Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

John 11:4-14
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: John 11:4
v4 (continued): When Jesus heard the message from Mary and Martha He said, “This sickness (weakness, illness) is not to death but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (literal). In other words, “This illness won’t kill Lazarus, but God is going to use it to bring honor to Himself and cause more people to believe in His Son” (paraphrase). And though John doesn’t tell us what the messenger did after He heard Jesus’ statement, we can safely assume that he then carried that announcement back to the waiting sisters (v10). Yet apparently Lazarus had died shortly after the messenger left Bethany. It was a day’s walk down to the Jordan River and a day’s walk back, and Jesus remained at the Jordan for two days before leaving for Bethany (v6). So by the time He finally arrived there we learn that Lazarus had been dead for four days (v17). It’s likely that Lazarus was already dead before the messenger reached Jesus.

Monday: John 11:4
v4 (continued): We can only imagine the shock Mary and Martha experienced when the messenger returned with the good news that Jesus had said Lazarus wouldn’t die, and his recovery would bring glory to God. By that point in time the sisters were either preparing the body for burial or had already placed it in the cave which served as the family “sepulcher” (burial tomb where the body was allowed to dry until its bones could be placed in a bone box and stored in a small niche in the cave wall). The man Jesus said wouldn’t die, was obviously very dead, and the apparent inaccuracy of His announcement must have shaken the sister’s faith. Though they had never heard Jesus speak a false word, there must have been some initial confusion followed by further questioning to determine whether the messenger was reporting the Lord’s statement correctly. Yet that announcement must have also stirred hope. It contained a promise that God would glorify Himself and His Son through their brother’s sickness. Four days later when Jesus finally arrived Martha was able to say to Him, “And [even] now I realize that whatever things you ask God, God will give You” (literal) (v22). Even after Lazarus had been dead for four days she acknowledged that a miracle was still possible.

Tuesday: John 11:5-6
vs5-6: Using the Greek word for “love” (agape) which refers to the kind of selfless love that motivated God to send His only-begotten Son to die for us (Jn 3:16), John informs us that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (probably listed from oldest to youngest) with this type of love. He points to this love to explain why Jesus delayed for two days at the Jordan River before leaving for Bethany. We might have expected His love to cause Him to rush to Lazarus’ side as soon as possible. But He didn’t, and John says He delayed because He loved them. Those days of waiting must have tested the sister’s faith (George Reith, St. John’s Gospel, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, ca 1891, Vol 2, p.52). They were forced to trust Jesus more deeply than they had ever trusted Him. The process, though painful, matured their faith, and when the miracle finally took place it was unlike anything any human being had ever received. Those two women would be standing nearby, watching when Jesus called forth their brother, four days dead, out of the grave. The testing of their faith and the miracle itself were both great gifts of His love; He gave them a trial they would never forget and a wonder people would remember forever.

Wednesday: John 11:7-10
vs7-8: When He felt it was time to leave, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s go into Judea again” (literal). Bethany, a small town located in the region called “Judea,” was only two miles east of Jerusalem, so the disciples resisted. They asked Him why He would choose to go back to a place where He had nearly been executed only two or three months earlier. Surely the religious leaders would hear that He was nearby and have Him arrested. vs9-10: Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If someone walks in the day he does not stumble (strike the foot against something and fall) because he sees the light of this world (the sun). But if someone walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is not in him” (literal).

Thursday: John 11:9-10
vs9-10 (continued): This illustration simply means that there is no danger of walking on a path as long as a person can see where they are stepping. A path that might be dangerous at night becomes safe when lighted by the sun. At first glance this statement might not seem to apply to the situation they were facing, but the last few words reveal its spiritual meaning. The “night” Jesus spoke about was spiritual darkness. A person stumbles because the light is not in them. There is an absence of revelation from God. That person is walking without God’s “light” to illumine their path. But Jesus was not walking in darkness; He was constantly being guided by God’s Holy Spirit, so He was telling His disciples that wherever the Spirit led them there would be no “stumbling.” As dangerous as returning to Bethany might seem, the Father was leading Jesus and had shown Him the path ahead. Yes, a “night” was coming in which He would be arrested, but that moment had not yet arrived. For now they were safe; they were in the “daylight” of God’s plan.

Friday: John 11:11-12
vs11-12: After assuring His disciples that the Spirit was leading them to Bethany, Jesus said, “Lazarus, our friend, has fallen asleep (entered a state of rest), but I am going so that I may awaken him” (literal). Still not convinced that it was safe to be in a town so close to Jerusalem, the disciples replied, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep he will be healed (saved)” (literal). They were telling Jesus that if Lazarus was sleeping (or resting), he must be recovering from his illness, which meant Jesus no longer needed to go there to pray for him. They had good reason to think this because they had watched Jesus heal a royal official’s son in the city of Cana without being near the boy (Jn 4:46-54). He had merely told the boy’s father, “Go, your son lives,” and the child who was at the point of death, miles away, began to recover. Maybe that type of miracle had happened again.

Saturday: John 11:13-14
vs13-14: To prevent his readers from being confused by Jesus’ statement that Lazarus was “asleep,” John explains that Jesus used the word “sleep” to refer to physical death. This was not the only time Jesus applied that word to someone who had already died. He told a crowd outside the home of a synagogue official, “The girl has not died, but is asleep” (Mt 9:24; Mk 5:39; Lk 8:52). Apparently He viewed the continued existence of the human spirit after death to be so real (Mt 22:31-32) that a person’s spirit could cross the line between life and death in two directions: Someone might die and come back to life, just as someone might go to sleep and then awaken. Jesus was able to speak of Lazarus, though dead, as being asleep because as surely as if he had fallen asleep he was going to wake up again. But to erase any confusion, He said plainly, “Lazarus died!” (literal).  

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