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John, Part 2 - Lazarus Resurrected

INTRODUCTION: Part two of this brief biographical study on the apostle John concentrates on the several weeks leading up to and including the crucifixion of Christ. Some of the selected scripture is intended to highlight John in the narrative, while other selected portions give some indication of his unique perspective by what was or was not included in his gospel account. Jesus had already told his disciples that at Jerusalem he would be rejected and crucified, buried, and then would rise from the dead on the third day. They did not understand why this would be, but they were afraid to ask more questions of him. As John records, even the general crowd who heard Jesus reference his impending death questioned that point. John "12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die. 34 The multitude answered him, "We have heard out of the law that the Christ remains forever. How do you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up?' Who is this Son of Man?" 35 Jesus therefore said to them, "Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness doesn't overtake you. He who walks in the darkness doesn't know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light." Jesus said these things, and he departed and hid himself from them."

NOTE: All Bible text is taken from the World English Bible.

A - The resurrection of Lazarus and a later final meal at Bethany

John 11 "5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When therefore he heard that he was sick, he stayed two days in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let's go into Judea again." 8 The disciples told him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and are you going there again?"" "14 So Jesus said to them plainly then, "Lazarus is dead. 15 I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let's go to him.""

John 11 "20 Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Therefore Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died. 22 Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. 26 Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God's Son, he who comes into the world.""

John 11 "41 So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, "Father, I thank you that you listened to me. 42 I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stands around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Free him, and let him go.""

John 11 "53 So from that day forward they took counsel that they might put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, but departed from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim. He stayed there with his disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand. Many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves."

COMMENTS: Luke has one reference to Martha and Mary having Jesus in their home in Bethany for a meal, but in that passage there is no mention of their brother Lazarus. Only the apostle John relates that Jesus had a close relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters. The disciples were surprised that Jesus would go to Bethany when it was so close to Jerusalem (a little less than 2 miles away according to John 11:18), because the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem wanted to kill Jesus. The news of the undisputable resurrection of Lazarus after four days in a tomb actually caused those Jewish rulers to be even more determined to kill Jesus, not accepting the miraculous works that verified his claim to be the Son of God. After the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus and his apostles went some distance away from Bethany to a city called Ephraim, but they returned a few days before Passover.

b - Jesus returned to Bethany

John 12 "1 Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. 3 Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 Then Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, 5 "Why wasn't this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?" 6 Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. 7 But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you don't always have me.""

COMMENTS: Jesus shared a meal with the resurrected Lazarus and others in Bethany before Passover. Martha was serving and Mary was moved to anoint Jesus with some very expensive ointment that prompted a response from Judas, the motive of which is here explained in John's gospel account. This information that Judas was a thief provides additional insight to the reader, but it was likely not known by the other disciples at the time of this supper. Jesus gave the symbolic purpose of the action by Mary and justified her lavish use of the ointment. At the same time he very subtly stated that he would not always be with them, but that the poor would always be around to receive help. This reference by Jesus to preparation for his burial did not prompt any reaction from his apostles, and they later again demonstrated at the last supper their lack of clarity about the cross of Christ.

C - Jesus made a formal entry into Jerusalem

John 12 "12 On the next day a great multitude had come to the feast. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 they took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet him, and cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it. As it is written, 15 "Don't be afraid, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King comes, sitting on a donkey's colt." 16 His disciples didn't understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him, and that they had done these things to him."

COMMENTS: John's gospel moves right into his brief description of the use of a colt for Jesus to make his entry into Jerusalem without the details of how the colt was obtained. He does reference the fulfillment of prophecy by this event, and emphasizes the lack of understanding by the apostles until after the resurrection. The referenced prophecy is from Zechariah "9:9 Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." No one was able to firmly and convincingly link that prophecy, and the others that were being fulfilled about the Messiah, to a conclusive recognition of Jesus of Nazareth. Neither the learned teachers of the Jews nor his chosen apostles understood, because this was all part of the design of God that would lead to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ, while all the events remained in complete harmony with prophecy.

D - Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey

Mark 11 "1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethsphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 2 and said to them, "Go your way into the village that is opposite you. Immediately as you enter into it, you will find a young donkey tied, on which no one has sat. Untie him, and bring him. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs him'; and immediately he will send him back here." 4 They went away, and found a young donkey tied at the door outside in the open street, and they untied him. 5 Some of those who stood there asked them, "What are you doing, untying the young donkey?" 6 They said to them just as Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 They brought the young donkey to Jesus, and threw their garments on it, and Jesus sat on it. 8 Many spread their garments on the way, and others were cutting down branches from the trees, and spreading them on the road. 9 Those who went in front, and those who followed, cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" 11 Jesus entered into the temple in Jerusalem. When he had looked around at everything, it being now evening, he went out to Bethany with the twelve."

COMMENTS: Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that Jesus sent two disciples into a village near Jerusalem to bring back a colt, but none of those accounts give the identity of the two men; and John does not even explain in his account how the colt was obtained. The reaction of the people in Jerusalem as Jesus enters indicates that they were anticipating fulfillment of prophecy about the appearance of Messiah. At the end of that day Jesus went to the nearby village of Bethany to spend the night.

E - the beginning of "birth pains"

Mark 13 "1 As he went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Teacher, see what kind of stones and what kind of buildings!" 2 Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone on another, which will not be thrown down." 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign that these things are all about to be fulfilled?" 5 Jesus, answering, began to tell them, "Be careful that no one leads you astray. 6 For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and will lead many astray. 7 "When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don't be troubled. For those must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places. There will be famines and troubles. These things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 But watch yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will stand before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them. 10 The Good News must first be preached to all the nations."

COMMENTS: Peter, James, John, and Andrew had a private audience for the answer from Jesus about when the buildings would be destroyed. But they must have been shocked and baffled by the explanation that had more extensive details that foretold very harsh treatment for the apostles, and later developments that would involve the people of the whole earth. The apostle John does not record this event in his account.

F - Heaven and earth will pass away

Luke 21 "33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away. 34 "So be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly. 35 For it will come like a snare on all those who dwell on the surface of all the earth. 36 Therefore be watchful all the time, praying that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man." 37 Every day Jesus was teaching in the temple, and every night he would go out and spend the night on the mountain that is called Olivet. 38 All the people came early in the morning to him in the temple to hear him."

COMMENTS: In a fashion that probably was not expected of a king, Jesus taught in the temple each day. His teaching was not about the immediate establishment of a new kingdom under his rule. It included a message hard to understand about changes that would affect the entire earth, but those changes could not be set into a specific time frame. They would be prefaced with a variety of very dramatic events taking place around the world as signs that heaven and earth would pass away. The comment made by Jesus that his words would never pass away was another indirect statement that he is the eternal God. John surely heard all of these statements and was affected by them, but they are not included in his gospel.

G - Jesus and his apostles shared the passover meal

Luke 22 "7 The day of unleavened bread came, on which the Passover must be sacrificed. 8 He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." 9 They said to him, "Where do you want us to prepare?" 10 He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Tell the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' 12 He will show you a large, furnished upper room. Make preparations there." 13 They went, found things as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover."

COMMENTS: Peter and John were sent by Jesus to prepare for the Passover meal, and they found all things to be just as Jesus had told them. This is another case when these two men were significantly mentioned in an event with the Lord. Luke's gospel account is the only one that provides the identities of the two men that Jesus sent ahead.

H - Judas Iscariot left to betray Jesus

John 13 "18 I don't speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen. But that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.' 19 From now on, I tell you before it happens, that when it happens, you may believe that I am he. 20 Most certainly I tell you, he who receives whomever I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me." 21 When Jesus had said this, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me." 22 The disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was at the table, leaning against Jesus' breast. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, and said to him, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." 25 He, leaning back, as he was, on Jesus' breast, asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 26 Jesus therefore answered, "It is he to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the piece of bread, then Satan entered into him. Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly." 28 Now no man at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus said to him, "Buy what things we need for the feast," or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Therefore, having received that morsel, he went out immediately. It was night."

COMMENTS: As is characteristic in John's gospel, he does not use his own name in this narrative describing the discreet manner in which Jesus reveals that Judas is the traitor. Again John and Peter have a prominent role. Matthew and Mark indicate that each of the apostles had asked if they were the one to betray Jesus, while Luke's account shows two contrasting concerns among the apostles. Luke "22:21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it has been determined, but woe to that man through whom he is betrayed!" 23 They began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. 24 There arose also a contention among them, which of them was considered to be greatest." Luke does not reveal Judas as the betrayer until after Jesus has prayed in the garden.

I - Sorrow will later be replaced with joy

John 16 "16 A little while, and you will not see me. Again a little while, and you will see me." 17 Some of his disciples therefore said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you won't see me, and again a little while, and you will see me;' and, 'Because I go to the Father?'" 18 They said therefore, "What is this that he says, 'A little while?' We don't know what he is saying." 19 Therefore Jesus perceived that they wanted to ask him, and he said to them, "Do you inquire among yourselves concerning this, that I said, 'A little while, and you won't see me, and again a little while, and you will see me?' 20 Most certainly I tell you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she gives birth, has sorrow, because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she doesn't remember the anguish any more, for the joy that a human being is born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you."

COMMENTS: John provides more of the words of Jesus than the other accounts, especially during the final days before the death, burial, and resurrection. Even this close to the cross, the apostles were still confused about what to expect would happen to Jesus, or even what would happen to them. It seems that one of the most confusing points was that they would see Jesus after he was resurrected from the grave. In the above passage Jesus uses a generalized reference to what he had told them before: that he would be killed, buried, and then rise again on the third day.

J - Final betrayal by Judas in the garden of Gethsemane

John 18 "1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having taken a detachment of soldiers and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were happening to him, went forth, and said to them, "Who are you looking for?" 5 They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he." Judas also, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When therefore he said to them, "I am he," they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Again therefore he asked them, "Who are you looking for?" They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." 8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way," 9 that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke, "Of those whom you have given me, I have lost none." 10 Simon Peter therefore, having a sword, drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into its sheath. The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not surely drink it?""

COMMENTS: John does not mention several of the events in the garden that are supplied in the other gospels. Mark "14:26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28 However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.'" And continuing in Mark we find that Peter, James, and John went a little further with Jesus from the rest of the eleven. "32 They came to a place which was named Gethsemane. He said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I pray." 33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be greatly troubled and distressed. 34 He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch." They were unable to stay awake until Judas brought the crowd to arrest Jesus.

John is the only one who describes the way the words from Jesus had an overpowering effect on those who came to seize him, and this was probably what protected the disciples from any threat from the crowd. Another account makes it clear that the disciples fled. Matthew 26 "55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me. 56 But all this has happened, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him, and fled."

K - The capture and the crucifixion

John 18 "12 So the detachment, the commanding officer, and the officers of the Jews, seized Jesus and bound him, 13 and led him to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should perish for the people. 15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered in with Jesus into the court of the high priest; 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought in Peter. 17 Then the maid who kept the door said to Peter, "Are you also one of this man's disciples?" He said, "I am not." 18 Now the servants and the officers were standing there, having made a fire of coals, for it was cold. They were warming themselves. Peter was with them, standing and warming himself."

COMMENTS: Judging from the style of writing, it is accepted by many that John is the "other disciple" who was able to get Peter into the courtyard of the high priest. Again, these two men seem to have a very close relationship with each other, and a strong loyalty to the Lord, despite all the things that have been very confusing to them, especially during the closing events of the Lord's earthly ministry.

L - Jesus is confirmed as dead on the cross

John 19 "25 But there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. 28 After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I am thirsty." 29 Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished." He bowed his head, and gave up his spirit. 31 Therefore the Jews, because it was the Preparation Day, so that the bodies wouldn't remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special one), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Therefore the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with him; 33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they didn't break his legs. 34 However one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, that you may believe. 36 For these things happened, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "A bone of him will not be broken." 37 Again another Scripture says, "They will look on him whom they pierced.""

COMMENTS: My purpose at this point was not to list many details about the Lord's crucifixion, but rather to look at one that is not in the other gospels. We don't have an explanation about why Jesus entrusted his mother's care to "the disciple whom he loved." It seems to be apparent that John is that disciple, especially considering how the author of this gospel structures the sentences that follow that statement, and his general practice of not using his own name throughout. It is important to accept that there are some things that God may not choose to reveal to us in complete clarity. Deuteronomy "29:29 The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." 1 Corinthians "13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known." We do know from the passage in John that the mother of Jesus was present at the cross. We also know that the gospel writer makes it clear that he is reporting true statements about things that he had personally witnessed, and provides some prophecies that are being fulfilled by those events.

The other gospel accounts give information about some who were at the crucifixion. Matthew 27 "55 Many women were there watching from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee."
Mark 15 "40 There were also women watching from afar, among whom were both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and served him; and many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem."
Luke "23:49 All his acquaintances, and the women who followed with him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things."

--- Reflections in prayer ---

I thank you Lord that John recorded the events of the resurrection of Lazarus and the subsequent meal with him, his sisters, and others in Bethany before you went to the cross. The close relationship you had with that family gives me confidence about the care that you have for me as one of your chosen children. John's gospel is also a reminder to me lord, that as I progress in my spiritual journey, I need to strive to present more of your qualities and attributes while diminishing any characteristics about myself that do not bring glory to Christ. I believe that your Holy Spirit guided John as he wrote his gospel account, but I also believe that you had worked in his heart in such a way that he chose not to mention himself by name as he wrote descriptions of some of the events involving him. The conversations he recorded that you had with various individuals or groups also have a strong parallel in style to that of his own letter in 1 John. These passages are very challenging to me as I attempt to contemplate the spiritual truths they contain, that I may develop more of the mind of Christ as I seek to overcome the tendencies of my flesh. Amen.

Published 15 June 2011