Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

John 11:15-25
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: John 11:15
v15: Having bluntly announced, “Lazarus died!” Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that He was going to Bethany to “awaken” (v11) him, meaning He was going to bring him back to life. He said, “And I rejoice that I was not there because of what this event will produce inside of you; it will cause you to believe in Me even more, but come, let us go to him” (paraphrase). If the miracle He would do in Bethany was a gift of love to Martha, Mary and Lazarus (v5), it was a gift of faith to His disciples. Many times during their travels together He had assured them that because they believed in Him He would give them eternal life (Jn 6:40). He said the Father had given Him authority to raise the dead (Jn 5:21), that “an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth” (Jn 5:28-29). And now they were going to see with their own eyes that this promise was true. They would watch Him do what He said He could do, and it gave Him joy to think about how their faith would be strengthened.

Monday: John 11:16
v16: Beginning here and appearing occasionally through the rest of this gospel, John allows us to observe a very skeptical disciple as he grows in faith. That disciple’s name is “Thomas” (Jn 14:5; 20:24-25, 27-28; 21:2). His name comes from an Aramaic word meaning “twin.” John includes the Greek equivalent of that name, “Didymus” (“twin”), probably so his readers will realize that Thomas is the twin brother of another disciple. Since he is usually placed beside Matthew in lists of the disciples (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15), he may be Matthew’s twin (J.D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, reprint 1971, p.1273). As we encounter these quotations from Thomas we will find that each one contains an element of unbelief or confusion until we arrive at his final declaration made to the resurrected Jesus, in which he bursts out, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). John seems to be using Thomas’ example to us that even the most skeptical disciple was finally won over to a complete faith in Christ. If any reader assumes that these disciples believed in Jesus only because they were superstitious or easily deceived, John points to Thomas to prove otherwise. Even stubborn Thomas had to yield to the overwhelming truth of the resurrection.

Tuesday: John 11:16-17
v16 (continued): When Jesus proposed to lead the disciples back to Bethany, Thomas gloomily said to the others, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him” (literal). His words lack faith. Jesus had just told them that God was guiding them, so they would be protected (vs9-10); but obviously Thomas didn’t believe that. Yet we have to admire his courage and devotion to Jesus. He loved Him and was willing to die with Him. v17: By the time they arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been buried for four days. Jewish custom required that a body be buried as soon as possible after death (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Daily Life at the Time of Jesus, Palphot Ltd., Herzlia, Israel, pp.72-73).

Wednesday: John 11:17
v17 (continued): The body would have been washed and then covered with myrrh (a fragrant sap from a tree that grows in Arabia and Africa) and aloes (the crushed leaves and juice from a desert succulent that has healing qualities for the skin) (Jn 19:39). Other spices such as myrtle and hyssop may have been added, and then the body was wrapped with long bandage-like strips of cloth, with spices being added into the folds of the cloth. A special cloth was tied over the face (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, E.R. Herrick and Co., New York, CA 1890, Vol.2, p.318; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, second printing, 1973, p.826). John mentions that Lazarus was buried in a “tomb” (lit: a memorial), and later we discover this tomb was a cave (v38). This indicates that the family was wealthy and could afford to purchase the land where the cave was located and have shelves and niches carved into its walls. The poor buried their dead in the ground, about six feet deep (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Daily Life at the Time of Jesus, Palphot Ltd., Herzlia, Israel, p.73).

Thursday: John 11:18-19
vs18-19: Bethany was a small un-walled village situated on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem. The road connecting Jerusalem to the region around the Jordan River passed through it. By the time Jesus arrived, the grieving ceremonies for Lazarus were well under way. The first three days after a person died were the most intense (weeping); then the remainder of that first week was less intense. Those who were mourning didn’t wash, put on shoes, study or engage in business, but some form of mourning continued for an entire month (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, E.R. Herrick and Co., CA 1890, Vol.2, p.320; Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Hendrickson, 1995, p.160). That this family was highly respected can be seen by the fact that many religious leaders came out from Jerusalem to speak words of comfort to Martha and Mary concerning their brother. Their presence at the funeral was an honor, but it also made the sister’s house a very dangerous place for Jesus. Some of those who came to mourn may have been members of the group who tried to seize Him in the temple (Jn 10:39).

Friday: John 11:20-22
v20: When Martha heard Jesus was approaching the village, she quickly went to intercept Him before her guests could discover that He was there. Meanwhile, Mary remained in the house, possibly because she was overcome with grief, but possibly to keep the guests in place so Martha could sneak out undetected. vs21-22: Martha said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.” It’s possible to interpret her words as a scolding, that she was asking why He had delayed, but if Lazarus died shortly after the sisters sent the messenger on his way, then this statement was expressing only disappointment. Yet with her next breath she declared faith. She immediately added, “And [even] now, I know that whatever You ask God, God will give You” (literal). She appears to be responding to His earlier reply to their plea for help. He had told the messenger, “This sickness is not to death but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (literal) (v4). That statement meant “Lazarus won’t die!” and yet Lazarus had died, so she may have been expressing hope that it was still possible for a miracle to bring her brother back to life.

Saturday: John 11:23-25
vs23-24: Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” to which she replied, “I know he will rise again in the rising again (resurrection) in the last day” (literal). Her statement was a confession of promises found in the Bible which say that the righteous will come back to life at the end of the age. For example, God told Daniel that those whose names are written in God’s book, “who sleep in the dust of the ground,” will awaken to everlasting life (Da 12:1-2). But at this point Martha’s words do not appear to include much hope that her brother’s dead body could physically come back to life at that moment. v25: Martha’s confession was true. There will be a resurrection at the end of the age (Jn 5:28-29), but Jesus wanted her to understand that the raising of dead bodies and the giving of eternal life were not simply actions that He would someday perform; they were the natural result of who He is. So He said, “I am the resurrection (rising again) and the life.” By that statement He was revealing to her the full meaning of what John wrote in the introduction to his gospel, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4). Those words mean that Jesus is divine and that life flows out from Him. Therefore life is present whenever He is present, so there was no need to wait for a future event to raise Lazarus. The One who will someday raise all humanity from their graves was standing in front of her. He would call forth the dead at that moment, as surely He will call them forth later on (Jn 5:28-29).  

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