- 11:1 A man named Lazarus got sick. He lived in Bethany,1 the village where the sisters Mary and Martha lived.
- 11:2 This Mary was the one who poured expensive perfume on Jesus and then wiped his feet with her hair.2 Lazarus was her brother.
- 11:3 Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus: “Master, your dear friend Lazarus is very sick.”
- 11:4 But when Jesus got the message he said, “This sickness isn’t going to end in death. When this is all over, people will be praising both God and the Son of God.”
- 11:5 Jesus loved all three of the people in that family, Lazarus, Martha, and her sister Mary.
- 11:6 Yet when Jesus got the news that Lazarus was sick, he didn’t go anywhere. He stayed where he was for another two days.
Going to back Judea to die
- 11:7 Only then did he tell his disciples, “Okay, let’s head back to Judea again.”
- 11:8 The disciples said, “Teacher, are you kidding? The last time we were there, not long ago, the Jews were trying to stone you to death. Are you really going to go back there again?”
- 11:9 Jesus said, “There are about 12 hours of daylight, right? If people go for a walk during daylight, they’re not going to stumble over something they can’t see. They’re walking in the light.
- 11:10 But if people take a walk at night, they’re going to stumble. They’re not walking in the light.”
- 11:11 That’s what he said. Then he told the disciples, “Our good friend Lazarus is sleeping now. But I’m going to go wake him up.”
- 11:12 The disciples said, “Master, that’s good news. If he can sleep, he’ll get well.”
- 11:13 The disciples took Jesus literally. They thought Lazarus was sleeping. But Jesus was using “sleep” as a gentle way of saying Lazarus had died.
- 11:14 So Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
- 11:15 And for your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there to heal him. What you’re going to see will give you a chance to believe in me even more. So, let’s get going.”
- 11:16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, told his fellow disciples, “Well then, let’s go with him so we can die with him.”
“Your brother is going to rise”
- 11:17 By the time Jesus finally got to Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
- 11:18 Bethany was on the outskirts of Jerusalem, about two miles3 away.
- 11:19 A lot of Jews in the area had come to comfort Martha and Mary in the death of their brother.
- 11:20 When Martha got word that Jesus was approaching, she went to intercept him.
- 11:21 She confronted Jesus and said, “Master, if you had been here, my brother would still be alive.
- 11:22 But I know that even now, in these circumstances, God will do whatever you ask him to do.”
- 11:23 Jesus told Martha, “Your brother is going to rise and live again.”
- 11:24 Martha said, “I know. On that last day,4 he’ll rise again in the resurrection.”
- 11:25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection.5 I am the giver of life. People who believe in me, even though they die, they’ll live again.
- 11:26 Every life who believes in me will live forever. Death can’t have them. Do you believe me?”
- 11:27 Mary said, “Yes, master. I have no doubt that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who has come to this world.”
Jesus, angry and crying
- 11:28 Martha went back home and spoke privately to her sister Mary. She said, “The Teacher is here now. He wants to see you.”
- 11:29 Mary got up right away and went to him.
- 11:30 Jesus hadn’t gotten to Bethany yet. He was still at the place where he talked with Martha.
- 11:31 Jews in the house comforting Mary saw her get up quickly and leave. They followed. They assumed she would go to the tomb, to be near her brother and to cry.
- 11:32 When Mary reached Jesus, she dropped at his feet and said, “Master, if you had been here, my brother would still be alive.”
- 11:33 Jesus saw her crying. Jews who came with her were crying, too. Jesus saw all of this and his spirit changed. He became deeply upset and angry.
- 11:34 He asked, “Where have you put his body?” They said, “Master, follow us and we will show you.”
- 11:35 Jesus began to cry.
- 11:36 The Jews saw him crying and said, “Look how much he loved him.”
- 11:37 But some others said, “Wasn’t he the one who could heal the man born blind? Shouldn’t he have been able to do something to keep Lazarus alive?”
“Lazarus, come out!”
- 11:38 By the time Jesus reached the tomb, he was even angrier than before. The tomb was a cave with a stone covering the entrance.
- 11:39 Jesus said, “Move the stone away.” Martha, the sister of the dead man said, “Lord, don’t do that. He’s been dead four days. It’s going to stink in there.”
- 11:40 Jesus told her, “Didn’t I say if you believed you would see the glorious power of God?”
- 11:41 Some of the people moved the stone. Jesus raised his eyes up toward the sky said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.
- 11:42 You always hear me. I know that. But I’m saying this for the sake of the people standing here, to help convince them that you are the one who sent me.”
- 11:43 When Jesus finished talking with the Father, in a loud voice he said, “Lazarus, come out!”
- 11:44 Out came the dead man, walking. He wore strips of cloth over his body, which also covered his feet and hands. A cloth covered his face as well. Jesus told the people, “Take those burial cloths off of him and let him go.”
- 11:45 This convinced many Jews who had come to the tomb with Mary to believe that Jesus was who he said he was.
- 11:46 Some, however, went in the other direction. They left to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done.
Jews decide to kill Jesus to save the nation
- 11:47 Pharisees and leading priests called a meeting of the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin.6 They asked the group, “What are we going to do about this guy? He keeps performing one miracle after another—as signs that God sent him.
- 11:48 If we don’t do something about this, everyone will believe he’s the Messiah. Romans will come in force. They’ll destroy our Temple and our nation.”7
- 11:49 Caiaphas, who was serving that year as the high priest, said, “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
- 11:50 Don’t you realize it’s better for one man to die, so he can save an entire nation from dying?”
- 11:51 Those weren’t his words coming out of his mouth. Those were the words of the high priest speaking as a prophet. He was prophesying about Jesus dying for the Jewish nation.
- 11:52 He didn’t die for the Jewish nation alone. He died for all God’s children scattered throughout the world.
- 11:53 From that day on, Jews worked their plots to kill Jesus.
- 11:54 So Jesus stopped taking walks out in public among the Jews. In fact, he left the region and went to a city called Ephraim near the hilly badlands.8 He and his disciples stayed there.
- 11:55 It was almost time for Jews to celebrate Passover.9 People from all over were going to Jerusalem early to ritually purify10 themselves for worship.
- 11:56 People were looking for Jesus and were talking about him as they stood in the Temple. They asked each other, “What do you think? He’s not going to risk coming to the festival this year, is he?”
- 11:57 Pharisees and top priests ordered that anyone who saw Jesus should report it, so the authorities could arrest him.
Bethany was a village on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, about two miles (3 km) from Jerusalem—a short walk.
Also known as Judgment Day, when God would judge everyone.
“I Am” is God’s name. When God told Moses to go to Egypt and free the Jewish people, Moses said the Jews would want to know who gave him the assignment. God told him to tell the people that “I Am” (Exodus 3:14) sent him. In John’s Gospel, Jesus seems to apply that name to himself as well, in seven “I Am” phrases. I Am:
• life-giving bread (6:35)
• the light of the world (8:12)
• the gate for the sheep (10:7)
• the good shepherd (10:14)
• the resurrection (11:25)
• the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
• the Genuine Grapevine (15:1)
The Sanhedrin was a group of 70 Jewish leaders led by the high priest. They functioned as the top legislative and judicial body among Jews. They were a bit like a combination Congress-Supreme Court. They made the laws and they punished the people who broke them. They did not, however, have the authority to execute anyone. The Roman occupiers kept that authority for themselves.
Jewish leaders were afraid of a Jewish war of independence led by a warrior messiah from the family of King David. The next generation of Jews did, in fact, declare their independence. They revolted against the Romans in AD 66. The Romans responded in force, doing just what the Jewish leaders had feared. In AD 70, Romans leveled Jerusalem and the Temple.
Scholars say that Ephraim is now the West Bank city of Taybeh, about 15 (24 km) miles north of Jerusalem. That’s a day’s walk away. The village sat alongside the Judean badlands that run north and south on the west side of the Jordan River Valley.
Jews call this holiday by its Hebrew name: Pesach (PAY sah). It was also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This was flatbread made with no yeast. Yeast is what makes bread dough rise. Many Jews today celebrate the holiday by eating cracker-like matzo. Tortillas would also qualify. The festival is a seven-day celebration beginning on the 14th day of the first month in the Jewish new year: Nisan, usually sometime in March or April. It varies because the Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Jewish pilgrims came from all over the world to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, much like Christian pilgrims today go to Bethlehem at Christmas and Jerusalem at Easter. At Passover, Jerusalem swelled to many times its normal size.
Jews became ritually unfit to offer sacrifices and worship in the Temple for various reasons. They may have touched something dead, or gone into the home of a non-Jewish person, or had a wet dream. There were cleansing rituals they needed to observe, which included washing themselves in a ritual bath known as a mikvah. And they may have needed to wait for a day or more after the bath. See Leviticus 11 for some of the rules Jews were told to observe.