After John chapter ten, Jesus had taken refuge in the same wilderness that John the Baptist had in earlier texts. We find that Jesus had left Judea; the region about Jerusalem, apparently because of the danger that was present there from the Pharisees…
Through the timeline of John 10, the treatment of Jesus has escalated into a near witch hunt for Jesus.
o Pharisees have tried to drive a wedge between Jesus & John (John 4:1)
o The Jews sought to kill him (John 5:18) – JEWS refers to the Pharisees in the Gospel of John... most people in Israel were Jews, so John's repeated use of the term, "the Jews" is referring to the Jewish religious establishment... namely, the Pharisees.
o Their murmuring against him have driven many disciples from Jesus (6:66) – Disciples stopped following him in this verse – Six is the number of man
o Sent officers of the Temple to arrest him (7:32) Never man spake like this man… (46)
o Accused him of being a product of fornication (8:41)
o Called him a Samaritan (8:48)
o Accused him of being possessed with a devil (8:48)
o Picked up stones to stone him (8:59)
o Picked up stones again to stone him (10:31)
o Tried to bodily take hands on him (10:39)
Note the clear escalation of the Pharisees anger... their plot begins in secret and as they get more fearful of Jesus they get very messy... All of their dignity has been lost.
Needless to say, Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus.
Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Verse 5 says that he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus did not have just a casual acquaintance with them, as the interaction with Mary and Martha would later bear out.
Lazarus and his family lived in Bethany. Bethany was 15 furlongs from Jerusalem; more than a day’s walk from where Jesus was. Nevertheless, Jesus did not respond by immediately by leaving for Bethany. Consider this timeline…
Day 1: A messenger arrives with news of Lazarus illness; Jesus decides to remain where he is for 2 days (vs. 6)
Day 2: Jesus deliberately remains where he is.
Day 3: Jesus departs for Judea. Jesus announces that Lazarus is dead.
Day 4: He continues the journey, taking his customary direct route through Samaria , arriving in Bethany late in the day. He is informed that Lazarus has been in the grave 4 days…
If this timeline is accurate, then Lazarus was dead by the time the messenger arrived… Regardless, Jesus did not need to rush to Bethany. Death does not cut short the extent of his power.
An important detail… Jesus did not promise that Lazarus wouldn’t die; He promised that his sickness would not end in death. His point? Death may claim Lazarus, but death will not have the final say in the matter…
John makes it clear in verse 8 that there is danger where Jesus is headed… The last time Jesus was there they tried to stone him multiple times… at the least arrest him.
In keeping with Near Eastern custom, Lazarus had been wrapped in spice-soaked linens and placed inside a burial cave the day that he died. The climate did not afford any delay.
Jesus arrived on the evening of the fourth day; which would be significant and answer the question of why he delayed.
In verse 22 he advised Martha that her brother is going to rise again… She believes he is speaking of the resurrection… eternity… He says I am the resurrection and the life! Only God has resurrection power in him… for him the resurrection is not a time, it is an action! This is a great oneness scripture here… I am the resurrection… I am God…
Jewish literature from the third century AD teaches that the soul of a dead individual remains near the body for three days, hoping to re-enter; then, seeing decay set in, it gives up hope and departs. If this literature reflects established teaching, then resurrection after the 3rd day was unthinkable. Apparently death and decay was more hopeless than death alone… Some could believe the dead could be raised; but after decomposition hopelessness was complete.
- Apparently there were many who believed (due to the teaching that the soul of a dead person remains near the body for three days, hoping to re-enter) that the dead could rise within three days… Jesus waited until the 4th to arrive… going beyond the limitations of everyone’s belief… Sometimes God has to take you beyond the current limitation of your faith in order to get you to a place where miracles happen
o This wrong teaching could have stood as an explanation as to Lazarus being raised
o What we now understand from medical science as a coma could have stood as an explanation
o But in the Near East climate after 4 days, the decomposition of a body would have already begun, thereby removing all doubt of either of the above possibilities being the reason of Lazarus raising
Verse 39 – Jesus instructs them to move the stone – In retrospect, The God that could do anything, would not do certain things… God will not do for you what you can do for yourself. 75 to 100 pounds of perfumed resins were placed upon Lazarus body… (again- previous point)
When people come to altars; undoubtedly it is God who is doing to work of reviving… however God expects “people” to assist in the work of unwrapping them from their entanglements… Lazarus was truly risen from the dead, but he needed help getting loose from what bound him…
John includes these details for a purpose… there is a differentiation here between Lazarus’ raising up and that of Jesus… With Lazarus they had to take off his grave clothes – his bondage resulting from his death… Jesus grave clothes were left behind… Lazarus was resuscitated… Jesus was resurrected…he was not bound… (1 Corinthians 15:55) “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Lazarus was not resurrected in the sense of “the resurrection;” he would not have seen death. Lazarus died one day… Jesus is still alive…
Be it known that Lazarus was in fact a sick man prior to his death… but when God raised him up, he was whole. When God brings restoration it is not intended to be to your former condition… God wants to make you better than you were before.
Sin brings forth several things. The emotion of sin is shame (Genesis 2:25, 3:10). Sin results in bondage. Sin results in death (Romans 6:23) a spiritual and eventually literal death. Let us rather die with Christ through repentance. That kind of death – death to the flesh that is – frees one from sin. (Romans 6:7) Let us rather be buried with Christ through baptism (Romans 6:4) Let us rather be risen with Christ from the death of our sin through the Holy Ghost. (Romans 6:23- Acts 2:38) Then remove the entanglements of death through a lifestyle of holiness.