Photograph above by Derek Hawthorne.
“Women received their dead raised to life again: others were tortured [Gk. - ‘beaten to death’], not accepting deliverance; that they MIGHT OBTAIN A BETTER RESURRECTION:” (Hebrews 11: 35, A.V.).
The truth of Resurrection is corroborated with great effect by the fact that its roots lie deeply embedded in the past: nor is it without remarkable corroboration in nature. Perhaps there is no lovelier parable of resurrection than the parable of the butterfly. The caterpillar, tethered to earth, is but a worm, cumbersome, ugly, earthly, consuming the leaves on which it treads, and living within the tiny radius in which it can creep and crawl! After a brief life, it falls sick; it spins its own shroud, coffin, and grave all in one; and it dies, in a death which is a sleep. Wrapt in the hard casting of the chrysalis, it slumbers in motionless stillness, for months, where its brief life had been only for weeks. Then, one morning, the hard shining coffin cracks; slowly another creature, and yet the same – a butterfly – extricates itself, unfolding quivering, glistening, many-coloured wings; and with a perfect mastery of what it has never used before, it flits away; no longer consuming the leaves, but living lightly on the pollen of flowers, and ranging at will over the sunlit fields. So also the resurrection of the dead.*
* The transformation of the seed into the plant is the analogy selected by the Holy Ghost. A corpse is a seed: “it is sown, it is raised” (1 Cor. 15: 42): and no seed, among the one hundred thousand known species, has ever reproduced any but its own kind, or anything but itself. Appearance, functions, constituent atoms may shift and change, yet, as the acorn enfolds the oak, so out of the old body springs the new.
Not ‘according to nature,’ however, but ‘according to the Scriptures,’ is the Divine foundation of resurrection; for we received “how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been RAISED on the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES” (1 Cor. 15: 3).
Resurrection was first definitely
foreshadowed in Isaac. For the incident,
the Holy Spirit tells us, was a “parable”; and a parable, not
so much of sacrifice, as of resurrection, or life after slaughter – of all
events the hardest to find analogies for in nature; for it was the stepping of
the sacrifice off the altar, alive and well, because of the acceptance
of the sacrifice, and the satisfaction of the Law. “Whence also [i.e., from the dead] Abraham did also in a parable receive him
back” (Heb. 11: 19). For (1)
the altar, erected on
- D. M. PANTON.
* * *
AN EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF
1, 2. ‘Now a certain man
was sick, named Lazarus, of
We are now introduced to a family of whom the other Gospels have had to speak.
would seem that Lazarus and his sisters were born in Galileo, but had a house
Now we are come to a question which has often been raised, and on which many are divided. Is the Mary here spoken of - the sister of Lazarus - the notorious sinner of Luke 7., and the Mary Magdalene of the Gospels? whom nevertheless the Lord forgave, and declared that he preferred to Simon the Pharisee? Then ‘Simon the Pharisee’ would be also ‘Simon the leper.’
it be so, then Martha was the husband of Simon the leper, and Lazarus was
sojourning at the house. Then there were two anointings. One, early in our Lord’s
ministry, after His freeing Mary from evil spirits, and her conversion from her
evil way; and the final one at
This would account for the conspicuous place which Mary Magdalene takes at the cross, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Firmly were her affections knit to Him who had converted her, and raised her brother from the dead. ‘Simon, the leper,’ as being also ‘Simon, the Pharisee,’ was prepared to condemn our Lord in allowing the near approach of his sister-in-law. This would account also for such a woman entering the house of Simon, and also for Simon’s inviting our Lord to dinner; it being for his wife’s sake. It accounts too, for Mary’s having in the house, and having kept the precious spikenard, with which she; on the latter occasion, anointed our Lord.
question is rendered difficult to most minds, by the pre-occupation of their feelings. They
do not like to think that Mary, of
I am slow to believe that John can refer in this second verse to any but the account in Luke. The points he names are so peculiar. It is true that in the next Chapter after the resurrection of Lazarus, John narrates a feast given at Simon’s house in honour of the Saviour, at which Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. But the reference would naturally be to something past, not to something yet to be.
Why is the resurrection of Lazarus omitted by the three first Evangelists?
the semi-infidels who comment on Scripture it is a proof of its
non-reality. How, if true, could so
marvellous a work be omitted, and one so close to
We may, indeed, suggest sufficient reasons why the three earlier Evangelists did not narrate this resurrection. Most probably Lazarus was still alive when the earlier Gospels were written, and the story of his raising might attract towards him murderous attempts like that before the Saviour’s death. But when he was gone, as was most likely the case when John wrote, the difficulty was removed. Like this is the incident affecting Peter. The former Evangelists noticed, that one of the disciples struck off the ear of an individual of the company that arrested Jesus. But they do not say who it was. John does. Peter had passed away, therefore all danger to him was over.
And lastly, we may add, that this crowning work was left to John to give, because it accorded with the main design of his Gospel to glorify ‘the Son of God.’
Lazarus is a person unspoken of before in the Gospels; therefore when now he is named, he is introduced through two of his relatives who had been before mentioned there.
This notice of Mary (verse 2) is designed to connect John’s account with that of Luke, as a person previously named in the Gospels. And so she was often, if ‘Mary, the sister of Lazarus,’ is the same as ‘Mary Magdalene’ (or Mary of Magdala). This I am inclined to believe. Great was her love, as having had much forgiven; and the Saviour’s kindness to her in raising her brother from the tomb drew her out prominently in the last scenes of our Lord’s life on earth. She was at the cross with the Saviour’s mother and her sister (John 19: 25). When our Lord was entombed, she sat over against the sepulchre, with the other Mary (Matt. 27: 61). She was one of the first women to start on the first morning of the week very early to see the sepulchre, and was the first to bring word to Peter and John concerning the rolling away of the stone. When these two apostles left the sepulchre, she stayed there; and was the first to behold the risen Saviour, and to bear His message to the apostles. Her name is placed even before the name of our Lord’s mother several times. Matt. 27: 56, ‘Mary, the mother of James and Joses’ - is our Lord’s mother, Matt. 13: 55, 56. See also Matt. 27: 61; 28: 1; Mark 15: 40-47; 16: 1-9.
3, 4. ‘The sisters then sent to Him saying, “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” But Jesus, when He heard it, said, “This sickness is not for death, but with a view to the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” ’
The sisters were like-minded women of faith, having their eye on divine aid in their trouble. This is a lesson to us to bear to Christ our various trials and joys for His sympathy and help. Their message was delicate and beautiful. What they desire is implied, not expressed. They make the Saviour’s love to their brother the link, rather than his love to Christ. This may be to us a consolation when disciples of Christ are ill. The love of Christ is still with those who are under sickness, whether they recover or fall asleep. They, doubtless, did not like to urge our Lord’s visit to them, sensible of the danger of life He would incur by so doing. They leave it to Him therefore to decide what to do, though their words on meeting Him show that they very naturally had expected that our Lord would instantly heal, either by a word at a distance, or by a personal visit.
Our Lord’s reply seems to have been made in the hearing of the messenger, that the sickness, as he would understand it, would not be fatal. Now as Lazarus died on the very day of their sending, and was buried at once, this must have been a trial of their faith. ‘This sickness is not for (or ‘unto’) death.’ How was that? Lazarus was dead! Had Jesus been deceived? Or did the messenger mistake His words? How are we to take them?
We should observe that, in the Greek, two different prepositions are used where our Lord defines the intent of this visitation. He sees its meaning from the first, and distinguishes the main and spiritual intent from that which was first in time, but subordinate. Fatal sicknesses, now, are sent with a view to death. The stricken one is to go into death, and to abide in the state of the dead. It was not to be so here. Death was indeed necessary to God’s design in it; but only as a temporary means to the spiritual and abiding end in view, which was the glory of God in the special glory of Christ as Son of God.
May we also learn, that sickness of loved ones, and even their death is for the glory of God! And if they be Christ’s, they, too, will glorify Him by their resurrection at His call.
Jesus was not glorified by Lazarus being left in the hands of death. But this entailed the rescue of him, in order to Christ’s glory. What a confidence our Lord showed in His power, that He was willing to give Death three days to entrench himself, ere He attacked him! How He thus proved that He was no blasphemer, against whom God was irritated! Jesus knows both the origin and end of the matter better than the sisters. His words on this occasion may remind us of those concerning Jairus’ daughter, ‘The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth;’ and the Saviour on that occasion also, was the awakener.
This incident is typical throughout: designed to assure us of the resurrection of the Saviour’s friends. Their resurrection is to be for the glorifying of Christ. The Saviour has now ‘tarried’ well nigh ‘two days’ - of a thousand years each - where He is: but we trust in His speedy return to awake the slumberers.
The Saviour’s word was carried by the messenger to the sisters, as is implied by our Lord’s words – ‘Said I not to thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou should see the glory of God?’
5, 6. ‘Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When, therefore, He heard that He was sick, then, indeed, He abode in the place where He was two days.’
The sisters’ message was true. Jesus did love him, and yet allowed him to die. For his death brought far wore glory to Christ than his firmest health would, or than his healing from sickness would. God’s actings are oft beyond our fathoming. His ways towards those whom He loves, are not those which human love would take. Human love would have prevented the assault of disease; or would have prevented its deadly result, by at once advancing to the object beloved. So that the next verse sounds strangely to our ears.
‘When He heard, therefore, that he was sick, He abode two days where He was.’ This tarrying must have seemed strange to the sisters. Its wisdom and goodness do not approve themselves to us, save when we see before us the whole matter, with its final issue.
If Christ tarry, be patient! It may be that He delays a present blessing, to bestow a larger future one.
Jesus’ tarrying was to give death its full swing: to allow it to seize on its prey in the most complete and powerful manner. He would overcome the conqueror, after giving him his best battle-field. The lamb shall be slain - borne away to the lion’s den - its bones broken and its flesh partly eaten, before the shepherd attacks the wild beast, conquers it in its lair, and bears away the prey!
There are three records of Jesus’ raising the dead:-
1. The first is that of Jairus’ daughter. She has just breathed her last in her chamber. He takes her by the hand, and she arises.
2. In the widow’s son of Nain, the funeral procession is on its way to the tomb. Jesus arrests it, and gives back the rescued son alive into the arms and home of his mother.
3. But can He deliver one who is already in the tomb? One on whom the process of corruption is begun? For this was the point which was most needed, in order to our full faith. The resurrection of the just must take place in general over those who have long been consigned to the tomb - of whom scarce a bone or a heap of dust remains.
This, then, is the third and strongest instance which is given as a resting-place to our faith. And the greater the difficulty, the greater the glory of victory. The two first instances were like the calling back of a tenant again into the house which he had just left. But where corruption has begun, the problem is far more difficult. Then it is as if the house had been abandoned a long while, till the roof had fallen in, the windows were broken, the ravens had entered and built their nests there. Till the ruined house is repaired, the tenant cannot dwell in it. But the Almighty power of our Lord, in this case, in a moment restored the ruined abode of the soul. He who has put away sin, is superior to the might of death and corruption. The first task was more difficult, and cost Him more than the second.
7, 8. ‘Then after this
saith He to the disciples, “Let us go into
time for action is come, and Jesus no longer tarries. He would make His disciples in part partakers
of His counsels. He would go into
9, 10. ‘Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any walk in the day, he stumbleth not because he seeth the light of this world. But if any walk in the night, he stumbleth because the light is not in him.” ’
The bearing on our Lord’s reply seems to be this – ‘You sons of men move among uncertainties; for you have not, as I have, the light of God indwelling. But I know whence I came, and whither I go, and the whole course of what shall befall Me. I do the Father’s will, and walk in His light. My foes cannot seize Me till My day’s work is done. I have the light in Me, and walk by it at every step.’ The Son’s superiority to us is thus clearly stated.
The Father hath determined to each His day, and has given him His work to effect in those twelve hours. Happy he who fills them up as God would have him, so that at last he can say, ‘I have finished the work thou gayest me to do’; and so that Christ shall say, ‘Well done!’ Were we to prolong our lives by failure in duty, such an added hour would be one in the night, in which we should be sure to stumble.
light by which we labour comes to us from without; we do not carry a sun within
us. Hence the way of man is not in
himself, but in God. This speech of our
Lord probably was uttered early in the morning of the day on which He would
11-15. ‘These things said He, and after that He saith unto them, Lazarus, our friend, has fallen asleep; but I am going to awake him.” They said therefore, “Lord, if he have fallen asleep he will recover.” But Jesus had spoken concerning His death. But they thought that He was speaking of the repose of sleep. Then saith Jesus unto them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes (I mean in order that ye may believe) that I was not there: but let us go unto him!” ’
Lord’s intent in His return to
‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad.’ This needed explanation.
The gladness did not relate to Lazarus or the sisters, but to the disciples’ faith, which, as was then seen, needed increase.
To those who love Jesus, and whom Jesus loves, death is a sleep from which He is coming to wake them. He hints now the reason of His delay. Had He been on the spot His compassion in conjunction with the expectation of the sisters, would have led Him to deliver him from death; or, at any rate, very shortly after it, and the full power of the Lord would not have been beheld. This delay, then, was designed to increase the disciples’ faith. That it effected in that day, and ever since, even unto our own times. It was the crowning miracle of power, on which our faith in a returning Saviour, and the reunion of His sleeping and living saints is to rest. While then the anguish of the sisters was sore, and their perplexity great during those days of the Lord’s tarrying, yet even they must have confessed that the issue to them, and their fellow disciples, was worth the tarrying. It was another instance of that word – ‘What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.’ There is much which waits the light of God’s great day of resurrection, much that is now dark, that will be satisfactorily cleared up then. We have need of patience therefore till the light of resurrection is shed upon our difficulties, and the kingdom with its glory explains to us what has perplexed us here.
‘Let us go unto him.’ Death is not the end of a man’s existence, but only of his life-career on earth.
‘Let us go unto him.’ Scripture and our Lord use the common phrases of men respecting death. The man who is deceased is divided into two parts. One part is visible, and within the reach of the survivors. One is invisible, and beyond us. But our Lord calls their going to the grave of Lazarus, where his dead body alone lay, a going to him. Herein he stands opposed to those who teach, that the spirit-state on which a man enters at death, in his final state. Such doctrine is against the Scripture. Every example which Scripture gives of resurrection is the bringing together of the two parts of man - the visible and the invisible - once more. The body is a permanent part of the man. Our rescue is not complete, till Almighty power shall exempt from death the bodies of believers, by reuniting to them their souls. It is a work to be effected by the Son of God at a day appointed, but to us unknown. The body is not to consume unrewarded, never more to be used. This is the Spiritist and Swedenborogian idea; and it is an unbelief condemned by Scripture. Jesus took again his body from the sepulchre where it was laid. He gave back again the body to the soul in the case of Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus. It is expressly so stated of that company which were the first finally to leave the tomb after the Saviour’s resurrection, ‘And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,’ Matt. 27: 52. The exit of the soul from the disorganised body is no effect of the Gospel. It was the result of the first Adam’s sin. It has been going on over untold millions of the lost, and of the saved. None, even of unbelievers, doubt the phenomena of death. But faith expects the results of the righteousness of the Second Adam, and His victory over death. At a signal given by the Father, a signal for which Christ is looking, He shall undo the effects of sin and death. Sin brought in the tomb, and its slavery of corruption. The righteousness of the Second Adam shall introduce the deliverance of the saints into resurrection, and its body of glory and power.
Burial is but the sowing of the seed. We wait its outcome from the earth in a body of glory and power (1 Cor. 15.).
16. ‘Thomas, therefore, who is called “The Twin,” said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” ’
This is spoken to the credit of the apostle. When the rest of the twelve were slow to venture into the place of peril, this apostle was the first to encourage his fellows to follow Christ, even into the peril of death. Herein he was greater than Peter; for he went, as he said. If Caesar, in his Commentaries, thought it right to signalise the intrepid standard-bearer who led the halting warriors of Rome to attack the warlike Britons, drawn up on their shores in battle-array, God has thought it right to immortalise the name of this soldier of the cross. Still, like almost all the good words and deeds of fallen men, there is a mixture of dross with the gold. Here, with faith and devotion to the person of Christ, there was joined want of intelligence, and shall we not say also, some unbelief?* For Jesus had by His previous words (ver. 9, 10) assured them, that He went with the full vision of all that was before Him, and not as men who in the dark stumble at obstacles unforeseen. Scripture, unlike the books of men, gives us at once the bright and the dark side of disciples. In chapter 14: 5, we see the same apostle doubting the Saviour’s words, and in 20: 2, we have his doubts regarding the reality of the Saviour’s resurrection.
* Thomas does not see the wisdom of the decision, but love leads him to follow it.
It is good to go with Christ even into trial, and unto death. For He will support His people under all the trials into which faith leads them. And to give up life for His sake is to find it again in the blest day of the first resurrection. Dying with Jesus is a different thing from dying with Adam.
17, 18. ‘Jesus, therefore,
when He came, found that
He had been already four days in the tomb. Now
The rest of the apostles followed the exhortation and good example of Thomas. Of what importance are our words and our deeds, Christians, to our fellow-believers! Let us take heed that they are on the track, and on the principles of, Christ.
resurrection of Lazarus was of the more importance, because of its nearness to
event then created the greatest attention both of friend and of foe, because so
many would hear of it, and see it, and that at one of
the sacred assemblies of their nation.
The miracle was not done in
entry into the city on the ass was the call to
19. ‘Now many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, that they might comfort them concerning their brother.’
These words are given to instruct us how, without ally understood notice on Christ’s part of His intention to raise Lazarus, many Jews were present at the great act. According to the usual course of things in the case of a death in the family, the friends were accustomed to assemble at the house of mourning. God does not need the eyes of a multitude of men to stir Him to put forth His miracles. The Saviour was tempted to this at His trial by Satan in the desert. Would He use His power of miracle theatrically? amidst admiring thousands, seeking their applause? He would not. His aim was to glorify His Father, and seek His praise alone.
intelligence of the death of Lazarus reaches his friends in the usual way; and
according to their custom, the friends of the family visit the mourners,
anticipating nothing uncommon. It was so
20. ‘Martha, therefore, when she heard that Jesus is coming, met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.’
Most would have expected that Mary would have been the one first to hear, and first to meet our Lord. But it was not so. To Martha, probably, as being the mistress of the house, the tidings of Jesus’ approach were carried. He did not go to the house. Some of these visitors were His determined foes, as appears from their acting as messengers to the Pharisees. They were unchanged, in spite of this work of God wrought before their eyes. Miracle was the means of turning some to faith. But not all. The native enmity of the soul against God and His Christ was too strong to be overpowered, even by the spectacle of the Saviour’s lordship over death and corruption.
went out to meet our Lord. They met face
to face, and Mary turned back with our Lord.
This throws light on 1
Thess. 4: 17. ‘To meet the Lord in the
air.’ Those who arise from earth
meet the descending Saviour, and turn back with Him towards the earth after
having met Him. So was it with Paul when
the saints of
21-23. ‘Therefore said Martha to Jesus, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died. But even now I know that whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God, God will give it Thee.” Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” ’
Probably Martha had been secretly told of Jesus’ arrival. The company was un-sympathizing with Jesus.
How oft we look back with lingering ‘if!’
How oft the heart longs for that which it dare not frame into express words!
see here the amount of faith professed by this friend of Christ. His power, she was persuaded, extended over
all forms of disease. And she with her
sister had hoped that the Lord would have stepped in to cure disease, and
prevent death. Had He been on the spot,
He would have done so, and the family would have been spared this deep
sorrow. But the church in general would
have lost this great light, which Lazarus’ resurrection has cast on the power
of the Son of God. The Lord Jesus was by
affliction glorifying beyond
all others the family of
Martha had great faith. While the belief of most fainted, when death had come in to carry off his prey - as where messengers came to Jairus – ‘Thy daughter is dead, why troublest thou the Teacher any further?’ she believed that even the bands of death could be loosed, in answer to His special prayer. ‘Even now.’ Though life is gone, and death, and corruption are slavery too strong for mortals to undo, He could receive the resurrection of Lazarus, as the result of special communication of energy from God for this end.
Had not Elijah, by prayer, raised the son of the Sareptan? Had not Elisha also lifted out of death the son of the Shunammite? Nay, had not Jesus on two previous occasions at least, raised the dead? Why, then, should He not do the same for His personal friend?
The Saviour promises that Lazarus shall be raised. But He does not say (1) when. He does not say, (2) that He will effect the deliverance. He does not say, (3) that He would pray, and get the response from God which she desired, The Lord’s frequent teaching concerning His Father, had not impressed on her and others that new name of God. She had not seen in Christ that peculiar Sonship, which is the foundation of the new name of Father.
She speaks, then, only coldly and distantly, ‘God will give.’ She thinks, that Jesus is putting her off with only the feeble comfort which men, because of their weakness in the presence of death can give; that a day is coming when the shackles of this last of foes shall be rent off. Doubtless, this was in substance the comfort which her friends had been administering to her and her sister. It is the only one we can give. Death is too strong for us. We cannot wrest away his captives: we ourselves are ready to be enslaved by him. We can only point onward to the might of Another, who, in some distant day, shall redeem from the power of the grave.
24. ‘Martha saith to Him, “I know that he shall arise in the resurrection in the last day.” ’
She dares not - it were too good news to be true - take the word as expressing the present raising of her brother.
Yes! From the dim light of the Law and the
Prophets, the majority of
25, 26. ‘Jesus said to her, “I am Resurrection and Life. He that believeth on Me, even if he die, shall live; and every one that is alive and believes on Me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?” ’
The means whereby the blest results of resurrection shall follow, is faith in the Son.
How like is Martha to multitudes of believers, who turn aside from application to themselves, and screw down to the lowest point the promises and hopes of the Gospel! ‘’Tis true; but not now.’ ’Tis true; but not for me!’
‘In the midst of life we are in death,’ say nature and Law.
‘In the midst of death we are in life,’ says Faith under the Gospel.
In this Gospel we see men’s ideas of the glory of the Son of God to be quite poor, and below the reality. Jesus has perpetually to raise the ideas of His person and work. Even His people’s highest thoughts are far too low. The Saviour would teach Martha, and us through Martha, that He was more than the prophets; possessed of a higher standing far than the two who alone had raised the dead. ‘You think, Martha, that I may, on application at the court of heaven, receive the especial power to rescue My friend from the grave? But that is far below the truth. Do you see concentrated in Me all the Godhead? Is it true, think you, that all the power by which resurrection in the Great Day is to be effected, dwells in Me? Do you believe that I am the Creator and Preserver of men: One in whom Life dwells; who of His own nature is Life-eternal and self-existent?’
It is as if our Lord had said, ‘You believe in resurrection as a thing promised by God; you believe in it as a something future. Do you believe, that I am really the Person who is to effect it and that the power to effect it is really Mine, and always was?’
This history was designed to produce a continuous effect on the Church. It was to be a consolation to all those who bury their loved ones, who are also beloved by Christ. Christ will come to raise the beloved saints!
We have here a passage which connects itself with Paul’s words about resurrection (1 Thess. 4.); and with John’s, in Revelation 20: 4-6. But if so, literal resurrection is foretold in both passages.
Thus the apostle is proving, by our Lord’s own words, the propositions concerning His Godhead and Almighty power, with the Gospel opens (1: 1-4). The Saviour is obliged to bear witness to Himself as the Only-begotten Son of the Father, eternally possessed of the power to bestow and restore life. Thus He sets Himself far above Moses, or even Elijah and Elisha. Their raising the dead was an exceptional thing; a special grant of power over death, made in answer to a particular and pressing call. He possessed this power natively; and had no need to make application for it, as for something which dwelt outside Him.
were two resurrections at
Promises of resurrection are found in the Old Testament prophets (Is. 25: 8; 26: 19; Dan. 12: 2; Hos. 13.).
will keep disease away from the obedient’ - is the promise of the
Law. ‘I will redeem
This word of our Lord’s is the centre of the story; the great lesson intended to be taught. It is that in the person of Jesus lies all our hope of the kingdom, and resurrection to come. This is but a specimen of what, one day, will be elected for multitudes unnumbered. Other servants of God turn away our eyes from them. ‘Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though we, by our own power or holiness, had made this man to walk Jesus turns our eyes alway to Himself. He who in mortal flesh could effect this resurrection at a word, will recall His slumberers, and gather to Him His wakeful ones.
The words which follow, seem to me to refer to the two different positions which the Saviour’s people will occupy in the day of His coming in His kingdom. Some will be asleep in the tomb. They had believed in Jesus, and had died; but the Saviour, as Resurrection, would awake them to life eternal.
any believer be found alive at His coming? He ‘shall not die for ever.’ For Christ shall change this mortal body,
ready to be attacked and overwhelmed by death, so that it shall never undergo
death. ‘This corruptible (the dead
saints), shall put on incorruption; and this mortal (the living), shall put on
immortality.’ Then shall death be
swallowed up in victory. For the bodies
of believers, whether dead or alive, are unfit even for the millennial
As the words, ‘though he die,’ mean literal death, to be followed by literal life; so ‘he that liveth’ refers to literal life, and to a victory over literal death. Each is to be obtained at the last day, of which our Lord previously had spoken.
Life as now possessed by the believer is not truly ‘life,’ but only its shadow. Life has to be communicated directly from the Son of God to our bodies at the Lord’s advent. Our souls by faith are already alive. ‘Thou Martha, though alive, art as unfit physically for the Kingdom of the last day as thy buried brother.’ The previous words of Martha, ‘at the last day,’ colour the sentiment of our Lord. The last day will find believers in two divisions: some alive, some dead and buried. But the Saviour’s power and activity will reach them both. ‘I will raise him up at the last day.’
‘The resurrection in the last day’ had been one of Jesus’ own teachings. In it the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, though at different times, is comprehended (John 5: 28; 6: 39, 45, 54; 12: 48). As then there are to be some who rise a thousand years before the lost (and John is also the witness of that), the last day must be one of long duration.
The Saviour’s words then take up the two classes, of (1) the sleepers in Christ, and (2) the wakeful ones. The dead in Christ shall in that day arise. The living members of Christ shall in that day be transformed, never more to die.
‘I am Resurrection and Life.’ How, then, should death be able to hold Him who is ‘the Prince of Life?’ He was slain because of sins not His own; but He has risen by virtue of righteousness, and of Life, which are His own.
‘Dost thou believe this?’ Here is the point to which the faith of each believer should reach. Anything short of this is deficient faith. Jesus has risen. Thus has He proved Himself the Son of God, having in Himself life and incorruption, as the basis whereon the future kingdom shall be set.
Our Lord, then, is again, and in another form, asserting His Godhead. ‘God will give thee resurrection-power, in this instance,’ says Martha. ‘I need not the gift,’ is the virtual reply.
‘The power is already mine, and ever was.’ ‘Then, Lord, Thou art God!’ ‘I have not to ask of God, but thou hast only
to ask of
27. ‘She saith to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” ’
Our Lord’s meaning here is not fully comprehended. It is a sort of implicit faith. ‘I know that what you say must be true, but I do not feel it.’ So many answer now.
Confessions differing in form may agree in substance.
Jesus’ words were an assertion of Godhead. A less distinct statement than this drew worship from the blind beggar. But Martha does not see it, and does not worship. As a Jewess she was slow to do so. The same feeling breaks out in the last scene in Matthew 28. ‘But some doubted’ when worship was given by others.
If Jesus be the Son of God as well as ‘Son of Man,’ all victory is ours. But salvation is nowhere to be found, if the Deity of our Lord be taken away.
art the Christ.’ The Anointed of God,
‘The Son of God.’ This title is something beyond the other. The Jews were expecting one to fulfil the first word. But that Messiah should be, in an incommunicable sense, ‘the Son of God’ they credited not; and put our Lord to death for asserting it.
‘The comer into the world.’ This
is designed, I think, to explain and confirm John’s statement of principle in
his opening verses (1: 9), which should be rendered, ‘The true light which lighteth every man, was to come into the world.’ It
had been so predicted, and
28-30. ‘And having said this, she went off and called her sister secretly, saying, “The Teacher has come, and is calling for thee.” She, when she heard it, riseth quickly and cometh to Him. Now, Jesus had not come into the village, but was in the spot where Martha met Him.’
The title by which Martha speaks of Jesus to her sister shows she had not comprehended the greatness of our Lord’s claims. She would not else have called Him simply, ‘The Teacher.’ This was a title which every Jewish unbeliever gave, and would give to Him. It involved only the fact that He taught: whether truly or falsely, the title itself asserts not.
Did Jesus call for Mary? Different opinions will be entertained on this. We know only that it is not expressly named by our Lord.
Why did she call Mary ‘secretly’?
She felt, I suppose, that the main body of those who came to comfort them had no spiritual sympathy with Christ, and hence she would not ask them to come. This accounts, too, for Jesus’ not entering the village, and not going to the house. He would not create a stir. He would not, when just girding Himself for this great achievement, distract Himself with the freezing company of unbelievers, or with the conflict of controversy.
He would not enter the village, but His servants meet Him in the spot to which He had come, and then together they move onwards to the grave. See, herein, a token of the Saviour’s future Advent. He descends from heaven into air; the risen ascend from earth into air; He brings them to earth after their assembling to Him.
The 31st verse of this chapter is given to discover to us how it came to pass, that some of the Saviour’s enemies were present on this marvellous occasion. It was not due to invitation, or to notice given to them. They were not called to be present by Christ, or by the sisters. But their inference regarding Mary’s intent, and their presence in the house as comforters, leads them to the grave at the same moment with Christ, and His disciples.
Far from there being any design of display, Mary’s intent and Martha’s was to avoid notice. But God can use the mistakes of His enemies, as well as the intelligence of His friends, for His own glory.
Israelites thought that Mary, the disciple, could only betake herself to the sepulchre. Nay, but she goes to the Lord of the tomb!
Mary quits the vain comfort of the mortal sons of men to find it in the Son of God.
How striking is the advance of God’s plans if we compare this scene with the remarkable one of the ‘Lord’s burial of Moses.’ Law could only bring death. ‘The letter killeth.’ ‘But the Spirit giveth life.’ The Holy Ghost, the Spirit of life, had now come, and was abiding, on the Son of God. In that day of old, Satan resisted Moses’ burial. Then, the sons of Satan were present at this life-giving scene, and turn it to the death of the Lord of life!
32-35. ‘Mary, then, when she came where Jesus was, and saw Him, fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Jesus, then, when He saw her weeping, and the Jews that came with her weeping, was indignant in spirit, and roused Himself and said, “Where have ye laid him?” They say unto Him, “Lord, Come, and see.” Jesus wept.’
The feeling of Mary is like her sister’s. She uses the same natural words. She, too, would have preferred that this sickness should never have run on to death. But to her the Lord Jesus makes no verbal reply. Perhaps, He saw in her spirit, and in her attitude of reverence, that the truth to which her sister had not attained, was received by her.
Our translators have misrendered the uncommon word used concerning our Lord’s feelings in ver. 33. It should be, not ‘He groaned in spirit,’ but ‘he was indignant in spirit.’
The reference here is so distinct to the history of the first King of Israel, that a few remarks on it will contribute to edification.
Jesus is the true King of Israel, and so answers, in a
measure, to Saul; while Samuel answers to John the Baptist. John was to make
Christ known to
the king, is the test of the men of
Saul was forbearing, and wisely held his peace at this rejection by his people. Jesus is still more patient in the presence of His plotting and malignant foes.
Saul’s opportunity of showing Himself to be God’s deliverer arrives. It comes in the distress of
This answers to the mark on the forehead, which Antichrist, the blaspheming king, will compel, to the provocation of God. Our dispensation of mercy is the time of respite.
In Saul’s day the people, at this news, weep through sympathy with the anticipated suffering and insult offered to their brethren. Saul, in his lowliness, was still the herdsman; and coming out of the field, enquires, what is the reason of the weeping? They tell him. The sense of compassion towards his own poople, and indignation against Ammon, visit him strongly (1 Sam. 11: 6). ‘The Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard, those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.’ Thus our Lord, sorrowful at the sorrow of His friends and people, weep, with them; but rouses Himself to indignation against Satan - that old Serpent - and his might of death! Saul wins the battle against Nahash, by the aid of the army of Israelites. Jesus singly girds Himself against this foe, and overcomes.
Jesus’ victory, then, over the tomb, bespeaks Him the true King of Israel. He was so owned before by those whose hearts God had touched; as, for instance, Nathaniel; (1: 49), and Jesus approves his confession, and expands it. Our Lord is addressed as King after this miracle, and in consequence of it, by His disciples: though with but little intelligence, as they confess (12: 13-15). His foes, on the other hand, ridicule His kingly pretensions: specially in the hour of His weakness before and on the cross (19: 3, 14, 15, 19).
Saul’s complete victory over Nahash, the tide of
feeling turns strongly in his favour, and many wish him to put to death those
who refused him. But in our Lord’s day,
Saul would not slay His despisers then. Nor is Jesus doing so now. But He will by and bye, when the malignity of His enemies is come to its height (Luke 19.). For they will then be visibly worthy of death. They will have gone over, and by a literal mark, to the party of the Old Serpent; and be cut off as incurably evil.
Saul’s victory came the renewal of the kingdom before the Lord, amid the joy of
How (some may say) should there be two such opposite feelings as anger and tears? Because two opposite parties are in question - friends and foes; Satan and death. Men are, as usual, one-sided in their comments on this sign given by our Lord!
sorrow of the sisters and their friends awakes His tears but it awakes also His
anger against Satan, the liar and murderer, through whom came
this war. If men saw a family whose
father had been murdered, while they mourned with them, they would feel indignant
against the murderer; and seek to deliver him over to justice. Well might Jesus be also indignant,
personally! How wicked of
‘But (say sceptics) why, if Jesus was about to raise Lazarus, should He weep, when the cause of sorrow was so soon about to be removed?’
We are not able to see all the reasons of any procedure of our God; but we can see enough to silence objection, if not to satisfy our soul. Jesus was a man, and He showed then His sympathies as a man. He has taught us by His apostle to ‘Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep.’ Here He gives us the perfect pattern of sympathy. Though about to remove the cause of grief, He could not but feel for the past suffering of the sister and their friends.
And it is the character of our Master’s wisdom in the small things to view the larger; to dive deep into the reason of things, and from His large view there He speaks and acts. It is His to see the oak in the acorn. Suppose, then, that at His outlook from this one window of death, He casts His glance over the vast field of misery which Satan and sin had introduced, and would still produce, and you have an ample reason for any manifestation of sorrow exhibited by our Lord.
He enquires next - Where the corpse had been laid? But He does so in words which imply, that man is to be an embodied being for ever. He does not say - as those might who hold the spirit-state to be the final one - ‘Where is the husk of the man?’ He does not teach, that the body is a part of man finally to be laid aside; and that each at death enters on his eternal portion. This history gives the clearest contradiction to any such idea. ‘Thy brother shall rise again.’ ‘Where have ye laid him?’ What had they laid down of their brother? His body!
The man has been laid down in the tomb, because His soul has departed. The man is to be raised up, because his soul has returned: re-called by Almighty power to his body.
Resurrection is not death; much less is it burial - the conducting of the spoils of death to their dark den, far from the living. Resurrection is death’s undoing. It sometimes took place after burial, and was as visible in its result as death; restoring the one removed as unclean, to the place and companionship of the living.
What then was to rise? His body! His soul they had not laid down. The restoration of that was to re-animate the body, and to restore to them their brother, the embodied person they had known. Anyone holding Spiritist views, must have conducted himself differently both in word and deed throughout this whole scene.
On those principles, Lazarus had arisen when he died! To re-call him to his body would be to him a disservice; for he had, at death, entered on happiness and his eternal portion, which was not to be interfered with. And as for the surviving family, the Israel of that day, and the Church of all times after it, the Saviour was just misleading them into the belief that the body, in spite of its corruption, is again to be restored, in order to be our final house of abode. A Spiritist, then, would have comforted the sisters by assuring them - that death was no enemy brought in by sin, but man’s best friend, and part of God’s counsel from the first; that to die was not to sleep, but to awake; that man was designed to be a naked spirit; and that all the body’s use was only as the scaffolding to the mansion: a something to be taken down and thrown aside as useless, as soon as the house was completed.
But why did Jesus ask ‘Where Lazarus was laid?' if He knew already? And I ask in return, What would the infidel have said, if Jesus had at once led the way to the tomb? Would he not have inferred, therefore, that this scene was merely a collusion; and that Jesus was merely playing a part? Jesus was a man, and acted in all as became a man. ‘Come and see!’ what death hath done to thy friend! The aspect of death brought a shudder to the Lord of Life.
Had God lie meaning in His call to Adam – ‘Adam, where art thou?’ or in His questions to Cain, ‘What hast thou done?’ and ‘Where is Abel thy brother?’
Jesus’ tears sanctify ours over departed friends. Had there been no tears, would not the infidel have declared, either that Jesus was no true and perfect man, or else that it was a proof of collusion?
They lead the way then to the field of death’s victory, trodden first by weak men, confessing their weakness; now trodden by the David, who was to lay low, by His word of power, this champion. The Spirit of God then gives us the comment of the bystanders on the Saviour’s tears.
36, 37, ‘Therefore said the Jews, “Behold, how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind man, cause that even this man should not die?”’
It was true that Jesus loved Lazarus, and these tears were a proof of it. Blessed be God, that the Saviour can and does look on believers as His friends, and that death does not sever them from Himself! ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.’ ‘We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, without sin.’ But Jesus did not merely love him in the past, as though he were then a being past away, but He was about to prove His love, not alone by the tears of weakness, but by the word of power.
Some of the Jews wonder why He did not prevent this calamity by power, rather than weep over it when wrought? What was there in this case that should take it out of His range of succour, Who opened the eyes of the born blind?
Thus both parties are destitute of any expectation of the resurrection of Lazarus. They consider the case, now that death and corruption had come in, as so utterly beyond the Saviour’s power, that they do not even conjecture that He means to encounter this Goliath in the day of his might, to bind the strong man, and despoil his den of this his last trophy.
38, 39. ‘Jesus, therefore, again feeling indignation in Himself, cometh to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was laid upon it. Jesus saith, “Take ye away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, saith unto Him, “Lord, already he stinketh, for it is the fourth day.” ’
This second feeling of agitation arose in the Lord Jesus, apparently at the unbelief of the bystanders. That principle it was by which sin entered and death. Here was the perverse unbelieving generation in league with Satan.
This anger at foes Jesus will hereafter feel in the day of wrath, but then He will destroy them (Is. 59: 16, 17). Jesus, we suppose, was indignant at the unbelief then. But, hereafter there will be judgment upon it for ever. ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish!’
A second time our Lord stirs Himself to encounter this last and strongest foe of man. The mode of disposing of the body of Lazarus was in several respects like - in several unlike - that of our Lord’s. Jesus’ body was laid in a chamber hewn out of the rock, with ledges around it for the convenient preparation of the corpse for interment. This was in a cave, apparently a natural one. The entry to our Lord’s tomb was closed by a circular stone, like a millstone, rolling in a groove expressly cut to receive it. Here it was a flat stone, laid directly ever the opening, and probably square, rather than round.
Jesus bids them remove the stone. Why was this? Could not the power that raised the dead raise the stone? Not a doubt of it! But there is one reason quite sufficient to meet this and other like cases, viz.: That God is pleased to employ man even in His miraculous and Almighty works, as far as it is possible. This is His grace, and let us be thankful for it! So Jesus bid the servants fill the water pots with water, before He wrought the transformation of water into wine. So He bade the twelve to arrange the five thousand into companies of fifty, and to carry the bread and fish, while to Himself pertained the work impossible to them. So, while the angel takes off Peter’s chains, he bids him put on his sandals, gird himself, and walk out of the prison. So when the Lord would help the thirsting hosts to water, He commanded that they should fill the valley with ditches. So in the salvation of men, ministers are to give the call to the dead in sins to arise, while the power that makes the elect live to God, comes only from Himself.
Besides, had the Saviour removed the stone by miracle, would not the infidel have said that it was effected by Lazarus himself, from within; and was a proof of collusion and fraud? This also gives occasion to Martha to manifest her unbelief. She does not discern the meaning of such removal of the stone. Did the Saviour wish to look once more on the face of death? But was He not aware how sore and noisome the change that corruption had made upon her brother? Was not this but to degrade His friend, thus to expose his unsightly remains?
glory of God shall bring in the kingdom in resurrection. The Lord in His brightness shall return to
earth, and the earth be full of His glory. Here, then, is the specimen given to
‘Stinketh.’ Sense is the great antagonist to faith. The laws of nature are the God of many. So Martha here turns from Him who was Life itself to the signs of death, as if they must be too strong for Him.
how just those points of the case are noticed, which will throw light upon the
glory of Christ! Jesus was not to see corruption, as being the Holy One of God.
He, therefore, rises from the dead when
a part of the three days (as we
should reckon), had yet to run on. But
Lazarus, as the sinner, rises on the fourth day, after death had claimed the
right to enslave his prey with the bondage of corruption. Thus, it is shown, that the awful demolition
of the body, which begins so soon after death, is not beyond the Saviour’s
power to restore, and that it is His intention so to do. ‘This corruptible must be
clothed with incorruption,’ as the preparation for the entry of the blessed
dead on the
Thus, too, we see the meaning of that other scene which also John was commissioned to depict - yet to occur in Jerusalem, on a future day - when the two martyr-prophets, after three days and half lying unburied in the street, are suddenly to awake to life, at the entry of the Spirit of life from God, in the presence and sight of their enemies. Only then evil will have reached a height, a breadth, and fierceness, which it had not attained in the Saviour’s day.
This word, ‘the glory of God,’ may remind us of Romans 6: 4, ‘Christ was raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father.’ The day is coming when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,’ Is. 40: 5.
Martha’s words are uttered as by ‘the sister’ of the deceased, rather than by her as a ‘disciple of Christ,’ who is Life! Jesus, therefore, recalls her thoughts from the objects of sense to His Word. Martha’s eye was then like Peter’s, turned on the clouds and waves, not on the Lord. The word of God at the beginning brought death and corruption, and it holds fast. How surely then shall the same word recall God’s saved ones from death.
The world asks for sight as the way to faith. Christ asks for faith as the way to see. The Personal Word of God recalls us to His spoken or written word, which we are so apt to forget.
40, 41. ‘Jesus saith unto her, “Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” They took away, therefore, the stone where the dead man was lying.’
The objections of men, yea of believers also, against the counsels and commands of God, are vain and foolish; whatever be the appearance of wisdom they may have! Man judges from his low point of view: God, from His All-seeing one. And not unfrequently the Scripture shows us the folly of the objections and difficulties. But if not seen now, it will be by and by. The wisdom of God shall approve itself at the last, in spite of the sharp sayings of unbelievers; and in spite of the misgivings of His saints. ‘That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings and overcome when Thou art judged.’
Martha’s objection was founded, not on the expectation of her brother’s resurrection, but upon a mistake of the Saviour’s intent in giving the commands; as though He looked on the matter without a sense of even the ordinary propriety of the sons of men in regard of the dead. How often do the people of God hinder the work of God!
The Lord Jesus, then, gently rebukes this rebuke of Martha, as proceeding from unbelief. She had mistaken His motive; she had not listened, as she should, to the intimations before given her, of His intent to raise her brother. These were conveyed -
1. In the reply to her messenger that the sickness was not designed to end in death, but in the glory of God to be manifested by the Son of God. The Son of God came not to glorify Himself by doing what the sons of Adam could do, but by overthrowing foes invincible by the sinful sons of men.
2. In reply to her suggestion, that even at that late hour God would listen to a prayer from the mouth of His Anointed One, Jesus had informed her that her brother should be raised. And He had further taught her, that the power of resurrection dwelt in Himself at all times as the Son of God; and that He purposed to manifest this power. He had appealed to her whether she possessed this faith. And she had expressed her assent. He was taking this step, then, with a view to that victorious result.
Hence we see that the resurrection of the dead, and especially that of the sons of God, will redound to the glory of the Most High! Satan has seemed, in death, to triumph over God’s plans, and to have thwarted the purposes of the Father’s grace towards His loved ones. In His saints’ death, Jehovah shows not Himself to be the God of His people. In resurrection, then, He shall discover the difference between His friends and His foes. He shall at length loose the prisoners out of their prison house, both body and soul. The trophies of death shall be wrested from him. Satan’s wiles, which brought in death, shall be overturned in resurrection. But faith alone shall see the glory of God herein shall see the power of the God that raises the dead with joy. The same principle we behold enforced in the history of the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. The unbelievers, both outside the house and within it, are prevented from beholding the power of Christ put forth in raising the dead.
The partial unbelief of believers (how common an occurrence!) is exhibited here. But the spectators at length obey; and .Martha no longer opposes.
41, 42. ‘But Jesus lifted up His eyes above and said, “Father, I give Thee thanks, that Thou hast heard (heardest) Me. Now I knew that Thou always listenest to Me, but because of the multitude that is standing around I spoke, that they may believe that THOU hast sent Me.” ’
This notice of Jesus’ petition to the Father, before the raising of the dead, might have been omitted; and was omitted in previous instances of resurrection in the former gospels. There was no testimony to this effect in the raising of Jairus’ daughter, where the crowd was kept out; or in the resurrection of the young man of Nain, where the multitude was present. But the gospel of John is especially designed to show to us Jesus as the Son of the Father, subordinate in all to His will. Hence its propriety here.
Our Lord had asserted His perpetual possession of the power of life, in a sense belonging only to God. But there was a danger, lest His ways and words should seem to be the actings and sayings of an Independent Deity, who had entered the world on purpose to free the human race from the ignorance and tyranny of an inferior God. This was, in fact, one of the early deceits of Satan - prompting men of un-humbled heart to say that Jesus and His Father were hostile to the God of Moses and the prophets; and that He came to deliver men from the ignorance and tyranny of the Creator.
Hence, John several times in this Gospel gives evidence how Jesus by word and work owns the Creator, and speaks of the God of Israel, the God of the temple and its sacrifices, as His Father.
‘Father,’ says Jesus. Then Jesus Christ was not the Father (as Swedenborg asserts), but the Son.
He is certain of the steps He is taking. It is no doubtful attempt to despoil the grave, which, like Elisha’s staff in Gehazi’s hands, may prove powerless in the presence of death. He had asked the Father’s counsel about this step, and knew it to be to His glory. There was the most perfect union between the Father and Himself in all things. And but for ‘the multitude’ which surrounded Him, He would not have made this public appeal. In making it then He disclaims Martha’s idea. He was not asking power to overcome death in this special case. That He had. But He wished to prove the spiritual union and communion which existed between Himself and the Father.
case presented was not an exceptional one with Jesus, as regards His Father. It was the miracle of crisis to
Is Jesus in amity and close connection with Jehovah, the God of Israel? If He answer to this appeal, the case is proved. Abraham’s promises stand to be accomplished, in resurrection and lo, here is Resurrection itself!
‘Let the dead bury their own dead.' But Life shall awake the bodies and souls of the dead.
‘The multitude stood around.’ Then many must have been gathered; though without any direct notice from Christ or His apostles. ‘Christ is come, and is going to Lazarus’ tomb!’ must have been the report. That is enough to collect the villagers. They, knew of His former acts of miracle; they were interested, too, in Him as one in peril of life.
The Son seeks ever the glory of the Father. The Father in His working seeks ever the glory of the Son. Our Lord’s position was a very peculiar one. He was by nature the Son of God - the Creator - possessing all power. This form of God He had put off, when He became man. The Father wrought all His works in Him. Yet, lest it should be thought that He possessed no more power than holy men who seek theirs by prayer, He testifies to Himself as ‘Resurrection and Life.’ He would call forth Lazarus directly; not, ‘In the name of the Father,’ but, ‘Come forth!’ Herein He stands in contrast with His apostles, who put away from themselves any such assumption of power (Acts 3: 12, 13, 16; 4: 5-10; 9: 34). Peter does indeed say ‘Tabitha, arise.’ But it is after the kneeling down of prayer. Peter and the apostles lead men away from themselves, and from the thought, that they were anything more than men in general. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra take the same line with previous apostles. Jesus, on the contrary, witnesses to Himself, and seeks to lead others, to the highest thoughts of Him. ‘I am Resurrection and Life; believest thou this?’
Jesus prays, for the multitude’s sake, that they might attain the great end of His miracles - the believing in His mission; in the eternal unity of the Sender and the Sent One. Would God own before men, in this great crisis, His Son as the Undoer of Death? Death is the result of sin. Here is One who is to take away sin, and so to manifest His power over death. Here is a fact presented, a primary fulfilment of the Lord’s previous prophecy, that He would raise the dead in general (John 5: 25).
By His prayer, therefore, and the miracle, Jesus shows His equality of nature with the Father; and yet His subordinate position, as being a matter of agreement and choice. He does not come as One determined to do His own will, and able to effect it. But His object is to manifest, that in the Godhead there are the Father-Supreme, the Son-subordinate: Sender and Sent; yet both possessed of one nature and power.
‘That they may believe that Thou hast sent me.’ Thus Moses was
43. ‘And having said these things, with a great voice He shouted, “Lazarus (come) hither, (come) forth!”’
Thus is fulfilled the word – ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go to awake him out of sleep.’ Here, then, is the voice of the Awakener; and the slumberer answers thereto. Blessed are the dead who fall asleep in the Lord, to awake at His resurrection of glory! To Jairus’ daughter, Jesus says – ‘Damsel, arise!’ To the young man of Nain ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!’ But here, it is – ‘Come forth!’ The two former had not entered the house of the dead; but Lazarus had. If we may discriminate still farther, the word ‘Lazarus,’ is designed to call him out of his sleep; the second, ‘hither,’ to direct his soul to his body; the third, ‘forth,’ to bring both body and soul out of the tomb, or place of the dead.
The dead is addressed as if he could hear. Was not that strange? He is addressed, as if death had not destroyed him, but only sent him to sleep. Yes! This is a great truth. Death does not ‘destroy,’ in the sense of the Annihilationists. And Jesus, as God, calleth the things that be not, as though they were. This, too, is our warrant in calling on the spiritually dead to listen to the saving voice of the Son of God. Jesus shall speak, and the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Though they have passed beyond the sound of our voice, they are within reach of His (John 5: 25, 28). Hence, the spiritual and the natural works are by our Lord both classed together.
We preachers call to the dead in sins to arise; and powerless as our call in itself is, the Son and the Spirit of God speak through us, and God’s chosen ones awake to spiritual life.
Ministers of the Gospel, too, take their stand by the grave, just when the body is committed to it, and before the stone is laid thereon, not to despoil the grave, not to bid the body come forth, but to express a hope of His coming, who as the Righteousness of God shall bring life in the place of death, and compel the tomb to give back the justified.
Jesus ‘shouted.’ It was not His custom. Meekness was His characteristic. He should not lift up His voice in the streets (Matt. 12: 18-21). This loud voice was significant. It was ‘the voice of Almighty God, when He speaketh,’ Ez. 10: 5. It was a witness of the coming day, when the Saviour shall arouse His dead saints ‘with a shout’ (1 Thess. 4.).
‘Lazarus, come forth!’ Hence we see that in Christ’s estimation, the body is part of the man. It has, indeed, in the case of the dead, been committed to the tomb, but it is not destined to remain there for ever. It is to come forth to the place and world of the living; it is to come out of the den and grasp of Death. Hence, the Saviour leads the way to the tomb; and out of the tomb calls the two parts of Lazarus - his body and soul. How strange, in the light of these facts of resurrection, that any should be found to deny the resurrection of the flesh! But human perversity will hold its own errors, despite the witness of God.
44. ‘And he that was dead came forth, hands and feet bound with the dead clothes, and his face was bound about by a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, “Loose him, and let him go.” ’
Something miraculous, distinct from the man’s raising to life, seems to be noticed here. For how, if swathed from shoulder to heel could one move hand or foot? In order that he might recover the use of his moving powers, the swathes must be removed.
The answer to our Lord’s call in the man’s awaking comes at once! This is the proof of power. The cause is closely knit to its effect. ‘Let there be light! And light was!’ Our words will produce no such effect. But the Word of God carries with it the power to effect all He designs. ‘The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall ‘come forth.’
‘His face bound about by a napkin.’ He could not see, any more than he could move. His eyes were covered up by the cloth about his head. This, too, must be removed. So was the Saviour enveloped when dead. But His resurrection in two great respects was unlike this. (1) No man stood over His grave, and called Him forth. That would have been to set a son of man for the moment above the Son of God! Therefore, the Father raised Him. (2) Jesus needed no hand of man to roll away the stone, or to unwrap the clothes of the dead. It was not possible that He should be held by the strong barriers of death, much less by the human wrappings of the dead. His was the first real resurrection, the coming forth of the immortal body not subject to the impediments which fasten down our bodies of flesh and blood.
The effects of astonishment on the family and the spectators, are not depicted for us. Here one who sought to make an interesting picture would have enlarged. Scripture is silent.
‘What did the dead man see, hear, and feel, in the other world? How did he feel in dying? How, in rising again?’ These are questions full of interest to us all. They would (be assured be asked of him by all, or most of those who heard his tale, and came to see this traveller from beyond the unseen world. Scripture is silent! It is unlike the books of men. It enlarges where we are not so much interested. It is silent where we would enquire with zeal. What is the great principle that governs its disclosures and its silences? The glory of God! We are told at the commencement of this most weighty history, that it was designed to glorify the Son of God. Whatever, therefore, can enlarge our views on this point is given. Other things are dismissed untold!
No doubt a feeling of awe chilled the blood of the spectators, as the rustle of the rising man was heard, and still more as the living man stood before them, clad still in the garments of the dead. Astonishment paralysed them.
Here, however, there is not that element of terror which we find at the resurrection of the two prophets slain in Revelation 11. There men slay the prophets, and rejoice at their death, maltreating the bodies. After the three-and-a-half days of exposure, they arise (without any call given), and stand upon their feet. ‘Great fear falls on those who see them.’ No wonder! They find that they and the God of Resurrection are at war, and He has prevailed contrary to their belief, and their hopes. What then will be the issue to them? Then comes the earthquake of wrath. But here it is the time of mercy; and the True and Faithful Witness has yet to be put to death. The napkin over the eyes, as well as the swathes round the hands and legs prevented Lazarus from going. The restraints which they had laid around the dead, their own hands are to remove.
What said Mary and Martha to Lazarus? and what said Lazarus to them? We are not told!
alone remains un-amazed, and knows what should be done in this unique case. His word breaks the spell. He has done what they cannot, and effected that wherein they must be wholly passive. But now, again, they may help. They laid the stone to the tomb’s mouth. They shall take it off. They wound and bound the dead man in the trappings
of death. They shall take them off.
Lazarus was to return to his home again.
He was not to be exhibited as a show;
habited as he appeared at the moment death was shaken off. And they are to help in this his returning
freedom. Thus, Christian reader, it is
our duty, and our joy to lead onwards to the
What was the effect of this wonder? Did all His enemies bow down to Him? -, ‘Verily Thou art the Son of God! Hitherto we thought Thee a deceiver. Now Thy credentials are plain enough! “This, this is the finger of God!” Not in vain hast Thou witnessed to the majesty of Thy person! We allow it! We adore! Certainly this is the Son of God!’
This great work was to some the savour
of life unto life to others, of death unto death! ‘If they hear not Moses the prophets, neither
will they be persuaded, even though one rose from the dead.’ Thou hast said the truth, Abraham! Here it is exhibited in fact. Some did believe. Many of the witnesses of the miracle were
convinced. What greater work than this should
Messiah work when He came? They had
looked for the Great Captain to destroy His living foes; to set up the glory of
Some, untouched by this wonder, went away with hostile intent to acquaint the Saviour’s foes with this new stroke of His unearthly war. ‘With the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.’ But these evil hearts trusted their own righteousness, and refused the Saviour’s. So their mouth did not confess the Lord unto salvation but became accomplices with His foes to their own perdition!
While, then, some think that they are not so well situated for salvation as the men of our Lord’s day, they are mistaken. They have in their homes the Word of God; the chief means of leading to faith and its salvation. They are dealt with more gently than the men of that time. That was a day of the persecution unto death of them that believed. If, therefore, they will not listen now, they would not then. The evil heart of deceitful sin misleads them.
47,48. ‘The chief priest and Pharisees, therefore, collected a council, and said, “What are we doing? for this Man doeth many signs. If we let Him alone thus, all will believe on Him; and the Romans will come and take away both our place and the nation.” ’
Vainly are signs presented to the enemies of Christ. If not all believe who see the sign, much less all who hear of it do not!
they do not doubt it! Neither their
informants nor themselves doubt the reality of the
miracle. But instead of seeing in it the
hand of God; instead of hearing in it the voice of God calling them to repent
and believe; instead of beholding this
sign of Messiah’s kingdom and glory, they see only the earth and the
interests of the present life. God is
left out: His promises have no place in
their hearts. They do not mean to turn! They see in Jesus only a rival: One whose
success is their loss. In place, then,
of bowing to Him as the Chief of the prophets of God; instead of confessing
their sinful unbelief in so long resisting His claims, they chide themselves
for their want of prudence, courage, and capacity for business in thus leaving
Him alive! Thus they turn the counsel of
God against themselves. Refute His
pretensions, they cannot. But slay Him,
they may! They are enemies to His
success. That any believed on Him, was a
leaving of their party - the party of unbelief. It was not to be borne. God they see not; what He will do
they regard not. But what will the Romans do? They conjure up fears which are unfounded. Why should the Romans destroy their temple and
nation, if all trusted this Raiser of the dead? Here is One who can
prove victorious over all His foes, raising the ruined temple in three clays.
But unbelief is blind. The Son of God is
to them only ‘this
leave out of sight what will God do, if His Messenger, so wonderfully
accredited to them, is slain by wicked hands, Jesus, by the parable of the
Wicked Husbandmen, brings home this to their hearts; as also by the Marriage
Garment. That which they feared, came
upon them as the wages of their sin. The
Romans did come, destroyed their goodly ‘place,’ and swept away the
nation from their land. The Most High
brings the fears of the wicked upon them. And, then, those only who believed in Jesus,
escaped the sword or yoke of
‘Death’ (says Bengel), ‘more easily yields to Christ’s power, than unbelief!’ God’s display of greatest power and goodness, stirs the world to its bitterest animosity.’ When God works, so does Satan. Thus the Gospel call never be the promised time of happiness. Many look on a tittle of revival as the fulfilment of the hopes given by the prophets of the happy days to come. Nay! Christians’ arousing, arouses also the enemy.
Theirs is the wisdom which comes from beneath, ‘earthly, sensual, devilish’ – ‘deceiving, and being deceived’; full of murder; and its vain hopes scattered by the over-ruling God whom it sees not, nor wishes to see.
God brought their fears upon them; and chose their delusions. They who would not have the true Messiah, were led away after every impostor who, without any evidence, chose to call himself the Christ.
The Romans came, and took away their goodly temple - the delight of their hearts - and scattered their nation away from their land.
As regards their fear of the Romans, Jesus rebukes it; and makes them condemn themselves by His parables of the Wicked Husbandmen and the Wedding Garment. By bringing God into the question, He proves that their murderous plans, in place of delivering them, would justly draw down on their own heads the destruction they feared. And so it came to pass! Herein see the mischief of being guided by human expediency in divine things. It prophesies, falsely, present results; and would persuade men, on the strength of its pictures of the future, to do now what is evil.
49-52. ‘But one of them named Caiaphas, being the High Priest that year, said unto them, “Ye know nothing at all, nor conclude, that it is expedient for us, that one man should die instead of the people, that the whole nation perish not.” Now this he said, not for Himself, but being the High Priest of that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die instead of the nation, and not instead of the nation alone, but that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.’
We are admitted to the Jews’ counsels in their assembly; and see how rude and proud was the President that ruled over them. Their spirit is evil and malicious; and love would not dwell with them.
know nothing at all!’ The chief villain
pushes rudely aside all inferior ones. Others
might be willing to cloak their wicked schemes under fair words. He openly blurts out the design that lurks in
the minds of many, but had not dared come out of their lips. And it was true that they knew not God or the
way of peace (Psalm 82: 5). The High Priest prophetically set aside these ‘scornful
men who ruled the people at
Caiaphas urges them to put Jesus to death as a matter of expediency, a piece of good policy that must over-ride all questions about its righteousness. It was fitted, he thought, to continue the Jewish nation in its temporal blessings, and therefore Jesus was without scruple to be sacrificed. ‘None but fools would waste another thought on the matter.’ This is a principle continually acted upon in the world. But it is a short-sighted and unbelieving policy, which leaves out of account God as the Righteous Ruler of the nations. Such evil men consider what will probably be the immediate benefit of an action, and regard not that which with God is the chief question, and should be so with them – ‘Is it righteous?’ On that the High Priest would spend no more words. ‘Either Christ must die, or the nation! Then why hesitate an instant?’
‘Jesus was to die in the stead of the nation.’ That is the force of the preposition in this case. He must die, that His nation might be saved. This remarkable speech had a far deeper meaning than Caiaphas saw. It was not like most words of the ungodly, the forth-bursting alone of their evil passions. The Jewish temple-system was to be set aside by the Gospel; but at its close it gives token of its having been set up by God. Though the head of the sacrificers was a wicked man, yet, like Balaam, in this lie spoke God’s mind. As rejected Saul, receives notice that his kingdom is rent from him to be given to another, so Caiaphas utters words indicative of the great High Priest, and the efficacy of that Sacrifice, which was to put aside from its standing the priesthood and sacrifices of Moses.
Both Caiaphas and Pilate condemned Jesus, but each on different and appropriate grounds: Pilate concerning the kingdom, Calaphas because of His priesthood and sacrifice.
The great question really between God and them – ‘Whether Jesus was not proved to be commissioned from heaven by these signs, and whether they were not sinning in not owning Him,’ - comes not into view. Nothing should convince them of that. That others believe on Him is an offence in their eyes for which He is to be put to death. This showed their sense of the strength of the evidences which attended our Lord. If things took their natural course, ‘all would believe.’ But if all believed, even the Romans, would they seek to destroy Jesus and His nation?
as the High Priest, was bound to offer yearly the sacrifice of expiation for
They thought and reasoned as if no God of justice ruled. Yet Jesus, in His parable of the Wedding Supper, makes them condemn themselves as the Wicked Husbandmen for slaying the Heir of the Lord of the vineyard, and in consequence drawing down on their heads the vengeance of the Master.
From this we derive two views of the deliverance effected by our Lord’s sacrificial death.
It was designed to save
But (blessed be God!) that is not the only, or the highest, reason of the
Saviour’s death. It was intended of God
also to gather together into one body
the children of God, which before that day were scattered abroad. Before our Lord appeared there were many servants
of God both in
53. ‘From that day, therefore, they took counsel together to slay Him.’
This speech decided the whole of them. None objected, that it was not lawful to slay the innocent or righteous; and that God, the Righteous Judge, avenges the death of His prophets in such a way as to make it utterly inexpedient and destructive to put them to death. None pointed to the case of Naboth, or to Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24.). Thus corrupt was the people both in high quarters and in low. They find themselves of one mind, and now openly confer and encourage one another in their guilt.
54-57. ‘Jesus, therefore, was no more
openly walking among the Jews; but went away
from thence to the country near the desert, to a city called Ephraim, and there
He stayed with His disciples. Now the
feast of the Jews was near. And many went up to
raising of Lazarus was Jesus’ showing Himself openly. He appeared at the door of the capital, on the
very ground occupied by His foes. It was
designed to act on them, and on the nation. It was what they called it, ‘a sign.’ Had their hearts been right, they would have
said, ‘Here is a greater than Moses - Moses slew by miracle, but never called
out from death. That was something
beyond his vocation and power. Here is a
greater than Elijah, or Elisha. He has power over, not death alone, but,
corruption. Must not this then be the
Messiah of Israel’s hope? We are looking
for the resurrection of the righteous dead, of the long buried and corrupted
patriarchs. Here is One
who gives us the very sign which was lacking. He gives it in the face of the daughter of
Jesus withdraws the light. It exasperates the birds of night. They will not become children of light; they hate it, and seek to slay the Light-bearer. He cannot die save at the passover, as the antitypic Lamb. He goes away, therefore, from the neighbourhood of His foes to Ephraim. It is supposed to be a city, twenty miles N.E. of Jerusalem.
devout Jews, desirous of celebrating the passover
rightly, and afraid of being defiled, with the desire to cleanse themselves,
Lord Jesus, then, was the centre of the thoughts and conversations of most at
enemies, aware that He has left the neighbourhood of