The Chronological Gospel –

The Raising of Lazarus

John 11:1-16, Jesus receives word that Lazarus is dying.
John 11:17-35, Jesus tests the faith of Mary and Martha.
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 38: John 11:32-44, Raising of Lazarus, by Carl Bloch
John 11:36-54, Jesus raises Lazarus to life, goes to Ephraim.
John 11:55-12:11, Jesus returns to the home of Lazarus’s family.

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John 11:1-16, Jesus receives word that Lazarus is dying. (8/4/14)

Jesus’ friend Lazarus was ill. Various explanations have been advanced for why Jesus waited for two days after receiving the message from Mary and Martha before setting out for Bethany, none of which are either terribly convincing or flattering to Jesus’ motives. The important thing is this: it did not and does not matter! Lazarus was already dead when Jesus received the message!

Charles R. Erdman says this: Lazarus “was already dead, and buried, before the message reached Jesus. The Lord came to Bethany on the fourth day (vs. 17, 39): one day was spent on his journey, one by the messenger on his, and two were spent by our Lord after the message of illness had come. He knew that Lazarus was dead; why he delayed we can only conjecture.” Arriving on the fourth day, Jesus is told that Lazarus had been dead four days and in the tomb for three days.

In verse 16 you see why I admire Thomas. I think that after Peter and John, Thomas had the most profound faith in Jesus among the disciples. He’s the one here who says flat out what they all know: returning to the area of Jerusalem is mortally dangerous for Jesus, but, he says, “Let’s go, too, so that we can die with him.”

John 11:17-35, Jesus tests the faith of Mary and Martha. (8/5/14)

A year or so ago, a couple of our fellow-readers were looking at this passage, and they wrote to me to ask what it means in vs. 17, “Jesus found that Lazarus had already been three days in the tomb.” They asked, didn’t Jesus already know Jesus was dead, per vs. 14???

My initial response was that I do a lot of genealogy, and when I find that some ancestor is in a certain grave, I already knew that the ancestor was dead! But I looked into the question anyway, and I “found” that the Greek verb heurisko find is used just like we use it in English: In view of vs. 14, “Lazarus is dead,” and vs. 34, “Where have you laid him?” we should go with the first meaning, and Jesus found his friend in the grave, where he expected him to be.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 38: John 11:32-44, Raising of Lazarus, by Carl Bloch (7/22/15)

The Raising of Lazarus, by Carl Bloch, is not exactly what I think of when I read this chapter. Probably I’ve seen too many advertisements for zombie movies (I’m too scared to watch them), but I always think about Lazarus when our joy and astonishment are greatest – when Lazarus comes out of the tomb, wrapped in grave clothes. Bloch shows us the instant before that, when our hope, despair, and expectation are at their height. He gives us a glimpse of the resurrection to come. Christians should always be a glimpse for the unbeliever of the resurrection to come.

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The Raising of Lazarus. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"The Raising of Lazarus" by Carl Bloch, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter. Photography by Daryl Lee.

John 11:36-54, Jesus raises Lazarus to life, goes to Ephraim. (8/6/14)

Fellow-reader John H. and I enjoy listening the different (to us) voice of the Weymouth New Testament; how about you? Nevertheless, I have a translational bone to pick with Dr. Weymouth in vs. 44, where he (and numerous other translations) say that “the dead man” came out. Other translations say that the man “who was dead” or “who had died” came out. It seems to me that none of these are fair to the Greek or to the story. The Greek word translated “the dead man” or whatever is actually one word: “the-one-who-had-been-dead.”

Of the twenty-plus translations I looked at, only one, the Contemporary English Version, has “the man who had been dead.” That’s what the Greek says, and that’s what the Greek means: Lazarus was the one who had been dead, but who came out of the tomb alive!

John 11:55-12:11, Jesus returns to the home of Lazarus’s family. (8/7/14)

After Jesus raised Lazarus in Bethany (near Jerusalem), he withdrew for a time to Ephraim (on the edge of the desert), and then some time after that, he returned to Bethany shortly before Passover. While he is at dinner at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, Mary poured a very costly ointment called spikenard on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. John not only tells the story here in John 12, but he says specifically in John 11:2 that this Mary was the sister of Lazarus. There are no tears in this story.

On a previous occasion, at the home of Simon the Pharisee, another woman about whom we know nothing except that she was a notorious sinner, wept tears on Jesus’ feet, dried his feet with her hair, and then poured perfume on his feet (Luke 7:36-50).

On a third occasion, Mary Magdalene was weeping in the garden when Jesus appeared to her after his resurrection, but there is no mention of hair or feet (John 20:11-18). Since she and the other two women (one of whom was yet another Mary, Matthew 27:61) came to anoint Jesus’ body, she may have had some perfume with her, but it is not mentioned.

So: There were three different women and three different occasions. It’s not as confusing as some people seem to think it is.

More of The Chronological Gospel

Birth Announcements and Early Lives of Jesus and John the Baptist
Early Ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist
Jesus’ Early Ministry
Jesus’ Galilean Ministry
Sabbath Controversies
The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Plain
John the Baptist
Signs and Parables
Miracles and Mission Trips
Bread of Life
Miracles and Meanings
Transfiguration and Teachings
To Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles
Some Results of Luke’s Research
More of Luke’s Research
On the Road Again
The Raising of Lazarus
Holy Week: Palm Sunday and Monday
Holy Week: Tuesday, Parables and Questions
Holy Week: Wednesday Part 1, Discussions
Holy Week: Wednesday Part 2, Be Ready!
Holy Week: Thursday Part 1, Jesus' Celebration of the Passover
Holy Week: Thursday Part 2, Jesus' Farewell Discourse
Holy Week: Friday Part 1, Jesus' Arrest and Two Informal Trials
Holy Week: Friday Part 2, More Trials
Holy Week: Friday, Part 3, and Saturday, Jesus' Death and Burial
The Empty Tomb
Final Appearances of Jesus Prior to Pentecost

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