John 11:1
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
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(1) Now a certain man was sick.—This is connected with the preceding narrative to introduce the reason for our Lord’s leaving His retirement to go again into the neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

Named Lazarus, of Bethany.—For the name “Lazarus,” comp. Note on Luke 16:20, where it occurs as the solitary instance of a name in our Lord’s parables. It will be seen from the Chronological Harmony of the Gospels, p. 36, that the parable was closely connected with the miracle in order of time. It is in every way probable that the form in which the truths of the world beyond the grave there took shape was suggested by the incidents which are here recorded. See also the suggestion that this Lazarus may have been identical with the young man that had great possessions, in Notes on Matthew 19:16 et seq. The induction rests upon an enumeration of instances which makes it at least probable in a high degree.

“Bethany,” too, is familiar to us from the earlier Gospels (Matthew 21:17; Matthew 26:6; Mark 11:12; Mark 14:3; Luke 19:29; Luke 24:50). The modern name, El-Azirieh, or El-Lazirieh, connects it with the events of this chapter, being formed from El-Azir, the Arabic form of the name Lazarus. It is a poor village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18).

The town of Mary and her sister Martha.—Better, the village . . . (Comp. Luke 10:38.) This is the general meaning of the Greek word, which is distinguished from that for “city” or “town,” as in Matthew 9:35; Matthew 10:11; but John uses it in John 7:42 for Bethlehem. For the relative position of Mary and Martha, comp. Notes on Luke 10:38-42. The younger sister is here mentioned first as the better known from the events related in John 11:2. Lazarus was probably younger than his sisters (John 12:2). The village was known, then, in the circles of the first disciples, as the village of Mary and Martha, by way of distinction from the “Bethany beyond Jordan”; and the distinction is marked here on account of the paragraph at the end of the preceding chapter. (See John 1:28.)

John 11:1-2. Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus — While Jesus was on the other side of Jordan, whither he had retired when he left Jerusalem, a particular friend of his, called Lazarus, fell sick of a very dangerous disorder, at the village of Bethany, near Jerusalem. The town of Mary, and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters — It is probable Lazarus was younger than his sisters, Bethany being named their town, and Lazarus being mentioned after them, John 11:5. Ecclesiastical history informs us, that Lazarus was now thirty years old, and that he lived thirty years after Christ’s ascension. It was that Mary who afterward anointed the Lord with ointment — See John 12:3; and Matthew 26:7. Some commentators have supposed that this refers to the story related by Luke 7:37, &c.; and have argued from thence, that Mary Magdalene, whom they think to be the person there described, as a woman that was a sinner, was the same with this Mary, the sister of Lazarus. But it seems much more probable that John himself should mention the fact that he has here referred to, which, if he has done at all, it must be that which he relates John 12:3, &c., where there can be no doubt that the person who performed this instance of respect to Christ was Mary the sister of Lazarus, who was of Bethany, and therefore must be different from Mary Magdalene, who was of Magdala, a town of Galilee, at a considerable distance. Nor is there any ground from Scripture to conclude, that Mary Magdalene was the person who anointed Christ in Luke, which appears rather to be there described as the action of a woman of Nain, where Christ restored the widow’s son to life. See note on Luke 7:37; Luke 8:2.

11:1-6 It is no new thing for those whom Christ loves, to be sick; bodily distempers correct the corruption, and try the graces of God's people. He came not to preserve his people from these afflictions, but to save them from their sins, and from the wrath to come; however, it behoves us to apply to Him in behalf of our friends and relatives when sick and afflicted. Let this reconcile us to the darkest dealings of Providence, that they are all for the glory of God: sickness, loss, disappointment, are so; and if God be glorified, we ought to be satisfied. Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. The families are greatly favoured in which love and peace abound; but those are most happy whom Jesus loves, and by whom he is beloved. Alas, that this should seldom be the case with every person, even in small families. God has gracious intentions, even when he seems to delay. When the work of deliverance, temporal or spiritual, public or personal, is delayed, it does but stay for the right time.A certain man was sick - The resurrection of Lazarus has been recorded only by John. Various reasons have been conjectured why the other evangelists did not mention so signal a miracle. The most probable is, that at the time they wrote Lazarus was still living. The miracle was well known, and yet to have recorded it might have exposed Lazarus to opposition and persecution from the Jews. See John 12:10-11. Besides, John wrote for Christians who were out of Palestine. The other gospels were written chiefly for those who were in Judea. There was the more need, therefore, that he should enter minutely into the account of the miracle, while the others did not deem it necessary or proper to record an event so well known.

Bethany - A village on the eastern declivity of the Mount of Olives. See the notes at Matthew 21:1.

The town of Mary - The place where she lived. At that place also lived Simon the leper Matthew 26:6, and there our Lord spent considerable part of his time when he was in Judea. The transaction recorded in this chapter occurred nearly four months after those mentioned in the previous chapter. Those occurred in December, and these at the approach of the Passover in April.


Joh 11:1-46. Lazarus Raised from the Dead—The Consequences of This.

1. of Bethany—at the east side of Mount Olivet.

the town of Mary and her sister Martha—thus distinguishing it from the other Bethany, "beyond Jordan." (See on [1828]Joh 1:28; Joh 10:40).John 11:1-46 The sickness and death of Lazarus: Jesus raiseth him

to life after he had been dead four days: many Jews


John 11:47-54 The Pharisees hold a council against Christ:

Caiaphas prophesieth: Jesus retires from places

of public resort.

John 11:55-57 At the approach of the passover the Jews inquire

about him: the rulers give orders to apprehend him.

Ver. 1 Bethany (as appears by John 11:18) was nigh unto Jerusalem, not wholly at two miles distance from it: but our Saviour was not at this time in Judea, for, John 11:7, he saith to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. He was at this time in Galilee, or in Peraea; and we shall find, John 11:17, that Lazarus had been in his grave four days before our Saviour got thither: so as we must allow at least six or seven days between the time when Christ heard of Lazarus’s sickness, and the time when he came to Bethany. This Bethany is here only described to us as the place where Martha and Mary lived, or at least where they were born. Some think that Bethany was only a part of the Mount Olivet; but others, more probably, think that it was some little town or city, standing within that part of the Mount Olivet; for it is here called a town, and, Luke 10:38,39, the place where these two sisters lived is called a village.

Now a certain man was sick,.... Very likely of a fever; Nonnus calls it a morbid fire, a hot and burning disease:

named Lazarus of Bethany; for his name, which the Ethiopic version reads "Eleazar", and the Persic version "Gazarus", See Gill on Luke 16:24; and for the place Bethany; see Gill on Matthew 21:1, See Gill on Matthew 21:17.

The town of Mary and her sister Martha; where they were both born, as well as Lazarus, or at least where they dwelt; of the former, some account is, given in the next verse, and of the latter, See Gill on Luke 10:38.

Now {1} a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the {a} town of Mary and her sister Martha.

(1) Christ, in restoring the rotting body of his friend to life, shows an example both of his mighty power, and also of his singular good will toward men: and this is also an image of the resurrection to come.

(a) Where his sisters dwelt.

John 11:1 f.[68] This stay of Jesus in retirement, however, is terminated by the sickness of Lazarus (δέ).

Simplicity of the style of the narrative: But there was a certain one sick, (namely) Lazarus of Bethany, of the town, etc: ἀπὸ (John 7:42; Matthew 2:1; Matthew 27:57) and ἘΚ both denote the same relation (John 1:46 f.), that of derivation; hence it is the less allowable to regard the two sisters and the brother as Galileans, and Mary as the Magdalene (Hengstenberg).[69] That Lazarus lived also in Bethany, and was lying ill there, is plain from the course of the narrative. For change of preposition, without any change of relation, comp. John 1:45; Romans 3:30; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:7; Philemon 1:5; Kühner, II. p. 219.

This Bethany, situated on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, and, according to John 11:18, about three-quarters of an hour’s walk from Jerusalem (see on Matthew 21:17), was characteristically and specially known in evangelistic tradition owing to the two sisters who lived there; hence its more exact description by the words ἐκ τῆς κώμης Μαρίας, etc.,[70] for the sake of distinguishing it from the Bethany mentioned in John 1:28 (see critical note on John 1:28).

For the legends about Lazarus, see especially Thilo, Cod. Apocry. p. 711; Fabric. Cod. Apocr. III. pp. 475, 509.

ἦν δὲ Μαρία, etc.] Not to be put in a parenthesis. A more exact description of this Mary,[71]—who, however, must not be identified with the woman who was a sinner, mentioned in Luke 7, as is done still by Hengstenberg (see on Luke 7:36-37 f.)—from the account of the anointing (Matthew 26:6 ff.; Mark 14:3 ff.), which John presupposes, in a general way, as already known, although he himself afterwards takes occasion to narrate it in John 12:1 ff. So important and significant did it appear to him, while tradition, besides, had not preserved it in its pure original form (not even in Matthew and Mark).

ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς, etc.] Thus, to refer to Lazarus as the brother of Mary, was perfectly natural to the narrative, and after John 11:1 is clear in itself. Entirely baseless is Hengstenberg’s remark: the relation of Lazarus to the unmarried Mary was more intimate than to the married Martha, who had been the wife of Simon the leper, Matthew 26:6 (which is a pure invention). See in general, against the erroneous combinations of Hengstenberg regarding the personal relations of the two sisters and Lazarus, Strauss, Die Halben und die Ganzen, p. 79 ff.

[68] On the whole section relating to the raising of Lazarus, see Gumlich in the Stud. u. Kritiken, 1862, pp. 65 ff., 248 ff.

[69] In the Constitt. Apost. 3. 6. 2, also, Mary Magdalene is expressly distinguished from the sister of Lazarus.

[70] This genitive, presupposing, as it does, the nominative form Μαρία, is opposed to the adoption in John of the Hebrew form Μαριάμ, which, in the various passages where the name occurs, is supported by very varying testimony, in some cases by very strong, in other passages, however, by no evidence at all.

[71] On account of her predominant importance, and from being so well known, Mary is mentioned first in ver. 1. Had she been the elder sister (Ewald), there would be no apparent reason why Martha should be mentioned first in vv. 5, 19, and 20. Comp. also Luke 10:38, where Martha appears as mistress of the house.—Lazarus seems to have been younger than the sisters, and to have held a subordinate place in the household, John 12:2.

John 11:1. Ἦν δέ τις ἀσθενῶν. “Now a certain man was ill;” δέ connects this narrative with the preceding, and introduces the cause of our Lord’s leaving His retirement in Peraea. “Lazarus,” the Greek form of Eleazar = God is my Help (cf. Luke 16:20), “of Bethany”. ἀπό is commonly used to designate residence or birthplace, see John 1:45, Hebrews 13:24, etc.; ἐκ is used similarly, see Acts 23:34. Bethany lay on the south-east slope of Olivet, nearly two miles from Jerusalem, John 11:18; it is now named El-’Azirîyeh, after Lazarus; “from the village of Mary and Martha her sister,” a description of Bethany added not so much to distinguish it from the Bethany of John 1:28 (cf. John 10:40) as to connect it with persons already named in the evangelic tradition, Luke 10:38.

1–33. The Prelude to the Sign

1. Now a certain man was sick] Note once more the touching simplicity of the narrative. ‘Now’ should perhaps be ‘but,’ though the Greek particle may mean either. Here it introduces a contrast to what precedes. Christ went into Peraea for retirement, but the sickness of Lazarus interrupted it.

named Lazarus] The theory that this narrative is a parable transformed into a miracle possibly represents something like the reverse of the fact. The parable of Dives and Lazarus was apparently spoken about this time, i.e. between the Feast of Dedication and the last Passover, and it may possibly have been suggested by this miracle. In no other parable does Christ introduce a proper name. Some would identify Lazarus of Bethany with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18), and also with the young man clad in a linen cloth who followed Jesus in the Garden after the disciples had fled (Mark 14:51; see note there). The name Lazarus is an abbreviated Greek form of Eleazar = ‘God is my help.’ It is commonly assumed without much evidence that he was younger than his sisters: S. Luke’s silence about him (John 10:38-39) agrees well with this.

Bethany] A small village on the S. E. slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem (see on Matthew 21:9).

the town of Mary] Better, of the village of Mary. The same word is used of Bethlehem (John 7:42) and in conjunction with ‘towns’ or ‘cities’ (Luke 13:22), It is an elastic word; but its general meaning is ‘village’ rather than anything larger. Mary is here mentioned first, although apparently the younger sister (Luke 10:28), because the incident mentioned in the next verse had made her better known. They would seem to have been people of position from the village being described as their abode (to distinguish it from the other Bethany in Peraea, to which Christ had just gone). The guests at the funeral (John 11:31; John 11:45), the feast, the family burying-place (John 11:38), and Mary’s costly offering (John 12:2-3), point in the same direction.

John 11:1. Λάζαρος, Lazarus) It may be inferred from many circumstances that Lazarus was the younger, and his sisters the older by birth. It is from these latter that the village is designated; John 11:1, “The town of Mary and her sister Martha:” and Lazarus is put third in the order of names, John 11:5. Ecclesiastical history hands down the tradition, that Lazarus lived after the ascension of the Lord as many years as had been his age at that time, namely, thirty.—ἀπὸἐκ) Not unfrequently a preposition is repeated in apposition, either the preposition itself, or else a synonym: 2 Corinthians 1:19 [διʼ ἡμῶνδιʼ ἐμοῦ].—Μαρίας) Mary was the better known of the two among the disciples, owing to those acts of hers which are mentioned in John 11:2 [the anointing of Jesus]: she is accordingly placed before Martha; though Martha was the elder-born, John 11:5; John 11:19 [where Martha is named the first].

Verses 1-57. -

7. Christ the Antagonist of death - a victory of love and power. The narrative of this chapter is a further advance in the proof that the unbelief of the Jews was aggravated by the greatness of the revelation. The issue of his sublime and culminating act of power, of his supreme and self-revealing work of transcendent tenderness and beauty, was a deeper and wilder passion of hatred. The evangelist completes his series of seven great miracles with one that in true and believing minds, evokes a new sense of the glory of God. This great last sign corresponds with the first (John it.) by being enacted amid the domestic and family life of a small and insignificant town, and also by express reference to the veritable manifestation involved in it of the δόξα Θεοῦ, on which we have frequently commented. Baur treated the narrative as an ideal composition, illustrating the great metaphysical utterance, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Keim endeavored to reduce the whole narrative to a fiction, not so well contrived as some of the evangelist's tours de force. This is almost as arbitrary and offensive as M. Renan's endeavor (which held its place in numerous editions of his 'Vie de Jesus') to represent the miracle as a got-up scene, into which Christ, by a kind of Divine mensonge, allowed himself to be drawn. Subsequently, Renan has suggested that Mary and Martha told Jesus their persuasion that such a miracle would convince his enemies, and that he replied that his bitter foes would not believe him even if Lazarus were to rise from the grave; and that this speech was expanded by tradition into an actual event. This corresponds with what Weisse had suggested, that the story is an expansion of the Lord's conversation with the sisters at Bethany. Gfrorer ('Heiligthum und Wahrheit,' p. 311, Meyer) thought that it is the story of Nain over again in a developed form, and that Nain is equivalent to Bethany; and Schenkel has fancied that the parable of Luke 16. has been expanded into a narrative of genuine resurrection. Thorns has, in like manner, regarded it as the poetic expansion of the idea of the Christ as the Prince of life and Conqueror of death, and as based on the synoptic account of two resurrections, and on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. These hypotheses are all incompatible with the simplicity of the account and with the apostolicity of the Gospel. Many attempts have been made to account for the silence of the synoptists concerning this narrative. Some writers, with Epiphanius, have said they feared, when their narratives were made public, to call such marked attention to the family of Bethany, lest they might have endangered their lives; but this is exceedingly improbable. Others have argued that this crowning miracle would not take such a conspicuous place in their less-carefully arranged records. It was only one of "many signs" wrought by our Lord with which they were familiar. Matthew (Matthew 9:18) and Mark (Mark 5:22) had already described the raising of Jairus's daughter from the bed of death, from what was believed by the onlookers to have been veritable dissolution; and Luke (Luke 7:11) had shown the Lord at the gates of Nain to have royally withstood the power of death, even when the corpse of a young man was being carried out to the burial. The narrative before us is not different in kind from these, though the prelude and the accompaniments of the miracle and its consequences are all wrought out with much dramatic force, while numerous touches, by-scenes, and references are introduced which give consummate interest to the whole. Another suggestion of moment is that it was not the purpose of the synoptists to detail the incidents of our Lord's ministry in Jerusalem. Let it not be forgotten that each of the evangelists records incident and discourse to which neither of the others had access. The peculiarities of Matthew and Luke are nearly as numerous as those of the Fourth Gospel. Why should not John bring forth facts from his memory which they had left untouched? (see Introduction, p. 96.). Verses 1-16. -

(1) The mystery and might of sacrificial love seen in the prelude of the miracle. Verse 1. - Now a certain (man) was sick, (named) Lazarus, of Bethany, of the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The certain man who was sick, Lazarus (or Eleazar) by name, was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The two prepositions ἀπὸ and ἐκ generally denote procession from, but the latter implies closer and more intimate original association; they here are put in apposition, though there are passages where they are discriminated (Luke 2:4; Acts 23:34; R.T. of Revelation 9:18). The contention of Gresswell that ἀπὸ referred to present residence, and ἐκ to nativity, and that the κώμη was to be found in Galilee, is not sound (see John 12:21; John 19:38). Bethany is mentioned to distinguish it from "Bethany beyond Jordan," referred to in John 1:28 (see note). The town is now known as El Azirieh, and is about a mile and a half from Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Simonis interpreted the name to mean "house of depression," "valley-town" בֵּיתאּעֲנִיָּה (Lightfoot); Reland derives its name from בֵּית־הִינֵי, "house of dates" (see Matthew 21:17). It seems that palm branches could be then torn from the trees in the neighborhood. Arnold (Herzog., 'Enc.') derives its name from בֵּיתאּעֲנְיָּא (Aramaic), "house of the afflicted." The village has become well known in the circle of evangelic narrative from St. Luke's reference to Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38, etc.). Mary's name is probably mentioned first from the further record of her ecstatic love, which the other Gospels were diffusing through the world, and to which John makes an anticipatory reference. Her name had not been given before. In Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:3 she was "a certain woman." John throws light on the ground of her gratitude. The efforts made by Bunyan, in his 'Jerusalem Sinner Saved,' and by Hengstenberg, to defend the pre-Reformation identification of "Mary" with the "Magdalene," and the Magdalene with the woman that was a sinner (cf. Luke 7:37 with Luke 8:2), rest on insufficient grounds. The identification of the two anointings with each other is without justification. All the circumstances are different - the time, the place, the obvious reason, the motive assigned by our Lord, the conversations which followed. If a woman who was a sinner had taken such a step, and this expression of her gratitude had been accepted by Jesus, Mary of Bethany found more ample reason for following her example (see Dr. Schaff's admirable and extended reply to Hengstenberg). B. Weiss acutely observes that this reference shows that in the circle for which the evangelist wrote Bethany was known as the home of the sisters, and Mary as the heroine of the anointing incident. Numerous other identifications, i.e. of Simon the Leper with Simon the Pharisee, Martha with Simon's wife, are precarious. Dean Plumptre's identification of Lazarus with the "rich young man" who is supposed to have given his all away to the poor, and who possessed nothing but a solitary garment; and his subsequent identification with the young man who fled away naked on the night of Christ's arrest, are specimens of ingenuity, but carry no conviction. The contrast between the ideas involved in the parable of Luke 16. and this narrative is so profound that we dismiss the hypothesis of the identity of the two Lazaruses. Strauss, Keim, and others deal with it as an expansion of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who is supposed actually to have been sent unto the people from the dead, but, in agreement with our Lord's prediction, winning no obedience. Vehement efforts are made in this and other ways to undo the commanding significance of the miracle. Bishop Wordsworth and Archdeacon Watkins are disposed to identify the Lazarus of the parable and the Lazarus of Bethany; the latter supposes the parable to have been delivered at the very time mentioned in Persea. Our Lord's statement, that the brothers of the rich man would not believe though one rose from the dead, was in some sense paralleled by the desire of the Jews to put Lazarus to death; but the reason given is that by reason of Lazarus "many of the Jews went away from them, and believed on Jesus" (John 12:11; cf. also John 11:45, "Many of the Jews, when they beheld what he did, believed on him"). John 11:1Now (δὲ)

Marking the interruption to Jesus' retirement (John 10:40).


See on Luke 16:20.

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