John 11:38
Jesus, once again deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
Christ At a GraveCaleb Morris.John 11:38
The Burial of LazarusJ. Culross, D. D.John 11:38
The Raising of LazarusJohn 11:38
The Story of the GraveS. S. TimesJohn 11:38
Thrice in the gospel narrative is Jesus recorded to have wept; viz. over the unbelieving and doomed city of Jerusalem, by the grave of his friend, Lazarus of Bethany, and in the garden of Gethsemane, when enduring the agony which all but overwhelmed his soul. Much valuable and consolatory reflection is suggested by the simple record, "Jesus wept."


1. It is obvious to say this capacity lay in his true human nature. As we read in Job, "Man is born to sorrow;" as our poet sings, "Man is made to mourn." Jesus was "a Man of sorrows."

2. Christ was capable of human sympathy. Men weep for themselves, and they weep for others. The tears of Jesus were tears shed, not for himself, but for members of this race whose nature he assumed.

3. This capacity lay yet deeper in our Lord's Divinity. It is unjust to represent God as unfeeling; he is susceptible of some deep "painless sympathy with pain." He pities and grieves over the sorrow he nevertheless in wisdom and in love permits.

II. THE OCCASIONS OF CHRIST'S TEARS. The narrative reveals:

1. His personal sorrow for the death of his friend. He had been wont to come to Bethany to meet with a cordial welcome and a friendly smile from Lazarus. And as he knew the joys of friendship, so did he experience the distress of bereavement. There was justice in the exclamation of the Jews, "Behold how he loved him!"

2. His sympathy with the grief of the bereaved sisters. Mary and Martha were nearest in kindred and in affection to the deceased Lazarus; and Jesus, who loved all three, could not but feet for the sisters whom he found in sorrow and in tears.

3. Consciousness of the power of sin. Nothing less than this can account for the prevalence and the bitterness of the heart's anguish. Jesus, who knew all things, knew this; it was sin which "brought death into the world with all its woes." In every instance of human mortality Jesus could not fail to discern the bitterer root of fruit so bitter. Hence the strong emotion he displayed, as he groaned and was stirred and moved by the mighty wave of feeling which swept over his soul.

III. THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF CHRIST'S TEARS. There are cases in which tears are a substitute for help. It was not so in the instance before us. The heart that found expression for its woe in tears, found expression for its sympathy and pity in the reaching out of a hand of help. Jesus first wept, and then succored the sorrowful and raised the dead. Christian sympathy should be like Christ's sympathy, which was not content with words and tears, but made for itself a way of practical compassion.


1. They assure us that we have in him a feeling Friend, who in all our afflictions is afflicted.

2. They teach us a lesson of sympathy - that we should "weep with those who weep."

3. They remind us by contrast of that state where "all tears shall be wiped from off all faces."

"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown." T.

Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave.
"It was a cave," such as that rocky neighbourhood abounds with, "and a stone lay upon it." Among some nations the bodies of the dead were burned, and the ashes consigned to urns. This was never a Jewish custom, though there were exceptional cases in which it was practised (Saul and his sons, and Amos 6:10), which seems to have been owing to pestilence. The Jews buried. When a person died, after the affecting solemnity of the last kiss and closing the eyes, the body was washed in lukewarm water, and perfumed, and then swathed in numerous folds of linen, with spices in the folds. Thus, e.g., Joseph and Nicodemus and the women showed their affection for the Lord. The limbs were bound in linen bands, not together, but separately; and in many cases the very fingers; while the head was wrapped in a linen cloth (the sudarium or napkin), which also veiled the face, thrown loosely over it. The necessary preparations being completed, burial took place within twenty-four hours after death. By a wise arrangement, absolutely necessary in the East, the burial places were always situated without the cities, though seldom if ever at any great distance. In case poverty permitted nothing more, the dead was laid in a grave as with us, and a little plain mason work was placed above; at the least a simple slab of the white rock of the country. For the most part, however, the burial places were caves, either natural or hewn out of the solid rock. In such a cave a number of persons could stand upright: and all around its sides there were cells (no coffins being used) for the dead, of such a size as to contain each a single body. In such a cave, in the rocky side of Olivet, amid the luxuriant vegetation of the district, where birds sang, and flowers blossomed, and feathery palm branches waved, and the soft golden sunshine fell from the skies of morn on the spangled turf, and evening threw its grateful shadows, there the body of dead Lazarus was laid; and, for protection against the ravages of beasts of prey, the cave's mouth was closed by a large closely-fitting stone, which it required the strength of many men to move.

(J. Culross, D. D.)

S. S. Times.

1. In the first family (Genesis 4:8; Genesis 5:5).

2. Among the patriarchs (Genesis 23:2-4, 19, 20; Genesis 35:19, 20).

3. Over kings (1 Samuel 31:4-6; 1 Kings 2:10; Daniel 5:30).

4. Over conquerors (Joshua 24:29, 30; 2 Samuel 3:27).

5. Over prophets (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6; 2 Kings 13:20, 21).

6. Over all men (Psalm 89:48; Psalm 90:3; Hebrews 9:27).

7. Over Jesus (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:45, 46).

8. Ends all service (Psalm 6:5; Psalm 88:11; Ecclesiastes 9:10).

9. Destroys the body (Psalm 49:14; Matthew 23:27).

10. Opens suddenly to some (Job 21:13; Acts 5:5, 10).


1. Redemption therefrom assured (Psalm 49:15).

2. Ransom therefrom provided (Hosea 13:14).

3. Deliverance typified (Jonah 2:1, 2; Matthew 12:40).

4. Lazarus brought from the grave (John 11:43, 44).

5. Other saints came forth (Matthew 27:52, 53).

6. Christ came forth (Matthew 28:2-6; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4).

7. All shall come forth (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29).

8. The song of victory (1 Corinthians 15:55).

(S. S. Times.)


1. Over mortal man. He felt as with an electric shock that He was in a world of pain and infirmity.

2. Over sorrowing man. Jesus sympathized with sorrow as sorrow. He was moved by the mere contagiousness of grief.

3. Over unbelieving man. The sisters and the Jews alike lacked faith, and lack of faith always troubled Him. There might be more than one feeling here.

(1)an oppressive sense of loneliness.

(2)A deep conviction of the guilt of unbelief.

(3)A distressing feeling of the miseries of unbelief.


1. He spoke to God (ver. 41) — a thanksgiving for an answer not yet vouchsafed to an unrecorded prayer.

2. He spoke to men — "Take ye away the stone." This was the work of man, and therefore not included in the scope of the miracle. And in religion we have a part to play as well as God. He gives the grace, we must use it. "Work out your own salvation."


1. Direct resurrection: here physical; in us moral.

2. Indirect.

(1)Faith; as an effect of the miracle (ver. 45).

(2)Unbelief and animosity (ver. 46).

(Caleb Morris.)


1. The preparatory order (ver. 39). Christ never sought to accomplish by supernatural means what could be done by natural (chap. John 2:7, 8; 6:10-11).

2. The encouraging remonstrance (ver. 40).

3. The solemn thanksgiving (ver. 41); expressive of —

(1)Gratitude for the assurance of power to accomplish the miracle.

(2)Confidence that as the Son He always stood within the Father's favour.

(3)Care for the multitude that they might be prepared to believe when they beheld the stupendous sign.

4. The awakening summons (ver. 43).




5. The concluding charge (ver. 44). Issued —

(1)For the sake of Lazarus, to complete his restoration to the world.

(2)For the sake of the sisters that they might withdraw with and rejoice over their brother.

(3)For the sake of the spectators, to convince them of the reality of the miracle.


1. Objections.(1) The silence of the synoptists. Answer —

(a)This is not more strange than their other omissions (John 2:1-11; John 13:1-22; John 9).

(b)This less strange than the omission of the raising at Nain by Matthew and Mark, or that of the five hundred witnesses mentioned only by Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6).

(c)This not at all strange if we consider that the narrative would compromise the safety of the family, that it and the earlier miracles at Jerusalem did not enter into the scope of the Synoptists who dealt with the Galilean ministry.

(d)This is required to account for the popular outburst of enthusiasm which all record (Matthew 21:8-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40).(2) The so-called improbabilities of the narrative.

(a)Christ's representation (ver. 4).

(b)Christ's delay(ver. 6).

(c)The disciple's misunderstanding of the figure already employed in the house of Jarius (ver. 12, 13).

(d)Christ's grief in prospect of resurrection (ver. 35).

(e)Christ's prayer for sake of bystanders.(3) The non-mention of the miracle at the trial of Jesus. But —

(a)Christ offered no defence at all, nor did He call any witnesses on His behalf.

(b)The Sanhedrim were naturally silent (ver. 47). It would have destroyed their plot.

2. Considerations in support of authenticity.(1) It is evidently the report of an eyewitness.

(a)In what it includes (vers. 28, 32, 33, 38, 44, etc.).

(b)In what it omits — the return of messengers, call to Mary, etc.(2) It was performed publicly, and in the presence of enemies.(3) The Sanhedrim believed it (vers. 46, 53).(4) The insufficiency of other offered explanations that the mirable was a myth, that Lazarus was not really dead.


1. The question of the Divinity of Jesus. He proclaimed Himself the Son of God, and appealed in vindication of that to the miracle He was about to perform.

2. The doctrines of the spirituality and separate existence of the soul; which are abundantly demonstrated.

3. The truth of a future resurrection.

(1)It shows its possibility.

(2)It is a type of it. There will be the same loving call, authoritative summons, efficacious word.

(3)It presents contrasts. Lazarus was raised to this world of sorrows to die again.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

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