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John 11:1-5

Context
The Death of Lazarus

11:1 Now a certain man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived. 1  11:2 (Now it was Mary who anointed the Lord with perfumed oil 2  and wiped his feet dry with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3  11:3 So the sisters sent a message 4  to Jesus, 5  “Lord, look, the one you love is sick.” 11:4 When Jesus heard this, he said, “This sickness will not lead to death, 6  but to God’s glory, 7  so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 8  11:5 (Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.) 9 

1 tn Grk “from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.”

2 tn Or “perfume,” “ointment.”

3 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. It is a bit surprising that the author here identifies Mary as the one who anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and wiped his feet dry with her hair, since this event is not mentioned until later, in 12:3. Many see this “proleptic” reference as an indication that the author expected his readers to be familiar with the story already, and go on to assume that in general the author in writing the Fourth Gospel assumed his readers were familiar with the other three gospels. Whether the author assumed actual familiarity with the synoptic gospels or not, it is probable that he did assume some familiarity with Mary’s anointing activity.

4 tn The phrase “a message” is not in the Greek text but is implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from context.

5 tn Grk “to him, saying”; the referent (Jesus) is specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Grk “This sickness is not to death.”

sn Jesus plainly stated the purpose of Lazarus’ sickness in the plan of God: The end of the matter would not be death, but the glorification of the Son. Johannine double-meanings abound here: Even though death would not be the end of the matter, Lazarus is going to die; and ultimately his death and resurrection would lead to the death and resurrection of the Son of God (11:45-53). Furthermore, the glorification of the Son is not praise that comes to him for the miracle, but his death, resurrection, and return to the Father which the miracle precipitates (note the response of the Jewish authorities in 11:47-53).

7 tn Or “to God’s praise.”

8 sn So that the Son of God may be glorified through it. These statements are highly ironic: For Lazarus, the sickness did not end in his death, because he was restored to life. But for Jesus himself, the miraculous sign he performed led to his own death, because it confirmed the authorities in their plan to kill Jesus (11:47-53). In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ death is consistently portrayed as his ‘glorification’ through which he accomplishes his return to the Father.

9 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. It was necessary for the author to reaffirm Jesus’ love for Martha and her sister and Lazarus here because Jesus’ actions in the following verse appear to be contradictory.



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