. On a memorable occasion this tendency opened the door to
downright, though but momentary, unbelief
Here, however, though alleged by many interpreters there is nothing of
the sort. He perceives clearly how this journey to Judea will end, as
respects his Master, and not only sees in it peril to themselves, as
they all did, but feels as if he could not and cared not to survive his
Master's sacrifice to the fury of His enemies. It was that kind of
affection which, living only in the light of its Object, cannot
contemplate, or has no heart for life, without it.
17-19. when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four
days--If he died on the day the tidings came of his illness--and was,
according to the Jewish custom, buried the same day (see JAHN'S
Ac 5:5, 6, 10)
--and if Jesus, after two days' further stay in Perea, set out on the
day following for Bethany, some ten hours' journey, that would make out
the four days; the first and last being incomplete [MEYER].
18. Bethany was nigh Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs--rather less
than two miles; mentioned to explain the visits of sympathy noticed in
the following words, which the proximity of the two places facilitated.
19. many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them--Thus
were provided, in a most natural way, so many witnesses of the glorious
miracle that was to follow, as to put the fact beyond possible question.
20-22. Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met
him--true to the energy and activity of her character, as seen
but Mary sat . . . in the house--equally true to her
placid character. These undesigned touches not only charmingly
minute historic fidelity of both narratives, but their
21. Then said Martha . . . Lord, if thou hadst been here,
my brother had not died--As Mary afterwards said the same thing
it is plain they had made this very natural remark to each other,
perhaps many times during these four sad days, and not without having
their confidence in His love at times overclouded. Such trials of
faith, however, are not peculiar to them.
22. But I know that even now, &c.--Energetic characters are usually
sanguine, the rainbow of hope peering through the drenching cloud.
whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee--that is "even
to the restoration of my dead brother to life," for that plainly is her
meaning, as the sequel shows.
23-27. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again--purposely
expressing Himself in general terms, to draw her out.
24. Martha said, . . . I know that he shall rise again . . . at the
last day--"But are we never to see him in life till then?"
25. Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life--"The
whole power to restore, impart, and maintain life, resides in Me."
What higher claim to supreme divinity than this grand saying can be
he that believeth in me, though . . . dead . . .
shall he live--that is, The believer's death shall be swallowed up
in life, and his life shall never sink into death. As death comes by
sin, it is His to dissolve it; and as life flows through His
righteousness, it is His to communicate and eternally maintain it
The temporary separation of soul and body is here regarded as not even
interrupting, much less impairing, the new and everlasting life
imparted by Jesus to His believing people.
Believest thou this?--Canst thou take this in?
27. Yea, . . . I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God,
&c.--that is, And having such faith in Thee, I can believe all
which that comprehends. While she had a glimmering perception that
Resurrection, in every sense of the word, belonged to the Messianic
office and Sonship of Jesus, she means, by this way of expressing
herself, to cover much that she felt her ignorance of--as no doubt
belonging to Him.
28-32. The Master is come and calleth for thee--The narrative does
not give us this interesting detail, but Martha's words do.
29. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly--affection for her
Lord, assurance of His sympathy, and His hope of interposition, putting
a spring into her distressed spirit.
31. The Jews . . . followed her . . . to the
grave--Thus casually were provided witnesses of the glorious
miracle that followed, not prejudiced, certainly,
in favor of Him who wrought it.
to weep there--according to Jewish practice, for some days after
fell at his feet--more impassioned than her sister, though her
words were fewer. (See on
33-38. When Jesus . . . saw her weeping, and the Jews . . . weeping
. . . he groaned in the spirit--the tears of Mary and her friends
acting sympathetically upon Jesus, and drawing forth His emotions. What
a vivid and beautiful outcoming of His "real" humanity! The word here
rendered "groaned" does not mean "sighed" or "grieved," but rather
"powerfully checked his emotion"--made a visible effort to restrain
those tears which were ready to gush from His eyes.
and was troubled--rather, "troubled himself" (Margin); referring
probably to this visible difficulty of repressing His emotions.
34. Where have ye laid him? . . . Lord, come and see--Perhaps it was
to retain composure enough to ask this question, and on receiving the
answer to proceed with them to the spot, that He checked Himself.
35. Jesus wept--This beautifully conveys the sublime brevity of the
two original words; else "shed tears" might have better conveyed the
difference between the word here used and that twice employed in
and there properly rendered "weeping," denoting the loud wail for the
dead, while that of Jesus consisted of silent tears. Is it for
nothing that the Evangelist, some sixty years after it occurred,
holds up to all ages with such touching brevity the sublime spectacle
of the Son of God in tears? What a seal of His perfect oneness
with us in the most redeeming feature of our stricken humanity! But
was there nothing in those tears beyond sorrow for human suffering and
death? Could these effects move Him without suggesting the
cause? Who can doubt that in His ear every feature of the scene
proclaimed that stern law of the Kingdom, "The wages of sin is
and that this element in His visible emotion underlay all the rest?
36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!--We thank you, O ye
visitors from Jerusalem, for this spontaneous testimony to the human
tenderness of the Son of God.
37. And--rather, "But."
some . . . said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the
blind, have caused that this man should not have died?--The former
exclamation came from the better-feeling portion of the spectators; this
betokens a measure of suspicion. It hardly goes the length of attesting
the miracle on the blind man; but "if (as everybody says) He did that,
why could He not also have kept Lazarus alive?" As to the restoration of
the dead man to life, they never so much as thought of it. But
this disposition to dictate to divine power, and almost to peril our
confidence in it upon its doing our bidding, is not confined to men of
38. Jesus again groaning in himself--that is, as at
checked or repressed His rising feelings, in the former instance, of
sorrow, here of righteous indignation at their unreasonable unbelief;
[WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. But
here, too, struggling emotion was deeper, now that His eye was about to
rest on the spot where lay, in the still horrors of death, His
a cave--the cavity, natural or artificial, of a rock. This, with the
number of condoling visitors from Jerusalem, and the costly ointment
with which Mary afterwards anointed Jesus at Bethany, all go to show
that the family was in good circumstances.
39-44. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone--spoken to the attendants
of Martha and Mary; for it was a work of no little labor [GROTIUS].
According to the Talmudists, it was forbidden to open a grave after the
stone was placed upon it. Besides other dangers, they were apprehensive
of legal impurity by contact with the dead. Hence they avoided coming
nearer a grave than four cubits [MAIMONIDES in
LAMPE]. But He who
touched the leper, and the bier of the widow of Nain's son, rises here
also above these Judaic memorials of evils, every one of which He had
come to roll away.
Observe here what our Lord did Himself, and what He made others do.
As Elijah himself repaired the altar on Carmel, arranged the wood, cut
the victim, and placed the pieces on the fuel, but made the by-standers
fill the surrounding trench with water, that no suspicion might arise
of fire having been secretly applied to the pile
so our Lord would let the most skeptical see that, without laying a
hand on the stone that covered His friend, He could recall him to life.
But what could be done by human hand He orders to be done, reserving
only to Himself what transcended the ability of all creatures.
Martha, the sister of . . . the dead--and as such the proper guardian
of the precious remains; the relationship being here mentioned to
account for her venturing gently to remonstrate against their exposure,
in a state of decomposition, to eyes that had loved him so tenderly in
Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four
It is wrong to suppose from this (as LAMPE and
others do) that, like the by-standers, she had not thought of his
restoration to life. But the glimmerings of hope which she cherished
from the first
and which had been brightened by what Jesus said to her
had suffered a momentary eclipse on the proposal to expose the now
sightless corpse. To such fluctuations all real faith is subject in
dark hours. (See, for example, the case of Job).
40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest
believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?--He had not said those
very words, but this was the scope of all that He had uttered to her
about His life-giving power
(Joh 11:23, 25, 26);
a gentle yet emphatic and most instructive rebuke: "Why doth the
restoration of life, even to a decomposing corpse, seem hopeless in the
presence of the Resurrection and the Life? Hast thou yet to learn that
'if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
41. Jesus lifted up his eyes--an expression marking His calm solemnity.
Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me--rather, "heardest Me,"
referring to a specific prayer offered by Him, probably on intelligence
of the case reaching Him
(Joh 11:3, 4);
for His living and loving oneness with the Father was maintained and
manifested in the flesh, not merely by the spontaneous and
uninterrupted outgoing of Each to Each in spirit, but by specific
actings of faith and exercises of prayer about each successive case as
it emerged. He prayed (says LUTHARDT well) not for
what He wanted, but for the manifestation of what He had; and having
the bright consciousness of the answer in the felt liberty to ask it,
and the assurance that it was at hand, He gives thanks for this with a
grand simplicity before performing the act.
42. And--rather, "Yet."
I knew that thou hearest me always, but because of the people that
stand by I said it, that they might believe that thou hast sent me--Instead
of praying now, He simply gives thanks for answer to prayer
offered ere He left Perea, and adds that His doing even this, in the
audience of the people, was not from any doubt of the prevalency of His
prayers in any case, but to show the people that He did nothing without His
Father, but all by direct communication with Him.
43, 44. and when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice--On
one other occasion only did He this--on the cross. His last utterance
was a "loud cry"
"He shall not cry," said the prophet, nor, in His ministry, did He.
What a sublime contrast is this "loud cry" to the magical "whisperings"
and "mutterings" of which we read in
Isa 8:19; 29:4
(as GROTIUS remarks)! It is second only to the
grandeur of that voice which shall raise all the dead
(Joh 5:28, 29;
44. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go--Jesus will no
more do this Himself than roll away the stone. The one was the necessary
preparation for resurrection, the other the necessary sequel to
it. THE LIFE-GIVING ACT ALONE
HE RESERVES TO
in the quickening of the dead to spiritual life, human instrumentality is
employed first to prepare the way, and then to turn it to account.
45, 46. many . . . which . . . had seen . . . believed . . . But some
. . . went . . . to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus
had done--the two classes which continually reappear in the Gospel history; nor is
there ever any great work of God which does not produce both. "It is
remarkable that on each of the three occasions on which our Lord raised
the dead, a large number of persons was assembled. In two instances, the
resurrection of the widow's son and of Lazarus, these were all witnesses
of the miracle; in the third (of Jairus' daughter) they were necessarily
cognizant of it. Yet this important circumstance is in each case only
incidentally noticed by the historians, not put forward or appealed to
as a proof of their veracity. In regard to this miracle, we observe a
greater degree of preparation, both in the provident arrangement of
events, and in our Lord's actions and words than in any other. The
preceding miracle (cure of the man born blind) is distinguished from all
others by the open and formal investigation of its facts. And both these
miracles, the most public and best attested of all, are related by John,
who wrote long after the other Evangelists" [WEBSTER and
47-54. What do we? for this man doeth many miracles--"While we trifle,
'this man,' by His 'many miracles,' will carry all before Him; the
popular enthusiasm will bring on a revolution, which will precipitate
the Romans upon us, and our all will go down in one common ruin." What a
testimony to the reality of our Lord's miracles, and their resistless
effect, from His bitterest enemies!
51. Caiaphas . . . prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation--He
meant nothing more than that the way to prevent the apprehended ruin of
the nation was to make a sacrifice of the Disturber of their peace. But
in giving utterance to this suggestion of political expediency, he was
so guided as to give forth a divine prediction of deep significance; and
God so ordered it that it should come from the lips of the high priest
for that memorable year, the recognized head of God's visible people,
whose ancient office, symbolized by the Urim and Thummim, was to decide
in the last resort, all vital questions as the oracle of the divine
52. and not for that nation only, &c.--These are the Evangelist's
words, not Caiaphas'.
53. they took council together to put him to death--Caiaphas but
expressed what the party was secretly wishing, but afraid to propose.
Jesus . . . walked no more openly among the Jews--How could He,
unless He had wished to die before His time?
near to the wilderness--of Judea.
a city called Ephraim--between Jerusalem and Jericho.
55-57. passover . . . at hand . . . many went . . . up . . . before
the passover, to purify themselves--from any legal uncleanness which
would have disqualified them from keeping the feast. This is mentioned
to introduce the graphic statement which follows.
56. sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood
in the temple--giving forth the various conjectures and speculations
about the probability of His coming to the feast.
that he will not come--The form of this question implies the opinion
that He would come.
57. chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment that if any
knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him--This
is mentioned to account for the conjectures whether He would come, in
spite of this determination to seize Him.