John 11 #2 – Session 14

John 11 A Change in Direction, Session 2

John 11:17-44, Resurrection and Life

  • John now reveals the fifth great “I Am” statement – in the midst of great personal anguish (“Lord, if You had only been here!”) Jesus rises up with this great declaration of hope.  The Jewish faith had relegated resurrection to “just another tenet” of their very complex beliefs, something to be gained through maintaining constant rituals.  Jesus declares that He will personally provide resurrection to the individual believer by His own power and by grace through faith – our resurrection is BY Him and THROUGH Him!
  • This passage is a dual climax in Jesus’ life – His declaration of His life’s final victory, and the Jewish leaders’ declaration of the death sentence on Him.
  • The first first major confrontation John records with the Jews is in John 6 after feeding the 5000 and His Bread of Life sermon up in Galilee.  The second is in John 8, back in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles and the healing of blind Bartemaus, followed by vicious attacks where the Jews threaten to stone Jesus.  In John 10, He makes two I Am statement,  identifying Himself as the Door of the Sheep and the Great Shepherd and the confrontation continues.

Bible Study Journal
Look back through John’s Gospel at Jesus’ claims as “I AM”, the One True God.  Look up each of the following references, write the title Jesus claims, and reflect on each one, making notes in your journal about how Jesus’ claims are truths that can impact your life.

  • 6:35, 41,48,51
  • 8:12
  • 10:7,9
  • 10:11, 14
  • 11:25
  • 14:6
  • 15:1, 5

By the way… Hopefully, you have a “Study Bible” edited by a dependable Bible scholar which provides helpful study notes, references to related verses, and back-end resources such as a concordance and maps.  Recommendations:  Ryrie, Macarthur, or Life Application Study Bible with the NAS translation.  If you truly desire to be a student of God’s Word, this is a must!  More on this subject here…


Anxious Conversation
John 11:17-32

  • 17-19, The Scene in Bethany
    • Lazarus’ tomb is a somber roadmark in hindsight as Jesus is headed towards His own death.  Waiting for the “fourth day” lays emphasis on the decomposed condition of Lazarus’ body and the significance of the miracle to follow.
    • Lazarus’ family must have been well known to have such a large group, including Jewish leaders, gathering at their home.  That of course is in God’s plan as news will spread of the miracle, and also of the Jews’ plans to arrest & kill Jesus.
  • 20-22, Martha’s Confident Faith
    • Mary is pensive, sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking in His every word.  The model for us as believers in Christ is special.  Martha is a woman of action, but she also has strong faith in Christ. She meets Jesus as He arrives on the road coming into Bethany.  with the plaintive cry that Mary will echo later, “Lord, if You had been here…” – she looked for Jesus to respond to her need the way she expected.  He had bigger plans.
    • This poignant scene gives us pause as we consider our own response to crisis – with our faith in Christ and place as God’s child, is there ever a point in our life when God is not present?  We should immediately answer “no!”  Some of us, however, may hesitate about that thought.
    • Martha’s faith in resurrection is colored by the legacy of Jewish beliefs which tie resurrection to adherence to Rabbinical rules.  Martha’s response shows that she viewed Jesus as the One Who will accomplish resurrection directly by God’s power.
  • 23-27, Resurrection Declared
    • Jesus’ claim as “Resurrection and Life” is a major departure – instead of being one act of God in the Jewish view of the  “last days”, now Jesus declares that He will, on His own, accomplish and deliver resurrection for all faithful believers.  By saying this “I AM” claim, He stands before His hearers as the One True God.
      • John Macarthur (Study Bible) comments on this that “no resurrection or eternal life exists outside of the Son of God. Time is no barrier to the One Who has the power of resurrection.”
      • Stephen Davey points out that in v25, Jesus is showing us we need to change our thinking. We are in the land of the dying, but we are headed towards the land of the living. Faith in Christ changes our thinking.  His approach to Martha as to all of us is clear: “Do you or don’t you?” We really must know and believe.
  • 28-32, Mary at Jesus’ Feet
    • Mary & Martha are obviously very close,  not leaving one another out of events, standing together in their faith.  They share and encourage each other in their relationship with Jesus.  While they have different temperaments, they share in the emotions each experiences in their faith walk.  This is a great model for us for how we should experience close relationships with other believers.
    • In Matt. 26:6-12 (Mk. 14:3-9), we read about Mary Magdalene (the Mary in Jn. 11) anoints the Savior with costly perfume.  This event also occurs in Bethany, just before Passover.  It could be that this occurred soon after Lazarus’ resurrection.  It is then very possible that the anointing scene is actually when Martha came to faith in the Savior.
    • Martha was busy, perhaps distracted. However she demonstrates “walking faith” by bringing her sister to Jesus (11:28, “He is calling for you”).  Mary knew the right place to be, quietly and humbly listening to the words of God.  Human emotion can distract, but our anchor is in the close relationship we have with Christ.

The Glory of God Revealed, John 11:33-44

  • Verses 33-36, Jesus Connects with Hurting People
    • Jesus now turns His attention to the needy people surrounding Him & His friends.  It is time to declare the power of the God’s Resurrection.  All of our human emotions feigned or real, all of our large and small difficulties & trials, all of our human failures – God resolves it all in the resurrection.
    • Jesus sees how the burden of sin has weighed down the soul of man to utter hopelessness.  He sees the people around Him struggling with failure and pain.  Here He bursts into tears seeing the peoples’ fear of death.
    • Verse 35, the shortest verse in the Bible.  “Jesus wept”, a remarkable exclamation of sorrow, underscored by the writer’s brevity.  (Note: There is some debate about this actually being the shortest verse.  It depends on what Bible translation you’re looking at, and whether you’re counting English letters or Greek. And then too, if you go to the Old Testament, the Hebrew form of a couple of verses could actually be shorter.)   More importantly, in this verse Jesus is not weeping over Lazarus because He knows Lazarus is soon to walk out of the grave.  He is weeping over needy people lost in their sin.
  • Verses 37-44, Jesus Responds to Weak Faith
    • Throughout His ministry, Jesus declared and demonstrated God’s Power.  He wants to give us the power we need to handle the difficulties and disappointments of life.  The “abundant life” He promises in Jn. 10:10 is provided to us through His resurrection. The material view of the people caused them to wonder why He didn’t heal Lazarus.
    • He says to the crowd:  “Where is the grave… Let me face it with you.”  And once there, groaning more, He commands the men to move the stone covering the grave and calls out to Lazarus to “come forth”.
    • That command actually came after Jesus interacts with His Father about this important event – He knew the people gathered there needed to know the Truth, and He knew His Father’s power was given to Him to accomplish resurrection.  What a miracle!  “He who had died came out!”  When Jesus commanded to “let him go”, one is led to wonder where Lazarus went.

Bible Study Journal
Read back through verses 17-44 – the wonderful story of Mary & Martha and the resurrection of Lazarus.  Write a title in your journal for this passage.  Now highlight* the 3 or 4 “most important” phrases in the passage – what stands out to you and/or could make the most impact on your life.  Note each phrase in your journal, write it out, and add a comment about your response to the words, how the words can be reflected in your life.

*How to highlight in your Bible:  Use a pencil (I use a .5 mechanical pencil) or a pen (best to use blue ink because black will bleed through the pages) to underscore the word or phrase.  To make a straight line, use an index card you keep in the back of your Bible.  You can also use a highlighter, but be careful that the ink isn’t too heavy or it will show through on the other side of the page.  I always start with yellow, but some people use different colors to highlight phrases that relate to a special major topic such as Christ, Salvation, Holiness, Future Events.


John 11:45-57, Arrest Warrant

  • V45, Rejoicing & Tragedy
    • We go now to the tragedy of the people who chose not to be convinced by this powerful miracle.  With Lazarus standing there looking at them, they still conspired to arrest and kill Jesus!
    • The miracle is that many more Jews came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah Savior.  Yet the tragic conspiracy continues to grow among the crowds, and the evil plan is a committed fact.
  • V47, Evil Conspiracy Agreement
    • The Jewish leaders continued to take advantage of the angst of the crowds and called the official Sanhedrin council into Session.  Although still governed by Rome, the Jews could declare legal guilt of a criminal and recommend the preferred sentence.
    • They struggled with the unavoidable facts of actual real miracles that everybody knew happened.  They feared that Jesus could actually become popular leader and ruin their control and lofty social position.  The Romans could even end their freedom to rule – that was their greatest fear.
  • V49,  Amazing Prophecy from an Unexpected Source
    • The current High Priest leading the Sanhedrin was Caiaphas – an historical fact that helps identify the time period when Jesus lived.
    • In v50, Caiaphas is trying to lay the case for Jesus needing to die, “for the sake of the people”, suggesting the people would be led down the wrong path.  However his statement is ominous, a remarkable statement that God insured by inspiration to make very clear – Caiaphas actually says the words that actually ring true today to every believer: Jesus did indeed die for each of us  – one man for the sins of many, Jew and Gentile alike (Eph. 2:11-18).  John of course provides the commentary (as he has occasionally done in his gospel)  making it clear that this unbelieving, hateful statement actually declared the greatest truth of all human history.
  • V55, An Aggressive Pursuit
    • There is no longer any “Mr. Nice Guy” conversations.  Jesus is condemned and hunted, He will be judged guilty (a trial that will be mere formality) and put on a Roman Cross.
    • Suspicion must have been at a high pitch, with followers of Christ put on notice that their pursuit of their Savior would end.  The Jews’ agenda spread throughout the region with many threats to report the presence of Jesus, and the end is near.  The Passover approaches and the people are busy making preparations.

Bible Study Journal
Thinking back over this entire chapter, spend some time investigating answers to these questions (be sure to make notes in your journal!).

  1. What two things did Jesus have in mind by waiting until Lazarus was dead before He answered the plea of the sisters?
  2. In Jn. 11:10, who is referred to as walking in darkness?  Why did Jesus make this statement?
  3. Why is the word “sleep” an important reference to one who is dead?
  4. What does Jn. 11:22 tell you about Martha’s faith?
  5. What is so important in Jesus saying He is the Resurrection AND the Life?
  6. Why was Jesus so troubled, groaning and weeping?  Has this happened at other times in His ministry?
  7. When Jesus prays in Jn. 11:41-42, what is the key message He gives us?