For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 10, 2007
This chapter has the story of Lazarus being resurrected. I assume most of you are familiar with the story, so I won't delve too deep into the details. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were good friends of Jesus. Remember that it was common in Israel at that time for large families to live together in one big house, or in connected houses on the same property situated around a courtyard. Perhaps Lazarus and his sisters were married to people who are not mentioned; we don't know for sure.
This event occurred very late in the life of Jesus possibly about a month before He died. That is why Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (11:16) The disciples knew that Jesus was under a lot of pressure, but it was a lot safer in Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, than Judea, the southern part where Jerusalem is. Now here goes Jesus back south to Judea, where the religious leaders want to kill Him.
When Jesus arrives, He finds a sad scene. Lazarus is dead, and most of the town has come out to memorialize him. Both Martha and Mary come to Jesus and ask Him why He hadn't come sooner, because if He had, Lazarus wouldn't have died. Even the townspeople feel the same way. John quotes them as saying, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" (10:37)
Imagine the scene when Jesus told Lazarus to come out. If you've always pictured a man quickly walking out of the tomb, you are mistaken. Remember the Jews would have mummified the body, wrapping it in strips of cloth. Even his face would have been covered. Also the body would have been packed with many pounds of spices to keep it from stinking. There is no way Lazarus could have walked out of the tomb. At best he could have bounced, but with his body being wrapped up tight and all the stuff wrapped up with it, it would no doubt have been next to impossible to bend his legs and arms in order to move. The people would have heard a rustling sound in the tomb, and perhaps a muffled cry. The people standing by would have then probably have had to either help him out or pick him up and carry him out. It would have been the understatement of the year when Jesus said, "Unbind him, and let him go." (11:44) Of course there is also the possibility that Jesus gave Lazarus supernatural ability to move, but the text does mention that his hands and feet were bound, and he still had his face covered. That would have been quite the amazing sight to see.
The last section of this chapter is a fascinating section. It is very long, but it is quite fascinating. John knew someone in the High Priest's house, and relayed to us the story of the conference of the Sanhedrin after this miracle. Caiaphas the high priest said "It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." (11:50, ESV) These religious leaders were under pressure, because the Romans did not like the unruly Jews under their control. The Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a threat to the nation. They were afraid Jesus' claims would give the Romans an excuse to wipe the Jews out of Palestine. It gives us a little bit of insight into what they were thinking, it makes them a little bit more human, but it does not excuse what they did.