Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 11

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John 11

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

3.  Conflicts with the Jews  7, 1 -- 12, 50 (continued)

11, 1-44:  The Raising of Lazarus.  The narrative has arrived at the final developments before the Passion.  Opposition to Christ culminates in the official decree of His death.  The faith of His adherents advances until He is popularly acclaimed the Messias.  Details are supplied by the Synoptic Gospels.

1-16:  Jesus is called to Bethany.    1.  Bethany: cf. Luke 10, 38-42, a passage which John may have in view.  The village lay on the eastern slope of Mt. Olivet.    2.  The reference is to John 12, 1-8, not to Luke 7, 38.    4.  He said to them: to the messengers, for conveyance to Martha and Mary.  Our Lord foresaw the death of Lazarus, but also his return to life.  Cf. 9, 3.  The glory of God is co-ordinate with that of the Son of God.    5 f.  Human attachment might have induced Him to hasten to their assistance; His respect for the known will of His Father made Him remain where He was.    7 f.  Recall 10, 32.  The concern of the disciples shows their real attachment.    9 f.  Cf. 9, 4; 12, 35 f.  The parable involves His own experience.  Conforming to the will of His Father, Christ is safe from harm; the Jews can do nothing before the hour set by the Father.    11-13.  Sleep was one of the six things good for a sick person.  The disciples readily misunderstood in their eagerness to withhold our Lord from danger.  Lazarus sleeps: "sleep" was an expression for death, though with the possibility of implying the coming revival.  Cf. Matt. 9, 24; 27, 52 and parallels; Acts 7, 60; 13, 36.    14 f.  Their mistake demanded this explanation; so did the motive of further support for their faith.    16.  "Didymus" (the Twin) is the Greek form of Thomas.  The Hebrew To'am, Aramaic Te'oma, meant "twin."  Cf. 20, 24; 21, 2.  Thomas expresses the feelings of the other disciples.  In view of his conduct on a later occasion (20, 19-29), this is an important indication of his character.

17-32:  Jesus and the two sisters.    17.  Four days: at least two days had intervened between the arrival of the messengers and His departure for Bethany.    18.  Fifteen stadia: about 1.7 miles.  This distance explains the next verse.    19 f.  The mourners (cf. Gen. 50, 10; 1 Kgs. 31, 13) from Jerusalem were in keeping with custom, but one of the sisters must remain as hostess.    21 f.  Cf. v.32.  Martha's greeting is not so much a complaint as a profession of faith in our Lord's power, though a faith not yet perfect.  Cf. 4, 46 ff.  She indirectly asks for her brother's restoration (Cyril, Augustine).    23-26.  Cf. 5, 28 f; 6, 39 f; Dan. 12, 2; 2 Mach. 7, 9.14.  To encourage the faith she expresses, Jesus leads her to surpass the ordinary Jewish belief in the resurrection, and to recognize in Him the Messias, the author of the true and spiritual resurrection.  Cf. 1, 4; 5, 24; 8, 51.  He who believes in Christ enjoys a life that is proof against this natural death.  Hence Christ is the true resurrection.  Cf. Mark 12, 24-27 and parallels.    27.  The Greek text reads "the son of God, who comes into the world," i.e., who is destined to come.  Responding to the demand for a higher faith, Martha confesses that Jesus is the Messias.  Son of God at least surpasses the popular Messianic expectation.  It is in the manner of St. Peter (cf. 6, 69).    28-30.  We are not told when Christ expressly asked for Mary; in any case, her response is prompt.    31.  The people were thus drawn to the scene of the miracle.    32.  Mary's words are the same as Martha's, but her attitude is different.  Her faith, it would seem, required no further encouragement, for the miracle is at once related.

33-44:  The raising of Lazarus.    33-35.  Groaned in spirit and was troubled describe deep human emotion and an effort of the will to control it.  The Greek verb for groaned signifies the manifestation of some passion, e.g., anger.  Cf. Matt. 9, 30; Mark 1, 43; 14, 5.  In spirit is the same as in himself in 38.  The simplest explanation is that our Lord, with the rest, was moved to sorrow.  His emotion would be deeper.  His weeping is defined by the Greek word as the shedding of silent tears.    37.  The reference is clearly to 9, 7.  The people's sentiment is not unbelief, but regret analogous to that of Martha and Mary.    38.  Lazarus was the occasion of our Lord's emotion, and the approach to the grave reawakened it.  Cf. above; and Matt. 27, 60; Mark 5, 3 for the nature of the grave.  The stone would be laid against or "upon" the tomb according to the position of the excavation.    39.  The thought of again exposing the corpse was repulsive to Martha, and another trial of her faith.  Decayed: the methods of embalming then in use could not prevent decomposition.    40.  We are not told when our Lord had assured her that she would see the glory of God, it might be implied in 25 f, the Evangelist omitting a part of that conversation.  Glory: the divine power.    41 f.  The prayer of thanks was uttered aloud for all to hear; the sequel in a lower tone.  His purpose is to remind them again of His relation with the Father.  The tone of humility in the prayer does not detract from equality between them.  Cf. 14, 28.  It should be noted that Christ wrought this miracle on behalf of the faith of the people, calling the attention of all to His power of giving life.    44.  The appearance of Lazarus, still wrapped in the burial cloths, must have amazed them all, but the wonder increased when, on the removal of the cloths, they saw that he lived.  Few of our Lord's miracles were accompanied with such demonstration; but the Passion, the last act, was now close at hand.

11, 45-53:  The Council.    45.  Many of the Jews seems now to refer to the people from Jerusalem, a number of whom did not share the sentiments of the officials.  For them the miracle confirmed a faith in Jesus as at least the agent of the Father.    46.  Why did they tell the Pharisees?  Some think there was no malice in their report; cf. 9, 13.  The majority of interpreters, however, suppose ill will.  The main point is that the news of the miracle reached the Pharisees.    47 f.  This was a council of men competent to discuss official action.  It included the chief priests, i.e., members of the high priestly families, and the Pharisees, whose influence in the Sanhedrin was great.  It was probably not a session of the Sanhedrin, for the Greek text calls it "a council."  The fear of the officials was based on the obvious effect of our Lord's miracles upon the people.  But since He had never betrayed political ambitions, this motive for taking action against Him was really unjustified.  Our place was the temple, though the city and their own authority might be included.  Nation: the Romans had forcibly intervened on other occasions.    49 f.  Caiphas gives this advice with some authority.  That year: cf. 18, 13: the great year of the Redemption (Origen).  John does not mean that the tenure of office was annual; he certainly knew that Caiphas had held it from  18 to 36 A.D.    51 f.  Caiphas thus predicted, though unconsciously, the future event: Christ was to die for the nation indeed, and even for all mankind.  Being high priest: chief official intermediary between God and His people.  Prophesied: in the true sense, delivered a message from God.  The gift of prophecy does not imply its possessor's holiness, nor need the prophet understand the full import of his words: cf. the case of Balaam, Num. 23, 1 -- 24, 25.    53.  The voice of Caiphas decided the issue and sealed the fate of Christ by a formal resolution to put Him to death.  This is the climax of their opposition.  Cf. 7, 30.45; 8, 59; 10, 31; Matt. 12, 14; etc.

11, 54-56:  Jesus in Ephrem.    54.  Ephrem (Efrem, Ephraim, Ephren) was a village on the borders of the Judean desert, some twenty miles north of Jerusalem and five miles east of Bethel.  The village gave its name to the whole district.  Today it is et-Taiyibeh.  For our Lord's further activity at this time see Luke 17, 11 -- 19, 28.    55.  The Passover could be celebrated only by those who were "clean" according to the Law.  This obliged pilgrims from other regions to reach the city a few days earlier, since contact with Gentiles exposed them more to the risk of defilement.    56.  Some commentators see two questions in the people's words: what do you think (of Christ)? has He not come?  Possibly some were still in doubt.

Confraternity Bible:

The Raising of Lazarus  1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Now it was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet dry with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.  3 The sisters therefore sent to him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick."

4 But when Jesus heard this, he said to them, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that through it the Son of God may be glorified."  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary, and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was sick, he remained two more days in the same place.  7 Then afterwards he said to his disciples, "Let us go again into Judea."

8 The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, just now the Jews were seeking to stone thee; and dost thou go there again?"  9* Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?  If a man walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if he walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."

11 These things he spoke, and after this he said to them, "Lazarus, our friend sleeps.  But I go that I may wake him from sleep."  12 His disciples therefore said, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will be safe."  13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought he was speaking of the repose of sleep.  14 So then Jesus 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 Thomas, who is called the Twin, said therefore to his fellow-disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

17 Jesus therefore came and found him already four days in the tomb.  18 Now Bethany was close to Jerusalem, some fifteen stadia distant.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them on account of their brother.  20 When, therefore, Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him.  But Mary remained at home.

21 Martha therefore said to Jesus, "Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother would not have died.  22 But even now I know that whatever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it to thee."

23 Jesus said to her, "Thy brother shall rise."  24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise at the resurrection, on the last day."  25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he die, shall live; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die.  Dost thou believe this?"  27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world."

28 And when she had said this, she went away and quietly called Mary her sister, saying, "The Master is here and calls thee."  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and came to him, 30 for Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

31 When, therefore, the Jews who were with her in the house and were comforting her, saw Mary rise up quickly and go out, they followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there."

32 When, therefore, Mary came where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell at his feet, and said to him, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died."  33 When, therefore, Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he groaned in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, "Where have you laid him?"  They said to him, "Lord, come and see."  35 And Jesus wept.  36 The Jews therefore said, "See how he loved him."  37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man should not die?"

38 Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb.  Now it was a cave, and a stone was laid against it.  39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone."  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, "Lord, by this time he is already decayed, for he is dead four days."  40 Jesus said to her, "Have I not told thee that if thou believe thou shalt behold the glory of God?"  41 They therefore removed the stone.  And Jesus, raising his eyes, said, "Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast heard me.  42 Yet I knew that thou always hearest me; but because of the people who stand round, I spoke, that they may believe that thou hast sent me."  43 When he had said this, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"  44 And at once he who had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with bandages, and his face was tied up with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

The Council  45 Many therefore of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him.  46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done.

47 The chief priests and the Pharisees therefore gathered together a council, and said, "What are we doing? for this man is working many signs.  48 If we let him alone as he is, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

49 But one of them, Caiphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; 50 nor do you reflect that it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perish."  51* This, however, he said not of  himself; but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation; 52 and not only for the nation, but that he might gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad.  53 So from that day forth their plan was to put him to death.

Jesus in Ephrem  54 Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but withdrew to the district near the desert, to a town called Ephrem; and there he stayed with his disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand; and many from the country went up to Jerusalem before the Passover, in order to purify themselves.  56 And they were looking for Jesus.  And as they stood in the temple they were saying to one another, "What do you think, that he is not coming to the feast?"  But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that, if anyone knew where he was, he should report it, so that they might seize him.


9:  The Jewish day was from sunrise to sunset, and was divided into twelve hours.  This brief parable conveys the thought that in the divine plan Christ was safe until the hour appointed for His Passion.

51: Although Caiphas saw only the present, temporal significance of his words, he was led to make the statement by God who intended the higher sense.  It was not necessary that Caiphas realize the prophetic character of his counsel.