11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick [the nature of his sickness not mentioned; sickness is a reality of life for all people]. He was from Bethany [first mention of Bethany in John’s Gospel; village located about two miles from Jerusalem along the road to Jericho], the village of Mary [the more contemplative of the sisters as per Lk. 10:38-42] and her sister Martha [the active worker as per Lk. 10:38-42].
11:2 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 [cf. Mk. 14:3-9; Jn. 12:1-10].
11:3 So the sisters sent word [wording of their message indicates that Jesus had a close relationship with this family] to Jesus [Mary and Martha’s first response was to send for Jesus when they needed help; Jesus was in Perea, a two-day journey from Bethany (cf. Jn. 10:40)], “Lord, the one you love [cf. Jn. 11:5 re: Jesus’ feelings toward this family] is sick.”
Note: Lazarus could be identified to Jesus as “the one you love.” How would others identify you to Jesus?
11:4 When he heard this, Jesus said [Jesus’ words remind us that God is sovereign and often has purposes for sicknesses that have nothing to do with personal sin], “This sickness will not end in death [Lazarus would not remain dead; Jesus would bring him back to life]. No, it is for God’s glory [reminder that God can receive glory even in the midst of the earthly tragedies that His people face] so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Note: How does God use our earthly trials to bring glory to Himself? How would you want your own illness or death to bring glory to God?
11:11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our [indicates that Lazarus was also a friend of the disciples] friend Lazarus has fallen asleep [a euphemism for death; cf. Matt. 9:18-24]; but I am going there to wake him up.”
Note: What are some euphemisms that we use today for “dying” or “death”?
11:12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better [“to be healed, to recover”].”
11:13 [John explained the misunderstanding for his readers] Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
11:14 So then he told them plainly [boldly], “Lazarus is dead,
11:15 and for your sake I am glad [not glad that Lazarus had died, but glad that the disciples would have the opportunity to see Lazarus raised from the dead and to understand that Jesus has power over death] I was not there [had Jesus been there He would have prevented Lazarus’ death], so that you may believe [Lazarus’ resurrection would strengthen their faith more than a healing would have]. But let us go to him [to Bethany in Judea].”
Note: For more on Jesus’ power over death, read the following: John 5:21; 6:40, 54; 8:51; 10:17-18, 27-28. Jesus had brought two people back from the dead before this incident — the widow’s son at Nain (Lk. 7:11-17) and Jairus’ daughter (Lk. 8:41-56).
11:16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go [with Jesus to Bethany, close to Jerusalem (dangerous territory because vindictive enemies there wanted to kill Jesus)], that we may die with him [these words express Thomas’ courage, faith, and devotion to Jesus].”
Note: Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even at the risk of your own life?
11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days [Lazarus beyond what anyone might consider a “near-death” experience].
17:18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,
17:19 and many Jews [friends; religious leaders; professional mourners] had come to Martha and Mary to comfort [console] them in the loss of their brother.
11:20 When Martha [older sister] heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him [did not wait for Jesus to get to her], but Mary stayed at home.
11:21 “Lord [in this context, a title of respect],” Martha said to Jesus, “if [this word may express a need to place blame or responsibility or may be an attempt to understand why Lazarus had died] you had been here, my brother would not have died [affirms Martha’s belief that Jesus had the power to heal the sick].
Note: Have you had an experience when you discovered God’s timing was different (and better) than yours? Explain.
11:22 But I know [Martha affirmed her faith in Christ] that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again [Jesus was referring to the immediate situation].”
11:24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again [probably did not expect Jesus to raise her brother from the dead since she later protested about removing the stone from the burial place (cf. v. 39)] in the resurrection at the last day [Martha interpreted Jesus’ words to mean the future resurrection in the last day (cf. Jn. 5:28-29; Dan. 12:2-3)].”
Note: Outlook of those present…
• Martha was looking to the future 11:24
• Friends were looking to the past 11:37
• Jesus looking at the present 11:23
11:25 Jesus said [no one but Jesus could make such a claim] to her, “I am [the fifth “I am” statement in John’s Gospel] the resurrection [no resurrection apart from Jesus] and the life [no life apart from Jesus; cf. Jn. 17:3]. He who believes [places their faith in Jesus for salvation] in me will live [eternal life], even though he dies [physical death];
Note: Seven “I Am” Statements in John’s Gospel:
• “I am the bread of life” 6:35,48,51
• “I am the light of the world” 8:12;9:5
• “I am the gate” 10:7,9
• “I am the good shepherd” 10:11,14
• “I am the resurrection and the life” 11:25
• “I am the way … truth … life” 14:6
• “I am the true vine” 15:1,5
11:26 and whoever lives [has eternal life] and believes in me will never [“never, never die!”] die [spiritually]. Do you believe this?”
11:27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe [perfect tense: indicates a fixed and settled faith] that you are  the Christ [the Messiah, the fulfillment of OT promise concerning a deliverer sent from God],  the Son of God [affirmation of His deity],  who was to come into the world [affirmation that Jesus is fulfillment of promised Messiah]. [cf. Martha’s confession with Jn. 20:31 and also Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16)]”
11:38 Jesus, once more deeply moved [angry, emotionally indignant: perhaps at what death had done to His friend or perhaps at the lack of faith expressed by some present (v. 37)], came to the tomb. It was a cave [probably with a horizontal shaft used as a grave] with a stone laid across the entrance.
11:39 “Take away the stone [“The stone would be extremely heavy in order to keep beasts of prey out of the tomb” (Lightfoot)],” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad [offensive; unpleasant] odor, for he has been there four days [confirms Martha did not expect Jesus to raise Lazarus].”
11:40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? [cf. Jn. 11:4]”
11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said [public prayer], “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
11:43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice [to shout], “Lazarus, come out! [“Here! outside!]”
Note: “A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not named Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery!” (W.W.Wiersbe • Be Alive • p. 140)
11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped [to bind around] with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face [cf. Jn. 20:7]. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go [to release].”
11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
Note: Modern Bethany is called El Azariyeh, a modern version of Lazarus.
11:46 Some present did not believe and reported to Pharisees what Jesus had done.
11:47-54 Religious leaders met together and plotted death of Jesus.