We are continuing our study of John chapter 11, which is the familiar story of our Lord raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus' name is literally La'zar, the shortened Greek form of Eleazar. The Hebrew verb "azar" means: "to help". And "El" has the idea of God. So here is a person whose name is "God has helped." That's a fitting name for a man who is raised from the dead. He was preeminently helped as he was lying dead in the grave.
The key theological phrase of the passage is in verse 25 when Yeshua states, "I am the resurrection and the life." The rest of the passage is commentary, proof, and illustration of Yeshua being the "Life." Chapter 10 ended with the Jewish authorities trying to arrest Yeshua:
Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true." And many believed in him there. John 10:39-42 ESV
So the disciples and Yeshua are in this place across the Jordan about 93 miles from Jerusalem, which would have been a four day journey. They're having an effective ministry, "many believed in him there." Then a messenger arrives and tells them, "Mary and Martha want you to know that he whom you love is sick." After waiting two days Yeshua says, "Let's go up to Judea again." The disciples respond with, "Lord they want to kill you there, why would you go back?" After some dialog He tells them, "Lazarus has died…let's go to him." Thomas says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
This section stresses Yeshua's love for Lazarus. He loved him, but He let him die. That doesn't fit with our idea of God's love. But we need to be carful not to measure the love of God for us by our material prosperity or our physical well being. If that were the measure of God's love, then He must have hated the apostle Paul. Measure God's love by the cross. He sent His Son to die for us so they we could live eternally with Him.
We can break down this 11th chapter like this: verses 1-16 deal with the setting and background. We looked at this last week. Verses 17-33 focus on Yeshua's dialogs with Martha and Mary. We are going to look at that today. Then verses 34-44 describe the trip to the tomb and the raising of Lazarus.
Now when Yeshua came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. John 11:17 ESV
"Now when Yeshua came"—the scene now shifts from the region of Perea on the other side of the Jordan (1:28; 10:40) to the Bethany in Judea. In the white space between verse 16 and 17 they made the four day trip from Perea to Bethany.
"He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days"—this is an important detail in the Jewish context because it expresses the finality of Lazarus' death. According to the cultural traditions of the Jews it was believed that the soul hovered near the body for three days but after that time there was no hope of resuscitation and decay would begin [Midrash Levitcus Rabbah 18,1].
Had Yeshua left Perea as soon as He heard of Lazarus' death He would only have been in the tomb for two days. The miracle is strengthened by waiting the four days.
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, John 11:18 ESV
This is an editorial comment by Lazarus. The literal translation reads "fifteen stadia," which is about 1 3/4th miles and agrees with the location of El 'Azariyeh, the modern Arabic name of the site of the old village of Bethany. Lazarus probably points this out to underline the risk that Yeshua was taking to be there.
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. John 11:19 ESV
"Many of the Jews"—the sisters and their deceased brother Lazarus must have been a prominent family, since many of the Jews had come to console them over their loss. This is an uncharacteristic neutral use of the term "the Jews," which usually in this Gospel refers to Yeshua's enemies. But, in this context, it refers simply to the residents of Jerusalem who came to morn.
It was then, and still is now, the custom of the Jews to bury the dead as soon as possible after death. Those who die a natural death, like Lazarus from illness, would have their bodies washed in preparation for burial and would be anointed with oils and herbs and wrapped in burial cloths. Those who die violent deaths, however, are not washed because their blood must accompany them to the grave (Yeshua will not be washed after His death). The ritual of mourning would begin immediately following burial.
According to the customs of 1st century Judea men and women walked separately in the funeral procession. W. Barclay states, "One curious custom was that the women walked first, for it was held that since woman by her first sin brought death into the world, she ought to lead the mourners to the tomb."
After burial the deep mourning lasted for 7 days and included loud wailing and dramatic expressions of grief. Then after the seven days of really intense wailing, they would also carry on mourning for 30 days.
During the time of wailing and mourning, there would be reminiscences and eulogies and remembrances. There would be the sharing of stories and whatever was necessary to comfort. It wasn't like our one hour funeral service with maybe a reception afterwards.
So when Martha heard that Yeshua was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. John 11:20 ESV
How Martha heard that Yeshua was coming we are not told. Maybe a disciple came into town and told Martha that Yeshua was there. Remember the leadership of Jerusalem wanted Yeshua dead.
What we see in this section of Mary and Martha is very characteristic of what Luke tell us in:
Now as they went on their way, Yeshua entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." Luke 10:38-40 ESV
So in this text Martha invites Yeshua to stay at her house. She cooks dinner for Him and His disciples sometime during the first two years of His ministry. Here we see that while Martha is bustling about the house getting ready for dinner, Mary is sitting at Yeshua's feet listening. "Sitting at His feet" is a Hebraism for "discipleship."
Martha said to Yeshua, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21 ESV
I'm sure that we are all aware that she means, "He would not have died this soon." She was well aware that everybody dies. George Bernard Shaw put it, "The statistics on death are quite impressive: one out of one people die."
This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact." "If you had been here with us, which you were not, my brother would not have died, which he did."
We are not told whether Martha knew of the two days Yeshua delayed in coming, but she would have known approximately how long it took for the message to reach Him. Still, there appears to be no indication of rebuke in the statement, but only genuine regret.
Some say that the messenger that brought word to Yeshua returned to Mary and Martha and told them that Yeshua said your brother will not die. Where do they get that from? I would guess from:
So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Yeshua heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." John 11:3-4 ESV
Right after the messenger gives Yeshua the word that Lazarus is sick, Yeshua says, "This illness does not lead to death." So they say the messenger returned to the sisters and told them Yeshua said, "Your brother is not going to die."
There are several problems with this view, first of all, It depends on a one day travel time between them instead of the four. If the messengers left immediately they would have arrived two days ahead of Yeshua, but by that time Lazarus was already dead for two days. Secondly, if that was the case I think that Martha would have said to Yeshua, "Why did you say that our brother wouldn't die" instead of saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Martha has no question about Yeshua's ability to heal the sick because He did that virtually His entire ministry. But what Martha says here seems to limit Yeshua's power by distance. Why did He need to be there to heal Lazarus? Yeshua had healed both a centurion's servant and a nobleman's son at a distance by His spoken word.
I don't see what Martha says here as a rebuke to Yeshua, but as simply an expression of grief and frustration, "If only you had been here." Most of us, have no doubt thought just as Martha thought in this trial: "If only" "If only I didn't do this or you didn't do that, things would have turned out different." That's not Calvinistic thinking. The sovereign Lord of the universe controls all things, even our daily circumstances.
Martha goes on to say:
But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." John 11:22 ESV
Some take these words of Martha to be an expression of her faith in our Lord's ability to raise Lazarus from the dead. But when Yeshua tells Martha, "Your brother will rise again," she takes this as a reference to his resurrection in the last days, and not then. And when Yeshua instructs those standing by the tomb to roll away the stone, Martha objects.
Maybe what Martha is saying here is, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died," but "I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." In other words maybe she is saying, "I know that you really didn't need to be here, you could have just asked God and He would have done it." Nobody seems to be to sure on what exactly she is saying. So that's my guess.
Yeshua said to her, "Your brother will rise again." John 11:23 ESV
Yeshua was referring to what was about to happen that day, but Martha thought He was referring to the end of the age.
Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." John 11:24 ESV
Here we see that Martha the busy servant knows her eschatologically. How did she know this? Yeshua taught this:
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:40 ESV
"The last day"—is a phrase that occurs only in this Gospel (6:39, 40, 44, 54; 7:37; 11:24; 12:48). So what is Yeshua referring to when He speaks of "the last day"? What will He "raise up"? He is referring to the resurrection. And He tells us that this resurrection will happen on the last day.
Well, when is the last day? The traditional view that is held by most of the church is that the resurrection takes place at the end of time. Let me just say here that the Bible does not speak of "the end of time,"nowhere in the Bible can we find the expression "the end of time." The Bible speaks of "the end time" or the "time of the end" which refer to the end of an age, but the end of an age is not the end of time.
To the Jews, time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. During the Second Temple period they distinguish between two types of olam: olam hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba ("the world to come"). The "olam hazeh" or "this world" is characterized by darkness, wickedness, sin, and death. It is called "night." The "Olam Haba," or "the world to come," as it was called by the rabbis, was known as a time of joy, peace, light, eternity; it is known as "day." The rabbis connected the olam haba and the resurrection.
According to the Bible, when was the resurrection to take place? The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the last day of the Old Covenant age. We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the Temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a New Age:
"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:1-2 NASB
When was Daniel told that this resurrection would happen?:
And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. Daniel 12:7 NASB
Daniel was told, "as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people ([which was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70) all these events (including the resurrection) will be completed."
So, the resurrection was to happen at the end of the Jewish Age, the Old Covenant Age. We know that this happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple.
With some exceptions such as the Sadducees, most Judeans and Galileans seem to have believed in the resurrection at the end of the age. The Tanakh taught this promise of a resurrection in Job 19:25-26; in David's Thanksgiving psalms of Psalms 16; Daniel 12:2-3. We see it in Isaiah:
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Isaiah 26:19 ESV
The Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead in the Last Days was also affirmed in 2 Maccabees chapter 7 in the story of the martyrdom of seven brothers during the persecution of the 2nd century BC Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV. In 2 Maccabees 7:9: the second brother cries out during his torture:
And when he was at his last breath, he said, "You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws." 2 Maccabees 7:9-11 NRSV
So Martha was a good Jewess. She believed that there was something after death. The Scriptures made this clear. She apparently thinks that Yeshua is offering only words of comfort affirming the doctrine of the resurrection on the last day. But this is not what Yeshua meant.
Yeshua said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, John 11:25 ESV
"I am the resurrection and the life"—this is Yeshua's 5th "I AM" statement using a predicate nominative. Yeshua identifies Himself with the significant and symbolic words: I AM, ego ami, which reminds us of Yahweh's revelation of Himself to Moses 3 times as I AM in Exodus 3:13-14. This is clearly a claim to deity; He uses the tetragramaton "I AM" , and no one other than God could say what Yeshua says here. He says that He is the resurrection and the life. Those qualities are part and parcel of His being.
"I am the resurrection and the life"—Yeshua tells her of the present realization of what she had only expected on "the last day". Yeshua is saying that if one has the life that I have, If he's related to me, if he's in me and I am in him. If there is an identity between the individual and me, if I am your representative head, if I am your federal head and you are in me, then of course you have resurrection, and you have life. You have resurrection life. He wanted Martha to think about the Person who would do the resurrecting, rather than the event itself.
The additional phrase "and the Life" is omitted in some MMS [ancient handwritten manuscripts] and included in others. Surprisingly an early papyrus manuscript (P45) and some Old Latin, Syrian versions, and the Diatessaron omit the words "and the life." The UBS3 gives their inclusion a "B" rating, but the UBS4 gives their inclusion an "A" rating (certain).
"And the Life"—is a statement related to verse 26. The believer who is alive spiritually will never die spiritually. Whoever receives the gift of life through belief in Christ Yeshua will never die a spiritual death because this life is eternal. The "life" that Yeshua speaks of is life that comes from "above" and is begotten through God the Holy Spirit.
"Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live"—He's speaking of Lazarus; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:26 ESV
Here He is speaking of Martha. In the case of Lazarus we have the picture of resurrection, and in the case of Martha we have the picture of life.
Then Yeshua asks Martha, "Do you believe this?"—what is "this"? It is the statement about Yeshua himself that He gives in verse 25. He tells Mary that He is the resurrection and life. But that's not all He asks her to believe. Yeshua is saying, "I guarantee eternal life to everyone who believes in Me." To believe that Yeshua is the Christ is in essence to believe that He is the guarantor of eternal life to everyone who trusts in Him.
I like what James Boice says here. He says, "Jesus did not ask her, 'Do you feel better now, Martha? Have you found these thoughts comforting? Do you feel your old optimism returning?'" Boice goes on to say, "According to Jesus it was not how she felt that was important, but what she believed." [The Gospel of John [Zondervan], 1-vol. ed., p. 736]
This is so important because it is our faith that will get us through the trials. Our emotions will fluctuate all over the place but our faith must be strong.
She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." John 11:27 ESV
Her words here are almost identical to those of John 20:30-31 that state the purpose of the Fourth gospel:
Now Yeshua did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31 ESV
So when Martha says, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God," she has really reached the goal that Lazarus hoped would be reached when individuals read his testimony as found in his book.
Martha's statement is one of the clearest recognitions of Yeshua as the Messiah that we have heard in John's Gospel, and it is one of the fullest professions of faith found in the New Testament.
She uses several different titles to express her faith; "The Christ" which was the Greek translation of Messiah, the Anointed One. "The Son of God" a title used in the Tanakh of the Messiah. "He who comes" which is another title in the Tanakh of God's promised one to bring the new age of righteousness. She clarified that what she meant by "Messiah" was not the popular idea of a revolutionary leader, but the biblical revelation of a God-man whom God had promised to send from heaven.
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." John 11:28 ESV
Martha's cautious whispering may indicate that she wanted Mary to be able to speak to Yeshua in private or she may have been concerned that some of "the Jews who were with her in the house" (John 11:31) may have been among those who were seeking to arrest Yeshua.
"The Teacher is here and is calling for you"—the NASB Study Bible (p. 1540) has a great comment, "a significant description to be given by a woman. The rabbis would not teach women, but Yeshua taught them frequently."
And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. John 11:29 ESV
It seems as though Mary remains in the house because she does not know Yeshua has arrived. As soon as she here he is there she goes to Him.
Now Yeshua had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. John 11:30 ESV
Yeshua is trying to keep a low profile because the Jews were seeking to kill him.
When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. John 11:31 ESV
This may not seem like a good thing at first but the effect of them following her was to ensure that the following miracle had many witnesses and would therefore be publicized widely.
Now when Mary came to where Yeshua was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:32 ESV
As soon as Mary sees Yeshua she falls prostrate at His feet. Mary is found three times in the Gospel record, and each time she is at the feet of Yeshua (Luke 10:39; John 11:32; 12:3). Mary of Bethany is always pictured at Yeshua's feet.
"She fell at his feet"—"Sitting at His feet" is a Hebraism for "discipleship." Notice what Paul says:
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. Acts 22:3 ESV
We also see this in:
Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Yeshua and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Yeshua, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Luke 8:35 ESV
This is reminiscent of the Jewish saying in m. `Abot 1:4: "Let your house be a meeting house for the Sages and sit amidst the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst."
Many Rabbis actively discouraged women from learning. The Mishnah includes some pretty cynical thoughts about women: "May the words of the Torah be burned, they should not be handed over to women." Rabbi Eliezer (c. A.D. 90) said, "If a man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery."
In the first century world the role of woman disciples was a very heated debate. So most Rabbis did not have female talmidim, but Hillel, who was considered a real radical, did. The Bible never specifically says that Yeshua had women talmidim, but it does say that 7 different woman "sat at His feet." I think that Yeshua, unlike many Rabbis of His day, had female talmidim.
Mary's only recorded words in the Gospels are given in John 11:32, and they echo what Martha had already said (John 11:21), "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died"—they must have discussed this subject often during these four days of mourning. I sure they said to each other many times, "If only Yeshua had been here, Lazarus would still be alive."
When Yeshua saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. John 11:33 ESV
This verse is a transition verse that belongs to both this and the next paragraph. It expresses Yeshua's awareness of and response to Mary's grief. In expressing awareness it belongs with verses 28-32. In responding it belongs with verses 34-44 for Yeshua's response culminating in the raising of Lazarus.
In both verses 33 and 38 Yeshua exhibits a strong display of emotion. Scholars have found the Greek in these passages very difficult to translate. The difficulty is that what is being rendered in Greek seems to be two Semitic idioms that express deep internal emotion. The debate is whether the emotion is sorrow or anger?
The words "deeply moved" are from the Greek word embrimaomai which means: "moved with deepest emotions" or "deeply distressed." And the words "greatly troubled" are from the Greek tarasso which means: "shutter" or "sigh." These verbs which appear in both verses 33 and 38 can have the basic meaning implying an articulate expression of anger or indignation as well as sorrow.
"He was deeply moved in his spirit"—is literally "snorted in the spirit." This idiom was usually used of anger (cf. Dan. 11:30 [LXX]; Mark 1:43; 14:5). But in this context a I think a translation showing deep emotion is to be preferred.
S. Lewis Johnson mentions a Professor Matthew Black who was for many years Principle of Saint Mary's College at the University of Saint Andrews who made a rather detailed study of this expression, that "He raged in his spirit," and he concluded that there is no sense of anger in this and that all that it means is that he was deeply moved in his spirit, deeply moved in the sense that he was disturbed over the events. [sermon on this text, online at sljinstitute.net]
Many commentators take the view that this is talking about Yeshua's anger. They say that death is the result of sin and it may be that Yeshua's anger arose from the profound awareness of all the hurt and tragedy that comes from sin. This assumes that physical death is the result of sin. But I don't believe that physical death is the result of sin. Now you may says, But Romans 5:12 says, Death came as a result of sin — "and death through sin." As a result of Adam's sin, he died. But is this speaking here about physical death or spiritual death? Most commentators say he is talking about physical death. They say that man dies physically because of sin. Is that true? Let's go back to the original sin and see what God said.
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:17 ESV
Did Adam die that day? Not physically! Adam lived at least 800 years beyond the day he ate the fruit. But, God said he would die the day he ate, and we know that God cannot lie. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually. He died spiritually the moment he disobeyed. Spiritual death is separation from God who is life. So, since the text in Genesis is dealing with "spiritual" death so is the text in Romans 5.
Also, the comparison in Romans 5 is between Adam and Christ. What we lost in Adam is restored in Christ. If the death referred to is physical, then having gained in Christ what we lost in Adam, Christians should never die physically.
THINK ABOUT THIS: Is physical death a result of the fall, or just part of being human? Scientists tell us that every human being begins to die physically from the moment of birth. Even while we are growing and developing, cells begin to die and the evidence begins to show: teeth decay, hair begins to fall out, eyes go bad, and joints ache.
Did Yeshua age? Absolutely! Was he sinless? Yes! So, his aging was part of being human. If he had not died for us on the cross would he have died of old age? I believe he would have. I believe, at this present time in my studies, that physical death is part of being human and not a result of Adam's sin. Spiritual death is a result of the fall.
Yeshua realizes that raising Lazarus will heighten the hostility of His enemies that will lead to His own death on the cross. The verb tarasso in 11:33, translated as "greatly troubled" is also used as Yeshua contemplates His impending death in John 12:27 & 13:21.
Whether His emotion was anger or grief or a combination of both, this passage allows us to reflect on the depth of Yeshua's human feelings reminding us that He was both fully divine and fully man and therefore experienced all the depths of emotion that we feel.
Whatever the reason it is clear that the death of Lazarus and the grief of his family and friends stirred Yeshua deeply. This is a very important aspect of this story. The God whom Yeshua reveals cares deeply about us.
Yeshua said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? John 14:9 ESV
Our God cares about us, He is not apathetic; He is sympathetic. The Greeks described their Gods by the word, apatheia. We transliterate that into English into the word "apathetic." Pathos with an alpha privative means to have no feeling. To the Greeks the deities were apatheia, they didn't care. But that is not how the Bible and Yeshua portray our God Yahweh. He shares our pain. In a real sense God through Christ grieves more deeply than we do.
This story pictures what Hebrews 4:15-16 declares,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV
Yeshua felt every pain, not only the pain of the loss of His own dear friend, not only the pain of Mary and Martha, not only the pain of all the rest of the people who had lost their friend. He hurt because they hurt. Yeshua sympathizes with our every weakness.