Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. At the end of the preceding chapter, we are told that Jesus went into the place where John the Baptist was first baptizing. This place, as may be gather from St. John, (chap. i. ver. 28. and 44.) was Bethania; but not the Bethania where the sisters of Lazarus resided. The Bethania where Christ was at this time was beyond the Jordan, and was likewise called Bethabara; whereas the Bethania where Lazarus lay sick, was two miles to the south of Jerusalem, and formed a part of the suburbs of that city. It is called the town of Martha and Mary, because they lived there; in the same manner as Bethsaida is called the city of Peter and Andrew. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. This sickness is not unto death. That is, though he truly die, it is not designed that he remain dead. (Witham) — This sickness is not unto death; because his death itself was not unto death, but rather to the working of a great miracle, by which men were brought to the true faith, and thus avoided an eternal death. (St. Augustine, tract. 49. in Joan.) — Lazarus indeed died of this sickness, but he did not die as other men, to continue dead; for Jesus raised him again to the glory of God. (Sts. Cyril, Chrysostom, &c.)
Ver. 9. Some, by the day in this place, understand the time preceding the Passion of our Saviour; and, by the night, the time of his Passion. (Theophylactus) — By this he encouraged his disciples, assuring them that the day of his sojournment on earth was not yet over; and therefore that the Jews, with all their malice and hatred, could not hurt him. But when the night (the time of his Passion) comes, then their power over him commenced. This is your hour, says he to them, and the power of darkness. (Calmet) — The Hebrews then divided the day into twelve parts of equal duration, from the rising to the setting sun. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 11. Lazarus … sleepeth. It is strange that the disciples could imagine that Christ spoke of an ordinary sleep, and that he would go two or three days’ journey to awake him. Nothing but the fear and concern they were under, could make them think so. (Witham)
Ver. 12. To men indeed he was dead, but to God he slept. For the Almighty as easily raised him from his grave, as man can raise the slumberer from his bed. (St. Augustine, tract. 49. in Joan.)
Ver. 15. When Christ says, that you may believe, we must not suppose he means, that they might begin then for the first time to believe, but that their faith, already begun, might be increased; for the faith of the disciples still stood in need of miracles, to make it grow more strong and rooted. (St. Augustine, as above.)
Ver. 16. Thomas … said, let us also go, that we may die with him. That is, with Jesus: this he said, exhorting the other disciples not to fear. (Witham) — The words, Thomas and Didymus, have the same radical signification; both meaning twins.
Ver. 18. About fifteen furlongs. About two Italian miles. (Witham)
Ver. 21. If thou hast been here. These words shew that the faith of the two sisters was but weak; as if the Son of God was not everywhere: or as if he could not restore him to life when dead and buried. (Witham) — Martha believed in Christ, but not as she ought to have done. She did not yet believe him to be God, but addresses him as one who is remarkable for virtue, and approved of by heaven. (St. Chrysostom, hom. 61. in Joan.)
Ver. 23. Thy brother shall rise again. Martha took notice that Christ did not express, whether immediately, or at the general resurrection, which she and the Jews generally believed. (Witham)
Ver. 25. I am the resurrection, and the life. That is, the author of both. (Witham) — I am the resurrection, I am he who will at the last day raise him up; I can, therefore, if I will, raise him up now also. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 27. Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. Martha breaks out into an act of perfect faith. See Chap. i. ver. 49. (Witham)
Ver. 31. It was customary to visit, occasionally, the sepulchres, there to weep over the deceased. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 33. He groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself. The Latin and Greek, both in this and the 38th verse, express a more than ordinary inward trouble. Christ, as he was truly man, had the affections and passions of human nature; yet so that he was master, even of the first motions, which could not raise in him any disturbance or disorderly inclinations. He permitted, therefore, and, as it is said, raised in himself these affections of compassion and grief at this time. (Witham)
Ver. 34. Where have you laid him? He asks what he knows, says St. Augustine, to raise their attention, their faith, hope, &c. (Witham)
Ver. 35. Jesus wept. A mark of his human nature, when he was going to give them a proof of his divinity, in raising the dead to life. (Witham) — The tears of the disconsolate sisters called forth tears from the tender commiseration of Jesus. Nor was it unworthy the Son of God to shed tears. See Luke xix. 41. About to give proofs of his divinity in raising the dead, he is pleased to give, first, undoubted proofs of his humanity, that he might shew himself both God and man.
Ver. 39. Take away the stone. He could have done this by his word and command; or he could have made Lazarus come out without taking off the stone; he needed not to pray, who could do and command every thing. (Witham)
Ver. 41. Father, I give thee thanks, that thou hast heard me. He knew that what he asked, even as man, must needs be granted; but he prayed for our instruction. (Witham) — Christ was about to pray for the resurrection of Lazarus; but his eternal Father, who alone is good, prevented his petition, and heard it before he presented it. Therefore does Christ begin his prayer, by returning his almighty Father thanks for having granted his request. (Origen, tract. 18. in Joan.)
Ver. 43. He cried with a loud voice: Lazarus come forth. His will had been sufficient. He calls upon the dead man, says St. Chrysostom, as if he had been living; and it is no sooner said than done. (Witham)
Ver. 44. Loose him, and let him go. Christ, says St. Gregory, by giving these orders to his apostles, shews that it belongs to his ministers to loose and absolve sinners, when they are moved to repentance, though it is God himself that forgiveth their sins; and they by his authority only. (Witham) — Lazarus comes forth bound from the sepulchre, that he might not be thought to be a phantom; and that the bystanders might themselves loose him, and touching and approaching him, might know for certain that it was he. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxiii. in Joan.) — St. Cyril and St. Augustine both adduce this verse to shew the power of priests in absolving sinners. See St. Cyril, lib. vii. last chap. in Joan. and St. Augustine, tract. 49. in Joan.
Ver. 47. The chief priests … said: what do we? &c. as if they had said: why are we so slow, so remiss, and indolent in our proceedings against this man, when we daily see what numbers he draws after him by his miracles? (Witham)
Ver. 48. The Romans will come upon us, in case he be admitted as our great Messias, and our King. (Witham)
Ver. 49. But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest, &c. He said not this, says the evangelist, of himself, but as the high priest of that year. The spirit of prophecy was given him, and he foretells that Jesus was to lay down his life both for the nation of the Jews, and for all mankind. The gift of prophecy itself does not make a man holy. It was also given to the wicked Balaam. (Numbers chap. xxiv.) (Witham) — It is supposed that he exercised the sacrificial office alternately with his father-in-law, Annas, who, as we have seen in Luke iii. 2. was also high priest. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 50. How great is the power of the Holy Ghost? From a wicked mind he brings forth the words of prophecy. And how great is the power attached to the pontifical dignity! For Caiphas having becoming high priest, though unworthy of that dignity, prophesies, not knowing indeed what he says. The Holy Ghost makes use of his tongue only, but touches not his sinful heart. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxiv. in Joan.)
Ver. 51. The same words have an impious and sacrilegious sense in the intention of the high priest, the enemy of Jesus Christ: and a divine and prophetic sense, in the intention of the Holy Ghost. (Bible de Vence) — We here behold the privilege of the office and order, though in a wicked person: and as we have the assistance of God for the utterance of truth, which Caiphas neither meant nor knew, we may rest satisfied that Christ will not leave Peter’s chair; (Luke xxii. 32.) whose faith he promises should never fail, though the occupants be as bad as their enemies describe them.
Ver. 54. Ephrem was a small city or town in the neighbourhood of Bethel. Some suppose it to be the same as Ephron, mentioned in 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 19., and 1 Machabees v., 2 Machabees xii. 17.[27.?] Eusebius and St. Jerome say it was situated about 20 miles to the north of Jerusalem. (Calmet) — Here he remained with his disciples till the time in which he had resolved to deliver himself up into the hands of his enemies. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 55. This was the last Pasch that our Saviour kept upon earth, and the one on which he suffered death for our salvation. (Calmet) — It is well called the Pasch of the Jews, and not of the Lord, since on it they were laying snares to apprehend their Saviour. (Origen) — Thus making this day of festivity a day of murder. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxv. in Joan.) — They went up so early to purify themselves by the sacrifices ordered by the law. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 56. He had not then arrived, because He would not expose himself to the fury of his enemies before his own time. (Bible de Vence)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Christ raises Lazarus to life. The rulers resolve to put him to death.
1 Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary, and of Martha, her sister.
2 (And Mary was she *that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother, Lazarus, was sick.)
3 His sisters, therefore, sent to him, saying; Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest, is sick.
4 And Jesus hearing it, said to them; This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, Mary, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard, therefore, that he was sick, he still remained in the same place two days.
7 Then after that he said to his disciples; Let us go into Judea again.
8 The disciples say to him; Rabbi, the Jews but just now sought to stone thee: and goest thou thither again?
9 Jesus answered: Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world:
10 But if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.
11 These things he said: and after that he said to them; Lazarus, our friend, sleepeth: but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.
12 His disciples, therefore, said; Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 But Jesus spoke of his death: and they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep.
14 Then, therefore, Jesus said to them plainly; Lazarus is dead.
15 And I am glad, for your sake, that I was not there, that you may believe: but let us go to him.
16 Then Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples: Let us go also, that we may die with him.
17 Jesus therefore came: and found that he had been four days already in the grave.
18 (Now Bethania was near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.)
19 And many of the Jews were come to Martha, and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Martha, therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus wast come, went to meet him: but Mary sat at home.
21 Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died:
22 But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith to him; I know that he shall rise again,* in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said to her; I am the resurrection, and the life: *he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:
26 And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?
27 She saith to him; Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into this world.
28 And when she had said these things, she went, and called her sister, Mary, secretly, saying; The master is come, and calleth for thee.
29 She, as soon as she heard this, riseth quickly, and cometh to him.
30 For Jesus was not yet come into the town: but he was still in that place where Martha had met him.
31 The Jews, therefore, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying; She goeth to the grave to weep there.
32 When Mary, therefore, was come where Jesus was, seeing him, she fell down at his feet, and saith to him: Lord; if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33 When Jesus, therefore, saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself.
34 And said; Where have you laid him? They say to him; Lord, come and see.
35 And Jesus wept.
36 The Jews, therefore, said; Behold how he loved him.
37 But some of them said: *Could not he that opened the eyes of the man born blind, have caused that this man should not die?
38 Jesus, therefore, again groaning in himself, cometh to the sepulchre: Now it was a cave: and a stone was laid over it.
39 Jesus saith; Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him; Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days.
40 Jesus saith to her; Did not I say to thee, that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God?
41 They took, therefore, the stone away: And Jesus, lifting up his eyes, said; Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always; but because of the people who stand about, have I said it: that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 When he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth.
44 And presently he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding-bands, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them; Loose him, and let him go.
45 Many, therefore, of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in him.
46 But some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done.
47 The chief priests, therefore, and the Pharisees, gathered a council, and said; What do we, for this man doth many miracles?
48 If we let him alone so, all men will believe in him: And the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.
49 *But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them; You know nothing at all.
50 Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
51 And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation.
52 And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed.
53 From that day, therefore, they devised to put him to death.
54 Wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews, but he went into a country near the desert, unto a city that is called Ephrem, and there he abode with his disciples.
55 And the Pasch of the Jews was at hand: and many from the country went up to Jerusalem before the Pasch, to purify themselves.
56 They sought, therefore, for Jesus: and they discoursed one with another, standing in the temple: What think you, that he is not come to the festival day? And the chief priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that if any man knew where he was, he should tell, that they might apprehend him.
2: Matthew xxvi. 7.; Luke vii. 31.; John xii. 3.
24: Luke xiv. 14.; John v. 2.
25: John vi. 40.
37: John ix. 6.
49: John xviii. 14.