John 11 Bible Study

Bible Study of John Chapter 11

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John 11 Bible Study


JOHN 11:1-19  1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 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. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

Who were Mary, Martha and Lazarus?
They were siblings of one another who were quite close friends of Jesus: "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5).

Where did they live?
In Bethany, a village "near Jerusalem, about two miles away."(John 11:18)

Where was Jesus?
Most likely in Bethabara on the other side of the Jordan river, where He had gone at the end of John chapter 10 when the Jews tried to kill Him.

What was He doing there?
No doubt continuing to teach and to heal, but also waiting for the Passover feast at which He would die, which wasn't far away now.

What was the disciples' reaction when Jesus said to them, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:7)?
They warned against it: “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” (John 11:8) and Thomas even expressed that doing so would amount to a suicide mission: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16)

What did the sisters' message to Jesus say?
“Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” (John 11:3)

Why be so cryptic instead of precisely saying, "Lord, Lazarus is sick"?
If the disciples were aware of and feared the Jews' plot against Jesus from 2 days' journey away, Mary and Martha, who lived only 2 miles from Jerusalem, may have been aware and feared it as well. In that case, they may have felt that a precise message runs a higher risk of leaking Jesus' destination to the Jews, who could arrest Jesus en route.

Why did Jesus wait instead of departing for Bethany right away?
"That I may wake him up" (John 11:11) - i.e., raise him from the dead - so "that you may believe." (John 11:15)

Isn’t it a bit sadistic for Jesus to have waited so that He could raise a dead man instead of healing him before he died?

How long had Lazarus been dead when Jesus arrived?
"He had already been in the tomb four days." (John 11:17)

How many days did Jesus wait before leaving for Bethany?
"Two" (John 11:6)

What does this mean?
Had He left right away, He would have arrived to find Lazarus already dead for 2 days. Chances are, Lazarus was dying or already dead by the time Jesus received his sisters' message.

But still, why did Jesus delay for 2 days?
So that there would be no doubt that Lazarus was indeed dead when Jesus raises him. Given the way the days were counted back then, "two days" could have meant the morning after his death, and people could have said he was never dead. “Four days” meant at least 3 nights, during which decomposition would already have started, so there would be no doubt that Jesus raised someone who had died.

JOHN 11:20-42  20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” 37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Which is the easiest verse in the Bible to memorize?
The shortest verse: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35).

What does that mean?
The translated Greek verb is dakruo, which means “to tear up in the eye” or “to shed tears”. By contrast, the Greek verb translated, "weeping" in John 11:33 for the others is klaio, which means “to wail”. So Jesus was shedding tears while the people around Him were wailing.

Are "the Jews" correct in their perception that Jesus was sad for Lazarus?
Let's think about this one. Jesus had come to raise Lazarus from the dead. Does it make any sense for Him to first mourn him, and then raise him? Imagine you're a doctor with Doctors Without Borders and you arrive at a refugee camp to find people wailing over someone whom they think is dead. You check for vital signs and know that you can resuscitate him. Would you start by weeping over the death of the person you're about to resuscitate? That doesn't make much sense.

Then was Jesus sad for Mary, Martha and the other mourners?
Same here. Why would He shed tears for people who were about to be dancing in the streets with joy?

Then what made Jesus sad?
Let's look at some of the details in the passage above.

Did Martha believe that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead?
When Jesus said, “Take away the stone” (John 11:39), Martha actually protested, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” And that protest indicates she actually did not believe Jesus could raise her brother

But didn't she say earlier that she did believe?
Yes, but what exactly did she believe about Jesus? When He told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26), He was asking her if she believed in something specific about Him - His power over death. Her general response - “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27) - doesn't really answer His question, while her protest in John 11:39 does. But the best source of what saddened Jesus is His own words, which He indicated were said "that they may believe" (John 11:42), which means that they didn't believe, at least not to the extent that Jesus desired.

So why did Jesus shed tears?
It was because Jesus was spiritually saddened - "groaned in the spirit" (John 11:33) - by the unbelief of "friends" whom He "loved". There He was, weeks from the cross, and His even His close friends didn't fully believe in Him or His power.

Is such unbelief something that would really drive God to tears?
Throughout Jesus' ministry, the one thing that He preached and demanded above all else is that people believe in Him - who He is, what He can do, has done and will do, and why. The lack of such faith in Him by those whom He loved was a source of profound sadness for Jesus back then.

Is it any different today?
No, and given the number of cults, sects and wayward churches today, when someone professes to "believe" in Jesus, it's prudent to ask them to explain what it is that they believe about Jesus to see if it matches what the Bible says about Him.

JOHN 11:43-44  43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Is it possible that Lazarus hadn't really died but just passed out, regained consciousness after the tomb door was closed, and had been waiting for it to be reopened?
If that were the case, he already would have unbound the graveclothes from his hands and feet and would have walked out the moment the grave was reopened, not waited until Jesus called to him and then hopped out on "bound" (John 11:43) feet.

And when he did that, how must the crowd have reacted?
Most likely awestruck and left speechless.

Is any of their reaction reflected in the passage?
It isn't even mentioned. This account is very matter of fact and without fanfare or embellishment, just like the rest of the Bible.

JOHN 11:45-48  45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

What’s the logical answer to the question, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs" (John 11:47)?
Listen to what He says.

Do miracles guaranty belief?
Apparently not.

Is what the chief priests and the Pharisees say in John 11:48 true?
No, the Roman had already come and taken away their nation.

Then what was their real concern?
Losing their "place" (John 11:48) atop the Jewish social, economic and religious hierarchy.

What blocked them and what blocks many people today from accepting Jesus for who He is?
Three "P"s: their Positions, Possessions and Passions.

JOHN 11:49-57  49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. 53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples. 55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think - that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

Does God issue prophecies only through Godly people?
He uses whoever He wants to use, including those who oppose Him, even without their knowledge, as in John 11:49-57.

Did Jesus die just for the Jewish nation?
"Not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad." (John 11:52)

John 11:53 says, "from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death", but hadn't they tried to kill Jesus already?
Some of them had, but this was now the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel  -  "the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council" (John 11:47) - deciding as a body to commit murder.

So what purposes, besides the obvious, did raising Lazarus as Jesus did achieve?
1. Converted some of the people who witnessed it (John 11:42).
2. Proved Jesus’ power over death (John 11:26).
3. Provoked the Sanhedrin to plot His death (John 11:53).

Why did Jesus then avoid them and go to Ephraim?
The timing still had to be worked out.

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