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John 11:1-46

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 

11:6 So when he heard that Lazarus 10  was sick, he remained in the place where he was for two more days. 11:7 Then after this, he said to his disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 11  11:8 The disciples replied, 12  “Rabbi, the Jewish leaders 13  were just now trying 14  to stone you to death! Are 15  you going there again?” 11:9 Jesus replied, 16  “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, 17  because he sees the light of this world. 18  11:10 But if anyone walks around at night, 19  he stumbles, 20  because the light is not in him.”

11:11 After he said this, he added, 21  “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. 22  But I am going there to awaken him.” 11:12 Then the disciples replied, 23  “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 11:13 (Now Jesus had been talking about 24  his death, but they 25  thought he had been talking about real sleep.) 26 

11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 11:15 and I am glad 27  for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe. 28  But let us go to him.” 11:16 So Thomas (called Didymus 29 ) 30  said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go too, so that we may die with him.” 31 

Speaking with Martha and Mary

11:17 When 32  Jesus arrived, 33  he found that Lazarus 34  had been in the tomb four days already. 35  11:18 (Now Bethany was less than two miles 36  from Jerusalem, 37  11:19 so many of the Jewish people of the region 38  had come to Martha and Mary to console them 39  over the loss of their brother.) 40  11:20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 41  11:21 Martha 42  said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 11:22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant 43  you.” 44 

11:23 Jesus replied, 45  “Your brother will come back to life again.” 46  11:24 Martha said, 47  “I know that he will come back to life again 48  in the resurrection at the last day.” 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live 49  even if he dies, 11:26 and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. 50  Do you believe this?” 11:27 She replied, 51  “Yes, Lord, I believe 52  that you are the Christ, 53  the Son of God who comes into the world.” 54 

11:28 And when she had said this, Martha 55  went and called her sister Mary, saying privately, 56  “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” 57  11:29 So when Mary 58  heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 11:30 (Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still in the place where Martha had come out to meet him.) 11:31 Then the people 59  who were with Mary 60  in the house consoling her saw her 61  get up quickly and go out. They followed her, because they thought she was going to the tomb to weep 62  there.

11:32 Now when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people 63  who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved 64  in spirit and greatly distressed. 65  11:34 He asked, 66  “Where have you laid him?” 67  They replied, 68  “Lord, come and see.” 11:35 Jesus wept. 69  11:36 Thus the people who had come to mourn 70  said, “Look how much he loved him!” 11:37 But some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! 71  Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus 72  from dying?”

Lazarus Raised from the Dead

11:38 Jesus, intensely moved 73  again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) 74  11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” 75  Martha, the sister of the deceased, 76  replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, 77  because he has been buried 78  four days.” 79  11:40 Jesus responded, 80  “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?” 11:41 So they took away 81  the stone. Jesus looked upward 82  and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. 83  11:42 I knew that you always listen to me, 84  but I said this 85  for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 11:43 When 86  he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, 87  “Lazarus, come out!” 11:44 The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, 88  and a cloth wrapped around his face. 89  Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him 90  and let him go.”

The Response of the Jewish Leaders

11:45 Then many of the people, 91  who had come with Mary and had seen the things Jesus 92  did, believed in him. 11:46 But some of them went to the Pharisees 93  and reported to them 94  what Jesus had done.

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.

10 tn Grk “that he”; the referent (Lazarus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

11 sn The village of Bethany, where Lazarus was, lies in Judea, less than 2 mi (3 km) from Jerusalem (see 11:18).

12 tn Grk “The disciples said to him.”

13 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9.) Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders. See the previous references and the notes on the phrase “Jewish people” in v. 19, and “Jewish religious leaders” in vv. 24, 31, 33.

14 tn Grk “seeking.”

15 tn Grk “And are.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

16 tn Grk “Jesus answered.”

17 tn Or “he does not trip.”

18 sn What is the light of this world? On one level, of course, it refers to the sun, but the reader of John’s Gospel would recall 8:12 and understand Jesus’ symbolic reference to himself as the light of the world. There is only a limited time left (Are there not twelve hours in a day?) until the Light will be withdrawn (until Jesus returns to the Father) and the one who walks around in the dark will trip and fall (compare the departure of Judas by night in 13:30).

19 tn Grk “in the night.”

20 tn Or “he trips.”

21 tn Grk “He said these things, and after this he said to them.”

22 tn The verb κοιμάω (koimaw) literally means “sleep,” but it is often used in the Bible as a euphemism for death when speaking of believers. This metaphorical usage by its very nature emphasizes the hope of resurrection: Believers will one day “wake up” out of death. Here the term refers to death, but “asleep” was used in the translation to emphasize the metaphorical, rhetorical usage of the term, especially in light of the disciples’ confusion over what Jesus actually meant (see v. 13).

23 tn Grk “Then the disciples said to him.”

24 tn Or “speaking about.”

25 tn Grk “these.”

26 tn Grk “the sleep of slumber”; this is a redundant expression to emphasize physical sleep as opposed to death.

sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

27 tn Grk “and I rejoice.”

28 sn So that you may believe. Why does Jesus make this statement? It seems necessary to understand the disciples’ belief here in a developmental sense, because there are numerous references to the disciples’ faith previous to this in John’s Gospel, notably 2:11. Their concept of who Jesus really was is continually being expanded and challenged; they are undergoing spiritual growth; the climax is reached in the confession of Thomas in John 20:28.

29 sn Didymus means “the twin” in Greek.

30 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

31 sn One gets the impression from Thomas’ statement “Let us go too, so that we may die with him” that he was something of a pessimist resigned to his fate. And yet his dedicated loyalty to Jesus and his determination to accompany him at all costs was truly commendable. Nor is the contrast between this statement and the confession of Thomas in 20:28, which forms the climax of the entire Fourth Gospel, to be overlooked; certainly Thomas’ concept of who Jesus is has changed drastically between 11:16 and 20:28.

32 tn Grk “Then when.”

33 tn Grk “came.”

34 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Lazarus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

35 tn Grk “he had already had four days in the tomb” (an idiom).

sn There is no description of the journey itself. The author simply states that when Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already. He had died some time before this but probably not very long (cf. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:6,10 who were buried immediately after they died, as was the common practice of the time). There is some later evidence (early 3rd century) of a rabbinic belief that the soul hovered near the body of the deceased for three days, hoping to be able to return to the body. But on the fourth day it saw the beginning of decomposition and finally departed (Leviticus Rabbah 18.1). If this belief is as old as the 1st century, it might suggest the significance of the four days: After this time, resurrection would be a first-order miracle, an unequivocal demonstration of the power of God. It is not certain if the tradition is this early, but it is suggestive. Certainly the author does not appear to attach any symbolic significance to the four days in the narrative.

36 tn Or “three kilometers”; Grk “fifteen stades” (a stade as a unit of linear measure is about 607 feet or 187 meters).

37 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

38 tn Or “many of the Judeans” (cf. BDAG 479 s.v. ᾿Ιουδαῖος 2.e); Grk “many of the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding area in general (those who had been friends or relatives of Lazarus or his sisters would mainly be in view) since the Jewish religious authorities (“the chief priests and the Pharisees”) are specifically mentioned as a separate group in John 11:46-47. See also the note on the phrase “the Jewish leaders” in v. 8.

39 tn Or “to comfort them” or “to offer them sympathy.”

40 tn Grk “to comfort them concerning their brother”; the words “loss of” are not in the Greek text but are implied.

sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

41 sn Notice the difference in the response of the two sisters: Martha went out to meet Jesus, while Mary remains sitting in the house. It is similar to the incident in Luke 10:38-42. Here again one finds Martha occupied with the responsibilities of hospitality; she is the one who greets Jesus.

42 tn Grk “Then Martha.” Here οὖν (oun) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

43 tn Or “give.”

44 sn The statement “whatever you ask from God, God will grant you” by Martha presents something of a dilemma, because she seems to be suggesting here (implicitly at least) the possibility of a resurrection for her brother. However, Martha’s statement in 11:39 makes it clear that she had no idea that a resurrection was still possible. How then are her words in 11:22 to be understood? It seems best to take them as a confession of Martha’s continuing faith in Jesus even though he was not there in time to help her brother. She means, in effect, “Even though you weren’t here in time to help, I still believe that God grants your requests.”

45 tn Grk “Jesus said to her.”

46 tn Or “Your brother will rise again.”

sn Jesus’ remark to Martha that Lazarus would come back to life again is another example of the misunderstood statement. Martha apparently took it as a customary statement of consolation and joined Jesus in professing belief in the general resurrection of the body at the end of the age. However, as Jesus went on to point out in 11:25-26, Martha’s general understanding of the resurrection at the last day was inadequate for the present situation, for the gift of life that conquers death was a present reality to Jesus. This is consistent with the author’s perspective on eternal life in the Fourth Gospel: It is not only a future reality, but something to be experienced in the present as well. It is also consistent with the so-called “realized eschatology” of the Fourth Gospel.

47 tn Grk “Martha said to him.”

48 tn Or “will rise again.”

49 tn That is, will come to life.

50 tn Grk “will never die forever.”

51 tn Grk “She said to him.”

52 tn The perfect tense in Greek is often used to emphasize the results or present state of a past action. Such is the case here. To emphasize this nuance the perfect tense verb πεπίστευκα (pepisteuka) has been translated as a present tense. This is in keeping with the present context, where Jesus asks of her present state of belief in v. 26, and the theology of the Gospel as a whole, which emphasizes the continuing effects and present reality of faith. For discussion on this use of the perfect tense, see ExSyn 574-76 and B. M. Fanning, Verbal Aspect, 291-97.

53 tn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).

sn See the note on Christ in 1:20.

54 tn Or “the Son of God, the one who comes into the world.”

55 tn Grk “she”; the referent (Martha) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

56 tn Or “in secret” (as opposed to publicly, so that the other mourners did not hear).

57 tn Grk “is calling you.”

58 tn Grk “she”; the referent (Mary) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

59 tn Or “the Judeans”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the friends, acquaintances, and relatives of Lazarus or his sisters who had come to mourn, since the Jewish religious authorities are specifically mentioned as a separate group in John 11:46-47. See also the notes on the phrase “the Jewish leaders” in v. 8 and “the Jewish people of the region” in v. 19.

60 tn Grk “her”; the referent (Mary) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

61 tn Grk “Mary”; the proper name (Mary) has been replaced with the pronoun (her) in keeping with conventional English style, to avoid repetition.

62 tn Or “to mourn” (referring to the loud wailing or crying typical of public mourning in that culture).

63 tn Or “the Judeans”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the friends, acquaintances, and relatives of Lazarus or his sisters who had come to mourn, since the Jewish religious authorities are specifically mentioned as a separate group in John 11:46-47. See also the notes on the phrase “the Jewish leaders” in v. 8, “the Jewish people of the region” in v. 19, and the word “people” in v. 31.

64 tn Or (perhaps) “he was deeply indignant.” The verb ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimhsato), which is repeated in John 11:38, indicates a strong display of emotion, somewhat difficult to translate – “shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions.” In the LXX, the verb and its cognates are used to describe a display of indignation (Dan 11:30, for example – see also Mark 14:5). Jesus displayed this reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43, Matt 9:30. Was he angry at the afflicted? No, but he was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satan’s kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.

65 tn Or “greatly troubled.” The verb ταράσσω (tarassw) also occurs in similar contexts to those of ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimhsato). John uses it in 14:1 and 27 to describe the reaction of the disciples to the imminent death of Jesus, and in 13:21 the verb describes how Jesus reacted to the thought of being betrayed by Judas, into whose heart Satan had entered.

66 tn Grk “And he said.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

67 tn Or “Where have you placed him?”

68 tn Grk “They said to him.” The indirect object αὐτῷ (autw) has not been translated here for stylistic reasons.

69 sn Jesus wept. The Greek word used here for Jesus’ weeping (ἐδάκρυσεν, edakrusen) is different from the one used to describe the weeping of Mary and the Jews in v. 33 which indicated loud wailing and cries of lament. This word simply means “to shed tears” and has more the idea of quiet grief. But why did Jesus do this? Not out of grief for Lazarus, since he was about to be raised to life again. L. Morris (John [NICNT], 558) thinks it was grief over the misconception of those round about. But it seems that in the context the weeping is triggered by the thought of Lazarus in the tomb: This was not personal grief over the loss of a friend (since Lazarus was about to be restored to life) but grief over the effects of sin, death, and the realm of Satan. It was a natural complement to the previous emotional expression of anger (11:33). It is also possible that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus because he knew there was also a tomb for himself ahead.

70 tn Or “the Judeans”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the friends, acquaintances, and relatives of Lazarus or his sisters who had come to mourn, since the Jewish religious authorities are specifically mentioned as a separate group in John 11:46-47. See also the notes on the phrase “the Jewish leaders” in v. 8 and “the Jewish people of the region” in v. 19, as well as the notes on the word “people” in vv. 31, 33.

71 tn Grk “who opened the eyes of the blind man” (“opening the eyes” is an idiom referring to restoration of sight).

72 tn Grk “this one”; the second half of 11:37 reads Grk “Could not this one who opened the eyes of the blind have done something to keep this one from dying?” In the Greek text the repetition of “this one” in 11:37b referring to two different persons (first Jesus, second Lazarus) could confuse a modern reader. Thus the first reference, to Jesus, has been translated as “he” to refer back to the beginning of v. 37, where the reference to “the man who caused the blind man to see” is clearly a reference to Jesus. The second reference, to Lazarus, has been specified (“Lazarus”) in the translation for clarity.

73 tn Or (perhaps) “Jesus was deeply indignant.”

74 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

75 tn Or “Remove the stone.”

76 tn Grk “the sister of the one who had died.”

77 tn Grk “already he stinks.”

78 tn Or “been there” (in the tomb – see John 11:17).

79 sn He has been buried four days. Although all the details of the miracle itself are not given, those details which are mentioned are important. The statement made by Martha is extremely significant for understanding what actually took place. There is no doubt that Lazarus had really died, because the decomposition of his body had already begun to take place, since he had been dead for four days.

80 tn Grk “Jesus said to her.”

81 tn Or “they removed.”

82 tn Grk “lifted up his eyes above.”

83 tn Or “that you have heard me.”

84 tn Grk “that you always hear me.”

85 tn The word “this” is not in the Greek text. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context.

86 tn Grk “And when.”

87 sn The purpose of the loud voice was probably to ensure that all in the crowd could hear (compare the purpose of the prayer of thanksgiving in vv. 41-42).

88 sn Many have wondered how Lazarus got out of the tomb if his hands and feet were still tied up with strips of cloth. The author does not tell, and with a miracle of this magnitude, this is not an important fact to know. If Lazarus’ decomposing body was brought back to life by the power of God, then it could certainly have been moved out of the tomb by that same power. Others have suggested that the legs were bound separately, which would remove the difficulty, but the account gives no indication of this. What may be of more significance for the author is the comparison which this picture naturally evokes with the resurrection of Jesus, where the graveclothes stayed in the tomb neatly folded (20:6-7). Jesus, unlike Lazarus, would never need graveclothes again.

89 tn Grk “and his face tied around with cloth.”

90 tn Grk “Loose him.”

91 tn Or “the Judeans”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the friends, acquaintances, and relatives of Lazarus or his sisters who had come to mourn, since the Jewish religious authorities are specifically mentioned as a separate group in John 11:46-47. See also the notes on the phrase “the Jewish leaders” in v. 8 and “the Jewish people of the region” in v. 19, as well as the notes on the word “people” in vv. 31, 33 and the phrase “people who had come to mourn” in v. 36.

92 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

93 sn See the note on Pharisees in 1:24.

94 tn Grk “told them.”



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