John 11:1-45 — Lazarus whom Jesus loved – LeGrand Baker

This is a story whose simple beauty makes it one of the most renowned in Christian literature. While its beauty is easy to grasp, its complex meaning seems to be so deeply buried that it cannot be excavated. John uses it as an introduction to a story he is about to tell—or else as the conclusion of that story he has not yet told. He identifies Mary as “It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair.” It is important to him that we know that, even though, in the sequence of his narrative, it has not yet happened.

The message of all the gospels in the New Testament can be reduced to a single theme. That theme is the inclusiveness of Jesus’s love for everyone. It says he had compassion for those whom he forgave, or healed, and the 5,000 whom he fed. It says he loved the Twelve as a group. But there are only five individuals who are mentioned by name as persons whom Jesus loved. Those 5 are:

(1) John the Beloved— “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 20:2, 21:20);

(2) The rich young ruler who asked “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-27) Mark tells us, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest… (Mark 10:21).” Circumstantial evidence suggests that this young man would become the apostle Paul.{1}

(3,4, & 5) Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. In telling the story, John mentions Jesus loved the sisters (Martha by name), but John focuses on the Savior’s love for Lazarus.
In the first five verses we learn:

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:1-5).

Later, as he approached Lazarus’s tomb, we see the depth of Jesus’s love for Lazarus.

35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (John 11:36)

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The events of Lazarus’s being raised from the dead are only described by John, but we are introduced to the sisters by Luke. From him we learn that the house belonged to Martha, leaving us to surmise that Mary was a younger sister, and was either a guest or a resident in Martha’s home.

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38 – 42).

The following is the story the way John tells it.

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believet h in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. (John 11:1-45)
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FOOTNOTE

{1}The evidence that the rich young man is Paul is circumstantial but quite convincing.
(1) He was rich, as was Paul who was from a free Roman city and a wealthy tent maker.
(2) He was a young ruler, that is a member of the Sanhedrin, as was Paul.
(3) He was a “young man.” That phrase describes someone who was about 30 or 32, not old enough to be called an elder, but old enough that he could speak in the synagogue, or in his case, in the Sanhedrin. He and Paul were about the same age as Jesus,
(5) Paul was then in Jerusalem, so the geography works as well.
(6) He describes himself as being very devout, in much the same was as Paul did when he was before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-28).
(7) Most important, Jesus’s charge to the young man was an Apostolic call. He did not ask just anyone to sell all they had and follow him. Later, when the resurrected Savior confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, he did not reissue the call, but rather said, “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 9:1-15).” I read that to be something like, “Stop trying to fight it, and get on with what you are supposed to do.”

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