Berean Bible Study Notes

John 10:31-42 & 11:1-16


The conclusion of John 10:

Last time, we kind of ended abruptly, and even if you read the lesson, there was little commentary on the last section:

John 10:31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? 35 If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Here's what the People's Bible says about that section (Baumler, Gary. The People's Bible: John. Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, 1997):

Here is the Psalm that is quoted. The Psalm speaks of those who would "shepherd" Israel. As their shepherds, these leaders were supposed to defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. God even says that as His judges, they are "gods" and "sons of the Most High." It's interesting how this passage relates to the whole discussion of the Good Shepherd. You can see that the whole thing was orchestrated in advance:

Psalm 82:1 A psalm of Asaph.

God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the "gods": 2 "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?

3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 "They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 "I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.' 7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler."

8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

Back to John 10:

John 10:40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and many people came to him. They said, "Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

Now, if you can remember way back to the first chapter of John, we were told:

John 1:28 (NIV) This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John 1:28 (NKJV) These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

It's not a contradiction - just two names for the same place. In the texts, it's called "Bethania," which is Aramaic. It's not the Bethany that's near Jerusalem, because that's not on the Jordan. The place was still well known in Eusebius' time. He calls it the Hebrew name, "Bethabara," which means "House of passage" or "House of crossing." It was apparently the place where the Jews crossed over the Jordan - and may also have been the place where Elijah struck the Jordan with his cloak or mantle and he and Elisha crossed over. (Remember that John the Baptist had come in the power and spirit of Elijah). In Eusebius' day, Christians still desired to be baptized there. In any case, it was along the Jordan river, in the area of Perea (today's Jordan), about 20 miles from Jerusalem. According to tradition, John the Baptist lived in a cave there.

So, out in the wilderness, along the Jordan, Jesus is away from the Jewish leadership who seek to kill Him. Many people came to Him out there, as they had first come to John the Baptist. And, many believed.

John 11

Now, we come to a section of Scripture that is no where else in the Bible - and yet, it is Jesus' greatest miracle up to this point - the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This is the seventh of the seven specific miracles in the Gospel of John:

There's another interesting way of looking at that list:

The raising of Lazarus is the second greatest miracle in the Bible. The greatest is Jesus raising Himself from the dead. There were other occasions where people were raised from the dead, but in every case, they had just died and had not been buried (entombed) yet. People were usually buried within one day for obvious reasons, given the climate there. Just as in the previous miracle, where Jesus went far beyond what had happened before (Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind - John 9:32), no one had ever risen from the dead who had already started to "stink." The closest was when a dead man was being placed in a tomb. He touched the bones of Elisha and came back to life:

2 Kings 13:20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

There seem to be a total of eight times when someone is brought from physical death to physical life (able to die again) in the Bible. (If you can find any other occasions, please let me know) This doesn't include those brought to life after Jesus' resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53). Those weren't mentioned individually, and it's not clear whether they were resurrected (not able to die again) or brought back to physical life. Here are all the "brought back to physical life" references that I can find, in the order they appear:

1. Elijah brought back the widow's son (1 Kings 17)

2. Elisha brought back the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4)

3. The bones of Elisha brought back the dead man who touched them (2 Kings 13)

4. Jesus brought back the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7)

5. Jesus brought back Jairus' daughter (Luke 8)

6. Jesus brought back Lazarus (John 11)

7. Peter brought back Tabitha (Acts 9)

8. Paul brought back Eutychus (Acts 20)

Of course, only Jesus has the power to "bring back" someone on His own. The others did through prayer and faith. It was the power of God that actually brought them back. Isn't it interesting that there are eight, since eight is the number of new life and new beginning?

So, Jesus had brought the dead back to life two times before bringing Lazarus back, but both of those were in Galilee. One was in a small village called Nain, and the other at Capernaum. There were more people at Capernaum, but notice how the healing is private, and Jesus commands them not to tell people about it:

Luke 7:11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Luke 8:49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher any more." 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." 51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

In this miracle, Jesus is near Jerusalem, and many Jews from Jerusalem are there. This is definitely not private, but as public as it gets. Jesus is doing this intentionally, as His final, greatest miracle. If they don't believe THIS, they won't believe anything. Which brings up an interesting point about another man named Lazarus.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Isn't that interesting, since there are only two men named "Lazarus" in the Bible? Let's get started:

John 11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

This Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, but he has not been mentioned at all (in the other Gospels) before this mention in John. He appears to be a well-known man, perhaps an important man in Bethany. He seems to be fairly well-to-do. So, why is this most important man - the subject of Jesus' greatest miracle (other than His own resurrection) - not mentioned in the other Gospels?

We get a little hint in the next chapter:

John 12:9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

Remember that the other Gospels were written quite early, while John's Gospel comes much later, perhaps even decades later. From the moment that Jesus brought him back to life, Lazarus was a marked man. We don't have any idea when he died (again), or whether he was put to death. I'm going to make an educated guess, here. This is just my opinion, so take it for that only. In 1973, there were some ossuaries found near Bethany. One of them bore the names of Mary, Martha & Lazarus (family bones were often put together). Now, of course, that doesn't mean it was THIS Mary, Martha & Lazarus, but it seems like an awfully large coincidence if they weren't. It seems unlikely that they would appear together if Lazarus had been killed as some kind of criminal. Perhaps, since Jesus' crucifixion was not far off, the Jewish leadership didn't pursue the killing of Lazarus, at least immediately. Lazarus was likely well-known to the other Gospel writers, and perhaps, they didn't mention this greatest of miracles to protect him from further scrutiny. I don't know. That's just a guess. We'll have to ask Matthew, Mark and Luke when we see them. Here is a little info on the ossuaries:

Mary, Martha and Lazarus

The name "Lazarus" means "whom God helps". It is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means "God has helped." There is an alternate spelling of Eliezer, which means "God IS help." Eliezer can also mean "Comforter," which makes sense, given its literal meaning. The name "Lazarus" appears 15 times in the Bible (in the Greek - the NIV uses his name an additional three times for clarity). Eleazar occurs 74 times, and Eliezer occurs 15 times. No matter how you add that up, it's not divisible by seven. However, with all the names added together, it IS divisible by eight. Isn't that interesting? It's across the Old and New Testament, too.

OK, back to the text:

John 11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Notice verse two, and then jump ahead to chapter 12 again:

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Why would John have mentioned this incident in chapter 11, when it doesn't happen chronologically until chapter 12? It was a fulfillment of prophecy! Remember, John's Gospel wasn't written until close to 100 AD. What had Jesus said about this incident?

Matthew 26:13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

This is the first time that Mary is mentioned in John's Gospel, and apparently, the incident with the perfume was well known to his readers (The Gospel of John was written to believers). So, to identify which Mary he's talking about, he reminds them that this is THAT Mary, the one who poured perfume on Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. She was more well known than her sister, so she is mentioned first, even though Martha is apparently older.

Lazarus is sick, so his sisters send word to Jesus. They seem to know where He is, and how to get a message to Him. It's about a day's travel away. The "sick" here is "deathly sick." Mary & Martha are afraid that Lazarus is going to die. Notice what they say though: "Lord, the one you love is sick." They don't make any demands on Jesus. They just let Him know that Lazarus is sick and trust that He'll do what's right. The "love" here is phileo (fil-eh'-o). Basically, they're saying, "Lord, your good friend is deathly sick."

John 11:4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

How could Jesus say "this sickness will not end in death", when just a few verses later, He announces, "Lazarus is dead."? Of course, He means that Lazarus will not stay dead. He may also be referring to the forever and ever kind of death - the one we, as Christians, never have to worry about.

I want you to really think about the last part of that verse: No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it. Don't just skim past it. Lazarus was sick - deathly sick (and all that means) - and DIED, for the glory of God. Did he realize that? Did his sisters? Not at the time, right? Could your current heartache, your friend's, your parents', your husband's - really be for the glory of God? Could what you're going through, and how you react to it, be to show God's glory?

Look at the next verses:

John 11:5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

This time the "loved" is agapao (ag-ap-ah'-o). That goes far beyond the brotherly love meant in Mary & Martha's message. Jesus loved them as God - totally.

The order of the names is interesting. Why would they be ordered that way? I had played around with an idea that perhaps Lazarus wasn't a believer before his "revival" but Jesus called him brother and said he had fallen asleep. In the New Testament, only believers are said to be "asleep" when they die. So, I have no idea why Lazarus is listed last, unless he was just a much weaker believer than Martha and Mary. Anyway, here is what Jon Courson has to say about that verse (Courson, J. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN, 2003):

Back to the text. Jesus loved, agapao, Martha, Mary & Lazarus, Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Jesus is control of the entire situation. Here, He controls the timing, too. I personally find the two days very interesting. It doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it does make me think about how long Jesus has been gone. It's been about two days, in a 1,000 year way of thinking. (wondering is fine - as long as that's all you're doing, and as long as it never takes the place of what's literally happening here. Jesus stayed where He was two more 24-hour days)

John 11:7 Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."

8 "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"

9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."

Jesus is saying "Don't worry. It's still not time for me to die. There are still things for me to do. The day doesn't end before it is time. Night is coming, but it's not here, yet." Think about how many times Jesus simply walked away from people who were trying to kill Him, because it was not yet His time. It's kind of like what He said back in chapter nine:

John 9:4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming , when no one can work.

The night is coming - the night of the betrayal, the trial, the beating, the cross - but until it comes, no one can lay a finger on Jesus. He is in control.

John 11:11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

12 His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

This is the same Thomas - poor guy - who would go down in history as "Doubting Thomas." (Both "Thomas" and "Didymus" mean "the twin.") He is being bold and courageous here - but notice that he's doubting again. Jesus just told him not to worry, but Thomas didn't have ears to hear it.

Interesting perspective, actually - if he really did think they were going there to die.

Check out the next study for the “rest of the story!”

The Berean Bible Study of the Gospel of John


Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11

© 2012 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 3/6/2012. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.

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