THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 11 – continued
THE 6TH SIGN: THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS

...for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice...
John 5:28

I, I am Yahweh, and there is no other Savior but me. I have revealed, have saved, and have proclaimed, not some foreigner among you. You are my witnesses, declares Yahweh.
Isaiah 43:11-12

Winter: Feast of Dedication IV. THE OPPOSITION CONTINUES IN JERUSALEM during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) 10:22-42
  Jesus in BETHANY (near Jerusalem)  
  V.  THE OPPOSITION AT BETHANY 11:1–2
Late winter/early spring                 A.  SIGN #6: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead - #5: I AM the Resurrection and the Life" 11:1-44
               B.  The Pharisees plan to kill Jesus 11:45-57

Please read John 11:17-27: Jesus Teaches Lazarus' Sisters About Resurrection
17On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already.  18Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him.  Mary remained sitting in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, 22but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.'  23Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'  24Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.' 25Jesus said: 'I AM the resurrection [and the Life].  Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?'  27'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.'

John 11:17-20: On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him.  Mary remained sitting in the house.

The detail that Lazarus had been dead for four days is significant.  It makes it clear that Lazarus was truly deceased.  According to the cultural traditions of the Jews it was believed that the soul hovered near the body for three days but after that time there was no hope of resuscitation and decay would begin [Anchor Bible: Gospel According to John, Brown, 424].

...about two miles from Jerusalem...  The literal translation reads "fifteen stadia".  According to Fr. Brown this is about 1 3/4th miles and agrees with the location of El 'Azariyeh, the modern Arabic name of the site of the old village of Bethany [Brown, page 422].

many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  It was then, and still is now, the custom of the Jews to bury the dead as soon as possible after death.  Those who die a natural death, like Lazarus from illness, would have their bodies washed in preparation for burial and would be anointed with oils and herbs and wrapped in burial cloths.  Those who die violent deaths, however, are not washed because their blood must accompany them to the grave [Jesus will not be washed after His death].  The ritual of mourning would begin immediately following burial. According to the customs of 1st century Judea men and women walked separately in the funeral procession and after burial the women returned alone to begin the mourning, which customarily lasted for 30 days.  This mourning ritual included loud wailing and dramatic expressions of grief.

John 11:21-24: Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.'  Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'  Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.'

Martha offers a mild reproach, which is followed by a statement of faith in Jesus.

Question: What belief does Martha express in Jesus but why doesn't she ask Him to resurrect her brother?  See verse 21-22 and Daniel 12:2.
Answer: She believes if Jesus had been by her brother's side before his death that Jesus could have healed him. She also expresses the belief that whatever He asks God the Father will be granted.  But why doesn't she ask for Lazarus' resurrection at this time if she believes in the power of Jesus as the Son of God?  Some scholars suggest that her faith was imperfect but according to St. Augustine Martha illustrates the perfect example of Christian faith.  She places herself and her brother entirely in God's hands, in submission to His will. St. Augustine writes: ...she will not say, 'But now I ask you to raise my brother to life again.  [...] all she said was, I know that you can do it; if you will do it; it is for you to judge whether to do it, not for me to presumeIn Ioannis Evangelium  (The Gospel of John), 49.13

Question: What similarities do you find in this passage of these two women and the portrait Luke shows us of these women in Luke 10:38-42?
Answer: This picture of Martha and Mary compliments the portrait of them found in Luke 10:38-42.  Martha rushes out to meet Jesus while Mary is at home.  Martha is the woman of "action" while Mary is the quiet, reflective sister.

Question:  Do you see any similarity between Martha's statement in verse 22 and the Virgin Mary's instructions to the waiters in John 2:5?
Answer: In each there is the same indirect expressed hope that Jesus will act despite what appears to be an impossible situation.  There is a desire and a delicate suggestion but no direct request.

Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said, 'I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.'

Question: How does Martha misunderstand Jesus statement in verse 23?
Answer: She apparently thinks He is offering only words of comfort affirming the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in the final judgment that He has taught and that is advocated by the Pharisees but not the Sadducees [Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8]. 

In Mark 12:18-27 Jesus upheld the doctrine of the final resurrection: Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to him and they put this question to him.[..].  They proceed to tell Jesus a story supporting their claim of no resurrection.  Jesus responds rather severely by saying: Surely the reason why you are wrong is that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven.  Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him and said, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  He is God, not of the dead, but of the living.  You are very much mistaken.

The Old Testament Scriptures to which Jesus refers which promise a bodily resurrection are found in Job 19:25-26; in David's Toda [thanksgiving] psalms of Psalms 16; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; and 2 Maccabees chapters 7 and 12 and 14.

  1. Job 19:25-26: I know that I have a living Defender [Redeemer] and that he will rise up last, on the dust of the earth.  After my awakening, he will set me close to him, and from my flesh I shall look on God.
  2. Psalms 16:9-11: So my heart rejoices, my soul delights, my body too will rest secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol [the grave], you cannot allow your faithful servant to see the abyss.  You will teach me the path of life, unbounded joy in your presence, at your right hand delight for ever.
  3. Isaiah 26:19: Your dead will come back to life, your corpses will rise again.  Wake up and sing, you dwellers in the dust, for your dew will be a radiant dew, but the earth will give birth to the shades.
  4. Daniel 12:2-3: Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.
  5. 2 Maccabees chapters 7, 12 and 14: The Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead in the Last Days was also affirmed in 2 Maccabees chapter 7 in the story of the martyrdom of seven brothers during the persecution of the 2nd century BC Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV.  2 Maccabees 7:9: the second brother cries out during his torture: With his last breath he exclaimed, 'Cruel brute, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since we die for his laws, to live again for ever.'  This belief is affirmed by the other brothers in verses 11, 14, 23, 29, and 36. In 2 Maccabees 12:38-45 Judas Maccabeus and his soldiers pray for their dead comrades that their sins may be forgiven in verse 44: For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.   And in the death of the Jewish elder Razia in 14:46:  ...he tore out his entrails and taking them in both hands flung them down on the crowd, calling on the Master of his life and spirit to give them back to him one day.  Thus he died.

Note: Wisdom 3:7-9 may also be a reference to the final resurrection.  This passage implies a later or altered condition of the just sometime after death and could refer to the final glorification of the righteous.
Martha also held the belief of a bodily resurrection, but Jesus will put her faith in a bodily resurrection in a radical new context in the next verse.

John 11:25-27: Jesus said: 'I AM the resurrection [and the Life]. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?'  'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.'

The additional phrase "and the Life" is omitted in some MMS [ancient handwritten manuscripts] and included in others. The addition of the phrase and the Life does fit well, however, with the flow of ideas and statements that proceed and follow the phrase. This is Jesus' 5th "I AM" statement using a predicate nominative.   You may remember that all the previous "I AM" statements where Jesus uses a predicate nominative reference the themes of the resurrection and eternal life.

Jesus identifies Himself with the significant and symbolic words: I AM, ego ami, which reminds us of Yahweh's revelation of Himself to Moses 3 times as I AM in Exodus 3:13-14.  In John's Gospel Jesus will use these words 26 times and in 7 different metaphors [each used with a predicate nominative]:

1. 6:35 "I AM the bread of life"
2. 8:12 "I AM the light of the world"
3. 10:7 "I AM the gate for the sheep"
4. 10:11 "I AM the good shepherd"
5. 11:25 "I AM the resurrection and the life"
6. 14:6 "I AM the way and the truth and the life"
7. 15:1 "I AM the true vine"
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2003 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

St. John will also record 4 "I AM" statements in which Jesus does not use a predicate nominative:

Question: What is the significance of Jesus' statement in light of Martha's previous understanding?
Answer: The life that Jesus gives is a present reality and not just a future promise!  There are two principal ideas here:

  1. "I AM the resurrection" is a direct answer to Martha's profession of faith in verse 24 and also tells her of the present realization of what she had only expected on "the last day".  Jesus is the resurrection in the sense that not only will whoever believes in Him, even though he may suffer a physical death, shall come to eternal life but there is the gift of spiritual rebirth that is offered now, in this life. The believer who is resurrected spiritually in Christ, even though remaining "in the flesh" for a time, already lives by the Spirit and when he dies physically, will live spiritually.  That is why we speak of 2 resurrections: one through baptism when we die to sin and are raised to eternal life and the other at the end of time [see Revelation 20:5-6; CCC# 686; 990; 999-1004; 1015-17; 1214-15].
  2. "and the Life" is a statement related to verse 26.  The believer who is alive spiritually will never die spiritually.  Whoever receives the gift of life through belief in Christ Jesus will never die a spiritual death because this life is eternal. The "life" that Jesus speaks of is life that comes from "above" and is begotten through God the Holy Spirit.  His life conquers physical death as well as gives spiritual life.  But this gift of supernatural life is not just the life that will begin beyond the grave but is the supernatural life which sanctifying grace will bring to the Christian soul through to gift of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.  It is the promise Jesus made to all believers in John 6:54: Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.

The believer in Christ has triumphed over death forever and this victory will be the sign of Lazarus' resurrection.

John 11:27: 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.' Martha of Bethany is a wonderful example of the model Christian. She responds in faith, in love, and in obedience to the teachings of Christ in her profession of faith in Him. Her statement is one of the clearest recognitions of Jesus as the Messiah that we have heard in John's Gospel, and it is one of the fullest professions of faith found in the New Testament. It has the force of Peter's confessions of faith in Jesus expressed in Matthew16:16 and in John 6:69. The New Jerusalem Bible translates her response to Jesus as: Yes, Lord, she said, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world. Other translations read: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world (RSV Catholic Edition). The word "I believe" in the Greek text is the word pieteuo. Martha has used the same word to express her belief that St. Peter used in his profession of faith in John 6:69. The Greek word pieteuo is the root for the word "epistemology," which is the philosophical analysis of how we know. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in his analysis of Peter's confession of faith recorded in John 6:69, has translated pieteuo as "I have come to know," which expresses the process of discovery and the growth of faith and trust in Jesus in one's journey toward salvation (The Apostles, 51).

Please read John 11:28-44: The 6th Sign: The Resurrection of Lazarus
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, 'The Master is here and wants to see you.' 29Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. 30Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him.  31When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'  33At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, 34'Where have you put him?'  They said, 'Lord, come and see.'  35Jesus wept; 36and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him!' 37But there were some who remarked, 'He opened the eyes of the blind man.  Could he not have prevented this man's death?'  38Sighing again, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening.  39Jesus said, 'Take the stone away.'  Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 'Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day since he died.' 40Jesus replied, 'Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?  41So they took the stone away.  Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: 'Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.  42I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.'  43When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'  44The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face.  Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, let him go free.'

John 11:28-31: When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, 'The Master is here and wants to see you.' Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him.  Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him.  When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

The word translated in verse 28 "master" is also translated as "teacher" [Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 425].  Jesus has remained outside the town. Martha's cautious whispering may indicate the element of danger mentioned in verse 8.

John 11:32-36: Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'  At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, 'Where have you put him?'  They said, 'Lord, come and see.'  Jesus wept; and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him!'

Question: What is Mary's first response when she comes to Jesus? Is it similar to Martha's greeting?  Compare her actions with her other encounters with Christ in Luke 10:39 and John 12:3.  How is she always pictured with Christ?
Answer: As soon as Mary sees Jesus she falls prostrate at His feet.  Mary of Bethany is always pictured at Jesus' feet.  Both sisters are examples of the model Christian.

Weeping, Mary also mildly reproaches Jesus with the words: Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.   It is Jesus' response that has caused so much debate among Biblical scholars.  In both verses 33 and 38 Jesus exhibits a strong display of emotion.  Scholars have found the Greek in these passages very difficult to translate.  The difficulty is that what is being rendered in Greek seems to be two Semitic idioms that express deep internal emotion.  The debate is whether the emotion is sorrow, as expressed in this translation, or anger?  The same verbs in question, tarassein [verse 33 = "shutter" or "sigh"] and embrimassthai [= "moved with deepest emotions" or "deeply distressed," which appears in both verses 33 and 38] can have the basic meaning implying an articulate expression of anger or indignation as well as sorrow.  The Greek verb embrimassthai is used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament in Daniel 11:30 as well as the Gospel of Mark 14:5.   The Greek word tarassein, used in this passage, is also found in John 14:1 & 27 describing the reaction of the disciples to the imminent death of Jesus.  It is also found in John 13:21 describing how Jesus was emotionally moved at the thought of being betrayed by His Apostle Judas Iscariot when Satan entered his heart.  The verb embrimassthai is also used to describe Jesus' reaction to the suffering of the afflicted in Mark 1:43 and Matthew 9:30 but as in this passage scholars cannot agree if the emotion is anger or sorrow [Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 425-26; 435; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1691 & #5015; Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament pages 204-6].

It is interesting that in the commentaries of many of the early Church Fathers, who were articulate in both speaking and writing in Greek and perhaps more familiar with the Semitic idioms, they understood this passage in John in the sense of Jesus expressing extreme anger rather than sorrow.  Fr. Brown comments on the interpretation of the Church Fathers: While it does not seem that Jesus would have been angry at the afflicted, he may very well have been angry at their illness and handicaps which were looked on as manifestations of Satan's kingdom of evil.  [...]. Turning to the passage in John, we find that the Greek Fathers understood it in a sense of getting angry...   [Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 426].  425-26; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1691 & #5015; Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament pages 204-6].

Question: We can understand Jesus' sorrowful response to the pain and suffering of His friends but what are the reasons for which He might be responding in anger?

Answer: It is unlikely that the anger is directed at Mary's mild reproach.  She does not understand that the reason for her brother's death is for God to be glorified through the miracle of his resurrection.  Nor is her weeping an indication of a lack of faith since Jesus Himself cried.  A better explanation may be that that He was angry because once again He is face to face with the realm of Satan and the sin that brings suffering and death, manifestations of Satan's evil influence over creation and mankind.

Saint John Chrysostom suggests that in this passage Jesus has the same mixture of emotion that He felt in the Garden of Gethsemane as recounted in the Synoptic Gospels [see Mark 14:33] which is an emotional distress caused by the imminence of His suffering and death and the climax of His struggle with Satan.  Homilies on the Gospel of John, 63.2

Whether His emotion was anger or grief or a combination of both, this passage allows us to reflect on the depth of Jesus' human feelings reminding us that He was both fully divine and fully man and  therefore experienced of all the depths of emotion that we feel.  The Navarre Commentary suggests if Jesus can be moved to tears over the temporary physical death of a friend and believer what must He feel over the spiritual death of the sinner who has brought about his own eternal condemnation?  St. Augustine writes about this passage: Christ wept; let man also weep for himself.  For why did Christ weep, but to teach men to weep.  St Augustine, The Gospel of John, 49, 19.

John 11:37-39: But there were some who remarked, 'He opened the eyes of the blind man.  Could he not have prevented this man's death?'  Sighing again, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening.  Jesus said, 'Take the stone away.'  Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, 'Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day since he died.'

The crowd of mourners surrounding Mary and Jesus show no doubts about the reality of Jesus' miracle of healing the man born blind. Theirs is a natural question: Since Jesus has performed such wonderful miracles why didn't He heal His friend?

John 11:38a: sighing again Jesus reached the tomb:  Father Raymond Brown in his commentary translates this verse: With this again arousing his emotions, Jesus came to the tomb [Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 421].  The Navarre Commentary renders this verse: Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb [page 157].  These are more literal translations than the New Jerusalem Bible on this passage.  Again there is the use of the verb embrimasthai = 'moved with deepest emotion' which is the same verb used in verse 33.

it was a cave with a stone to close the opening: Lazarus is not buried in the public cemetery but in a cave'the tomb of a wealthy man, the poor were buried in common graves.  These rock-hewn sepulchres consisted of an antechamber and an inner or lower part of the chamber in which bodies were deposited in niches in a recumbent position. Approximately a year after the burial the bones would be collected and placed in a stone ossuary or bone-box.  According to the Talmud the burial niches were usually six feet long, nine feet wide, and ten feet high.  The entrance to the burial cave was sealed by a large round stone that rolled in front of the opening in a channel specially cut for the stone or was sealed by a plug-like stone [Ancient Israel, page 280].  The fact that this family could afford a cave burial site is another indication that Lazarus' family was neither poor nor destitute.  Jesus' body will also be laid in a similar cave burial cave, which was the tomb of a wealthy man who was a disciple as well as a member of the Sanhedrin: Joseph of Arimathea [Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42].

Question: Upon Jesus' order to remove the stone Martha makes a very practical statement; what comment does she make and why?
Answer:  It is now the fourth day and corruption has begun; the decaying flesh has a very strong and repulsive odor, practical Martha tells Jesus her brother's corpse will stink!

John 11:40-44: Jesus replied, 'Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?  So they took the stone away.  Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: 'Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.  I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.'  When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'  The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face.  Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, let him go free.'

Jesus prays with His eyes opened and raised to heaven, as is the Jewish custom [see Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; 18:13; John 17:1]. Jesus begins His prayer by addressing God the Father as "Abba," which was Jesus' characteristic but unusual way of addressing God in prayer.  No Jew of His generation or previous generations would have addressed Yahweh this way.  Ab is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for 'father' while abba is more literally rendered as the affectionate address of a little child = 'daddy'.  In Romans 8:15 St. Paul writes: For what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, Abba, Father!  And in Galatians 4:6-7 St. Paul also writes: As you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying, 'Abba, Father'; and so you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir, by God's own act.  Jesus' loving and intimate address to God the Father has now, through our baptism and resurrection in Christ enabled us to go to our "Abba" in the same intimate union as a little child goes to the embrace of a loving "daddy". 

he cried in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'
Question: What is significant about the fact that Jesus calls Lazarus by name?
Answer: Although dead, Lazarus has not lost his personal identity.  Death does not end existence but transforms existence to another plane which is why Jesus stated in Matthew 22:32 and Luke 20:28 that God is not God of the death but of the living, for to him all are alive.

John 11:44a: The dead man came out...   In this 6th sign Jesus has given back physical life as a sign of His power to give eternal life and as a promise that on "The Last Day" He will bodily raise the dead!

Question: What does this sign prefigure that Jesus spoke of in John chapter 5 verses 28-30 concerning the Final Judgment?
Answer: Jesus said ... for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice: Those who did good will come forth to life; and those who did evil will come forth to judgment.

The raising of Lazarus is the 3rd resurrection miracle in the Gospels. 

Question: Can you name the two other resurrection miracles?
Answer: The three resurrection miracles are:

  1. The raising of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5:35-43
  2. The widow of Nain's son in Luke 7:11-17
  3. The raising of Lazarus is only recounted in John's Gospel.  It does not appear in the Synoptic Gospels.

Please read the other two resurrection accounts (Jairus' Daughter and the widow of Nain's son) .

Question:  What similarities do you see between these 3 resurrection events?  Compare the raising of Lazarus to the raising of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5:21-43.  Hint: look for at least 5 points of similarity.
Answer: There are 5 points that parallel the account of the raising of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5:21-24, 35, 43 and the raising of Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha:

  1. Death of a sick person before Jesus arrives
  2. the use of the metaphor of "sleep" for death
  3. Jesus' emotion or displeasure at the loud wailing of the mourners
  4. Jesus' command with which He calls the dead back to life
  5. Jesus' instructions in the care of the person who has been raised

Question: What two Old Testament prophets raised the dead?  Hint: see 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:8-37

Answer: Elijah and Elisha

Question: What is the chief difference between these Old Testament resurrections, the Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter and the widow of Nain's son compared to Jesus' miracle with Lazarus?
Answer: The length of time that Lazarus was dead.  The other resurrections occurred immediately after death.  It had been at least 4 days [verses 17 and 39] since Lazarus had died.  His body had begun to actually decay.

Question: How will Jesus' resurrection from His tomb differ from Lazarus' resurrection from the grave?  Hint: see Romans 6:9
Answer: Lazarus lived out the normal span of his life after his resurrection and then physically died again, but Jesus being raised from the dead will never die again!  He has conquered sin and death!  In Romans 6:9-10 St. Paul writes: We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and will never die again.   Death has no power over him any more.  For by dying, he is dead to sin once and for all, and now the life that he lives is life with God.

The great 4th century Biblical scholar St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, saw the resurrection of Lazarus as a sign of the Sacrament of Reconciliation [Penance], and in Christian art found in the catacombs in Rome dating from the 1st, 2nd , and 3rd centuries  there are over 150 representations of the raising of Lazarus symbolizing the gift of the life of grace which comes through the priest in this Sacrament.

Question: What symbolism do you see in this miracle that can be compared to the miracle of the grace the Christian believer receives in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Answer: St. Augustine gave a beautiful analogy comparing Lazarus coming alive out of the dark tomb to the repentant believer through confession who "comes forth" from the darkness of sin and into the light of grace: For what does come forth mean if not emerging from what is hidden, to be made manifest.  But for you to confess is God's doing; he calls you with an urgent voice by an extraordinary grace.  And just as the dead man came out still bound, so you go to confession still guilty.  In order that his sins be loosed, the Lord said this to his ministers: 'Unbind him and let him go'.  What you will loose on earth will be loosed also in heaven."  St. Augustine: The Gospel of John [In Ioannes Evangelium] 49.24

Please read verses 45-57: The Jewish Leaders Decide to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46but some of them went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.  47Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting [gathered together*].  'Here is this man working all these signs,' they said, 'and what action are we taking?  48If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and suppress the Holy Place and our nation.'  49One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, 'You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; 50you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.' 51He did not speak in his own person, but as high priest of that year he was prophesying that Jesus was to die for the nation'52and not for the nation only, but also to gather together into one the scattered children of God.  53From that day onwards they were determined to kill him.  54So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.  55The Jewish Passover was drawing near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves 56were looking out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, 'What do you think?  Will he come to the festival or not?  57The chief priests and Pharisees had by now given their orders: anyone who knew where he was must inform them so that they could arrest him.

John 11:45-48: Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.  Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting [gathered together*].  'Here is this man working all these signs,' they said, 'and what action are we taking?  If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and suppress the Holy Place and our nation.'

..the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting...  The Greek word translated as "called" is sunago, meaning "to collect" or "to convene" [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4863].  The council which was convened was probably the Sanhedrin, the Jewish law court which had jurisdiction over civil and religious matters with Roman approval.  The three estates of the Sanhedrin were the priests, the elders, and the scribes [most of the scribes being Pharisees].  The Sanhedrin would not have moved against Jesus if the Pharisees were not opposed to him. 

Question:  From the very beginning of Jesus' ministry what has been the ultimate fear of the Jewish authorities?
Answer: The fear that messianic fervor among the people would spark a revolt against Rome, which would destroy the relatively good relationship the civil and religious authorities had developed with the Roman authority.  Such a revolt threatened the nation and the most holy site of the people, the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship of Yahweh and the only site where sacrifices can be offered to God.

John 11:49-52One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, 'You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.'  He did not speak in his own person, but as high priest of that year he was prophesying that Jesus was to die for the nation and not for the nation only, but also to gather together into one the scattered children of God.

The surname Caiaphas is the Greek rendering of what was probably Qayyafa in Hebrew.  Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest at the time of the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry [Luke 3:2] and during the trial of Jesus.  He was the son-in-law of Annas who served as high priest from 6AD-15AD and who still wielded great influence. Five of Annas' sons as well as Caiaphas, his son-in-law, would hold the office of high priest [see the chart "The Rulers of Judea"]. 

Some Biblical scholars have accused John of not understanding Jewish traditions.  According to Mosaic Law the High Priests of Yahweh held their position for life [see Numbers 35:25], but the Romans controlled the appointment of the high priests and apparently saw a life time appointment as a position of too much power and influence.  It is obvious that John not only understood Jewish traditions but Jewish traditions in the historical context.  The 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus has confirmed that this was the practice under Roman rule at the time Jesus lived.  This was also a practice that was more familiar to the Roman culture; for example pagan high priests in Roman dominated Asia Minor changed each year.

Other Biblical scholars have also cited John's use of the phrase high priest being of that year as evidence that John is guilty of making a historical error by suggesting that Caiaphas was High Priest for only that year, repeating the phrase 3 times in 11:49; 11:51, and 18:13.  If John was suggesting a one-year term that would certainly be an error, Caiaphas was the High Priest for 18 years.  But what is interesting is the connection between the triple phrase high priest being of that year [ archiereus on tou eniautos ekeinou]'that fateful year of Jesus' sacrificial death:

11:49

One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, [...] one man should die for the people ...

11:51

He did not speak in his own person, but as high priest of that year he was prophesying that Jesus was to die for the nation...

18:13

...Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews, 'It is better for one man to die for the people.'

The number 3 always indicates importance, fullness or completion, and in the New Covenant—the Most Holy Trinity.  The mention of 3 of anything in Scripture, like 3 days or 3 men, usually means that the event that follows is of great significance.  But a series of a repeated phrase links those phrases together with the number of times repeated adding significance.

Question: Keeping in mind that it is the High Priest who yearly offers the sin sacrifice for the people of the Covenant in the Feast of Atonement [Leviticus 16:1-16; Hebrews 9:7]  What is the significance of the link between these repeated phrases?
Answer: The High Priest Caiaphas is linked to Jesus' sacrificial death.  In the Old Covenant system it is the High Priest who makes the most important yearly sacrifice for the sins of the people at during the Feat of Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement.   In the early fall of that year, 30AD Caiaphas chose the lamb and sacrificed it on the Feast of Yom Kippur for the sins of the people.  In that same year in March he will chose the True Lamb and will be instrumental in offering His sacrifice for the sins of the world!  This is why John uses the phrase 3 times.  Jesus sacrificial death will be the full and complete sacrifice which all other animal sacrifices prefigured.  There is also the ironic connection between this last High Priest of the Old Covenant being instrumental in the "investiture" through the baptism of blood of the High Priest of the New Covenant, Jesus the Messiah.

Joseph Caiaphas was appointed high priest by the Roman governor Valerius Gratus in 18AD and was deposed by Roman governor Vitellius in 36AD; the same year governor Pilate was recalled to Rome.  Caiaphas may have been the first to suggest that Jesus would have to be killed to prevent a revolt.  The plans for Jesus' arrest were made in Joseph Caiaphas' house [Matthew 26:3ff] and Jesus' inquisition before the Sanhedrin[m] was held there [Matthew 26:57ff ; Mark 14:53ff; and Luke 22:54ff].  Caiaphas also was present with the priests at the trial of Peter and John in Acts of Apostles 4:6 even though Annas is called the high priest in that passage, indicating that perhaps he still ruled through Caiaphas.  The writings of the first century AD Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, corroborates the Biblical account of Caiaphas' tenure as high priest at this time [Antiquities of the Jews, 18.2.2; 18.4.6].

The High Priest "imaged" Yahweh to His people as Yahweh's chief representative and in that capacity also served a prophetic role when he "spoke the words of Yahweh."  Even though he is an evil man, in his role of Yahweh's High Priest, and without knowing the impact of his words, Caiaphas does speak prophetically in verse 50.

Question: What is the prophetic nature of Caiaphas' statement in verse 50 and how was it fulfilled?
Answer: Jesus did indeed die for the Jews and well as for all people.

Question: It is ironic that what Caiaphas was trying to prevent did occur.  What happened in 66AD and what was the result that occurred in 70AD?
Answer: In 66AD the Jews revolted against Rome.  The nation was destroyed, a million people died, and the rest were sold into the slavery. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD [just as Jesus prophesized in Matthew 24:1-2] and it was never rebuilt.

John 11:52: ...and not for the nation only, but also to gather together the scattered children of God. The Greek verb for "gathered" in the literal Greek translation is sunago.

The Fathers of the Church saw verse 52 as having been prefigured in the feeding of the 5,000.  The "fragment" [singular in the Greek = klasmata] of bread was scattered across the hills but collected as one whole.  In the first catechism of the Catholic Church, know as the Didache, this thought is expressed in the oldest Eucharistic prayer found outside of Sacred Scripture: As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and then, when gathered, became one mass, so may Thy church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom.  Ancient Christian Writers: The Didache, page 20

Joseph Caiaphas intends that Jesus be executed to save the nation of Judea from political annihilation by the Romans, but the higher prophetic purpose, which he does not recognize, is that the death of Jesus is necessary for the salvation of the world [see John 1:29].

Question: Caiaphas uses the curious phrase "to gather together the scattered children of God."  Does this phrase recall any Old Testament prophecy we have studied in preparation for the "Good Shepherd Discourse" or any other prophecies you might find?
Answer: Yes, most of the shepherd prophecies of the prophets call for the gathering of the scattered flock; for example Jeremiah 23:3; 29:14; 31:8; 31:10; 32:37; Ezekiel 34:13; 36:24; 37:21; Micah 2:12.  I especially like the passage in Jeremiah 31:10: Listen, nations, to the word of Yahweh.  On the farthest coasts and islands proclaim it, saying, 'He who scattered Israel is gathering him, will guard him as a shepherd guarding his flock.'  I especially like this chapter of Jeremiah because it begins with Yahweh's promise in 31:1: When the time comes, Yahweh declares, I shall be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people. And the chapter ends in 31:31-34 with the promise of the new covenant [31:31], which will mean the forgiveness of sins [31:34] and in 31:35-40, a new creation! Little did Josephus Caiaphas know that his words spoken in malice were full of prophetic promise!

For Christians of all ages this phrase: to gather together the scattered children of God,
expresses God's universal Fatherhood and His divine plan that all children of God from all nations shall be gathered into one universal = catholic family in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah 43:5; Jeremiah 23:3-5; Ezekiel 34:23; and 37: 21-24.  The Great Council of Vatican II quotes this passage when addressing the universality of the Church: All men are called to belong to the new people of God.  This people therefore, whilst remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God's will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (John 11:52).   

Question:  It is ironic that this is the same Greek verb sunago ="gathered together" in verse 52 that was used in verse 47 for the "gathering together" of the priests and Pharisees.  What is the importance of the contrast between these two "gatherings"?
Answer:  The priests and Pharisees are "gathered together" to kill Jesus and God's dispersed children are "gathered together" that they may be given the gift of life.

John 11:53-54: From that day onwards they were determined to kill him.  So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

Biblical historians do not agree on the location of this town, named for the younger son of Joseph son of Jacob/Israel [Genesis 41:52].  They are not even certain that the reference is to a region and not a town, perhaps the territory originally given to the half-tribe of Ephraim in the Holy Land.  Some scholars identify it with Et-Taiyibeh, a small town some 12 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  There may be a connection to the prophecies of the uniting of Israel in Ezekiel because it was a prince of the house of Ephraim who led the revolt that divided united Israel onto the two nations of Israel and Judah in the 10th century BC.  Since that time Israel had not been united.  Ezekiel prophesied a complete restoration of both Ephraim [or what had become of the Northern Kingdom which was in Jesus time called Samaria] and Judah [the Southern Kingdom of the Davidic kings] which will be fulfilled when Christ will unite all Israel and the Gentile nations into one universal [catholic] Church.

Wherever this place of refuge was located, the purpose was to hide Jesus and His disciples from the Jewish authorities until the Passover.  This is Jesus' last opportunity to teach His disciples, to strengthen their faith, and to prepare them for His death and their mission.

The time of the Last Passover draws near:  Spring 30AD
John 11:55-57: The Jewish Passover was drawing near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves were looking out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, 'What do you think?  Will he come to the festival or not?  The chief priests and Pharisees had by now given their orders: anyone who knew where he was must inform them so that they could arrest him.

Question: Why is it that the authorities can be fairly certain that Jesus will attend the Passover/Unleavened Bread Feast?  Hint: Exodus 23:14-19
Answer: This is one of the three "Pilgrim Feasts" which by law every man of the Covenant must attend.  Jesus has previously attended each of these holy days of obligation even though His life had been threatened.

chief priests  in the first century there were 24 "courses" [families?] of high priests who were descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest from whom all high priests must descend [Antiquities of the Jews, 7.14.7].  The other descendants of the tribe of Levi served the Old Covenant Church in various other roles such as choirmasters, teachers, administrators of the Temple, etc.

the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves..  The celebration of Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread occurred during an 8-day period in early spring [Leviticus 23:5-8].  For this solemn and holy pilgrim feast [Exodus 23:14-17] the people used to arrive in Jerusalem a few days in advance to prepare for the feast by ritual purification, washing in holy water in a ritual pool called a mikveh, fasting and making offerings at the Temple.  The Passover sacrifice, offered in the Temple in Jerusalem on the 14th of Nisan, was a rite of purification for the people and the deaths of the Pascal lambs and kids at the Temple service were offered in remembrance of the sacrifice of the first Passover in Egypt [Exodus chapter 12].  This feast, celebrated since their last night in Egypt before the Exodus out of slavery, was a prefigurement of what would become the Christian Easter sacrificial Mass when Christ,  our Pascal lamb, who offered Himself once and of all to the eternal Father on the altar of the Cross to atone for our sins and to liberate mankind from sin and death, is not only remembered but whose sacrifice is represented on our Catholic altars and whose victorious resurrection is celebrated as a promise of every Christian's promised resurrection.  In Pope Paul VI's homily on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1976, he spoke of this connection to the Old Covenant feast of Passover: Gave himself for me?  But does there still exist a religion which is expressed in sacrifices? No, the sacrifices of the ancient law and pagan religions have no longer any reason to exist; but the world always needs a sacrifice, a valid, unique and perennial one, for the redemption of human sin [...]; it is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which wipes out sin from the world; a sacrifice which the Eucharist actualizes in time and makes it possible for the men of this earth to take part in it [Navarre Bible Commentary, p.162].

Question: Do you take the time to prepare yourself before you enter into the holy place of the Mass to come face to face with your Savior? 
St. Josemaria Escriva asks this question in Christ is Passing By: On this earth, when we receive an important person, we bring out the best, lights, music, formal dress. How should we prepare to receive Christ into our soul?  Have we ever thought about how we would behave if we could only receive him once in a lifetime?" [J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 91; Navarre p. 162]

 

Resources for chapter 11

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Alfred Edersheim
  2. Anchor Bible Commentary- The Gospel According to John, Fr. Raymond Brown
  3. The Gospel of John Study Handbook, Dr. Scott Hahn
  4. The Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J. [Bruce Publishing Company, New York, 195].
  5. The Navarre Bible Commentary – St John
  6. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim
  7. Homilies on the Gospel of John-St. John Chrysostom
  8. Ancient Christian Writers: The Didache, James Kleist- translator [The Newman Press, 1948]
  9. Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War
  10. Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
  11. The Jewish Festivals: From Their Beginnings to Our Own Day, Hayyim Schauss
  12. Ancient Israel, edited by Hershel Shanks, [Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999]

Catechism references for chapter 11 [*indicates verse quoted in CCC reference]

Psalms 82:6

441*

John 11:41-42

2604*

John 11:

994*

John 11:44

640*

John 11:24

993*, 1001

John 11:47-48

548*

John 11:25

994*

John 11:48

596

John 11:27

439*

John 11:49-50

596

John 11:28

581*

John 11: 52

58, 60*, 706*, 2793

John 11:34

472*

 

 

John 11:39

627*

 

 

 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.