|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:11-16 Since we are sure to rise again at the last, why should not the believing hope of that resurrection to eternal life, make it as easy for us to put off the body and die, as it is to put off our clothes and go to sleep? A true Christian, when he dies, does but sleep; he rests from the labours of the past day. Nay, herein death is better than sleep, that sleep is only a short rest, but death is the end of earthly cares and toils. The disciples thought that it was now needless for Christ to go to Lazarus, and expose himself and them. Thus we often hope that the good work we are called to do, will be done by some other hand, if there be peril in the doing of it. But when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, many were brought to believe on him; and there was much done to make perfect the faith of those that believed. Let us go to him; death cannot separate from the love of Christ, nor put us out of the reach of his call. Like Thomas, in difficult times Christians should encourage one another. The dying of the Lord Jesus should make us willing to die whenever God calls us.
Verse 11. - These things spake he, and probably many more words expository of the vast principle of service which he here propounded; and after this (for μετὰ τοῦτο implies a break, during which the disciples pondered his words) he saith, Our friend Lazarus; implying that Lazarus was well known to the disciples, and that the Lord classes himself here, in wondrous condescension, with them. He elsewhere speaks of the twelve as his "friends" (John 15:14, 15, where he made it a higher designation than δοῦλοι; see also Luke 12:4). John the Baptist also calls himself "the Bridegroom's friend" (John 3:29). Though Lazarus had passed into the region of the unknown and unseen, he was still" our friend." Hath fallen asleep. Meyer says that Jesus knew this by "spiritual far-seeing;" and Godet thinks that he knew it by supernatural process, and had known it all along. It does not require much beyond what we know to have occurred in thousands of instances, for our Lord to have perceived that his friend had died - had, as he said, "fallen asleep," in that new sense in which Jesus was teaching men to look on death. But I go, that I may awake him out of sleep (ἐξυπνίσω is a late Greek word; cf. Acts 16:27). Wunsche says the Talmud often speaks of a rabbi's death under the form of" sleep" ('Moed. K.,' fol. 28, a; cf. Matthew 9:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Homer spoke of death and sleep as "twin sisters," Christ's power and consciousness of power to awake Lazarus from sleep gives, however, to his use of the image a new meaning. It is not the eternal sleep of the Greek and Roman poets.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
These things said he,.... In answer to his disciples, and made a pause.
And after that he saith unto them, our friend Lazarus sleepeth; meaning, that he was dead; in which sense the word is often used in the Old Testament, and in the common dialect of the Jews, and frequently in their writings; and especially it is so used of good men: and it is an observation of theirs (b), that
"it is usual to say of the righteous, that there is no death in them, , "but sleep";''
See Gill on Matthew 9:24, See Gill on 1 Corinthians 15:18, See Gill on 1 Corinthians 15:20, See Gill on 1 Thessalonians 4:13, See Gill on 1 Thessalonians 4:14;
but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep; that is, to raise him from the dead, for, the resurrection of the dead is expressed by awaking; see Psalm 17:15; which for Christ to do, was as easy as to awake a man out of natural sleep: these words respecting Lazarus's sleeping and awaking, express both the omniscience and omnipotence of Christ; his omniscience, that he should know that Lazarus was dead; when at such a distance from him; and his omnipotence, that he could raise him from the dead; and yet his great modesty to signify it in, such covert language, though not difficult to be understood.
(b) Gloss in T. Hieros. Celaim in En Yaacob, fol. 4. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11-16. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may wake him out of sleep—Illustrious title! "Our friend Lazarus." To Abraham only is it accorded in the Old Testament, and not till after his death, (2Ch 20:7; Isa 41:8), to which our attention is called in the New Testament (Jas 2:23). When Jesus came in the flesh, His forerunner applied this name, in a certain sense, to himself (Joh 3:29); and into the same fellowship the Lord's chosen disciples are declared to have come (Joh 15:13-15). "The phrase here employed, "our friend Lazarus," means more than "he whom Thou lovest" in Joh 11:3, for it implies that Christ's affection was reciprocated by Lazarus" [Lampe]. Our Lord had been told only that Lazarus was "sick." But the change which his two days' delay had produced is here tenderly alluded to. Doubtless, His spirit was all the while with His dying, and now dead "friend." The symbol of "sleep" for death is common to all languages, and familiar to us in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, however, a higher meaning is put into it, in relation to believers in Jesus (see on 1Th 4:14), a sense hinted at, and clearly, in Ps 17:15 [Luthardt]; and the "awaking out of sleep" acquires a corresponding sense far transcending bare resuscitation.
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