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©Clay Eldridge

Chapter 11:1-16 (ESV)

Posted on August 23, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 11:1-16 (ESV) - Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Question to consider: Why did Jesus say that Lazarus was asleep?

If you do a search for “Lazarus” on my website, you can read through the places where I have dealt with Lazarus in the other gospel accounts. I have come to believe that Lazarus was also called Simon and was once a Pharisee before he became a leper and ultimately ended up begging at the gate of another Pharisee who had great wealth. If this is the case, then there are two times in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and anointed Him. The first was at the beginning of His ministry in Luke 7:36-50 and is mentioned by John at the beginning of today’s passage. The second was to anoint Him for the task of bearing our sin debt on the cross which John describes in chapter twelve.

When Jesus received the news of Lazarus’ illness, He was still on the east side of the Jordan river by Bethany of the Jordan where John the Baptist began his ministry. Lazarus and his sisters were living in Bethany outside of Jerusalem when he began to succumb to his illness. 

At the end of the last chapter, Jesus and the disciples first went beyond the Jordan, and it was still about four months before the Passover. It appears that they stayed in the region where John baptized for several weeks before hearing of Lazarus and then two days more before making the journey to Bethany by Jerusalem. Just like the man born blind received his affliction so that God may be glorified, so it was with Lazarus.

When Jesus said that his illness would not lead to death, He meant it in the same way as He said to the Pharisees in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” He also said something similar to the Pharisees when He called them “hired hands” and declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

Lazarus’ body may have “gone to sleep” for a few days, but even when his body was in the tomb, he would have been with God in the same way as Moses and Abraham are along with all of our other brothers and sisters in Christ. We look forward to the day when Christ will raise our bodies from the tomb, and He was about to go to Bethany and give the disciples a foretaste of the Resurrection.

Until that point, they had good reason for concern in going back across the Jordan because there were a number of people who were looking to stone them. I think the personality of John comes out in this gospel by the way he remembers the things people said. We definitely read a bit of snark in Thomas’ comments about going to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. Of course, I’m not sure Thomas could have imagined the death Jesus would die on this trip.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the promise that we will not taste death but immediately go into Your care the moment our bodies give out. We look forward to the day when we will be raised like Lazarus and no longer have to face the pain and suffering of this world. Amen.