John 11:1-27

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

[Lazarus, of Bethany] The apostle John, who seldom relates anything but what the other evangelists have omitted, does not tell us what gave rise to the acquaintence and friendship that existed between Our Lord and this family. Bethany was situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem. What is mentioned in the preceeding chapter ocurred at the feast of the dedication, about the middle of December. This miracle of the raising of Lazarus seems to have been wrought shortly before the following passover, in the end of March, at which time Jesus was crucified.

2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

[It was that Mary which anointed] This was inserted for the purpose of identification. Note! We will get to this story in Chapter 12 of John. Until then, this is a good opportunity for some self-directed study. Use the concordance to locate all four descriptions ("ointment" is a good keyword), and answer 6 questions. (1) What town? (2) Whose house? (3) Who was present? (4) What were they thinking? (5) In what time in Jesus ministry did the incident take place? (6) What was the relationship between Simon and Judas?

3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

[He whom thou lovest is sick] A natural action, even on the human level. When someone is seriously ill we call in family and friends. In this case, we know from verse 21 that the sisters believed Jesus could heal Lazarus.

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.

[This sickness is not unto death] Not the final end of Lazarus' earthly life, but a temporary, although very real, death shall now be permitted that God may be glorified.

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 Judaea again.

Jesus reason for staying two more days in Bethabara was not a lack of affection for the distressed family, but merely that he might have a more favorable opportunity to prove to them how much he loved them.

8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

Only a few weeks before they had attempted to kill Jesus at the temple. See John 10:31.

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.

Our Lord alludes to the case of a traveller, who has to walk the whole day; the day points out the time of life, the night that of death. He has already used the same mode of speech in chapter 9:4, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work." Here he refers to what the apostles had just said - the Jews were planning to kill him. The last hour of my day has not yet come. The Jews, with all their malice and hatred, shall not make it come one hour sooner than God has appointed.

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.

Jesus was not informed by any person of Lazarus' death. He knew it through that power by which he knows all things.
It was very common among the Jews to express death by sleep, and the expressions falling asleep and sleeping with their fathers

12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

Relief! Perhaps we will not have to go after all. Sleep is a remedy for every disease. There can be no need to risk your life by going into Judea to awake our friend, Lazarus. He will awaken when he has recovered.

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.

I tell you plainly, Lazarus is dead; and I am glad I was not there - for had I been present I would have been prevailed upon to heal him almost as soon as he became sick, and I would not have had as striking of an occasion to manifest the glory of God to you.

16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

[Thomas, which is called Didymus] Thomas signifies a twin, one who had a brother or sister born with him at the same time.

[Let us also go] Seeing we cannot disuade our Lord from going, and his death is likely to be the consequence, let us show him the fullest proof of our love by going and suffering with him.

17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

It was a three day journey from Bethabara to Bethany. Jesus and his disciples must have left the day following Lazarus death. While it was the custom among the Jews to embalm their dead, yet from verse 39 we can imply that he had not been embalmed and so had been placed into the grave shortly after his death.

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.

Bethany being so near Jerusalem, many of the relatives and family came according to Jewish custom to mourn with the afflicted sisters. Mourning, among the jews lasted about thirty days. The first three days were termed days of weeping; then followed seven of lamentation. During the three days the mourner did no servile work, and if any one saluted him, he did not return the salutation.

20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

Some feel that Martha was the older of the two sisters. She seems to have had the management of the house. Mary seemes to be following the ancient custom of afflicted persons putting themselves into this posture, their grief having rendered them, as it were, immovable.

21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Mary said the same words to him a little later. They did not fully understand Jesus' power, but they believed that he could heal.

22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

Martha also believed that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead. (Does this explain why he was not embalmed?) She dared not ask so great a favor directly, nevertheless the request was understood.

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.

The doctrine of the resurrection was commonly believed among the people because it was taught by the leading religious element, the Pharisees. The competing sect, the Sadducees, did not believe in a resurrection.

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

You say that your brother shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day; but by whom shall he arise except by me, who am the author of the resurrection and the source of Life? The point that John has been making about Jesus and which Jesus himself has been making is that it is necessary for one to believe in Jesus.

27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 01/04/2007

Copyright (C) 1999,2003,2006,2007 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved