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The Death of Lazarus

11

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”


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1. And one named Lazarus was sick. The Evangelist passes on to another narrative, which contains a miracle eminently worthy of being recorded. For not only did Christ give a remarkable proof of his Divine power in raising Lazarus, but he likewise placed before our eyes a lively image of our future resurrection. This might indeed be said to be the latest and concluding action of his life, for the time of his death was already at hand. We need not wonder, therefore, if he illustrated his own glory, in an extraordinary manner, in that work, the remembrance of which he wished to be deeply impressed on their minds, that it might seal, in some respects, all that had gone before. There were others whom Christ had raised from the dead, but he now displays his power on a rotting corpse. But the circumstances which tend to magnify the glory of God in this miracle shall be pointed out in their proper place and order.

Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The probable reason why this circumstance is mentioned is, that Lazarus had not acquired so great celebrity among believers as his sisters had; for these holy women were accustomed to entertain Christ with their hospitality, as is evident from what is related by the Evangelist Luke, (Luke 10:38.) It is really too ridiculous a blunder, to suppose that Monks, and such fry as the Papists have, made this small town or village a castle.

2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord. It is a similar display of ignorance, to imagine that this Mary, the sister of Lazarus, was that woman of wicked and infamous life, who is mentioned by Luke, (Luke 7:37.) This mistake was occasioned by the anointing; as if it were not evident enough that Christ was anointed on various occasions, and even at different places. The woman who was a sinner, of whom Luke gives an account, anointed Christ at Jerusalem, where he dwelt; but Mary afterwards anointed him at Bethany, which was her own village. The past tense employed by the Evangelist, who anointed, must be referred, not to the time of the occurrence which he is now relating, but to the time when he wrote; as if he had said, “It was this Mary who afterwards poured on the head of Christ the ointment, on account of which a murmuring arose among the disciples,” (Matthew 26:7.)

3. Lo, he whom thou lovest is sick. The message is short, but Christ might easily learn from it what the two sisters wished; for, under this complaint, they modestly state their request that he would be pleased to grant them relief. We are not forbidden, indeed, to use a longer form of prayer; but our principal object ought to be, to pour into the bosom of God all our cares, and every thing that distresses us, that he may afford deliverance. Such is the manner in which the women act towards Christ: they plainly tell him their distress, in consequence of which they expect some alleviation. We ought also to observe that, from Christ’s love, they are led to entertain a confident hope of obtaining assistance, he whom thou lovest; and this is the invariable rule of praying aright; for, where the love of God is, there deliverance is certain and at hand, because God cannot forsake him whom he loveth

4. Now Jesus, having heard this, said, This sickness is not to death. He intended by this reply to free his disciples from anxiety, that they might not take it amiss, when they saw him giving himself so little concern about the danger of his friend. That they might not be alarmed, therefore, about the life of Lazarus, he declares that the disease is not deadly, and even promises that it will be an additional occasion of promoting his own glory. Though Lazarus died, yet as Christ soon afterwards restored him to life, he now declares, looking to this result, that the disease is not to death

But for the glory of God. This clause is not contrasted with death, as if it were an argument that would always hold; for we know that, even though the reprobate die, the glory of God is not less strikingly displayed in their destruction than in the salvation of believers. But Christ strictly meant, in this passage, the glory of God, which was connected with his office. The power of God, which was displayed in the miracles of Christ, was not fitted to strike terror, but was kind and gentle. When he says that there is no danger of death, because he intends to display in it his own glory and the glory of his Father, we ought to inquire for what purpose, and with what intention, he was sent by the Father; which was, to save, and not to destroy.

For the glory, of God, that the Son of God may be glorified. This expression is highly emphatic; for we learn from it that God wishes to be acknowledged in the person of his Son in such a manner, that all the reverence which he requires to be given to his own majesty 309309     “A sa majeste.” may be ascribed to the Son. Hence we were told formerly,

He who doth not honor the Son doth not honor the Father,
(John 5:23.)

It is in vain for Mahometans and Jews, therefore, to pretend to worship God; for they blaspheme against Christ, and even endeavor, in this manner, to rob God of himself.

5. And Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. These two things appear to be inconsistent with each other, that Christ remains two days beyond Jordan, as if he did not care about the life of Lazarus, and yet the Evangelist says, that Christ loved him and his sisters; for, since love produces anxiety, he ought to have hastened immediately. As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught by this delay on his part, that we ought not to judge of the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes. When we have prayed to him, he often delays his assistance, either that he may increase still more our ardor in prayer, or that he may exercise our patience, and, at the same time, accustom us to obedience. Let believers then implore the assistance of God, but let them also learn to suspend their desires, if he does not stretch out his hand for their assistance as soon as they may think that necessity requires; for, whatever may be his delay, he never sleeps, and never forgets his people. Yet let us also be fully assured that he wishes all whom he loves to be saved.

7. And after this, he saith to his disciples. At length he now shows that he cared about Lazarus, though the disciples thought that he had forgotten him, or, at least, that there were other matters which he reckoned of more importance than the life of Lazarus. He therefore enjoins them to cross the Jordan, and go to Judea

8. Rabbi, the Jews but lately sought to stone thee. When the disciples dissuade him from going, they do so, not so much perhaps on his account as on their own, for each of them is alarmed about himself, as the danger was common to all. Avoiding the cross, and being ashamed to own it, they allege — what is more plausible — that they are anxious about their Master. The same thing happens every day with many. For they who, through a dread of the cross, shrink from the performance of their duty, eagerly seek excuses to conceal their indolence, that they may not be thought to rob God of the obedience due to him, when they have no good cause to do so.

9. Are there not twelve hours in the day? This passage has been explained in various ways. Some have thought the meaning of these words to be, that men sometimes adopt a new and different resolution every hour. This is very far from Christ’s meaning; and indeed I would not have reckoned it worthy of being mentioned, had it not been that it has passed into a common proverb. Let us therefore be satisfied with the simple and natural meaning.

First, Christ borrows a comparison from Day and Night. For if any man perform a journey in the dark, we need not wonder if he frequently stumble, or go astray, or fall; but the light of the sun by day points out the road, so that there is no danger. Now the calling of God is like the light of day, which does not allow us to mistake our road or to stumble. Whoever, then, obeys the word of God, and undertakes nothing but according to his command, always has God to guide and direct him from heaven, and with this confidence he may safely and boldly pursue his journey. For, as we are informed,

Whosoever walketh in his ways hath angels to guard him, and, under their direction, is safe, so that he cannot strike his foot against a stone,
(Psalm 91:11.)

Relying on this protection, therefore, Christ advances boldly into Judea, without any dread of being stoned; for there is no danger of going astray, when God, performing the part of the sun, shines on us, and directs our course.

We are taught by these words, that whenever a man allows himself to be guided by his own suggestions, without the calling of God, his whole life is nothing else than a course of wandering and mistake; and that they who think themselves exceedingly wise, when they do not inquire at the mouth of God, and have not his Spirit to govern their actions, are blind men groping in the dark; that the only proper way is, to be fully assured of our divine calling, and to have always God before our eyes as our guide. 310310     “Quand nous avons tousjours Dieu devant nos yeux pour nostre guide.” This rule of regulating our life well is followed by a confident expectation of a prosperous result, because it is impossible that God shall not govern successfully. And this knowledge is highly necessary to us; for believers can scarcely move a foot to follow him, but Satan shall immediately interpose a thousand obstructions, hold out a variety of dangers on every side, and contrive, in every possible way, to oppose their progress. But when the Lord invites us to go forward, by holding out, as it were, his lamp to us, we ought to go forward courageously, though many deaths besiege our path; for he never commands us to advance without at the same time adding a promise to encourage us, so that we may be fully convinced, that whatever we undertake agreeably to his command will have a good and prosperous issue. This is our chariot, and whoever betakes himself to it will never fail through weariness; and even though the obstacles were so formidable that we could not be conveyed through them by a chariot, yet, furnished with these wings, we shall always succeed, till we reach the goal. Not that believers never meet with any adversity, but because adverse occurrences are aids to their salvation.

It amounts to this, that the eyes of God will always be attentive to guard those who shall be attentive to his instructions. Hence we learn also that, whenever men overlook and disregard the word of God, and consequently indulge themselves foolishly, and undertake whatever they think right, the whole course of their life is accursed by God, and vengeance is always ready to punish their presumption and their blind passions. Again, Christ here divides the day into twelve hours, according to ancient custom; for though the days are longer in summer and shorter in winter, 311311     “Combien que les jours soyent plus grands en este, et plus petits en hyver.” yet they had always twelve hours of the day, and twelve of the night.

11. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. Having formerly asserted that the disease was not deadly, that his disciples may not be too much distressed at seeing what they did not expect, he now informs them also that Lazarus is dead, and excites a hope of his resurrection. It is a proof of amazing ignorance, that they believe that Christ spoke about sleep; for, though it is a metaphorical form of expression, still it is so frequent and common in Scripture, that it ought to have been familiarly known to all the Jews.

12. If he sleepeth, he will recover. 313313     “Il sera guairi.” Replying that sleep will have a salutary effect on Lazarus, they thus endeavor indirectly to dissuade Christ from going thither. And yet they do not craftily or deceitfully turn aside Christ’s words to suit their own purpose, on the pretense of not understanding what he said; 314314     “Comme faisans semblant de n’entendre point ce que Christ dit.” but, thinking that he spoke about sleep, they gladly seize this opportunity of avoiding danger. Augustine, and many writers since his time, speculate about the word sleep, alleging that the reason why it is applied to death is, because it is as easy for God to raise the dead to life, as it is for us to perform the customary act of awaking those who are asleep. But that nothing of this sort came into the mind of Christ, may be inferred from the constant use of the term in Scripture; and since even profane writers usually apply this word Sleep to Death, 315315     “Et mesmers veu que les autheurs profanes transferent coustumierement ce mot de Dormir a la Mort.” there was unquestionably no other reason why it came into use, but because a lifeless corpse lies without feeling, just as the body of a man who is in a profound sleep. Hence, also, sleep is not inappropriately called the image of death, and Homer calls it the brother of death, (κασίγνητος θανάτουυ.) Since this word denotes only the sleep of the body, it is prodigiously absurd to apply it — as some fanatics have done — to souls, as if, by being deprived of understanding, they were subject to death.

But I go to awake him. Christ asserts his own power, when he says that he will come to awake Lazarus; for, though, as we have said, the word sleep does not express the facility of the resurrection, yet Christ shows that he is Lord of death, when he says, that he awakes those whom he restores to life.

14. Then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead. The goodness of Christ was astonishing, in being able to bear with such gross ignorance in the disciples. And indeed the reason why he delayed, for a time, to bestow upon them the grace of the Spirit in larger measure, was, that the miracle of renewing them in a moment might be the greater.

15. And I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there. He means that his absence was profitable to them, because his power would have been less illustriously displayed, if he had instantly given assistance to Lazarus. For the more nearly the works of God approach to the ordinary course of nature, the less highly are they valued, and the less illustriously is their glory displayed. This is what we experience daily; for if God immediately stretches out his hand, we do not perceive his assistance. That the resurrection of Lazarus, therefore, might be acknowledged by the disciples to be truly a Divine work, it must be delayed, that it might be very widely removed from a human remedy.

We ought to remember, however, what I formerly observed, that the fatherly kindness of God towards us is here represented in the person of Christ. When God permits us to be overwhelmed with distresses, and to languish long under them, let us know that, in this manner, he promotes our salvation. At such a time, no doubt, we groan and are perplexed and sorrowful, but the Lord rejoices on account of our benefit, and gives a twofold display of his kindness to us in this respect, that he not only pardons our sins, but gladly finds means of correcting them.

That you may believe. He does not mean that this was the first feeble commencement of faith in them, but that it was a confirmation of faith already begun, though it was still exceedingly small and weak. Yet he indirectly suggests that, if the hand of God had not been openly displayed, they would not have believed.

16. Then Thomas. Hitherto the disciples had endeavored to hinder Christ from going. Thomas is now prepared to follow, but it is without confidence; or, at least, he does not fortify himself by the promise of Christ, so as to follow hint with cheerfulness and composure.

Let us go, that we may die with him. This is the language of despair, for they ought to have entertained no fears about their own life. The phrase, with him, may be explained as referring either to Lazarus or to Christ. If we refer it to Lazarus, it will be ironical, as if Thomas had said, “Of what use will it be to go thither, unless it be that we cannot discharge the duty of friends in any other manner than by seeking to die along with him?” Yet I greatly prefer the other meaning, that Thomas does not refuse to die with Christ But this, as I have said, proceeds from inconsiderate zeal; for he ought rather to have taken courage from faith in the promise.

18. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem. The Evangelist diligently follows out all that contributes to the certainty of the narrative. He relates how near Jerusalem was to the village of Bethany, that no one may be astonished that, for the purpose of comforting the sisters, many friends came from Jerusalem, whom God intended to be witnesses of the miracle. For, though the desire of performing an office of kindness was their inducement to go, yet they were assembled there, by a secret decree of God, for another purpose, that the resurrection of Lazarus might not remain unknown, or that the witnesses might not be only those who belonged to the family. Now it is a convincing proof of the base ingratitude of the nation, that this striking demonstration of Divine power at a well-known place, amidst a vast crowd of men, and near the gates of the city, and which might almost be said to be erected on a stage, instantly vanishes from the eyes of men. We should rather say that the Jews, by maliciously shutting their eyes, intentionally do not see what is before their eyes. Nor is it a new or uncommon occurrence, that men who, with excessive eagerness, continually gape for miracles, are altogether dull and stupid in the consideration of them.

About fifteen furlongs This distance between the two places was somewhat less than two thousand paces, or, two miles; for the Stadium, or furlong, contains six hundred feet; that is, one hundred and twenty-five paces. 316316     The Roman Passus, or pace — measured from the spot where either foot was planted to the spot where the same foot was planted after two ordinary steps — was five feet; so that the Mille, or thousand paces, contained five thousand feet, rather less than an English mile; and the Stadium, or furlong, which contained, as Calvin states, “one hundred and twenty-five paces,” was equal to six hundred and twenty-five feet. — Ed.

19. To comfort them concerning their brother. This was, no doubt, the object which they had in view, but God had another object to accomplish, as we have stated. It is evident from what is here mentioned, that the house of Lazarus and his sisters was greatly respected and honored. Again, as it is natural that the death of friends should occasion grief and mourning to men, this duty, which the Evangelist mentions, ought not to be blamed, unless on this ground, that sinful excess, which prevails in this and in other departments of life, corrupts what is not in itself sinful.

20. Martha having heard that Jesus was coming. Martha travels beyond the village, as we shall afterwards see, not only perhaps on account of the reverence which she bore to Christ, but that she might meet him more secretly; for his danger was fresh in his recollection, and the rage of enemies had not well subsided, which had been a little abated by Christ’s departure into Galilee, but might, on their hearing of his arrival, break out anew with greater violence.

21. Lord, if thou hadst been here. She begins with a complaint, though in doing so she modestly expresses her wish. Her meaning may be expressed thus — “By thy presence thou mightst have delivered my brother from death, and even now thou canst do it, for God will not refuse thee any thing.” By speaking in this manner, she gives way to her feelings, instead of restraining them under the rule of faith. I acknowledge that her words proceeded partly from faith, but I say that there were disorderly passions mixed with them, which hurried her beyond due bounds. For when she assures herself that her brother would not have died, if Christ had been present, what ground has she for this confidence? Certainly, it did not arise from any promise of Christ.

The only conclusion therefore is, that she inconsiderately yields to her own wishes, instead of subjecting herself to Christ. When she ascribes to Christ power and supreme goodness, this proceeds from faith; but when she persuades herself of more than she had heard Christ declare, that has nothing to do with faith; 317317     “Cela n’a rien de commun avec la foy.” for we must always hold the mutual agreement between the word and faith, that no man may rashly forge anything for himself, without the authority of the word of God. Besides, Martha attached too much importance to the bodily presence of Christ. The consequence is, that Martha’s faith, though mixed up and interwoven with ill-regulated desires, and even not wholly free from superstition, could not shine with full brightness; so that we perceive but a few sparks of it in these words.

23. Thy brother shall rise again. The kindness of Christ is amazing, in forgiving those faults of Martha which we have mentioned, and in promising her, of his own accord, more than she had ventured plainly and directly to ask.

24. I know that he shall rise again. We now see Martha’s excessive timidity in extenuating the meaning of Christ’s words. We have said that she went farther than she had a right to do, when she fabricated a hope for herself out of the feelings of her own mind. She now falls into an opposite fault; for when Christ stretches forth his hand, she stops short, as if she were alarmed. We ought, therefore to guard against both of these extremes. On the one hand, we must not, without the authority of God’s word, drink in empty hopes, which will prove to be nothing but wind; and, on the other hand, when God opens his mouth, it is not proper that he should find our hearts either blocked up, or too firmly closed. Again, by this reply, Martha intended to ascertain more than she ventured to expect from the words of Christ, as if she had said: “If you mean the last resurrection, I have no doubt that my brother will be raised again at the last day, and I comfort myself with this confident expectation, but I do not know if you direct my attention to something greater.”

25. I am the resurrection and the life. Christ first declares that he is the resurrection and the life, and then he explains, separately and distinctly, each clause of this sentence. His first statement is, that he is the resurrection, because the restoration from death to life naturally comes before the state of life. Now the whole human race is plunged in death; and, therefore, no man will be a partaker of life until he is risen from the dead. Thus Christ shows that he is the commencement of life, and he afterwards adds, that the continuance of life is also a work of his grace. That he is speaking about spiritual life, is plainly shown by the exposition which immediately follows,

He who believeth in me, though, he were dead, shall live. Why then is Christ the resurrection? Because by his Spirit he regenerates the children of Adam, who had been alienated from God by sin, so that they begin to live a new life. On this subject, I have spoken more fully under John 5:21 and 24; 318318     See pp. 200 and 204 of this volume. and Paul is an excellent interpreter of this passage, (Ephesians 2:5, and Ephesians 5:8.) Away now with those who idly talk that men are prepared for receiving the grace of God by the movement of nature. They might as well say that the dead walk. For that men live and breathe, and are endued with sense, understanding, and will, all this tends to their destruction, because there is no part or faculty of the soul that is not corrupted and turned aside from what is right. Thus it is that death everywhere holds dominion, for the death of the soul is nothing else than its being estranged and turned aside from God. 319319     “N’est autre chose qu’estre estrange et detourne de Dieu.” Accordingly, they who believe in Christ, though they were formerly dead, begin to live, because faith is a spiritual resurrection of the soul, and — so to speak — animates the soul itself that it may live to God; according to that passage,

The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live
(John 5:25.)

This is truly a remarkable commendation of faith, that it conveys to us the life of Christ, and thus frees us from death.

26. And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me. This is the exposition of the second clause, how Christ is the life; and he is so, because he never permits the life which he has once bestowed to be lost, but preserves it to the end. For since flesh is so frail, what would become of men, if, after having once obtained life, they were afterwards left to themselves? The perpetuity of the life must, therefore, be founded on the power of Christ himself, that he may complete what he has begun.

Shall never die. The reason why it is said that believers never die is, that their souls, being born again of incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) have Christ dwelling in them, from whom they derive perpetual vigor; for, though

the body be subject to death on account of sin,
yet the spirit is life on account of righteousness,
(Romans 8:10.)

That the outward man daily decays in them is so far from taking anything away from their true life, that it aids the progress of it, because the inward man is renewed from day to day, (2 Corinthians 4:16.) What is still more, death itself is a sort of emancipation from the bondage of death.

Dost thou believe this? Christ seems, at first sight, to discourse about spiritual life, for the purpose of withdrawing the mind of Martha from her present desire. Martha wished that her brother should be restored to life Christ replies, that he is the Author of a more excellent life; and that is, because he quickens the souls of believers by divine power. Yet I have no doubt that he intended to include both favors; and therefore he describes, in general terms, that spiritual life which he bestows on all his followers, but wishes to give them some opportunity of knowing this power, which he was soon afterwards to manifest in raising Lazarus.

27. Yes, Lord. To prove that she believes what she had heard Christ say about himself, that he is the resurrection and the life, Martha replies, that she believes that he is the Christ, and the Son of God; and indeed this knowledge includes the sum of all blessings; for we ought always to remember for what purpose the Messiah was promised, and what duty the prophets ascribe to him. Now when Martha confesses that it was he who was to come into the world, she strengthens her faith by the predictions of the prophets. Hence it follows, that we ought to expect from him the full restoration of all things and perfect happiness; and, in short, that he was sent to erect and prepare the true and perfect state of the kingdom of God.

28. And called Mary, her sister. It was probably at the request of Martha, that Christ remained on the outside of the village, that he might not enter into so great an assembly of people; for she dreaded the danger, because Christ had but lately escaped with difficulty from instant death. Accordingly, that the rumor about his arrival might not spread farther, she makes it known privately to her sister.

The Master is here. The word Master shows in what estimation Christ was held among those pious women. Though they had not hitherto profited so much as they might have done, still it was a great matter that they were entirely devoted to him as his disciples; and Mary’s sudden departure, to come and meet him, was a proof that she regarded him with no ordinary reverence.

31. Then the Jews who were with her. Though Martha was permitted by Christ to return home for the purpose of withdrawing her sister from the numerous assembly, yet Christ had another design in view, which was, that the Jews might be witnesses of the miracle. True, they have no thought of it, but it was no new thing that men should be led, as it were in darkness, and by the secret providence of God, where they did not intend to go. They think that Mary is going to the tomb, according to the custom of those who seek excitements of their grief. For it is a very prevalent disease, that husbands deprived of their wives, parents deprived of their children, and, on the other hand, wives deprived of their husbands, and children deprived of their parents or other relatives and friends, are eager to increase their grief by every possible method. It is also customary to resort to various contrivances for this purpose. The affections of men are already sufficiently disordered; but it is still worse, 322322     “Mais voyci le pis.” that they inflame them by new excitements, that they may rush against God with greater ardor and violence. It was their duty to dissuade Mary from going, that the sight of the tomb might not give fresh occasion for her grief; yet they do not venture to apply so harsh a remedy, but even themselves contribute to the excess of her grief, by accompanying her to the tomb. Thus it frequently happens, that they who treat too gently the excesses of their friends do them little good by their consolations.

32. She fell at his feet. From her falling down at his feet we learn that Christ was honored in that house beyond the ordinary custom of men. For, though it was customary to throw themselves down on the ground in the presence of kings and great men, yet as Christ had nothing about him, according to the flesh, that was royal or magnificent, it was for a different purpose that Mary fell down at his feet Indeed, she would not have done so, if she had not been convinced that he was the Son of God.

Lord, if thou hadst been here. Though she appears to speak of Christ respectfully, yet we have lately pointed out what is faulty in these words; for the power of Christ, which filled heaven and earth, ought not to have been limited to his bodily presence.

33. He groaned in his spirit. If Christ had not been excited to compassion by their tears, he would rather have kept his countenance unmoved, but when, of his own accord, he conforms to those mourners, so far as to weep along with them, 323323     “Quand de son bon gre il se conforme a ces pleurans, jusques pleurer avec eux.” he gives proof that he has sympathy, (συμπάθεια.) For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping Yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils. As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person.

But how do groaning and trouble of mind belong to the person of the Son of God? As some reckon it absurd to say that Christ, as one of the number of human beings, was subject to human passions, they think that the only way in which he experienced grief or joy was, that he received in himself those feelings, whenever he thought proper, by some secret dispensation. It is in this sense, Augustine thinks, that the Evangelist says that he was troubled, because other men are hurried along by their feelings, which exercise dominion, or rather tyranny, to trouble their minds. He considers the meaning therefore to be, that Christ, though otherwise tranquil and free from all passion, brought groaning and grief upon himself of his own accord. But this simplicity will, in my opinion, be more agreeable to Scripture, if we say that the Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted. In this way we detract nothing from the glory of Christ, when we say that it was a voluntary submission, by which he was brought to resemble us in the feelings of the soul. Besides, as he submitted from the very commencement, we must not imagine that he was free and exempt from those feelings; and in this respect he proved himself to be our brother, in order to assure us, that we have a Mediator, who willingly pardons our infirmities, and who is ready to assist those infirmities which he has experienced in himself.

It will perhaps be objected, that the passions of men are sinful, and therefore it cannot be admitted that we have them in common with the Son of God. I reply, there is a wide difference between Christ and us. For the reason why our feelings are sinful is, that they rush on without restraint, and suffer no limit; but in Christ the feelings were adjusted and regulated in obedience to God, and were altogether free from sin. To express it more fully, 324324     “Pour mieux dire.” the feelings of men are sinful and perverse on two accounts; first, because they are hurried along by impetuous motion, and are not regulated by the true rule of modesty; and, secondly, because they do not always arise from a lawful cause, or, at least, are not directed to a lawful end. I say that there is excess, because no person rejoices or grieves, so far only as is sufficient, or as God permits, and there are even some who shake themselves loose from all restraint. The vanity of our understanding brings us grief or sadness, on account of trifles, or for no reason whatever, because we are too much devoted to the world. Nothing of this nature was to be found in Christ; for he had no passion or affection of his own that ever went beyond its proper bounds; he had not one that was not proper, and founded on reason and sound judgment.

To make this matter still more clear, it will be of importance for us to distinguish between man’s first nature, as it was created by God, and this degenerate nature, which is corrupted by sin. When God created man, he implanted affections in him, but affections which were obedient and submissive to reason. That those affections are now disorderly and rebellious is an accidental fault; that is, it proceeds from some other cause than from the Creator. 325325     “C’est a dire, venant d’ailleurs que du Createur.” Now Christ took upon him human affections, but without (ἀταξία) disorder; for he who obeys the passions of the flesh is not obedient to God. Christ was indeed troubled and vehemently agitated; but, at the same time, he kept himself in subjection to the will of the Father. In short, if you compare his passions with ours, they will differ not less than pure and clear water, flowing in a gentle course, differs from dirty and muddy foam.

The example of Christ ought to be sufficient of itself for setting aside the unbending sternness which the Stoics demand; for whence ought we to look for the rule of supreme perfection but from Christ? We ought rather to endeavor to correct and subdue that obstinacy which pervades our affections on account of the sin of Adam, and, in so doing, to follow Christ as our leader, that he may bring us into subjection. Thus Paul does not demand from us hardened stupidity, but enjoins us to observe moderation

in our mourning, that we may not abandon ourselves to grief, like unbelievers who have no hope
(1 Thessalonians 4:13;)

for even Christ took our affections into himself, that by his power we may subdue every thing in them that is sinful.

36. Behold, how he loved him! The Evangelist John here describes to us two different opinions which were formed about Christ. As to the former, who said, Behold, how he loved him! though they think less highly of Christ than they ought to have done, since they ascribe to him nothing but what may belong to a man, yet they speak of him with greater candor and modesty than the latter, who maliciously slander him for not having hindered Lazarus from dying. For, though they applaud the power of Christ, of which the former said nothing, yet they do so, not without bringing against him some reproach. It is evident enough from their words, that the miracles which Christ had performed were not unknown to them; but so much the more base is their ingratitude, that they do not scruple to complain, because now, in a single instance, he abstained from working. Men have always been ungrateful to God in the same manner, and continue to be so. If he does not grant all our wishes, we immediately launch into complaints: “Since he has been accustomed to aid us hitherto, why does he now forsake and disappoint us?” There is here a twofold disease. First, though we rashly desire what is not expedient for us, yet we wish to subject God to the perverse desires of the flesh. Secondly, we are rude in our demands, and the ardor of impatience hurries us before the time.

38. Jesus therefore again groaning within himself. Christ does not approach the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but as a champion who prepares for a contest; and therefore we need not wonder that he again groans; for the violent tyranny of death, which he had to conquer, is placed before his eyes. Some explain this groan to have arisen from indignation, because he was offended at that unbelief of which we have spoken. But another reason appears to me far more appropriate, namely, that he contemplated the transaction itself rather than the men. Next follow various circumstances, which tend to display more fully the power of Christ in raising Lazarus. I refer to the time of four days, during which the tomb had been secured by a stone, which Christ commands to be removed in presence of all.

39. Lord, he already stinketh. This is an indication of distrust, for she promises herself less from the power of Christ than she ought to have done. The root of the evil consists in measuring the infinite and incomprehensible power of God by the perception of her flesh. There being nothing more inconsistent with life than putrefaction and offensive smell, Martha infers that no remedy can be found. Thus, when our minds are preoccupied by foolish thoughts, we banish God from us, if we may be allowed the expression, so that he cannot accomplish in us his own work. Certainly, it was not owing to Martha, that her brother did not lie continually in the tomb, for she cuts off the expectation of life for him, and, at the same time, endeavors to hinder Christ from raising him; and yet nothing was farther from her intention. This arises from the weakness of faith. Distracted in various ways, we fight with ourselves, and while we stretch out the one hand to ask assistance from God, we repel, with the other hand, that very assistance, as soon as it is offered. 326326     “Ceste mesme aide, si tost qu’il nous la presente.” True, Martha did not speak falsely, when she said, I know that whatsoever thou shalt ask from God he will give thee; but a confused faith is of little advantage, unless it be put in operation, when we come to a practical case.

We may also perceive in Martha how various are the effects of faith, even in the most excellent persons. She was the first that came to meet Christ; this was no ordinary proof of her piety; and yet she does not cease to throw difficulties in his way. That the grace of God may have access to us, let us learn to ascribe to it far greater power than our senses can comprehend; and, if the first and single promise of God has not sufficient weight with us, let us, at least, follow the example of Martha by giving our acquiescence, when he confirms us a second and third time.

40. Did not I tell thee? He reproves Martha’s distrust, in not forming a hope sufficiently vigorous from the promise which she had heard. It is evident from this passage, that something more was said to Martha than John has literally related; though, as I have suggested, this very thing was meant by Christ, when he called himself the resurrection and the life Martha is therefore blamed for not expecting some Divine work.

If thou believe. This is said, not only because faith opens our eyes, that we may be able to see the power of God shining in his works, but because our faith prepares the way for the power, mercy, and goodness of God, that they may be displayed towards us, as it is said, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, (Psalm 81:10.) In like manner, unbelief, on the other hand, hinders God from approaching us, and may be said to keep his hands shut. On this account it is said elsewhere, that Jesus

could not perform any miracle there on account of their unbelief, (Matthew 13:58.)

Not that the power of God is bound by the caprice of men, but because, as far as they are able, their malice opposes the exercise of that power, and therefore they do not deserve that it should be manifested to them. Frequently, indeed, does God overcome such obstacles; but yet, whenever he withdraws his hand, so as not to assist unbelievers, this is done because, shut up within the narrow limits of their unbelief, they do not allow it to enter.

Thou shalt see the glory of God. Observe, that a miracle is called the glory of God, because God, displaying in it the power of his hand, glorifies his name. But Martha, now satisfied with Christ’s second declaration, permits the stone to be removed. As yet she sees nothing, but, hearing the Son of God, not without a good reason, give this order, she willingly relies on his authority alone.

41. And Jesus again raised his eyes. This was the token of a mind truly prepared for prayer; for before any one calls on God aright, he must be brought into communication with him, and this can only be done when, raised above the earth, he ascends even to heaven. True, this is not done by the eyes; for hypocrites, who are plunged in the deep filth of their flesh, appear to draw down heaven to them by their stern aspect; but what they only pretend to do must be sincerely accomplished by the children of God. And yet he who raises his eyes to heaven ought not, in his thoughts, to limit God to heaven; for He is present everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, (Jeremiah 23:24.) But as men can never free themselves from gross imaginations, so as not to form some low and earthly conception about God, unless when they are raised above the world, Scripture sends them to heaven, and declares that heaven is the habitation of God, (Isaiah 66:1.)

So far as relates to the eyes, it is not a custom that must be perpetually observed, so that without it prayer is not lawful; for the publican, who prays with his face cast down to the ground, does not the less, on this account, pierce heaven by his faith, (Luke 18:13.) Yet this exercise is profitable, because men are aroused by it to seek God; and not only so, but the ardor of prayer often affects the body in such a manner that, without thinking of it, the body follows the mind of its own accord. Certainly, we cannot doubt that, when Christ raised his eyes to heaven, he was carried towards it with extraordinary vehemence. Besides, as all his thoughts were with the Father, so he also wished to bring others to the Father along with him.

Father, I thank thee. He begins with thanksgiving, though he has asked nothing; but though the Evangelist does not relate that he prayed in a form of words, yet there can be no doubt whatever that, before this, there was a prayer, for otherwise it could not have been heard. And there is reason to believe that he prayed amidst those groanings which the Evangelist mentions; for nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that he was violently agitated within himself, as stupid men are wont to be. Having obtained the life of Lazarus, he now thanks the Father By saying that he has received this power from the Father, and by not ascribing it to himself, he does nothing more than acknowledge that he is the servant of the Father For, accommodating himself to the capacity of men, he at one time openly proclaims his Divinity, and claims for himself whatever belongs to God; and, at another time, he is satisfied with sustaining the character of a man, and yields to the Father the whole glory of Divinity. Here both are admirably brought together by the Evangelist in one word, when he says that the Father heard Christ, but that he gives thanks, that men may know that he was sent by the Father, that is, that they may acknowledge him to be the Son of God. The majesty of Christ being incapable of being perceived in its true elevation, the power of God, which appeared in his flesh, gradually raised to this elevation the gross and dull senses of men. For since he intended to be wholly ours, we need not wonder if he accommodates himself to us in various ways; and as he even allowed himself to be emptied (Philippians 2:7) for us, there is no absurdity in saying that he abases himself on our account.

42. And I knew that thou hearest me always. This is an anticipation, lest any one should think that he did not stand so high in favor with the Father, as to be able easily to perform as many miracles as he chose. He means, therefore, that there is so great an agreement between him and the Father, that the Father refuses him nothing; and even that he had no need to pray, because he only executed what he knew that the Father had enjoined; but in order that men may be more fully assured that this is truly a divine work, for this reason he called on the name of the Father. It will perhaps be objected, Why then did he not raise all the dead? The reply is easy. A certain fixed limit was assigned to miracles by the purpose of God, so far as he knew to be sufficient for confirming the Gospel.

43. He cried with a loud voice. By not touching with the hand, but only crying with the voice, his Divine power is more fully demonstrated. At the same time, he holds out to our view the secret and astonishing efficacy of his word. For how did Christ restore life to the dead but by the word? And therefore, in raising Lazarus, he exhibited a visible token of his spiritual grace, which we experience every day by the perception of faith, when he shows that his voice gives life.

44. Bound hand and foot with bandages. The Evangelist is careful to mention the napkin and bandages, in order to inform us that Lazarus went out of the tomb, in the same manner that he was laid in it. This mode of burying is retained to the present day by the Jews, who cover the body with a shroud, and wrap the head separately in a handkerchief.

Loose him, and let him go. To magnify the glory of the miracle, it only remained that the Jews should even touch with their hands that Divine work which they had beheld with their eyes. For Christ might have removed the bandages with which Lazarus was bound, or made them to give way of themselves; but Christ intended to employ the hands of the spectators as his witnesses.

The Papists act an excessively ridiculous part, by endeavoring to draw auricular confession from this passage. They say, “Christ, after having restored Lazarus to life, commanded his disciples to loose him; and therefore it is not enough for us to be reconciled to God, unless the Church also pardon our sins.” But whence do they conjecture that the disciples were enjoined to loose Lazarus? On the contrary, we may infer that the order was given to the Jews, in order to take from them every ground of doubt or hesitation.




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