Sunday, Mar 17, 2002: “John 11: 1-44; ‘The Resurrection and the Light'”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

John 11:1-44, “The Resurrection and the Light”

Sunday, March 17, 2002


This morning, Father Mike Kreutzer led us through the last of the Adult Education series for Lent, the reading from John 11:1-44: “The Resurrection and the Life,” which is today’s Gospel reading.  Handouts were passed out at the meeting and were used as a guide for the lesson and are the basis for this summary.  The discussion began by noting that the synoptic Gospels do not mention the story of Lazarus, which takes place in Bethany.  The village still exists today but is called by the Hebrew name for Lazarus.  There is also a connection to the “beloved” disciple coupled with the Johannine dual meaning that not only Lazarus, but all Christians will be raised from the dead.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having 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 trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.  10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”  11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”  13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.  14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  18  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.  20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”  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 on the last day.”  25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.  30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.  31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  34 He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  35 Jesus began to weep.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

                                                                                         [The New Revised Standard Version]



1             “Lazarus”:   not mentioned in the Synoptics

             “Bethany”:   the place where Jesus stayed when visiting Jerusalem (Mark 11:11; 14:3);     today it is know as  “El ‘Azariyeh , a name derived from “Lazarus”; it is less than two        miles from Jerusalem

             “Martha and her sister Mary”:   mentioned in John 11:5 and 19); the only place in the Synoptics where they appear is Luke 10:38


2           Mary was the one who anointed the Lord”:   obviously added by a later editor, since the scene does not occur until chapter 12


4           Jesus looks for the potential in the situation

             “Son of God:”   Jesus uses this title for himself only here and in 5:25


8             “Rabbi”:  the last use of this title for Jesus;  this title was used also in 9:2; note the similarities between 9:2-5 and 11:8-10

             In this verse, “the Jews” are those who are hostile to Jesus; but, beginning with verse 19, “the Jews” are just ordinary people on the scene, some of whom might come to believe in Jesus.


9           “the light of this world”:  the sun and Jesus


10          The Jews appear to have thought that light resided in the eye (cf. Matthew 6:22-23)


11-12    “our friend Lazarus”, literally, “beloved”, the same term used for Christians in 3 John 15); the implication seems to be that, just as Jesus gives life to his beloved Lazarus, so will he give life to his beloved Christians

             “fallen asleep”:   in both Hebrew and Greek (including the LXX), this is used as a euphemism for dying; misunderstanding


16          “that we may die with him”:   possibly Johannine irony, since in Pauline theology Christians have died with Christ (Romans 6:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14)


17          “four days”: emphasizing reality of death; an opinion among the rabbis held that the soul hovered near the body for three days


19          Since there was no embalming, burial took place quickly.  A period of mourning (thirty days) followed.


22             Martha’s faith is incomplete.  She recognizes Jesus as an intermediary with God (22), but does not realize that he is life itself (25).


27          ”the Messiah, the Son of God”: similar to Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 (Peter, in John 6:69, confesses Jesus to be “the Holy One of God”)


33          “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved”:   the first of the two Greek verbs used here carries a connotation of anger and indignation (cf. Daniel 11:30 in LXX);  it is used also to describe Jesus’ reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43 and Matthew 9:30); it may be that Jesus sees human suffering (and death) as an expression of the reign of evil with which he is in conflict


35          “Jesus began to weep.”


41          “looked upward”:   a frequent prelude to Jesus’ prayer in the gospels





There is a sequence problem if one tries to take the geographical setting of John as it now stands.  The Lazarus story is placed between Hanukkah and Passover, nearer to Passover.  As the story now stands, Jesus, in a short period of time, would have had to leave his retreat in the Transjordan (10:40), come to Bethany, withdrew to Ephraim near the desert (11:54), returned to Bethany six days before Passover (12:1), then gone into hiding the next day (12:36).



Many of the details of chapter 11 work out the details of the promise of chapter 5:   

21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.  25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.



The raising of Lazarus is the final sign of “The Books of Signs”: the first eleven chapters of the Gospel according to John.

  • changing water to wine at Cana  (21-11)
  • curing the royal official’s son at Cana  (4:46-59)
  • curing the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda  (5:1-15)
  • multiplication of the loaves in Galilee  (6:1-15)
  • walking upon the Sea of Galilee  (6:16-21)
  • curing a blind man in Jerusalem  (9)
  • raising Lazarus from the dead at Bethany  (11)



For the Synoptics, all the signs that Jesus has done are the reason that his enemies decide upon his death.  For John, Jesus’ raising of Lazarus was the direct cause of Jesus’ death.  The Sanhedrin meet in response to it (11:46-53), and decide that Jesus must die.  (According to John 12:9-11, they planned to kill Lazarus also.)  This theme is reflected in verse 4 (“it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”), since Jesus’ death is part of his glorification.