John 11:13
However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
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(13) They thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.—These words forbid the thought that they really understood that Lazarus was dead, but did not wish to seem to know it. Three of them, indeed, had heard our Lord apply the word “sleep” to death before (Matthew 9:24), but this instance of misunderstanding on their part takes its place with others of a like kind, as showing that the surface meaning of words was that which naturally suggested itself to them. (Comp. Matthew 16:6-12, and Luke 22:38) It is not likely that all “the three” were present during this interview. If it took place at Tellanihje, then the nearness of Bethsaida and the other towns of Galilee may have led some of the Twelve to visit their old homes. (Comp. John 1:28; John 1:48 et seq.) We can hardly imagine that Peter was present without taking a prominent part in the conversation, or that Thomas would have been in his presence the representative speaker (John 11:16). His absence may be taken as one of the reasons why the account of the miracle which follows is absent from St. Mark’s Gospel, which is, like St. John’s, the Gospel of an eye-witness. (Comp. Introduction to St. Mark, p. 189, and Excursus E: The Omission of the Raising of Lazarus, in the Synoptic Gospels.)

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.If the sleep, he shall do well - Sleep was regarded by the Jews, in sickness, as a favorable symptom; hence it was said among them, "Sleep in sickness is a sign of recovery, because it shows that the violence of the disease has abated" (Lightfoot). This seems to have been the meaning of the disciples. They intimated that if he had this symptom, there was no need of his going into Judea to restore him. 12. if he sleep, he shall do well—literally, "be preserved"; that is, recover. "Why then go to Judea?" But that the disciples should not understand our Saviour not speaking of ordinary sleep, but of death, is wonderful, considering that there is nothing more ordinary in holy writ than to read of death expressed under this notion; but possibly by our Saviour’s making such haste to him, they conceived that he was not dead, but only in an ordinary sleep, upon the abatement of his disease. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death,.... Under the figurative phrase of sleeping:

but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep; in a literal and natural sense.

Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
13. Howbeit Jesus spake] Or, Now Jesus had spoken.

had spoken] spake.

taking of rest in sleep] The word here translated ‘taking of rest’ corresponds to ‘sleepeth’ or ‘is gone to rest’ in John 11:11, and ‘to sleep’ in John 11:12. The word translated ‘awake him out of sleep’ in John 11:11 is a compound of the word here rendered, ‘sleep.’Verse 13. - Now Jesus had spoken of his death: but they thought that he spake of taking rest in sleep. Λέγει, though in the present tense, represents a time anterior to the time of ἔδοξαν. Κοίμησις is found in Ecclus. 46:19. This is an explanation of the misunderstanding, occasioned, perhaps, by the statement of ver. 4, and further elucidated by what follows. A difference prevails between κοίμησις and ὕπνος as both words are used for sleep; but the former has rather the idea of the repose accompanying sleep, the latter the phenomenon itself. With one or two exceptions, κοιμᾶσθαι is always used in the New Testament of the sleep of death, ὑπνός never. Taking rest (κοιμήσεως)

Akin to the verb in John 11:11. Wyc., the sleeping of sleep. Tyndale's Version of the New Testament, the natural sleep.

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