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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 11]

The two sisters, Martha and Mary, who lived in Bethania, had a brother named Lazarus. Now Jesus loved Martha and Mary, and Lazarus. But Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters sent word to Jesus: “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” Jesus, hearing this, said to His disciples: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Two days after, He spoke again to his disciples: “Let us go to Bethania; Lazarus, our friend, sleeps; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” The disciples answered: “If he sleeps he shall do well.” They thought He spoke of the repose of the body, but Jesus spoke of death. Seeing, however, that they did not understand what He meant, He told them plainly: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethania Lazarus had been four days buried. Now many friends and relatives had come to console the two sisters, who were in great affliction. As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she left her friends and went forth to meet Him. When she saw Him she exclaimed: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But now also I know that whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to Thee.”

Jesus said to her: “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha replied: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus answered: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, although he be dead, shall live. Believest thou this?” She said to Him: “Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into this world.”

Then Martha, going into the house, called her sister secretly, and told her: “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” Mary rose up quickly and went to Him. The Jews who were in the house followed her, saying: “She goeth to the sepulchre to weep there.” As soon as Mary came to Jesus, she fell at His Feet, exclaiming: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

Fig. 81. So-called tomb of Lazarus at Bethania. (Phot. Bonfils.)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the friends who had come with her, He groaned in spirit, and troubled Himself, and said: “Where have you laid him?” They answered: “Come and see.” And Jesus wept. Seeing this, the Jews exclaimed: “Behold how He loved him!”

Jesus, having come to the vault or cave (Fig. 81, p. 597), in which the body of Lazarus was laid, said: “Take away the stone!” Martha told Him that the body of her brother must be already putrid, knowing that he had been four days in the grave. Jesus said to her: “Did I not say to thee that if thou wilt believe thou shalt see the glory of God?” They then removed the stone.

And Jesus, lifting up His eyes, said: “Father, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast heard Me. And I know that Thou hearest Me always, but because of the people who stand about have I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”

Then crying out with a loud voice, He said: “Lazarus, come forth!” And immediately he that had been four days buried came forth, wrapped in the winding-bands. And Jesus said: “Loose him, and let him go!”

Many of the Jews who were present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, believed in Him. Some of these went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the Scribes and Pharisees assembled together, and said one to another: “What do we, for this man doth many miracles? If we let Him alone so, all men will believe in Him.” From that day they resolved to put Jesus to death. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, walked no more openly among the Jews.

The Divinity of our Lord Jesus. Throughout all this story our Lord spoke and acted as God.

a) He called Himself the Son of God, and said that He was the (author of the) resurrection and the life.

b) He solemnly addressed God as His Father, thanking Him for having always heard Him; for the will of God the Father is one with the will of God the Son.

c) He accepted Martha’s confession of faith: “I believe that Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

d) He manifested His Omniscience by knowing that Lazarus was dead, though He was far from Bethania, and no one had brought Him the news of his death.

e) He revealed His Omnipotence in the most glorious way, by calling back to life, by His sole word, a man who had been four days in the grave, and whose body was already corrupt. He called Lazarus not only from the grave but from corruption, overcoming death in the very midst of its work of devastation, and thus revealing Himself to all present as the very Lord of life and death—as the resurrection and the life. Our Lord worked this miracle before many witnesses. They had all known Lazarus, and they all knew that he was dead: many of them had seen him laid in the tomb, and the mouldering decay of his body was perceptible to their senses, as they stood around the open grave: and, behold, by the mighty power of one omnipotent word he who was dead stood alive and in the full vigour of his manhood in their midst! Not even our Lord’s bitterest enemies could deny the miracle!

The especial object of this miracle. The time of our Lord’s Passion and Death was at hand, and He wrought this mighty miracle beforehand in order that the faith of His disciples, and more especially of His apostles, might be strengthened, and “that they might believe” and not doubt when they saw their Lord and Master in the hour of His abasement; and most of all to enable them to hope, when they saw His Body laid in the sepulchre, that He who had raised up Lazarus would Himself rise again.

The necessity of faith. “He that believeth in Me, although he be dead, shall live.” It follows, therefore, that he who does not believe will not attain to eternal life.

The causes of unbelief. The impressions produced by the miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead were very different. Many believed in Him now who had not believed before; and for them the miracle worked salvation. The Pharisees and their followers could not deny the fact of the miracle, but they believed none the more in our Lord’s divine mission, and the wonderful miracle only served to harden them in their obstinate incredulity—once more grace knocked at their hearts for the last time by means of this stupendous miracle which even they could not deny; but so blinded were they by their hatred and envy of Jesus, that they resisted and shut out the true knowledge of Him which was, as it were, forced on them. They had to admit that our Lord did “many miracles”; but this undeniable fact so increased their hatred, that they could not even bring themselves to pronounce His name, but called Him “this man”. Though they owned that He worked the miracles they did not draw the logical conclusion that therefore they must believe in Him, but, on the contrary, the illogical conclusion that therefore they must kill Him! However wonderful the miracles He might work, one thing was certain, they would not believe in Him! The Messias must die, or else their own position would be injured, and their hypocrisy unmasked! “If we let Him alone”, said they, “all men will believe in Him.” They even wished to put Lazarus to death, “because many of the Jews by reason of him went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:11). Pride, envy and love of power combined to blind these men, and destroy their souls by reason of their unbelief. Pride and envy are capital sins.

The chief doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus Christ. It was because Martha believed that Jesus was the Son of the living God that she also believed His words: “I am the resurrection and the life”, although she probably did not understand their full meaning.

The compassion of the Heart of Jesus. “And Jesus wept.”

The consolation of faith. The words: “I am the resurrection and the life”, are used at the service for the burial of the dead. They console us wonderfully for the loss of those dear to us, for they convince us that we shall all rise and meet again.

APPLICATION. Jesus loved Martha and Mary, and yet He put off helping them, and let their brother die! He did this to prove their faith and their resignation to God’s will, and also because their trial would tend to the glory of God and to their own salvation. Be sure that Almighty God’s motive is one of love when He visits us with trials. Do not murmur, but use the trial for your salvation by bearing it patiently, because God wills it, and for so long as He wills it.








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