FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
March 9, 2008
Psalm 130 (5)
1a. CONTEXT - John 11: 1-45
Our text occurs near the end of the first half of John. In this
section Jesus reveals to the world glory (doksa)--both his and the Father's
(2:1-12:50). In the next section (13:1-20:29) Jesus receives glory, the
height of which is his crucifixion. Our passage, together with chapter 12,
is the transition from the first part of the gospel to the second. It gives
the narrative motivation for the succeeding chapters: namely, the
resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus, which serves to crystallize into a
definite plot the opposition of the religious leaders. (On theories of
sources, including the semeia source, editing, and possible Synoptic
connections see Haenchen, 67-69; and Schnackenburg, 318-20, 341-44.)
The author is unknown to us. In recent years his community has
been identified as being in Asia Minor, Syria, and possibly even Samaria.
The usual date assigned to the final version is somewhere in the 90's.
1b. TEXT- John 11: 1-45 (ESV)
11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he 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.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,  said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles  off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from 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 on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, [46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.]
 11:6 Greek he; also verse 17
 11:16 Greek Didymus
 11:18 Greek fifteen stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters
 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
1ην δε τις ασθενων, λαζαρος απο βηθανιας, εκ της κωμης μαριας και μαρθας της αδελφης αυτης. 2ην δε μαριαμ η αλειψασα τον κυριον μυρω και εκμαξασα τους ποδας αυτου ταις θριξιν αυτης, ης ο αδελφος λαζαρος ησθενει. 3απεστειλαν ουν αι αδελφαι προς αυτον λεγουσαι, κυριε, ιδε ον φιλεις ασθενει. 4ακουσας δε ο ιησους ειπεν, αυτη η ασθενεια ουκ εστιν προς θανατον αλλ υπερ της δοξης του θεου, ινα δοξασθη ο υιος του θεου δι αυτης. 5ηγαπα δε ο ιησους την μαρθαν και την αδελφην αυτης και τον λαζαρον. 6ως ουν ηκουσεν οτι ασθενει, τοτε μεν εμεινεν εν ω ην τοπω δυο ημερας: 7επειτα μετα τουτο λεγει τοις μαθηταις, αγωμεν εις την ιουδαιαν παλιν. 8λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται, ραββι, νυν εζητουν σε λιθασαι οι ιουδαιοι, και παλιν υπαγεις εκει; 9απεκριθη ιησους, ουχι δωδεκα ωραι εισιν της ημερας; εαν τις περιπατη εν τη ημερα, ου προσκοπτει, οτι το φως του κοσμου τουτου βλεπει: 10εαν δε τις περιπατη εν τη νυκτι, προσκοπτει, οτι το φως ουκ εστιν εν αυτω. 11ταυτα ειπεν, και μετα τουτο λεγει αυτοις, λαζαρος ο φιλος ημων κεκοιμηται, αλλα πορευομαι ινα εξυπνισω αυτον. 12ειπαν ουν οι μαθηται αυτω, κυριε, ει κεκοιμηται σωθησεται. 13ειρηκει δε ο ιησους περι του θανατου αυτου. εκεινοι δε εδοξαν οτι περι της κοιμησεως του υπνου λεγει. 14τοτε ουν ειπεν αυτοις ο ιησους παρρησια, λαζαρος απεθανεν, 15και χαιρω δι υμας, ινα πιστευσητε, οτι ουκ ημην εκει: αλλα αγωμεν προς αυτον. 16ειπεν ουν θωμας ο λεγομενος διδυμος τοις συμμαθηταις, αγωμεν και ημεις ινα αποθανωμεν μετ αυτου. 17ελθων ουν ο ιησους ευρεν αυτον τεσσαρας ηδη ημερας εχοντα εν τω μνημειω. 18ην δε η βηθανια εγγυς των ιεροσολυμων ως απο σταδιων δεκαπεντε. 19πολλοι δε εκ των ιουδαιων εληλυθεισαν προς την μαρθαν και μαριαμ ινα παραμυθησωνται αυτας περι του αδελφου. 20η ουν μαρθα ως ηκουσεν οτι ιησους ερχεται υπηντησεν αυτω: μαριαμ δε εν τω οικω εκαθεζετο. 21ειπεν ουν η μαρθα προς τον ιησουν, κυριε, ει ης ωδε ουκ αν απεθανεν ο αδελφος μου: 22[αλλα] και νυν οιδα οτι οσα αν αιτηση τον θεον δωσει σοι ο θεος. 23λεγει αυτη ο ιησους, αναστησεται ο αδελφος σου. 24λεγει αυτω η μαρθα, οιδα οτι αναστησεται εν τη αναστασει εν τη εσχατη ημερα. 25ειπεν αυτη ο ιησους, εγω ειμι η αναστασις και η ζωη: ο πιστευων εις εμε καν αποθανη ζησεται, 26και πας ο ζων και πιστευων εις εμε ου μη αποθανη εις τον αιωνα: πιστευεις τουτο; 27λεγει αυτω, ναι, κυριε: εγω πεπιστευκα οτι συ ει ο χριστος ο υιος του θεου ο εις τον κοσμον ερχομενος. 28και τουτο ειπουσα απηλθεν και εφωνησεν μαριαμ την αδελφην αυτης λαθρα ειπουσα, ο διδασκαλος παρεστιν και φωνει σε. 29εκεινη δε ως ηκουσεν ηγερθη ταχυ και ηρχετο προς αυτον: 30ουπω δε εληλυθει ο ιησους εις την κωμην, αλλ ην ετι εν τω τοπω οπου υπηντησεν αυτω η μαρθα. 31οι ουν ιουδαιοι οι οντες μετ αυτης εν τη οικια και παραμυθουμενοι αυτην, ιδοντες την μαριαμ οτι ταχεως ανεστη και εξηλθεν, ηκολουθησαν αυτη, δοξαντες οτι υπαγει εις το μνημειον ινα κλαυση εκει. 32η ουν μαριαμ ως ηλθεν οπου ην ιησους ιδουσα αυτον επεσεν αυτου προς τους ποδας, λεγουσα αυτω, κυριε, ει ης ωδε ουκ αν μου απεθανεν ο αδελφος. 33ιησους ουν ως ειδεν αυτην κλαιουσαν και τους συνελθοντας αυτη ιουδαιους κλαιοντας, ενεβριμησατο τω πνευματι και εταραξεν εαυτον, 34και ειπεν, που τεθεικατε αυτον; λεγουσιν αυτω, κυριε, ερχου και ιδε. 35εδακρυσεν ο ιησους. 36ελεγον ουν οι ιουδαιοι, ιδε πως εφιλει αυτον. 37τινες δε εξ αυτων ειπαν, ουκ εδυνατο ουτος ο ανοιξας τους οφθαλμους του τυφλου ποιησαι ινα και ουτος μη αποθανη; 38ιησους ουν παλιν εμβριμωμενος εν εαυτω ερχεται εις το μνημειον: ην δε σπηλαιον, και λιθος επεκειτο επ αυτω. 39λεγει ο ιησους, αρατε τον λιθον. λεγει αυτω η αδελφη του τετελευτηκοτος μαρθα, κυριε, ηδη οζει, τεταρταιος γαρ εστιν. 40λεγει αυτη ο ιησους, ουκ ειπον σοι οτι εαν πιστευσης οψη την δοξαν του θεου; 41ηραν ουν τον λιθον. ο δε ιησους ηρεν τους οφθαλμους ανω και ειπεν, πατερ, ευχαριστω σοι οτι ηκουσας μου. 42εγω δε ηδειν οτι παντοτε μου ακουεις: αλλα δια τον οχλον τον περιεστωτα ειπον, ινα πιστευσωσιν οτι συ με απεστειλας. 43και ταυτα ειπων φωνη μεγαλη εκραυγασεν, λαζαρε, δευρο εξω. 44εξηλθεν ο τεθνηκως δεδεμενος τους ποδας και τας χειρας κειριαις, και η οψις αυτου σουδαριω περιεδεδετο. λεγει αυτοις ο ιησους, λυσατε αυτον και αφετε αυτον υπαγειν. 45πολλοι ουν εκ των ιουδαιων, οι ελθοντες προς την μαριαμ και θεασαμενοι α εποιησεν, επιστευσαν εις αυτον: [ 46τινες δε εξ αυτων απηλθον προς τους φαρισαιους και ειπαν αυτοις α εποιησεν ιησους. ]
2. ANALYSIS- John 11: 1-45
John 11:1-4 Scene 1 - Message to Jesus; Jesus' Response. The name
Lazarus immediately connects this chapter with chapter 12 (12:1, 9, 17).
Vs. 2 makes a similar connection to 12: 1-8, the annointing for burial
performed by Mary. Jesus responds oddly to the sisters' message,
predicting that Lazarus will not die and that his illness is (a) huper teis
doxeis tou theou; and (b) hina doxasthe ho huios tou theou. Jesus
throughout this gospel seeks the glory of the Father (7:18, e.g.); in seeking
the Father's glory, Jesus himself is glorified, since he and the Father are
one. How will the upcoming action glorify them? First, through the
revealing of the life-giving power in Jesus, and secondly, by leading to the
cross, which is the final and greatest glorification (12:16, 23, 28;
11:5-16 Scene 2: Jesus and the Disciples. The disciples object to
returning to Judea (vs. 8; see 8:59; 10:31, 39), asking Jesus, "Are you going
(hupageis) there again?" Elsewhere hupago refers to the threat of death in
rather explicit ways (7:3, 8:22), but it more frequently refers to Jesus'
returning to the Father (7:33; 8:14, 21;13:3,33,36; 14:4,5,28; 16:5, 10,17).
The way by which he returns is the crucifixion. It is therefore interesting
that in 11:44, Jesus directs the bystanders to "Unbind him, and let him go"
(hypagein). It is the act of Jesus in "hypago-ing" Lazarus that provides the
opportunity for him to hypago to the Father (see also 12:11). Jesus
explains his euphemism about Lazarus' death (vs. 15)! hina pisteusete
foreshadows the meaning and function of the Lazarus event. Thomas
reminds us once again that this entry into Judea will result in Jesus' death
11:7-17 Scene 3: Jesus and Martha. The word "tomb" mnemeion (vs.17),
assumes an unusual importance. It is used in John in three settings: (a) in
5:28-29 Jesus predicts the nearness ofthe hour when all in the tombs will
hear the voice of the Son of God and come forth; at one level, that is
exactly what is to happen in this miracle story; (b) in our current pericope
in ves. 17, 31, and 38; (c) in the burial and resurrection of Jesus (19:41,
42; 20:1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 11). Thus Lazarus and Jesus are closely linked by the
use of the term.
Martha expresses her confidence in Jesus (vs. 21), and vs. 22,
with its kai nyn oida, carries a strong confessional sense. At the
center of the miracle story is the great revelation in vs. 25a: 'ego eimi he
'anastasis kai he zoe. Jesus is the Revealer; as in the other ego eimi
sayings, he here reveals who he is. Yet that is not to say that in some
metaphysical sense Jesus "is" resurrection and life. Rather, the nouns
describe what Jesus does for humanity: i.e., he raises and gives life to the
one who believes in him. While Martha expects a future resurrection of the
dead, the one with the resurrection power stands before her now.
The death in vs. 25b is biological death; such death does not
end the life found in Jesus. The death of vs. 26 is death in relationship to
God (spiritual death), a death which is not possible for the believer (note
the ou mh of vs. 26a). The significance of believing is underlined by
Jesus' final question, "Do you believe this?" Martha's confession in vs. 27
is solemn and formal: she calls him kyrie, and says, pepisteuka, literally,
" I have believed" (the perfect tense), which has the sense of "I firmly
11:28-37 Scene 4: Jesus, Mary, and the Jews. While she repeats the
first sentence of her sister (ves. 32 and 21), Mary's faith is only at the
miracle-working stage; she is unable to take the next step taken by
Martha. The reaction of Jesus in vs. 33 is anger.
The verb is 'enebrimesato, which literally means to snort like a horse. It
is normally used for anger (Mark 1:43, 14:5, e.g.). He is angry at the
inability of Mary and the Jews to understand who he is (vss. 25-26). They
wail (klaiontas) and mourn, while Life stands before them. And so when
thse unseeing people tell Jesus to "come and see" (vs. 34), he can only
weep (edakrysen). Vs/ 37 reminds the reader of 9:1-34, the healing of the
blind man. By recalling that episode, John links the healing of the blind
man and the raising of the dead man. Who is Jesus? He is and Light and
the Life of humanity.
11:38-44 Scene 5: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead. Once more
Jesus snorts like a horse, this time at the remark in vs. 37. In vs. 39
Jesus commands; Martha objects, but she has good reason. The common
belief among Jews at the time was that the soul stayed with the body for
three days; after that period the soul entered the realm of the dead and the
body began to decay. By the fourth day there is no possibility that the soul
can reenter the body. Besides that, by now "he stinks" (hozei). Jesus'
response in vs. 40 once more reminds us of earlier themes: vss. 4, 25-26.
The key, though, as in the earlier exchange with Martha, is believing. Only
by faith can one identify in the miracles the glory of God.
The miracle itself is characteristically brief and emphasizes the
power of Jesus' effective word. The soudarion (vs. 44) was a cloth band
that went over the head and under the chin; it was used to keep closed the
mouth of the corpse. In John the word is used only here and for Jesus in
20:7, where, however, the soudarion had been laid aside in his
resurrection. Jesus will leave behind forever the burial clothes which
Lazarus will have once again to don.
11:45-53 Scene 6: Reactions. The fear of the leaders is outlined in
vss. 47-48: Jesus and his signs are too popular. As more believe in him
(as Messiah? see 6: 14-15) the Romans will become interested and will
destroy "our place," meaning the temple ("holy" is not in the Greek) as well
as the nation. To that Caiaphas responds, vss. 49-50. At one level, his
statement simply means tht it would be better to get rid of one man,
Jesus, so that the nation and its institutions (including the positions of
the priests and Pharisees!) could continue. At another level, the meaning
is that Jesus dies for the nation and for the scattered children, i.e., the
Gentiles, thus creating one new people of God (cf. the oneness theme in
17:11, 21-23). The final result of the meeting is the coalescence of
disgruntled feelings into a definite plan (vs. 53). Jesus, the giver of life
to Lazarus, must die.
3. STRATEGY- John 11: 1-45
One of the difficulties in preaching on this text on this Sunday
is the proximity of Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday over the following
two weeks. It will be difficult to avoid preaching about resurrection!
Perhaps the provisional nature of the "resurrection" of Lazarus (really a
temporary resuscitation) can serve as a brake to our overly much
What then can be dealt with?
(a) Jesus glorifies the Father; the Father will glorify Jesus. But how?
Through the cross. An exploration of the topic of true glory, particularly
given the current penchant in popular American religion for gloryland
theology, could be quite helpful.
(b) At this point in Lent a consideration of the place of belief in Jesus
and the meaning of his death would be most appropriate; one could built
especially on vss. 25-26, 40, 42.
(c) Christ brings life to humanity; humanity in turn tries to kill the life
(d) Through faith God frees us to live life as God intended us to live. This
theme would be especially approppriate if the first two lessons were used.
(e) Christ gives (eternal) life now. One could explore the Johannine
idea--frightening that it is--that there is nothing the believer or
unbeliever will have in the eschatological future besides what she or he
has now. Life and death are present tense experiences.
4. REFERENCES - John 11: 1-45
Brown, Raymond E. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN (i-xii). Anchor Bible
29. Garden City: Doubleday, l966.
Bultmann, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: A COMMENTARY, trans. G.R.
Beasley-Murray, gen. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, l971.
Haenchen, Ernst. JOHN 2: A COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
CHAPTERS 7-21. trans. Robert W. Funk. Hermeneia. Philadelphia:
Kysar, Robert. JOHN. Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament.
Minneapolis: Augsburg, l986.
Schein, Bruce E. FOLLOWING THE WAY: THE SETTING OF JOHN'S GOSPEL.
Minneapolis: Augsburg, l980.
Schnackenburg, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN, Volume 2.
trans. Cecily Hastings et al. London: Burns & Oates, l980.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS- John 11: 1-45
AN EXCELLENT ENTRANCE HYMN IS LBW #265 (HB 6/7) , "Christ, Whose
Glory Fills the Skies," especially if the glory theme from John is
Two hymns are good sermon possibilities: LBW #97, "Christ, the Life of
All the Living" and LBW # 464, "You Are the Way." Both would work well
with the theme of life.
LBW #207, "We Who Once Were Dead" would be an excellent communion
hymn, as would LBW #210(HB 174), "At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing,"
especially vss. 1-5.
Exegete: Walter F. Taylor, Jr. is the Ogram Professor of New Testament
at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.
6. FURTHER READING
For an interesting examination of the Easter theme of Resurrection,
see the recent RESURRECTION, by Pheme Perkins ( Garden City,NY:
Doubleday, 1984). Perkins, a member of the theology faculty at Boston
College is one of the outstanding New Testament theologians today.
she received her PhD from Harvard and has published numerous books and
articles in the field of New Testament studies. Hers is the rare ability to
be able to bridge the great gulf that exists between the academic
specialists in thelogy and ordinary laypersons (Luther's "simple
ploughmen"). RESURRECTION has been compared with Raymond Brown's
BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH for its thoroughness and thoughtfulness.
During the brouhaha over the “gospel” of Judas a few years ago, Perkins issued amn
Esxcellent critiqwue in AMERICA:
LEXEGETE © 2008