21.Lord, if thou hadst been here. She begins with a complaint, though in doing so she modestly expresses her wish. Her meaning may be expressed thus — “By thy presence thou mightst have delivered my brother from death, and even now thou canst do it, for God will not refuse thee any thing.” By speaking in this manner, she gives way to her feelings, instead of restraining them under the rule of faith. I acknowledge that her words proceeded partly from faith, but I say that there were disorderly passions mixed with them, which hurried her beyond due bounds. For when she assures herself that her brother would not have died, if Christ had been present, what ground has she for this confidence? Certainly, it did not arise from any promise of Christ.
The only conclusion therefore is, that she inconsiderately yields to her own wishes, instead of subjecting herself to Christ. When she ascribes to Christ power and supreme goodness, this proceeds from faith; but when she persuades herself of more than she had heard Christ declare, that has nothing to do with faith; for we must always hold the mutual agreement between the word and faith, that no man may rashly forge anything for himself, without the authority of the word of God. Besides, Martha attached too much importance to the bodily presence of Christ. The consequence is, that Martha’s faith, though mixed up and interwoven with ill-regulated desires, and even not wholly free from superstition, could not shine with full brightness; so that we perceive but a few sparks of it in these words.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
21. if thou hadst been here] Not a reproach, however gentle (she does not say ‘hadst Thou come’), but an expression of deep regret. This thought had naturally been often in the sisters’ minds during the last four days (comp. Joh_11:32). They believe that Christ could and would have healed Lazarus: their faith and hope are not yet equal to anticipating His raising him from the dead. The gradual progress of Martha’s faith is very true to life, and reminds us of similar development in the woman of Samaria (Joh_4:19) and the man born blind (Joh_9:11), though she starts at a more advanced stage than they do. If all these three narratives are late fictions, we have three masterpieces of psychological study, as miraculous in the literature of the second century as would be a Gothic cathedral in the architecture of that age. For the construction comp. Joh_4:10, Joh_14:28.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
22. But I know, that even now] ‘But’ must be omitted on critical grounds; and the text should run, and now (that he is dead) I know that, &c. She believes that had Christ been there, He could have healed Lazarus by His own power (comp. Joh_4:47), and that now His prayer may prevail with God to raise him from the dead. She has yet to learn that Christ’s bodily presence is not necessary, and that He can raise the dead by His own power. He gradually leads her faith onwards to higher truth.
whatsoever thou wilt ask] She uses a word more appropriate to human prayer, ‘to ask for oneself’ (comp. Joh_14:13-14, Joh_15:7; Joh_15:16, Joh_16:23; Joh_16:26), not used by Christ of His own prayers or by the Evangelists of Christ’s prayers (contrast Joh_14:16, Joh_16:26, Joh_17:9; Joh_17:15; Joh_17:20; Mat_26:36; Mat_26:39; Mat_26:42; Mat_26:44; Luk_22:32). She thus incidentally shews her imperfect idea of His relation to God.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_11:22. And even now I know that whatsoever things thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee. The words of this verse are very remarkable. The presence of the great Friend and Helper seems to give a sudden quickening to Martha’s faith. She had probably heard of the words of Jesus when the tidings of the sickness of Lazarus reached Him (Joh_11:4); and these words (which no doubt sorrow of heart and painful waiting had almost banished from her thought) surely gave ground for hope ‘even now.’ And yet, though truly expressive of the firmest confidence in Jesus, her words are vague; and the later narrative seems to prove that no definite expectation was present to her mind. The language is rather that of one who so believes in Jesus as to be assured that, where He is, help and blessing cannot be absent.
Wilt ask of God (αἰτήσῃ τὸν Θεόν)
The verb αἰτέω is used of the asking of an inferior from a superior. Ἑρωτα ́ω is to ask on equal terms, and hence is always used by Christ of His own asking from the Father, in the consciousness of His equal dignity. Hence Martha, as Trench observes, “plainly reveals her poor, unworthy conception of His person, that she recognizes in Him no more than a prophet, when she ascribes that asking (αἰτεῖσθαι) to Him which He never ascribes to Himself” (“Synonyms”). Bengel says: “Martha did not speak in Greek, yet John expresses her inaccurate remark, which the Lord kindly tolerated.” See on Mat_15:23.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
23. shall rise again] He uses an ambiguous expression as an exercise of her faith. Some think that these words contain no allusion to the immediate restoration of Lazarus, and that Martha (Joh_11:24) understands them rightly. More probably Christ includes the immediate restoration of Lazarus, but she does not venture to do so, and rejects the allusion to the final Resurrection as poor consolation.
24.I know that he shall rise again. We now see Martha’s excessive timidity in extenuating the meaning of Christ’s words. We have said that she went farther than she had a right to do, when she fabricated a hope for herself out of the feelings of her own mind. She now falls into an opposite fault; for when Christ stretches forth his hand, she stops short, as if she were alarmed. We ought, therefore to guard against both of these extremes. On the one hand, we must not, without the authority of God’s word, drink in empty hopes, which will prove to be nothing but wind; and, on the other hand, when God opens his mouth, it is not proper that he should find our hearts either blocked up, or too firmly closed. Again, by this reply, Martha intended to ascertain more than she ventured to expect from the words of Christ, as if she had said: “If you mean the last resurrection, I have no doubt that my brother will be raised again at the last day, and I comfort myself with this confident expectation, but I do not know if you direct my attention to something greater.”
Cambridge Bible Plummer
24. I know that he shall rise again] This conviction was probably in advance of average Jewish belief on the subject. The O.T. declarations as to a resurrection are so scanty and obscure, that the Sadducees could deny the doctrine, and the Pharisees had to resort to oral tradition to maintain it (see on Mar_12:18; Act_23:8).
the last day] See on Joh_6:39.
25.I am the resurrection and the life. Christ first declares that he is the resurrection and the life, and then he explains, separately and distinctly, each clause of this sentence. His first statement is, that he is the resurrection, because the restoration from death to life naturally comes before the state of life. Now the whole human race is plunged in death; and, therefore, no man will be a partaker of life until he is risen from the dead. Thus Christ shows that he is the commencement of life, and he afterwards adds, that the continuance of life is also a work of his grace. That he is speaking about spiritual life, is plainly shown by the exposition which immediately follows,
He who believeth in me, though, he were dead, shall live. Why then is Christ the resurrection ? Because by his Spirit he regenerates the children of Adam, who had been alienated from God by sin, so that they begin to live a new life. On this subject, I have spoken more fully under Joh_5:21 and 24; and Paul is an excellent interpreter of this passage, (Eph_2:5, and Eph_5:8.) Away now with those who idly talk that men are prepared for receiving the grace of God by the movement of nature. They might as well say that the dead walk. For that men live and breathe, and are endued with sense, understanding, and will, all this tends to their destruction, because there is no part or faculty of the soul that is not corrupted and turned aside from what is right. Thus it is that death everywhere holds dominion, for the death of the soul is nothing else than its being estranged and turned aside from God. Accordingly, they who believe in Christ, though they were formerly dead, begin to live, because faith is a spiritual resurrection of the soul, and — so to speak — animates the soul itself that it may live to God; according to that passage, The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live (Joh_5:25.)
This is truly a remarkable commendation of faith, that it conveys to us the life of Christ, and thus frees us from death.
I am the resurrection and the life
The words I am are very significant. Martha had stated the resurrection rather as a doctrine, a current tenet: Jesus states it as a fact, identified with His own person. He does not say, I raise the dead; I perform the resurrection, but I am the resurrection, In His own person, representing humanity, He exhibits man as immortal, but immortal only through union with Him.
The life is the larger and inclusive idea. Resurrection is involved in life as an incident developed by the temporary and apparent triumph of death. All true life is in Christ. In Him is lodged everything that is essential to life, in its origin, its maintenance, and its consummation, and all this is conveyed to the believer in his union with Him. This life is not affected by death. “Every believer is in reality and forever sheltered from death. To die with full light, in the clear certainty of the life which is in Jesus, to die only to continue to live to Him, is no longer that fact which human language designates by the name of death. It is as though Jesus had said: In me death is certain to live, and the living is certain never to die” (Godet). On ζωή, life, see on Joh_1:4.
He were dead (ἀποθάνῃ)
The aorist denotes an event, not a condition. Hence, much better, Rev., though he die.
26.And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me. This is the exposition of the second clause, how Christ is the life; and he is so, because he never permits the life which he has once bestowed to be lost, but preserves it to the end. For since flesh is so frail, what would become of men, if, after having once obtained life, they were afterwards left to themselves? The perpetuity of the life must, therefore, be founded on the power of Christ himself, that he may complete what he has begun.
Shall never die. The reason why it is said that believers never die is, that their souls, being born again of incorruptible seed, (1Pe_1:23,) have Christ dwelling in them, from whom they derive perpetual vigor; for, though
the body be subject to death on account of sin, yet the spirit is life on account of righteousness, (Rom_8:10.)
That the outward man daily decays in them is so far from taking anything away from their true life, that it aids the progress of it, because the inward man is renewed from day to day, (2Co_4:16.) What is still more, death itself is a sort of emancipation from the bondage of death.
Dost thou believe this? Christ seems, at first sight, to discourse about spiritual life, for the purpose of withdrawing the mind of Martha from her present desire. Martha wished that her brother should be restored to life Christ replies, that he is the Author of a more excellent life; and that is, because he quickens the souls of believers by divine power. Yet I have no doubt that he intended to include both favors; and therefore he describes, in general terms, that spiritual life which he bestows on all his followers, but wishes to give them some opportunity of knowing this power, which he was soon afterwards to manifest in raising Lazarus.
Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection. Not merely that God will give me what I ask, but that I am in some sense already his gift to man of resurrection, inasmuch as I am that of Life. (So Luthardt and Godet, but not Meyer, who makes ζωή the positive result of ἀνάστασις.) By taking humanity into his Person, Christ reveals the permanence of human individuality, that is, of such individuality as is in union with himself. He associates (Joh_14:6) “the Life” which he gives with” the Way” and “the Truth,” i.e. with the whole sum of human experience and of human meditation and speculation, i.e. with all the conduct of the will and the mind. He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live. In these words he identifies the “life” with the transfiguration of the bodily life. The grand method of this blessed life is faith. The life which is the condition and ground of resurrection is the natural consequence of a faith which accepts Christ, and identifies itself with him. But “there are some who have believed, and have what you call died”—though they die, they shall live. In such cases, so-called “death” is veritable “life.” The life of faith will survive the shock of death, and whosoever liveth, and believeth on me, shall never die—shall never taste of death (cf. Joh_6:51, Joh_8:51). This is no new teaching for the more thoughtful of his hearers. There are multitudes now believing (and therefore living) in him. They shall never die in the sense in which death has been hitherto regarded; they shall by no means die forever. Faith is eternal life: death is only a momentary shadow upon a life which is far better. Whether the corruption of the grave passes over the believer or not, he lives an eternal life, which has no element of death nor proclivity to death in it. So far the Lord is lifting Martha to a higher experience of life and a comparative in difference to death. Before he offers any further consolation, he probes to the quick her faith in him and in the eternal life. Believest thou this? Τοῦτο; “Is this thy belief?” not τουτῷ; “Dost thou believe in my statement?” “Believest thou that the Resurrection which I am and which I give can thus transform for thee the whole meaning of death?” The fullness of life after death is assured in virtue of the resurrection which Christ could effect at any moment, and will eventually effect for all. This life of which Christ speaks may be the life which is the consequence of the resurrection (ἀνὰστασις) of man effected in the Incarnation, or it may be the condition of “resurrection” and sufficient proof that, if a man receive it by faith, he is free’ from all the curse of physical death, and assured of a perfect victory over it. So also the οὐ μὴ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα may either mean “not forever,” and thus the words may be taken to refer to the resurrection. “He will not forever die,” i.e. death may supervene, but will be conquered; or οὐ μὴ may mean “never,” “in no wise,” and the “never die” may refer to spiritual death, overlooking physical death altogether. The whole narrative is a great parable of life through death.
Pop Comm Bible
Joh_11:25-26. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he have died, yet shall he live; And every one that liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? The emphasis falls on the first two words, ‘I,’ ‘am.’ Martha’s first expression of faith and hope had shown how imperfectly she knew Jesus Himself: to Himself alone His words now point. Her later words dwell on the resurrection in the remoter future: Jesus says, ‘I AMthe resurrection and the life.’ Alike in the future and in the present, life is unchangeably in Him (chap.Joh_1:4),—and that the life which triumphs over death (‘resurrection’), the life by which death is excluded and annulled. In other passages we read of Jesus as the Life, here only as the Resurrection: the latter thought is in truth contained in the former, and needs not distinct expression save in the presence of the apparent victory of death.It is possible that the meaning of our Lord’s words is that He is the resurrection and the life which follows the resurrection,—in Him His people rise again, and, having risen, live for ever; but it is far more probable that this is only one part of the meaning. Because He is the Life, in the highest and absolute sense of this word, therefore He is the resurrection. He that believes in Him becomes one with Him: every one, therefore, that believes in Him possesses this victorious life. If he has died, yet life is his: if he still lives among men, this earthly life is but an emblem and a part of that all-embracing life which shall endure for ever in union with the Lord of life. In all this the law which limits man’s life on earth is not forgotten, but a revelation is given to man which changes the meaning of death. As Godet beautifully says: ‘Every believer is in reality and for ever sheltered from death. To die in full light, in the serene brightness of the life which is in Jesus, and to continue to live in Him, is no longer that which human language designates by the name of death. It is as if Jesus said: In me he who is dead is sure of life, and he who lives is sure never to die.’ The original, indeed, is much more expressive than we can well bring out in English, ‘Shall never unto eternity die.’ To the question, ‘Believest thou this?’ Martha answers (and the form of her answer is characteristic):—
27.Yes, Lord. To prove that she believes what she had heard Christ say about himself, that he is the resurrection and the life, Martha replies, that she believes that he is the Christ, and the Son of God; and indeed this knowledge includes the sum of all blessings; for we ought always to remember for what purpose the Messiah was promised, and what duty the prophets ascribe to him. Now when Martha confesses that it was he who was to come into the world, she strengthens her faith by the predictions of the prophets. Hence it follows, that we ought to expect from him the full restoration of all things and perfect happiness; and, in short, that he was sent to erect and prepare the true and perfect state of the kingdom of God.
Yea, Lord (Nai, kurie). Martha probably did not understand all that Jesus said and meant, but she did believe in the future resurrection, in eternal life for believers in Christ, in the power of Christ to raise even the dead here and now. She had heroic faith and makes now her own confession of faith in words that outrank those of Peter in Mat_16:16 because she makes hers with her brother dead now four days and with the hope that Jesus will raise him up now.
I have believed (pepisteuka). Perfect active indicative of pisteuō. It is my settled and firm faith. Peter uses this same tense in Joh_6:69.
That thou art the Son of God (hoti su ei ho Christos ho huios tou theou). The Messiah or the Christ (Joh_1:41) was to be also “the Son of God” as the Baptist said he had found Jesus to be (Joh_1:34), as Peter confessed on Hermon for the apostles (Mat_16:16), as Jesus claimed to be (Joh_11:41) and confessed on oath before Caiaphas that he was (Mat_26:63.), and as John stated that it was his purpose to prove in his Gospel (Joh_20:31). But no one said it under more trying circumstances than Martha.
Even he that cometh into the world (ho eis ton kosmon erchomenos). No “even” in the Greek. This was a popular way of putting the people’s expectation (Joh_6:14; Mat_11:3). Jesus himself spoke of his coming into the world (Joh_9:39; Joh_16:28; Joh_8:37).
33.He groaned in his spirit. If Christ had not been excited to compassion by their tears, he would rather have kept his countenance unmoved, but when, of his own accord, he conforms to those mourners, so far as to weep along with them, he gives proof that he has sympathy, (συμπάθεια.) For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping Yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils. As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person.
But how do groaning andtrouble of mind belong to the person of the Son of God? As some reckon it absurd to say that Christ, as one of the number of human beings, was subject to human passions, they think that the only way in which he experienced grief or joy was, that he received in himself those feelings, whenever he thought proper, by some secret dispensation. It is in this sense, Augustine thinks, that the Evangelist says that he was troubled, because other men are hurried along by their feelings, which exercise dominion, or rather tyranny, to trouble their minds. He considers the meaning therefore to be, that Christ, though otherwise tranquil and free from all passion, brought groaning and grief upon himself of his own accord. But this simplicity will, in my opinion, be more agreeable to Scripture, if we say that the Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted. In this way we detract nothing from the glory of Christ, when we say that it was a voluntary submission, by which he was brought to resemble us in the feelings of the soul. Besides, as he submitted from the very commencement, we must not imagine that he was free and exempt from those feelings; and in this respect he proved himself to be our brother, in order to assure us, that we have a Mediator, who willingly pardons our infirmities, and who is ready to assist those infirmities which he has experienced in himself.
It will perhaps be objected, that the passions of men are sinful, and therefore it cannot be admitted that we have them in common with the Son of God. I reply, there is a wide difference between Christ and us. For the reason why our feelings are sinful is, that they rush on without restraint, and suffer no limit; but in Christ the feelings were adjusted and regulated in obedience to God, and were altogether free from sin. To express it more fully, the feelings of men are sinful and perverse on two accounts; first, because they are hurried along by impetuous motion, and are not regulated by the true rule of modesty; and, secondly, because they do not always arise from a lawful cause, or, at least, are not directed to a lawful end. I say that there is excess, because no person rejoices or grieves, so far only as is sufficient, or as God permits, and there are even some who shake themselves loose from all restraint. The vanity of our understanding brings us grief or sadness, on account of trifles, or for no reason whatever, because we are too much devoted to the world. Nothing of this nature was to be found in Christ; for he had no passion or affection of his own that ever went beyond its proper bounds; he had not one that was not proper, and founded on reason and sound judgment.
To make this matter still more clear, it will be of importance for us to distinguish between man’s first nature, as it was created by God, and this degenerate nature, which is corrupted by sin. When God created man, he implanted affections in him, but affections which were obedient and submissive to reason. That those affections are now disorderly and rebellious is an accidental fault; that is, it proceeds from some other cause than from the Creator. Now Christ took upon him human affections, but without (ἀταξία) disorder; for he who obeys the passions of the flesh is not obedient to God. Christ was indeed troubled and vehemently agitated; but, at the same time, he kept himself in subjection to the will of the Father. In short, if you compare his passions with ours, they will differ not less than pure and clear water, flowing in a gentle course, differs from dirty and muddy foam.
The example of Christ ought to be sufficient of itself for setting aside the unbending sternness which the Stoics demand; for whence ought we to look for the rule of supreme perfection but from Christ? We ought rather to endeavor to correct and subdue that obstinacy which pervades our affections on account of the sin of Adam, and, in so doing, to follow Christ as our leader, that he may bring us into subjection. Thus Paul does not demand from us hardened stupidity, but enjoins us to observe moderation in our mourning, that we may not abandon ourselves to grief, like unbelievers who have no hope (1Th_4:13;) for even Christ took our affections into himself, that by his power we may subdue every thing in them that is sinful.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
33. weeping … weeping] The repetition is for emphasis, and to point a contrast which is the key to the passage.
he groaned in the spirit] Better, He was angered in the spirit. The word translated ‘groaned’ occurs five times in N.T.; here, Joh_11:38; Mat_9:30; Mar_1:43; Mar_14:5 (see notes in each place). In all cases, as in classical Greek and in the LXX., it expresses not sorrow but indignation or severity. It means (1) literally, of animals, ‘to snort, growl;’ then metaphorically (2) ‘to be very angry or indignant;’ (3) ‘to command sternly, under threat of displeasure.’ What was He angered at? Some translate ‘at His spirit,’ and explain (α) that He was indignant at the human emotion which overcame Him: which is out of harmony with all that we know about the human nature of Christ. Others, retaining ‘in His spirit,’ explain (β) that He was indignant ‘at the unbelief of the Jews and perhaps of the sisters:’ but of this there is no hint in the context Others again, (γ) that it was ‘at the sight of the momentary triumph of evil, as death, … which was here shewn under circumstances of the deepest pathos:’ but we nowhere else find the Lord shewing anger at the physical consequences of sin. It seems better to fall back on the contrast pointed out in the last note. He was indignant at seeing the hypocritical and sentimental lamentations of His enemies the Jews mingling with the heartfelt lamentations of His loving friend Mary (comp. Joh_12:10): hypocrisy ever roused His anger.
was troubled] The margin is better; He troubled Himself, i.e. agitated Himself, allowed His emotion to become evident by external movement such as a shudder.
When Jesus therefore saw her walling, and the Jews wailing who came with her, he was moved with indignation in the spirit, and troubled himself. The sight of the wailing Mary and the wailing Jews, who took up her grief and, according to Oriental custom, adopted her expression of it with loud cries and emphatic gestures, praising the dead, and lamenting his loss, produced a most wonderful impression on the Lord Jesus. Meyer thinks that the contrast between their hypocritical or professional tears and her genuine emotion, the blending of these incongruous elements, the combination of a profound affliction of a dear friend and the simulated grief of his bitter enemies, led him to manifest the feeling here described. But we have no right to import such an element into the scene. The concerted wailing was, however, the occasion of what is described in very remarkable terms, ἐνεβριμη ́σατο τῷ πνεύματι καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτο ́ν. The first expression occurs again in Joh_11:38. Westcott says in the three places where it elsewhere occurs there is “the notion of coercion arising out of displeasure,” a motion “towards another of anger rather than sorrow.” The verb βριμάομαι and its compounds is used in the classics and the LXX. in the sense of hot anger, neither pain nor grief. Luther translated it ergrimmete, and Passow gives no other meaning. This seems generally accepted. But at what was Jesus angered? This can be answered only by deciding whether τῷ πνεύματι is the dative of the object, or whether it is the instrument or sphere of his holy indignation. According to the old Greek expositors, Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact—and they are followed by Alford and Hilgenfeld, the latter of whom finds in it a hint of the Gnostic Christology which, in his opinion, pervades the Gospel—the anger might have been directed against his own human spirit, at that moment tempted into an unfilial strain of sympathy with the mourners; yet, if this be its meaning, why was it that Jesus subsequently wept himself? and why, instead of exciting himself, instead of shuddering with his bitterness of feeling, did he not (as Hengstenberg says) compose and quiet himself? Beside, τῇ ψυχῇ would have been a far more appropriate term to use for the effective and sympathetic part of his nature than πνεύματι. It is possible, if “the spirit” expresses that part of his human nature in special fellowship with the Father, to suppose that he felt a certain antagonism with that within himself which had prompted to some immediate manifestation of Divine power, and to translate, “He sternly checked his spirit.” But the miracle of Divine struggle with death followed so immediately that this cannot be the true explanation (Westcott suggests it as an alternative, but not the best interpretation). The τῷ πνεύματι, must be the sphere of his holy wrath, for which we must find some explanation. Meyer’s seems (as already said) to be altogether insufficient. So also in our opinion is that of Godet, viz. that this act of victorious conflict with death, on which he was entering, involved his own death-warrant by being the occasion of the last outbreak of malice on the part of the Jews. Such a fact would be out of harmony, not only with the Fourth Gospel, but with the (synoptic) struggle in Gethsemane. Now, without enumerating various other interpretations of the passage, we think Augustine, Erasmus, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Moulton, meet our difficulty by the suggestion that death itself occasioned this indignation. Though, like the good Physician in the house of mourning, he knew the issue of his mighty act, yet he entered with vivid and intense human sympathy into all the primary and secondary sorrows of death. He saw the long procession of mourners from the first to the last, all the reckless agony, all the hopelessness of it, in thousands of millions of instances. There flashed upon his spirit all the terrible moral consequences of which death was the ghastly symbol. lie knew that within a short time he too, in taking upon himself the sins of men, would have taken upon himself their death, and there was enough to rouse in his spirit a Divine indignation, and he groaned and shuddered. He roused himself to a conflict which would be a prelibation of the cross and the burial. He took the diseases of men upon himself when he took them away. He took the death-agony of Lazarus and the humiliation of the grave and the tears of the sisters upon himself when he resolved to cry, “Lazarus, come forth!” and to snatch from the grasp of the grim conqueror for a little while one of his victims. Compare the toil of Hercules in wrestling with death for the wife of Admetus. Compare also Joh_13:21, where moral proximity to the treacherous heart and ghastly deed and approaching doom of Judas made him once more to shudder.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
35. Jesus wept] Or, shed tears. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T.; it expresses less loud lamentation than the word used in Joh_11:31; Joh_11:33. He sheds tears on His way to their brother’s grave, not because He is ignorant or doubtful of what is coming, but because He cannot but sympathize with the intensity of His friends’ grief. “The intense humanity attributed to Jesus, His affection, His visible suffering, the effort with which He collects Himself, are all strong marks of authenticity, and the more so because they might be thought to conflict with the doctrine of the prologue. But this is but one more proof how little that doctrine has disturbed the Evangelist’s true historic recollection.” S. pp. 186, 7.
Jesus wept – It has been remarked that this is the shortest verse in the Bible; but it is exceedingly important and tender. It shows the Lord Jesus as a friend, a tender friend, and evinces his character as a man. And from this we learn:
1. That the most tender personal friendship is not inconsistent with the most pure religion. Piety binds stronger the ties of friendship, makes more tender the emotions of love, and seals and sanctifies the affections of friends.
2. It is right, it is natural, it is indispensable for the Christian to sympathize with others in their afflictions. Rom_12:15; “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
3. Sorrow at the death of friends is not improper. It is right to weep. It is the expression of nature and religion does not forbid or condemn it. All that religion does in the case is to temper and chasten our grief; to teach us to mourn with submission to God; to weep without complaining, and to seek to banish tears, not by hardening the heart or forgetting the friend, but by bringing the soul, made tender by grief, to receive the sweet influences of religion, and to find calmness and peace in the God of all consolation.
4. We have here an instance of the tenderness of the character of Jesus, The same Savior wept over Jerusalem, and felt deeply for poor dying, sinners. To the same tender and compassionate Saviour Christians may now come Heb_4:15; and to him the penitent sinner may also come, knowing that he will not cast him away.
36.Behold, how he loved him! The Evangelist John here describes to us two different opinions which were formed about Christ. As to the former, who said, Behold, how he loved him! though they think less highly of Christ than they ought to have done, since they ascribe to him nothing but what may belong to a man, yet they speak of him with greater candor and modesty than the latter, who maliciously slander him for not having hindered Lazarus from dying. For, though they applaud the power of Christ, of which the former said nothing, yet they do so, not without bringing against him some reproach. It is evident enough from their words, that the miracles which Christ had performed were not unknown to them; but so much the more base is their ingratitude, that they do not scruple to complain, because now, in a single instance, he abstained from working. Men have always been ungrateful to God in the same manner, and continue to be so. If he does not grant all our wishes, we immediately launch into complaints: “Since he has been accustomed to aid us hitherto, why does he now forsake and disappoint us?” There is here a twofold disease. First, though we rashly desire what is not expedient for us, yet we wish to subject God to the perverse desires of the flesh. Secondly, we are rude in our demands, and the ardor of impatience hurries us before the time.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
37. And some of them] Better, But some of them, in contrast to those who speak in Joh_11:36, who are not unfriendly, while these sneer. The drift of this remark is ‘He weeps; but why did He not come in time to save His friend? Because He knew that He could not. And if He could not, did he really open the eyes of the blind?’ They use the death of Lazarus as an argument to throw fresh doubt on the miracle which had so baffled them at Jerusalem. Their reference to the man born blind instead of to the widow’s son, or Jairus’ daughter, has been used as an objection to the truth of this narrative. It is really a strong confirmation of its truth. An inventor would almost certainly have preferred more obvious parallels. But these Jews of course did not believe in those raisings of the dead: they much more naturally refer to a reputed miracle within their own experience. Moreover they are not hinting at raising the dead, but urging that if Jesus could work miracles He ought to have prevented, Lazarus from dying.
should not have died] Rather, should not die.
The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him! But some of them said, Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man also should not die? The effect upon the Ἰουδαῖ οι differs here, as always; but if (πολλοὶ, Joh_11:45) many were favorably impressed, we may believe here that the πολλοὶ said one to another with genuine emotion, “Behold how he loved him!” (ἐφίλει, not ἠγάπα; amabat, not diligebat). Tears are often the expression of love as well as grief. Hengstenberg sees in the cry of the better class of these Jews, “How has he then let him die?” probably he could not have helped him if he would. In the language of the other Jews there was the suggestion of inability, and the ironical hint that the cure of the blind man, which had created so great a commotion, was only a delusion. Perhaps, too, a covert expectation of some further display of wonder-working power. Strauss regards it as unhistorical that the previous restorations from the dead should not be cited. But surely, when John wrote this Gospel, the story of the widow’s son and of Jairus’s daughter was known throughout the world. And if, in the middle of the second century, this Gospel had been written by a speculative theologian, who deliberately set himself to concoct such a narrative as this, with the view of completing the picture of the vanquisher of Hades, he would most certainly have cited the Galilaean miracles. John, however, is merely recording his own experiences. These Jews at that time may never have heard of either Nain or the daughter of Jairus, and spoke merely of that which was within their own recollection and experience. As they stand here, these words are striking testimony to their historical validity. The Gospel which most unequivocally establishes the claim of our Lord to a Divine Personality or subsistence, is more explicit than any of them in asserting his pure humanity, and giving proofs of it.
Pop Bible Comm Schaff
Joh_11:36-37.The Jewstherefore said, Behold how he loved him! But some of them said, Gould not this man, which opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die? Again there is a division amongst the Jews. Many recognise the naturalness of His tears, as a proof of His love for the departed. But some (in no spirit of simple wonder and perplexity, but in unfriendliness) ask why He had not prevented the calamity over which He is mourning. They may mean, As He gave sight to the blind man, could He not, if He had really wished, have stayed the power of the fatal disease? But it is also possible that they merely assume the former miracle for the purpose of invalidating it: If He really did give sight, why could He not heal the sickness? To heal diseases was to them a less wonderful act than to give sight to one born blind. We are compelled to assume an unfriendly spirit of the second question, partly because of John’s use ofthe term ‘the Jews,’ partly from the analogy of many other passages in which He records the opposing comments of different sections of the party: the sequel also (Joh_11:45-46) seems naturally to suggest such a division. The recurrence (in Joh_11:38) of the word discussed above (Joh_11:33) is thus very easily explained.
38.Jesus therefore again groaning within himself. Christ does not approach the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but as a champion who prepares for a contest; and therefore we need not wonder that he again groans; for the violent tyranny of death, which he had to conquer, is placed before his eyes. Some explain this groan to have arisen from indignation, because he was offended at that unbelief of which we have spoken. But another reason appears to me far more appropriate, namely, that he contemplated the transaction itself rather than the men. Next follow various circumstances, which tend to display more fully the power of Christ in raising Lazarus. I refer to the time of four days, during which the tomb had been secured by a stone, which Christ commands to be removed in presence of all.
Jesus therefore again moved with indignation within himself. The (ἐν ἑαυτω ͂ͅ) “in himself” is not so forcible an expression as “shuddering in his spirit (Joh_11:33), but it implies a continuity of grand, holy indignation against the anomaly of death, from which the human family and he as its Representative were suffering (cf. Joh_11:33). He cometh to the grave. The (μνημεῖον or) tomb is forthwith described as (σπήλαιον) a den, cavern, or cave, from σπέος, spelunca, of which, partly natural, partly artificial, abundant use was made in the East. A stone lay (ἐπ αὐτῷ) against it; or, over it; i.e. either closing it up as a pit, or closing the mouth of it, by being rolled along a ledge horizontal with the base of the excavation. The former kind of cave is shown at Bethany, but no dependence can be placed on the tradition. The tomb of Joseph was that of a rich man, and all these circumstances show opulence, rather than the beggary and rags of the Lazarus of the parable.
39.Lord, he already stinketh. This is an indication of distrust, for she promises herself less from the power of Christ than she ought to have done. The root of the evil consists in measuring the infinite and incomprehensible power of God by the perception of her flesh. There being nothing more inconsistent with life than putrefaction and offensive smell, Martha infers that no remedy can be found. Thus, when our minds are preoccupied by foolish thoughts, we banish God from us, if we may be allowed the expression, so that he cannot accomplish in us his own work. Certainly, it was not owing to Martha, that her brother did not lie continually in the tomb, for she cuts off the expectation of life for him, and, at the same time, endeavors to hinder Christ from raising him; and yet nothing was farther from her intention. This arises from the weakness of faith. Distracted in various ways, we fight with ourselves, and while we stretch out the one hand to ask assistance from God, we repel, with the other hand, that very assistance, as soon as it is offered. True, Martha did not speak falsely, when she said, I know that whatsoever thou shalt ask from God he will give thee; but a confused faith is of little advantage, unless it be put in operation, when we come to a practical case.
We may also perceive in Martha how various are the effects of faith, even in the most excellent persons. She was the first that came to meet Christ; this was no ordinary proof of her piety; and yet she does not cease to throw difficulties in his way. That the grace of God may have access to us, let us learn to ascribe to it far greater power than our senses can comprehend; and, if the first and single promise of God has not sufficient weight with us, let us, at least, follow the example of Martha by giving our acquiescence, when he confirms us a second and third time.
Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone. Ἄρατε has rather the idea of “lift” than “roll away;” it is used for “take,” “take away,” “carry as a burden.” Martha, the sister of him that was dead, said unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been four days here. Martha’s language is another singular illustration of the desire on her part to give a certain kind of advice and direction to our Lord, as though he might be the wiser and bettor for her monitions. The characterization of her as “the sister of the dead” man is not needed for identification, but rather to explain or justify her intrusion upon the solemn, stately direction of the Lord. She shrank from such an exposure of the body of her beloved brother, as an unnecessary act, since he was only to rise at the last day, or to be regarded by his faith in Christ before his death as having already passed from death and through death into a new life. She must have relinquished at that moment all hope of resurrection of the body of Lazarus there and then: ἤδη ὄζει, “he already stinketh.” This is explained by many of the Fathers as proof that our Lord not only raised from death-swoon Jairus’s daughter, and the young man on his way to burial, but also a putrefying corpse; thus giving three symbols of the effects of sin:
(1) a young life blighted;
(2) a man’s energies dissipated and his condition apparently hopeless; and
(3) a type also of one dead in trespasses and sins (Trench on the Miracles)
—one whose habits of trespass and bondage to evil seem to forbid all renewal. Godet thinks that Martha had special reasons for such a speech. Others, that all that we have here is the speculation or lanai of Martha, and that it must be so. She puts one more arrest, as it would seem, upon the free act and love of Jesus. This seems quite sufficient to account for the use of the word. It would seem that, for some reason, the body had not been fully embalmed, or she would not have used the expression. Still, all had been done with spices and perfumes that was intended. The Tübingen criticism eagerly lays hold on this point, as proof that the fourth evangelist intended by such a touch to exalt and exaggerate the wonder-working power of Christ. There is no need whatever to see in it more than Martha’s sisterly love getting the better of her submission to her Master’s order. Τετερταῖος γάρ ἐστι, “For he is of the fourth day (dead) (buried).” On the fourth day the countenance changes, and, as the Jewish proverb urged, the spirit takes its flight from the sepulcher, and no longer hovers over the departed form.
40.Did not I tell thee? He reproves Martha’s distrust, in not forming a hope sufficiently vigorous from the promise which she had heard. It is evident from this passage, that something more was said to Martha than John has literally related; though, as I have suggested, this very thing was meant by Christ, when he called himself the resurrection and the life Martha is therefore blamed for not expecting some Divine work.
If thou believe. This is said, not only because faith opens our eyes, that we may be able to see the power of God shining in his works, but because our faith prepares the way for the power, mercy, and goodness of God, that they may be displayed towards us, as it is said, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, (Psa_81:10.) In like manner, unbelief, on the other hand, hinders God from approaching us, and may be said to keep his hands shut. On this account it is said elsewhere, that Jesus
could not perform any miracle there on account of their unbelief, (Mat_13:58.)
Not that the power of God is bound by the caprice of men, but because, as far as they are able, their malice opposes the exercise of that power, and therefore they do not deserve that it should be manifested to them. Frequently, indeed, does God overcome such obstacles; but yet, whenever he withdraws his hand, so as not to assist unbelievers, this is done because, shut up within the narrow limits of their unbelief, they do not allow it to enter.
Thou shalt see the glory of God. Observe, that a miracle is called the glory of God, because God, displaying in it the power of his hand, glorifies his name. But Martha, now satisfied with Christ’s second declaration, permits the stone to be removed. As yet she sees nothing, but, hearing the Son of God, not without a good reason, give this order, she willingly relies on his authority alone.
41.And Jesus again raised his eyes. This was the token of a mind truly prepared for prayer; for before any one calls on God aright, he must be brought into communication with him, and this can only be done when, raised above the earth, he ascends even to heaven. True, this is not done by the eyes; for hypocrites, who are plunged in the deep filth of their flesh, appear to draw down heaven to them by their stern aspect; but what they only pretend to do must be sincerely accomplished by the children of God. And yet he who raises his eyes to heaven ought not, in his thoughts, to limit God to heaven; for He is present everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, (Jer_23:24.) But as men can never free themselves from gross imaginations, so as not to form some low and earthly conception about God, unless when they are raised above the world, Scripture sends them to heaven, and declares that heaven is the habitation of God, (Isa_66:1.)
So far as relates to the eyes, it is not a custom that must be perpetually observed, so that without it prayer is not lawful; for the publican, who prays with his face cast down to the ground, does not the less, on this account, pierce heaven by his faith, (Luk_18:13.) Yet this exercise is profitable, because men are aroused by it to seek God; and not only so, but the ardor of prayer often affects the body in such a manner that, without thinking of it, the body follows the mind of its own accord. Certainly, we cannot doubt that, when Christ raised his eyes to heaven, he was carried towards it with extraordinary vehemence. Besides, as all his thoughts were with the Father, so he also wished to bring others to the Father along with him.
Father, I thank thee. He begins with thanksgiving, though he has asked nothing; but though the Evangelist does not relate that he prayed in a form of words, yet there can be no doubt whatever that, before this, there was a prayer, for otherwise it could not have been heard. And there is reason to believe that he prayed amidst those groanings which the Evangelist mentions; for nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that he was violently agitated within himself, as stupid men are wont to be. Having obtained the life of Lazarus, he now thanks the Father By saying that he has received this power from the Father, and by not ascribing it to himself, he does nothing more than acknowledge that he is the servant of the Father For, accommodating himself to the capacity of men, he at one time openly proclaims his Divinity, and claims for himself whatever belongs to God; and, at another time, he is satisfied with sustaining the character of a man, and yields to the Father the whole glory of Divinity. Here both are admirably brought together by the Evangelist in one word, when he says that the Father heard Christ, but that he gives thanks, that men may know that he was sent by the Father, that is, that they may acknowledge him to be the Son of God. The majesty of Christ being incapable of being perceived in its true elevation, the power of God, which appeared in his flesh, gradually raised to this elevation the gross and dull senses of men. For since he intended to be wholly ours, we need not wonder if he accommodates himself to us in various ways; and as he even allowed himself to be emptied (Phi_2:7) for us, there is no absurdity in saying that he abases himself on our account.
42.And I knew that thou hearest me always. This is an anticipation, lest any one should think that he did not stand so high in favor with the Father, as to be able easily to perform as many miracles as he chose. He means, therefore, that there is so great an agreement between him and the Father, that the Father refuses him nothing; and even that he had no need to pray, because he only executed what he knew that the Father had enjoined; but in order that men may be more fully assured that this is truly a divine work, for this reason he called on the name of the Father. It will perhaps be objected, Why then did he not raise all the dead? The reply is easy. A certain fixed limit was assigned to miracles by the purpose of God, so far as he knew to be sufficient for confirming the Gospel.
And I knew that thou hearest me always, but because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me. This great utterance declares all the intimate relation which subsists between the Father of all and the Son in Jesus. A continuous absolute communion is ever going on between heaven and earth in the heart of Jesus. His consciousness of the Father is a door opened in heaven. Alas! these words have been a stumbling-block to many; have suggested to Baur the idea of a “show-prayer,” and to Weisse a “deceptive prayer” (schaugebet), and to Strauss that they were introduced into a later but in-authentic narrative of the second century to establish the Divinity of Christ. The simple fact is that the words are not “petition” at all, but they are spoken thought and Divine communion, graciously unveiled for the advantage of the disciples. They are built upon the wonderful assurance which had been repeatedly given by our Lord of his union with and association in unique Personality with the Father. We see from Joh_16:29-31 that the profound desire occupying the heart of Jesus was that his disciples, first of all, should know that he came out from God, and almost with pathetic eagerness he asks them, “Do ye now believe?” But in Joh_17:21 he shows that his wishes were not limited to the faith of disciples, but extended to the production of a like conviction in the κόσμος. Here he says, after a pause, “I know that thou art hearing me always.” There is no surprise in the discovery that Lazarus was as he really is. Christ’s own prayers are always heard, even those in Gethsemane and on the cross (cf. Heb_5:7, εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας). I said it for the multitude that standeth around. The use of ὄχλον περιεστῶτα rather than Ἰουδαίους reveals the genuine language of our Lord rather than that of the evangelist. To what does he refer, what saying has he uttered for the sake of this miscellaneous group? Surely to the great declaration, “I thank thee that thou heardest me.” His reason for the audible utterance of his gratitude is, “That they may believe that thou didst send me.” If he had not uttered this thanksgiving, the multitude would have glorified him rather than his Father, nor would they have learned, as now they may, that he came forth from God.
43.He cried with a loud voice. By not touching with the hand, but only crying with the voice, his Divine power is more fully demonstrated. At the same time, he holds out to our view the secret and astonishing efficacy of his word. For how did Christ restore life to the dead but by the word? And therefore, in raising Lazarus, he exhibited a visible token of his spiritual grace, which we experience every day by the perception of faith, when he shows that his voice gives life.
And when he had thus spoken, he cried with loud voice. Ἐκραυ ́γασε is used of the shout of a multitude (Joh_12:13, R.T.; Joh_18:40; Joh_19:6, Joh_19:15), and implies the loud, imperative command to Death to give up his prey, and relinquish the grasp which had, in answer to his prayer, been already relaxed. The loud voice keeps up the image that death is a deep sleep. The critical moment in Christ’s own career has arrived, when, having pledged the rather to this manifestation of his own glory, he was prepared to take this final step, however perilous to himself; one which would finally demonstrate whether he was sent from God, or was merely boasting a power he did not possess (cf. Elijah and the priests of Baal, 1Ki_18:1-46.). Observe the loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! or, (Hither, out!); or, Veni foras! (Origen, Chrysostom, Lampe, suggest that the awakening from death had already taken place. Meyer and Alford condemn this. It seems to me that this supposition. somewhat modified as above, throws light upon Joh_11:41, Joh_11:42.) The words themselves are applicable to a grave from which the stone door had been removed. Weiss has made some admirable remarks on the use made by the Tübingen critics of this admission. In many cases in which such miracles took place the soul had obviously not left the body, but yet the entire surroundings here imply that, apart from miraculous energy, resuscitation was absolutely un-looked for. Even Strauss refuses utterly the trance hypothesis, and Renan has renounced the farcical drama that he thought at one time might account for the event and its record.
A loud voice – Greek, “A great voice.” Syriac: “A high voice.” This was distinctly asserting his power. He uttered a distinct, audible voice, that there might be no suspicion of charm or incantation. The ancient magicians and jugglers performed their wonders by whispering and muttering. See the notes at Isa_8:19. Jesus spake openly and audibly, and asserted thus his power. So, also, in the day of judgment he will call the dead with a great sound of a trumpet, Mat_24:31; 1Th_4:16.
Lazarus, come forth! – Here we may remark:
1. That Jesus did this by his own power.
2. The power of raising the dead is the highest of which we can conceive. The ancient pagan declared it to be even beyond the power of God. It implies not merely giving life to the deceased body, but the power of entering the world of spirits, of recalling the departed soul, and of reuniting it with the body. He that could do this must be omniscient as well as omnipotent; and if Jesus did it by his own power, it proves that he was divine.
3. This is a striking illustration of the general resurrection. In the same manner Jesus will raise all the dead. This miracle shows that it is possible; shows the way in which it will be done by the voice of the Son of God; and demonstrates the certainty that he will do it. Oh how important it is that we be prepared for that moment when his voice shall be heard in our silent tombs, and he shall call us forth again to life!
44.Bound hand and foot with bandages. The Evangelist is careful to mention thenapkin and bandages, in order to inform us that Lazarus went out of the tomb, in the same manner that he was laid in it. This mode of burying is retained to the present day by the Jews, who cover the body with a shroud, and wrap the head separately in a handkerchief.
Loose him, and let him go. To magnify the glory of the miracle, it only remained that the Jews should even touch with their hands that Divine work which they had beheld with their eyes. For Christ might have removed the bandages with which Lazarus was bound, or made them to give way of themselves; but Christ intended to employ the hands of the spectators as his witnesses.
The Papists act an excessively ridiculous part, by endeavoring to draw auricular confession from this passage. They say, “Christ, after having restored Lazarus to life, commanded his disciplesto loose him; and therefore it is not enough for us to be reconciled to God, unless the Church also pardon our sins.” But whence do they conjecture that the disciples were enjoined to loose Lazarus? On the contrary, we may infer that the order was given to the Jews, in order to take from them every ground of doubt or hesitation.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
44. came forth] It is safest not to regard this as an additional miracle. The winding-sheet may have been loosely tied round him, or each limb may have been swathed separately: in Egyptian mummies sometimes every finger is kept distinct.
graveclothes] The Greek word occurs here only in N.T. Comp. Pro_7:16. It means the bandages which kept the sheet and the spices round the body. Nothing is said about the usual spices (Joh_19:40) here; and Martha’s remark (Joh_11:39) rather implies that there had been no embalming. If Lazarus died of a malignant disease he would be buried as quickly as possible.
face] The Greek word occurs in N.T. only here, Joh_7:24, and Rev_1:16 : one of the small indications of a common authorship (see on Joh_15:20 and Joh_19:37).
napkin] A Latin word is used meaning literally ‘a sweat-cloth.’ It occurs Joh_20:7; Luk_19:20; Act_19:12. Here the cloth bound under the chin to keep the lower jaw from falling is probably meant. These details shew the eyewitness.
let him go] The expression is identical with ‘let these go their way’ (Joh_18:8); and perhaps ‘let him go his way’ would be better here. Lazarus is to be allowed to retire out of the way of harmful excitement and idle curiosity.
The reserve of the Gospel narrative here is evidence of its truth, and is in marked contrast to the myths about others who are said to have returned from the grave. Lazarus makes no revelations as to the unseen world. The traditions about him have no historic value: but one mentioned by Trench (Miracles, p. 425) is worth remembering. It is said that the first question which he asked Christ after being restored to life was whether he must die again; and being told that he must, he was never more seen to smile.
He that was dead – The same man, body and soul.
Bound hand and foot – It is not certain whether the whole body and limbs were bound together, or each limb separately. When they embalmed a person, the whole body and limbs were swathed or bound together by strips of linen, involved around it to keep together the aromatics with which the body was embalmed. This is the condition of Egyptian mummies. See Act_5:6. But it is not certain that this was always the mode. Perhaps the body was simply involved in a winding-sheet. The custom still exists in western Asia. No coffins being used, the body itself is more carefully and elaborately wrapped and swathed than is common or desirable where coffins are used. In this method the body is stretched out and the arms laid straight by the sides, after which the whole body, from head to foot, is wrapped round tightly in many folds of linen or cotton cloth; or, to be more precise, a great length of cloth is taken and rolled around the body until the whole is enveloped, and every part is covered with several folds of the cloth. The ends are then sewed, to keep the whole firm and compact; or else a narrow bandage is wound over the whole, forming, ultimately, the exterior surface. The body, when thus enfolded and swathed, retains the profile of the human form; but, as in the Egyptian mummies, the legs are not folded separately, but together; and the arms also are not distinguished, but confined to the sides in the general envelope. Hence, it would be clearly impossible for a person thus treated to move his arms or legs, if restored to existence.
The word rendered “grave-clothes” denotes also the bands or clothes in which new-born infants are involved. He went forth, but his walking was impeded by the bands or clothes in which he was involved.
And his face … – This was a common thing when they buried their dead. See Joh_20:7. It is not known whether the whole face was covered in this manner, or only the forehead. In the Egyptian mummies it is only the forehead that is thus bound.
Loose him – Remove the bandages, so that he may walk freely. The effect of this miracle is said to have been that many believed on him. It may be remarked in regard to it that there could not be a more striking proof of the divine mission and power of Jesus. There could be here no possibility of deception:
1. The friends of Lazarus believed him to be dead. In this they could not be deceived. There could have been among them no design to deceive.
2. He was four days dead. It could not be a case, therefore, of suspended animation.
3. Jesus was at a distance at the time of his death. There was, therefore, no agreement to attempt to impose on others.
4. No higher power can be conceived than that of raising the dead.
5. It was not possible to impose on his sisters, and to convince them that he was restored to life, if it was not really so.
6. There were many present who were convinced also. God had so ordered it in his providence that to this miracle there should be many witnesses. There was no concealment, no jugglery, no secrecy. It was done publicly, in open day, and was witnessed by many who followed them to the grave, Joh_11:31.
7. Others, who saw it, and did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, went and told it to the Pharisees. But they did not deny that Jesus had raised up Lazarus. They could not deny it. The very ground of their alarm – the very reason why they went – was that he had actually done it. Nor did the Pharisees dare to call the fact in question. If they could have done it, they would. But it was not possible; for,
8. Lazarus was yet alive Joh_12:10, and the fact of his resurrection could not be denied. Every circumstance in this account is plain, simple, consistent, bearing all the marks of truth. But if Jesus performed this miracle his religion is true. God would not give such power to an impostor; and unless it can be proved that this account is false, the Christian religion must be from God.