JOHN 11 – Jesus, who has healed so many throughout the Gospels, STAYS rather than hurry to heal His friend Lazarus. Although they are VERY aware that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying (see v 21, 32), Jesus intentionally waits to give something BETTER than they have asked. He’s going to reveal Himself as the RESURRECTION and the LIFE. Compare Paul NOT getting what he asked for in 2 Cor 12:7-10 but getting BETTER.
Jn 11:1-3 – The love of Jesus for this family is obvious all through this chapter. The anointing in v 2 hasn’t happened yet (that’s Jn 12), but this is so we can be certain we know the close connections of love between Jesus and this family (also see v 3, 5, 11, 35-36). This is the same family where Jesus stayed in Lk 10:38-42 and Mary sits at His feet to learn and Martha is gently rebuked for trying to get Jesus to make her sister get up from learning to help serve.
Jn 11:4 – But how does this fit with v 14?! Answer – Jesus is clearly reminding them of the END of this story. It’s not death, but life! And that’s the end of the story for ALL who believe in Him! When God brings us into hard situations (compare the man born blind in Jn 9:1-3, Joseph in Ps 105:16-19, Israel enslaved by Egypt in Ps 105:23-45), He is always up to at least two big things: 1) His ultimate glory (Jn 11:4) and 2) the ultimate good of His people (compare v 14-15, 21-27, 39-42 and of course Rom 8:28).
Jn 11:11-15 – Notice how EASY it will be for Jesus to raise His people from the dead – just like waking someone from a nap.
Jn 11:5-6 – Don’t miss the very clear connection between the love of Jesus for this family and His intentional NOT going to them yet so that Lazarus will be dead for four days by the time Jesus arrived. God is NOT on OUR schedule! And His ultimate goal is not our short-term comfort and happiness, but our ETERNAL happiness in Him.
Jn 11:16 – This is the same Thomas we sometimes nickname “Doubting Thomas” because of his initial skepticism and need to get careful evidence after the Resurrection (see Jn 20:24-29), but notice his willingness to die for Jesus.
Jn 11:17-22 – Martha is clearly aware that Jesus could have prevented the death of her brother, but is still trusting Jesus for WHATEVER He chooses to do.
Jn 11:23-27 – Martha thinks Jesus is talking about the final resurrection, not aware they’re about to be given a preview with her brother! Then one of the great “I AM” statements scattered through John’s Gospel (compare Ex 3:13-17) where Jesus reveals – “I AM the RESURRECTION and the LIFE.” And Martha clearly confesses Him as the Christ (that’s the more Greek way to say it; “Messiah” is more Hebrew – both refer to the promised Anointed One), the Son of God – the One who has been promised since Gen 3:15. And she hasn’t seen the resurrection of her brother yet.
Jn 11:35-36 – Compare 1 Thess 4:13-18 (esp 1 Thess 4:13). Tears are appropriate at the death of a loved one, but believers don’t grieve like lost people who have no hope.
Jn 11:43 – There are two kinds of a call that God gives – a GENERAL call to life that believers are to pass on to ALL people (compare Deut 30:19, Matt 11:28, John 3:16, 6:37b, Acts 2:21, 3:19). But there’s also a very specific EFFECTIVE call (believers years ago would say the “efficacious call”), and only God can give this call, because He actually CREATES what He’s commanding. He speaks into being the very thing He’s calling for. When God spoke into the darkness and commanded that there be light (compare 2 Cor 4:6, Rom 4:17), there was nothing that could make light (God hadn’t made the sun yet), and yet light appeared at His command.
Before someone can explain to Jesus that Lazarus CAN’T obey because he’s dead, here he came out of the tomb in obedience! This is the same thing that happens to every believer. Compare Lazarus’ story to the resurrection story for EVERY believer in Eph 2:1-10. In Eph 2:1-3 we’re told that every one of us comes into this world spiritually DEAD. Then see the clear turning point in Eph 2:4-7 – God raising us to life. And He’s ultra-clear in Eph 2:8-9 that the whole process of salvation is HIS GIFT, not at all our doing.
So don’t get discouraged over your loved ones who look hopeless – God can bring life in a moment (and may do it in their last moments like He did with one of the thieves on the cross in Lk 23:39-43). For every person who believes in Jesus, it’s because God has given this EFFECTIVE call that actually creates life where there was no life and creates faith where there was no faith (see Jn 6:37a, 6:44, 6:65, 2 Cor 4:6, Rom 4:17, Gal 1:15-16, Acts 2:39, Eph 2:1-10).
Jn 11:44 – We DO get to be involved when God calls for new life! Also see v 39-41 – people like you and I who can NOT give the effective call that creates life DO get to do be involved in the preparation and the work after (think of the discipling work in Matt 28:18-20 as helping unbind the burial strips and helping the person walk in new life – also see Rom 6:1-4).
Jn 11:45-54 – You might think that after a person dead four days is resurrected and word spreads that EVERYONE will follow Jesus. But unless God miraculously brings faith and life they’ll still refuse to come to Jesus (see also Lk 16:27-31, Jn 6:44, 6:65).
Jn 11:55-57 – As the Passover is near (by the way, it’s near in OUR calendar year too), everyone is wondering about a showdown between Jesus and the religious leaders. They clearly wanted Jesus dead (see v 53), but it’s clear from Matt 26:1-5 that they did NOT want Jesus to be executed during the Passover feast. But that WAS God’s plan, because Jesus is His Passover Lamb, and God’s plan ALWAYS WINS in the end.
Optional Psalm 56 – The historical background (see the Psalm’s title) is in 1 Sam 21:10ff and cf Ps 34) when David was running from the jealous rage of king Saul and escaped to a chief city of the Philistines, only to be recognized as the Israelite warrior who had killed many Philistines in battle. Every David turned there were enemies, and at this time in his life they SEEMED to be winning. In fear and fragility where can a believer go? The answer is in the repeating chorus of this psalm (v 4, 11) – to God Himself! When our kids were young, we memorized Ps 56:3-4 with them, telling them that Dad and Mom could not always be with them when they were afraid, but they could ALWAYS call out to God and trust in Him. He always wins! And He tenderly cares when His people hurt (note the infinite tenderness in v 8). Vs 13 is the end of the story for every believer (also see Rev 21-22).
Optional Proverbs 15:5-9 – Pr 15:8 – God is NOT impressed by outward actions of worship – cf Ps 51:17 for a sacrifice God will always accept – “a broken and contrite heart” of repentance. This Proverb is a huge reason for ineffective prayer and a huge motivation for righteous living (also see 1 Pet 3:7 if you wonder if this just an OT thing).