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November 7, 2023

John Part 32

When we left off last week Jesus was standing at the tomb of His good friend, Lazarus.




John 11:38-57

When we left off last week Jesus was standing at the tomb of His good friend, Lazarus. As you will recall Lazarus died while Jesus was away, on the east side of the Jordan River ministering out there, about four days earlier. The scripture tells us that it’s outside of Lazarus’ tomb, that Jesus weeps. Why does Jesus weep? Why the tears? A lot of people point to this passage as proof of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus wept. He cried. He is expressing human emotions of sadness. The Jews who are there when the see Jesus weeping they think that it’s because Jesus loved Lazarus so much and He’s deeply grieved over Lazarus’ death. Others conjecture that Jesus is experiencing remorse for not having healed Lazarus. These would, of course, be normal human emotions under the circumstances. But I contend that Jesus’ tears are more indicative of His divinity than His humanity. After all, Jesus knows full well that Lazarus will soon come out of his tomb. So there’s something more going on here than the normal human emotion which results from losing a loved one.

V 33 says, “When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.” The Greek word translated “troubled” is also translated as “angry” in other passages. Jesus surveys the scene and He sees all the tears of sadness that have been caused by His dear friend’s death. The fact is that death is the direct result, God’s judgment on man’s sin. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Jesus looks around at all these people. He sees the devastation and sadness produced by sin and He is moved in His spirit. This is the whole reason Jesus came – to deal with the sin problem, to be the perfect sacrifice for sin, to make atonement. He came to die for the sins of the world, to save people – these people right here – from their sins, to provide eternal life and peace with God. It’s all part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity and in less than two weeks Jesus knows He will go to the cross. I believe that Jesus, the divine Son of God, is moved to tears by the devastating impact of sin.

So it is here that we pick up the action beginning in v 38…

READ John 11:38-41a

Jesus is getting ready to raise Lazarus, so, they need to move the stone that’s covering the entrance out of the way. Martha states the obvious. Under normal conditions in the sweltering heat of Palestine, the decomposition of Lazarus body after 4 days would have been quite advanced and produced a very foul odor. Preachers and commentaries love to bash Martha and point out her unbelief, but who standing there in this crowd really believes Jesus is going to raise a dead man back to life? After all, this isn’t something that happens normally. Dead people don’t come back to life. So lighten up on poor Martha! Well, some will point to the fact that Jesus has already raised two people from the dead – Jairus’ 12 year old daughter (Luke 8) and the widow of Nain’s only son (Luke 7). But in both of these cases the deceased persons had been dead less than a day, maybe only a few hours. Jesus had never raised a person who had been dead for four days. At least not that we know of.

Jesus reminds Martha of the conversation He had with her earlier. John gives us a portion of it in v 21-27. There was probably more to it than we have recorded here in John’s gospel based on what Jesus says to Martha in v 40. Earlier Jesus had told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” And Martha had expressed her knowledge of O.T. scriptures that mention the resurrection of the dead in the final days. This is what she assumed Jesus was talking about. But Jesus said, “I AM (present tense) the resurrection and the life.” Jesus points out that He can raise dead people back to life, spiritually and physically, and that He is the giver of eternal life. He had asked Martha if she believed this and she made that great statement of faith: “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” But did Martha really believe that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead today? Right now? Probably not. It’s a big jump from believing Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah to believing that a dead body is going to come back to life. But as I pointed out, Martha’s not alone. Nobody else standing there is expecting Jesus to do what He is about to do. By the way, as I thought about this, that’s just the way we are also. We believe God will do something great sometime in the future. But what about today? Do we really believe that God can work a miracle, do something incredible in our life today, this week? If not, why not?

Jesus adds this statement in His response to Martha: “If you believed you would see the glory of God…” What’s Jesus saying? Seeing the glory of God is a reference to the manifest glory of God, the physical expression of God’s presence. No man can actually see God and live so God shows His glory in a variety of ways. He gives us something we can see with our physical eyes, hear, smell, feel, touch. We just got finished with Exodus where the people could see the glory of God in fire and smoke on Mt Sinai, in a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day as He led them in the wilderness. The disciples saw the manifest glory of God at the Transfiguration. In a broader sense God manifest His glory in the very person of Jesus. John says in Ch 1, v 14: “And the Word became flesh [speaking of Jesus] and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” So the glory of God is the physical evidence, manifestation of God’s presence with us.

So Jesus says, “Didn’t I tell you?” The same thing He expressed time and again to His own disciples and even to the Pharisees – “I told you.” This reminds me of my parents and teachers all the time telling me, “I told you already!” Had they told me? Yes, but I hadn’t been listening. Same thing here. Then Jesus prays out loud…

READ John 11:41b-42

Jesus’ prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving. It’s not a prayer of petition. He’s not asking God to help Him raise Lazarus. He already knows that He is going to raise him. In fact He’s told His disciples and Martha that. He’s thanking the Father for hearing Him. Jesus had obviously talked to the Father previously about raising Lazarus (though that prayer is not recorded in scripture). So Jesus is letting everyone know that. Jesus speaks to His Father in an audible voice for the benefit of all those gathered at the tomb. And in His prayer we know the purpose behind what Jesus is about to do. “So that they may believe that You (God the Father) sent Me (God the Son). And what I’m going to do will offer clear evidence to all these witnesses that I and the Father ARE one, that I do the works of My Father.” These are claims Jesus has made before and this sign He’s about to perform in the presence of all these people (believers, unbelievers, undecided) will validate His claims and bring glory to God.

So Jesus gives thanks to God for what’s about to take place. And this miracle is going to stimulate many people to believe in Him.

READ John 11:43

The expression “cried out” literally means that He yelled, at the top of His voice. He commanded Lazarus to come out loudly and authoritatively. The same word is used to describe the crowd in John 19 crying out to Pilate, “Crucify Him!” Notice Jesus says, “Lazarus, come out.” That “Lazarus” at the beginning is very important. If Jesus just says, “Come out” every dead body in that place would have gotten up and come out of their graves. It would have been mass chaos. By the way some day He will say “Come out” and all the dead will rise. But today, for now, He just says, “Lazarus, come out.”

READ John 11:44

End of story, the curtain drops on the scene. No other details given. We don’t know what Lazarus said, anything about the reunion between Mary and Martha and their brother, none of that. It’s not important. What’s important is that Jesus raised a dead man, a man who had been dead for 4 days, back to life.

Now the scene shifts to Jerusalem…

READ John 11:45-46

The Jews once again are divided over Jesus (like before in Ch 6 & 7). Some believed, v 45. In fact the scriptures say, “Many of the Jews… believed in Him.” Apparently, however, not all who witnessed this miracle believed. “But some of them…” v 46, infers that those who went to the Pharisees did not believe in Jesus despite what they saw Him do. They never deny what Jesus did. In fact they went and told the Pharisees exactly what Jesus had done, gave them all the amazing details. Perhaps these unbelieving Jews just wanted to stir up the other Pharisees knowing how much they hated Jesus. Well, notice the reaction of the Pharisees…

READ John 11:47-48

I’ll get to what the chief priests and Pharisees said in a minute but I need to make a comment. The miracle Jesus had just performed in Bethany, which they never deny, it was not enough to make the Pharisees believe in Jesus. It should have been, but it wasn’t.

Their unbelief in spite of all the evidence, specifically this raising from the dead of Lazarus, reminds me of another story in scripture, a parable Jesus told about another Lazarus. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke Ch 16? Lazarus is a poor beggar and he dies. He’s a believer in God so when he dies he goes to the place O.T. saints went to when they died, Abraham’s bosom. There he finds rest and comfort. Later the rich man dies and, being an unbeliever, he ends up in Hades a place of torment. The rich man sees Abraham and Lazarus “far off” and he pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus back (raise him from the dead), send him to the rich man’s father’s house where his five brothers live and warn them about this place of torment so they don’t end up here. What was Abraham’s response to the rich man? He said “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man says, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” And Abraham’s response is chilling. He says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

And so it is with these Pharisees. Not only did they have Moses and the Prophets, all those O.T. references to the Messiah, which Jesus was fulfilling, they had the words of Jesus Himself. And yet, they could not be convinced even though a man, coincidentally named Lazarus, was raised from the dead by this same Jesus!

Well what about their response? They said, “We’ve got to do something about this Jesus. We’ve got to stop Him. If things continue like they are everyone is going to believe in Him.” And then to justify killing Jesus, which is what they’ve been wanting to do for the past 2 years, they create a worst-case scenario. “The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation! It will be the end of us!” So not only do they continue in their unbelief of Jesus, their hostility actually rises to a whole new level.

READ John 11:49-50

Caiaphas is the last “official” high priest. Jesus death on the cross tears the veil in two, and the priestly system becomes null and void. Caiaphas is acting in the role of high priest but he’s merely a puppet high priest of the Romans. In the O.T. the high priest was supposed to remain in that position for life, normally speaking. By this time in Jewish history, however, that’s no longer the case. The Jewish historian Josephus tell us that from the time of Herod the Great to 70 A.D. when Jerusalem is destroyed, a period less than 100 years, there are 28 high priests. This is a revolving door, a power position, a political position. People are buying and selling this position. You even have references in the N.T. to Annas and Caiaphas being high priest at the same time.

Anyway Caiaphas the leader of this group, the acting high priest says, “You’re all ignorant! Aren’t you glad I’m here to set you straight?” He makes a prophecy (in the O.T. this is not something the high priests did). He says, “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Basically he says, “If we kill Jesus, we will save the nation.” In other words Jesus will be the substitutionary atoning sacrifice who will save the nation. What Caiaphas said was actually true even though he didn’t understand it the same way that we do now.

God uses the most unlikely people to speak His message sometimes, doesn’t He? You think back to the O.T. with Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar and even Balaam’s donkey. Here He uses a scoundrel like Caiaphas.

God ordered every word… READ John 11:51-52

Jesus WILL be the substitutionary atoning sacrifice. And His death on the cross will not only save the nation, but the whole world.

READ John 11:53

Well the words of Caiaphas resonate with all those gathered in the assembly and they “officially” make plans to arrest Jesus and to have Him killed.

READ John 11:54

 Jesus and the disciples leave the area again, at least for a few days until He comes back the next week. Jesus “went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.” We’re not sure where this is. It could be Ephron, which is a town mentioned in 2 Chronicles 13. If that’s the case then it would have been about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Jesus will go there and then make His way to the house of Simon meeting back up with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, before His re-entry into Jerusalem to begin Passion Week.

READ John 11:55-57

Many pilgrims from around the nation begin to make their way into Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover. Ritual cleansings were necessary for the worshipers and these ritual bath houses were all over the city. The last two Passovers Jesus had been a central figure – His teachings and His miracles made Him popular with the people. “Where’s Jesus? Do you think He’ll show up this year? I don’t know.” But the anticipation of seeing Jesus fills the air and is on everyone’s mind. V 57 is a reminder of the trap being set for Him when He does come back. Of course we know that Jesus will re-enter Jerusalem in Ch 12 and there will be a large crowd that greets Him shouting “Hosanna!” The triumphal entry of their King. And we’ll pick back up our study of John there hopefully later this year.

Well as we wrap up John for now, I have to ask you, who is Jesus? Who do you say that He is? Is He the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world? I leave you with the question that Jesus asked Martha and that He asks every person… “Do you believe?”

John in his gospel presents only 7 signs to show that Jesus is the Son of God. Obviously there were many more signs, miracles that Jesus did. The very last verse in John’s gospel says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” But John only includes 7. So far we’ve seen 6 of them in our study. Jesus turned ordinary water into really good aged wine; Jesus healed the official’s son who had been deathly ill, from 15 miles away (Jesus is in Cana, the boy is in Capernaum); Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years at the Pool of Bethesda; Jesus fed the 5000 men with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish (10K plus people if you count women and children); Jesus walked on the water and stilled the storm and made their boat suddenly appear at their destination, Capernaum; and Jesus gave sight to the beggar at the Temple gate who had been blind from birth. These are all incredible signs. You know, Jesus made the most amazing claims about being God. But then, Jesus proved that those claims were true by the works He did. His works, the signs and miracles and healings validated His words. Jesus told the Pharisees, “even though you don’t believe Me (My words), believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father” – that I am God.”

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John 11:38-57

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