Last modified on 16 July 2009, at 12:49

Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of John/Chapter 11

Similarities and Differences with the Gospel of Luke It is interesting that both Luke and John contain stories that have a man named Lazarus. D. Moody Smith, in his commentary on the Gospel of John explains how the name Lazarus is used in Luke: "The rich man, condemned to torment in Hades finally asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus, who reposed in Abraham's bosom, to warn his five brothers to repent and thus avoid his own fate. But Abraham refuses, saying that if the brothers do not attend to Moses and the prophets they will remain unconvinced even if someone (i.e. Lazarus) rises from the dead" (Smith 217). The difference between the Lukan story that uses the name Lazarus and Chapter 11 in John is that Lazarus actually rises from the dead in John. Because of the similarities between the two Gospels, it is possible that the Lukan story influenced the Johannine story, or the other way around. The beginning of Chapter 11 in John is also potentially confusing in relationship to Luke; Mary is first introduced by referring to an event that first "occurs" in John 12. A similar story-telling tactic (which could also, perhaps, be called a "flaw") is used in Luke, in 7:36-50. It is perplexing that in Luke 10, "Mary listened at Jesus' feet while Martha worked." Yet in John 12, "Martha will serve while Mary annoints Jesus' feet" (Smith 218). It is a possibility that John 11 may be clarifying the village of Mary and Martha that Luke discusses in Chapter 10. If this is the case, though, why does the author of John refer to Mary by using the event in John 12 as opposed to where Mary is introduced in Luke?

Jesus' Relationship with Lazarus and His Sisters John 11: 3 states, "So the sisters sent word to him saying, 'Master, the one you love is ill.'" John 11: 5 states, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." Both of these verses point to the fact that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. The Greek verb meaning friendship is used to describe both Jesus' relationship with Lazarus and Lazarus' sisters in John 11, as well as in John 15 to describe Jesus' relationship with his followers. At the same time, the word that means self-giving love is used interchangeably with the Greek word for friendship. Therefore, are Mary, Martha, and Lazarus Jesus' friends or just followers? It can be difficult to conceive Jesus as having "personal friends" (Smith 218) along with followers. Yet the language in this particular chapter seems to point to both Jesus' personal friendship and a "follower" type relationship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.


"Jesus Wept."

Most people know this famous phrase because it is the shortest verse in the Bible (it has also been argued that Job 3:2 "He said" is actually the shortest verse). However, even though it is small, this phrase has powerful meaning. Many have never really analyzed what Jesus was actually weeping over. To the surprise of some, there are several theories that have tried to explain just that.

First, we must know the context in which this verse occurs. In the beginning of the chapter Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send word of their brother's illness to Jesus. Four days after Lazarus's death Jesus finally arrived. Martha went to talk to Jesus and He said to her "Your brother shall rise again" (verse 23 NAS) but, she seems to already know of this resurrection of the last day. (verse 24) Martha goes to get her sister and Jesus sees how distraught they were as they wept. When He seen their grief He "was troubled" (verse 33 NAS) He then asked where they had laid Lazarus (verse 34) and went to see. This is when, Jesus wept. He weeps in front of Lazarus's tomb and "the Jews were saying 'Behold how He loved him!'" (verse 36 NAS) However, others became spectacle of His miracle and began questioning. (verse 38) Jesus then declares the people to remove the stone and then prayed to God. He prayed to God in the interest of the people so that "they may believe that Thou didst send Me." (verse 42 NAS) After this, Jesus orders: "Lazarus, come forth." (verse 43 NAS) His friend rose from the grove. Another miracle!

Now that the context of the verse has been established, one can make their own conclusions on the following theories and maybe even construct their own.

One theory is that Jesus wept to reveal that He was indeed a true man with physical bodily functions just like any other human. This would then in return expel the idea of Docetism which is a belief that he was actually a spirit and not physically real. (more information on this belief can be found in a Catholic Encyclopedia- [1])

Weeping for Lazarus could just be a result from the simple fact that Lazarus was indeed dead. After all, Lazarus was the one "whom Jesus loved" so the reason is clear and obvious. (verse 3 NAS)

Another theory researched by L. Morris in John (558) is the idea that Jesus was actually weeping for those closest to Him, such as his disciples and Mary and Martha, were still blinded and did not believe what Jesus told them in verses 25 and 26 (NAS) "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall liven even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die..."

There is also and idea that His grief was for the events to come. Jesus is known to have divine knowledge even that of the after life. With that said, some believe that Jesus wept because He knew that He would resurrect Lazarus, the one whom He loved (verse 3). With that said, Jesus was sad because Lazarus would have to leave paradise (Luke 23:43) and return to the imperfect and evil world.

"Reaction of the raising of Lazarus" The raising of Lazarus is the climax of the series of 'signs': whatever doubts they might have had before, Jesus' divine glory was evident (verse 40). It is not surprising that many believed in Jesus. In verse 31, two groups of people with very different intentions are included in 'The Jews who had come with Mary'. One group, the consoling group, were those who presumably left her house and followed her 'thinking she was going to the tomb to weep there' (v. 31). The other group, who had less friendly intentions, had a different reaction. As soon as they saw what Jesus had done they went off and told the Pharisees (verse 46).

The raising of Lazarus in not found in the synoptic gospels; however, there are connectoins between this scene and the synoptic trial of Jesus. The raising had the same reaction many other miracle stories had. This included both positive, and then negative ractions. Furthermore, a meeting of the council of Sanhedrin was called to figure out what to do about Jesus. "With this hearing the wheels are set in motion that will eventually carry Jesus to his death. Jesus gives life and his enemies decide to put him to death," (Smith 216).


Chapter 11:1-54Edit

The raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign that illustrates Jesus is the one who gives life. Raising Lazarus from the dead signifies to us that Jesus beats death. Ironically, by giving life to Lazarus, Jesus puts in motion his own death. It is the final sign before the crucifixion, which shows us life comes through the death of the Son of God.

Starting from verse 1 in John Chapter 11, Jesus is informed that a man (whom he dearly loves) named Lazarus is very sick. Jesus, once again showing his perfect foreknowledge, tells his disciples that Lazarus' sickness will not end in death. More important to his disciples however, is the notion of returning to Judea (Jesus was nearly stoned there). It is here that Jesus once again utilizes the symbols of light and darkness. " Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light" (John Chapter 11 Verses 9, 10). However, the metaphor does not refer to worldly light. The light Jesus speaks of is eternal and from God. More important still is the fact that Jesus has established himself as the light of the world. Therefore, Jesus is metaphorically asking the question: "Do you really think that I (God incarnate) am going to stumble and fall to the stones of men?" The question is one of faith, and Jesus makes this painfully clear in Verse 11: "...'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." With this statement Jesus clearly signals to his disciples that he is going to Judea and that they are to come with him. The disciples, however, misunderstand Jesus. They believe Jesus is talking about Lazarus actually sleeping. Jesus sets them straight, and lets them know that Lazarus is, in fact, dead. He also says that he is glad he was not with Lazarus while he died. Jesus would rather go to Lazarus and raise him from the dead in order to show the disciples who he truly is than stop Lazarus from dying in the first place. The disciples might not understand exactly what the purpose of the trip is. Thomas makes a joke that refers to being killed when they step foot in Judea again.

There is a fascinating exchange that takes place in verses 24-26, "Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.'" In verse 24 when Martha says, "he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." this presumably reflects the traditional Jewish understanding that all people will eventually be resurrected, and yet Jesus seems to turn this belief on its head with his response, as perplexing as it is. Instead of confirming what Martha says Jesus utters a similar, albeit less famous, remark as found in John 3:16. The wording is odd however, and depending on the translation can be somewhat hard to understand. Is Jesus saying that you can believe in him even after you die, and that you will never die if you believe in him while still alive? It seems clear that this was not his intent. Moody Smith offers a different interpretation that seems to clarify the passage, "Whoever believes in Jesus, although he will die, will nevertheless live; that is, whoever while living in this world believes, will not die with respect to the next." John then is talking about physical death and spiritual life.

== John 11:55-57 == In this passage the festival of Passover is taking place and all the people are wondering if Jesus will show up. The chief priests and Pharisees order them to disclose his whereabouts if they find him or run into him so that they might seize him. According to William Barclay, many Jews come early to this festival to be purified because according to the law every man is bound to purify himself before the feast, in order to ensure ceremonial cleanliness. However, as stated in Chronicles13:19, Jesus was in a town called Ephraim, near Bethel, doing his work. For this reason the Jews did not know if he would come. According to commentator L.L. Speer, it was thought that the reason that Jesus was late was because his friends may have known of the Pharisees’ plans and warned Jesus of what was to happen. Nonetheless, Jesus came, and because of this was considered a very brave outlaw of his time.

This chapter shows both the humanness and the divinity of Jesus. Jesus shows his humanness when he weeps with the other mourners in Bethany. Jesus shows his divinity by raising Lazarus from the dead and showing God's glory to those present.

Tone in John Chapter 11 One of the most interesting verses for an interpretation of tone is found in John Chapter 11: "Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him.'" (verse 16). This remark is made when Christ decides to return to Judea (where the climate is not exactly receptive to His presence) in order to raise Lazarus from the dead. Tone becomes important here because it is very easy to read Thomas' statement in a few different ways: 1) that of a servant willing to follow His master to whatever end, and 2) A bit of sarcasm could be present, which would read something like 'Well, if He wants to commit suicide, I guess we better go too." Tone is such an important issue here and in so many places in the Bible, yet it is nearly impossible to glean from the text itself. We rely on the authors of books describing emotional states, rather than analyzing the words themselves to glean manner of delivery.