John 11


Account of the sickness of Lazarus, 1.

His sisters Martha and Mary send for Christ, 2.

Our Lord's discourse with his disciples on this sickness and

consequent death, 3-16.

He arrives at Bethany four days after the burying of Lazarus,

17, 18.

Martha meets Christ-their conversation, 19-27.

She returns and Mary goes out to meet him, in great distress,


Christ comes to the grave-his conversation there, 34-42.

He raises Lazarus from the dead, 43-46.

The priests and Pharisees, hearing of this, hold a council, and

plot his destruction, 47, 48.

The remarkable prophecy of Caiaphas, and the consequent

proceedings of the Jews, 49-53.

Jesus withdraws into a city called Ephraim, 54.

They lay wait for him at the passover, 55-67.


Verse 1. Lazarus, of Bethany] St. John, who seldom relates any

thing but what the other evangelists have omitted, does not tell

us what gave rise to that familiar acquaintance and friendship

that subsisted between our Lord and this family. It is surprising

that the other evangelists have omitted so remarkable an account

as this is, in which some of the finest traits in our Lord's

character are exhibited. The conjecture of Grotius has a good deal

of weight. He thinks that the other three evangelists wrote their

histories during the life of Lazarus; and that they did not

mention him for fear of exciting the malice of the Jews against

him. And indeed we find, from Joh 12:10, that they sought to put

Lazarus to death also, that our Lord might not have one monument

of his power and goodness remaining in the land. Probably both

Lazarus and his sisters were dead before St. John wrote. Bethany

was situated at the foot of the mount of Olives, about two miles

from Jerusalem. Bishop Pearce observes that "there is a large gap

in John's history of Christ in this place. What is mentioned in

the preceding chapter passed at the feast of the dedication,

Joh 10:22, about the middle of our December; and this miracle

of raising Lazarus from the dead seems to have been wrought but a

little before the following passover, in the end of March, at

which time Jesus was crucified, as may (he thinks) be gathered

from verses 54 and 55 of this chapter, Joh 11:54, 55, and from

Joh 12:9." John has, therefore, according to the bishop's

calculation, omitted to mention the several miracles which our

Lord wrought for above three months after the things mentioned in

the preceding chapter.

Calmet says, Christ left Jerusalem the day after the dedication

took place, which was the 18th of December. He event then to

Bethabara, where he continued preaching and his disciples

baptizing. About the middle of the following January Lazarus fell

sick: Christ did not leave Bethabara till after the death of

Lazarus, which happened about the 18th of the same month.

Bishop Newcome supposes that our Lord might have stayed about a

month at Bethabara.

The harmonists and chronologists differ much in fixing dates,

and ascertaining times. In cases of this nature, I believe men may

innocently guess as well as they can; but they should assert


Verse 2. It was that Mary which anointed] There is much

disagreement between learned men relative to the two anointings of

our Lord, and the persons who performed these acts. The various

conjectures concerning these points the reader will find in the

notes on Mt 26:7, &c., but particularly at the end of that

chapter. See Clarke on Mt 26:75

Dr. Lightfoot inquires, Why should Bethany be called the town of

Martha and Mary, and not of Lazarus? And he thinks the reason is,

that Martha and Mary had been well known by that anointing of our

Lord, which is mentioned Lu 7:37; (see the note there;) but the

name of Lazarus had not been mentioned till now, there being no

transaction by which he could properly be brought into view. He

therefore thinks that the aorist αλειψασα, which we translate

anointed, should have its full force, and be translated, who had

formerly anointed; and this he thinks to have been the reason of

that familiarity which subsisted between our Lord and this family;

and, on this ground, they could confidently send for our Lord when

Lazarus fell sick. This seems a very reasonable conjecture; and it

is very likely that the familiarity arose out of the anointing.

Others think that the anointing of which the evangelist speaks

is that mentioned Joh 12:1, &c., and which happened about six

days before the passover. St. John, therefore, is supposed to

anticipate the account, because it served more particularly to

designate the person of whom he was speaking.

Verse 3. He whom thou lovest is sick.] Nothing could be more

simple, nor more modest, than this prayer: they do not say, Come

and heal him: or, Command the disease to depart even where thou

art, and it will obey thee:-they content themselves with simply

stating the case, and using an indirect but a most forcible

argument, to induce our Lord to show forth his power and

goodness:-He is sick, and thou lovest him; therefore thou canst

neither abandon him, not us.

Verse 4. This sickness is not unto death] Not to final privation

of life at this time; but a temporary death shall be now

permitted, that the glory of God may appear in the miracle of his

resurrection. It is very likely that this verse contains the

message which Christ sent back, by the person whom the afflicted

sisters had sent to him; and this, no doubt, served much to

strengthen their confidence, though their faith must have been

greatly exercised by the death of their brother: for when this

took place, though they buried him, yet they believed, even then,

probably on the ground of this message, that Jesus might raise him

from the dead. See Joh 11:22.

Verse 5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.]

Therefore his staying two days longer in Bethabara was not through

lack of affection for this distressed family, but merely that he

might have a more favourable opportunity of proving to them how

much he loved them. Christ never denies a less favour, but in

order to confer a greater. God's delays, in answering prayers

offered to him by persons in distress, are often proofs of his

purpose to confer some great kindness, and they are also proofs

that his wisdom finds it necessary to permit an increase of the

affliction, that his goodness may be more conspicuous in its


Verse 8. The Jews of late sought to stone thee] It was but a few

weeks before that they were going to stone him in the temple, on

the day of the feast of the dedication, Joh 10:31.

Verse 9. Are there not twelve hours in the day?] The Jews, as

well as most other nations, divided the day, from sun-rising to

sun-setting, into twelve equal parts; but these parts, or hours,

were longer or shorter, according to the different seasons of the

year. See Clarke on Joh 1:39.

Our Lord alludes to the case of a traveller, who has to walk the

whole day: the day points out the time of life-the night that of

death. He has already used the same mode of speech, Joh 9:4:

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the

night cometh when no man can work. Here he refers to what the

apostles had just said-The Jews were but just now going to stone

thee. Are there not, said he, twelve hours in the day? I have not

travelled these twelve hours yet-my last hour is not yet come; and

the Jews, with all their malice and hatred, shall not be able to

bring it a moment sooner than God has purposed. I am immortal till

my work is done; and this, that I am now going to Bethany to

perform, is a part of it. When all is completed, then their hour,

and that of the power of darkness, shall commence. See Lu 22:53.

If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not] A traveller should

use the day to walk in, and not the night. During the day he has

the sun, the light of this world: he sees his way, and does not

stumble: but, if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there

is no light in it, Joh 11:10; i.e. there is no

sun above the horizon. The words εναυτω, Joh 11:10, refer not

to the man, but to the world, the sun, its light, not being above

the horizon. Life is the time to fulfil the will of God, and to

prepare for glory. Jesus is the light of the world; he that walks

in his Spirit, and by his direction, cannot stumble-cannot fall

into sin, nor be surprised by an unexpected death. But he who

walks in the night, in the darkness of his own heart, and

according to the maxims of this dark world, he stumbles-falls into

sin, and at last falls into hell. Reader! do not dream of walking

to heaven in the night of thy death. God has given thee the

warning: receive it, and begin to live to him, and for eternity.

Verse 11. Lazarus sleepeth] It was very common among the Jews to

express death by sleep; and the expression, falling

asleep-sleeping with their fathers, &c., were in great use among

them. The Hebrews probably used this form of speech to signify

their belief in the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection

of the body.

It is certain that our Lord received no intimation of Lazarus's

death from any person, and that he knew it through that power by

which he knows all things.

Verse 12. If he sleep, he shall do well.] That is, if he sleep

only, &c. Though the word sleep frequently meant death, (see

Ac 7:60; 1Co 11:30; 15:18, 20,) yet, as it was an ambiguous

term, the disciples appear here to have mistaken its meaning.

Because, in certain acute disorders, the composing the patient to

rest was a favourable sign; therefore the words, If he sleep, he

shall do well, or recover, became a proverbial forth of speech

among the Jews. In most diseases, sleep is a very favourable

prognostic: hence that saying of Menander:-


Sleep is a remedy for every disease. See Grotius here. The

meaning of the disciples seems to have been this: There can be no

need for thee to go into Judea to awake our friend Lazarus; he

will awake time enough, and his very sleep is a presage of his

recovery: therefore do not hazard thy life by going.

Verse 15. I am glad for your sakes that I was not there] "I tell

you plainly, Lazarus is dead: and I am glad I was not there-if I

had been, I should have been prevailed on to have healed him

almost as soon as he fell sick, and I should not have had so

striking an occasion to manifest the glory of God to you, and to

establish you in the faith." It was a miracle to discover that

Lazarus was dead, as no person had come to announce it. It was a

greater miracle to raise a dead man than to cure a sick

man. And it was a still greater miracle, to raise one that was

three or four days buried, and in whose body putrefaction might

have begun to take place, than to raise one that was but newly

dead. See Joh 11:39.

Verse 16. Thomas, which is called Didymus] Thomas, or

Thaom, was his Hebrew name, and signifies a twin-one who had a

brother or a sister born with him at the same time: Didymus,

διδυμος, is a literal translation of the Hebrew word into Greek.

In Ge 25:24,

Esau and Jacob are called thomeem, twins; Septuag.

διδυμα, from διδυμος, a twin-from the Anglo-Saxon [A.S.], to


Let us also go, that we may die with him.] That is, "Seeing we

cannot dissuade our Lord from going, and his death is likely to be

the inevitable consequence, let us give him the fullest proof we

can of our love, by going and suffering death with him." Some

think Thomas spoke these words peevishly, and that they should be

translated thus, Must we also go, and expose ourselves to

destruction with him? which is as much as to say: "If he will

obstinately go and risk his life in so imminent a danger, let us

act with more prudence and caution." But I think the first sense

is to be preferred. When a matter is spoken which concerns the

moral character of a person, and which may be understood in a good

and a bad sense, that sense which is most favourable to the person

should certainly be adopted. This is taking things by the best

handle, and both justice and mercy require it. The conduct of most

men widely differs from this: of such an old proverb says, "They

feed like the flies-pass over all a man's whole parts, to light

upon his sores."

Verse 17. He had lain in the grave four days already.] Our Lord

probably left Bethabara the day, or the day after, Lazarus died.

He came to Bethany three days after; and it appears that Lazarus

had been buried about four days, and consequently that he had been

put in the grave the day or day after he died. Though it was the

Jewish custom to embalm their dead, yet we find, from Joh 11:39,

that he had not been embalmed; and God wisely ordered this, that

the miracle might appear the more striking.

Verse 18. Fifteen furlongs] About two miles: for the Jewish

miles contained about seven furlongs and a half. So Lightfoot, and

the margin.

Verse 19. Many of the Jews came] Bethany being so nigh to

Jerusalem, many of the relatives and friends of the family came,

according to the Jewish custom, to mourn with the afflicted

sisters. Mourning, among the Jews, lasted about thirty days: the

three first days were termed days of weeping: then followed

seven of lamentation. During the three days, the mourner did no

servile work; and, if any one saluted him, he did not return the

salutation. During the seven days, he did no servile work, except

in private-lay with his bed on the floor-did not put on his

sandals-did not wash nor anoint himself-had his head covered-and

neither read in the law, the Mishnah, nor the Talmud. All the

thirty days he continued unshaven, wore no white or new clothes,

and did not sew up the rents which he had made in his garments.

See Lightfoot, and See Clarke on Joh 11:31.

Verse 20. Martha-went and met him] Some suppose she was the

eldest of the two sisters-she seems to have had the management of

the house. See Lu 10:40.

Mary sat still in the house.] It is likely that by this

circumstance the evangelist intended to convey the idea of her

sorrow and distress; because anciently afflicted persons were

accustomed to put themselves in this posture, as expressive of

their distress; their grief having rendered them as it were

immovable. See Ezr 9:3, 4; Ne 1:4; Ps 137:1; Isa 47:1;

Lu 1:79; and Mt 27:61.

Verse 21. If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.]

Mary said the same words to him a little after, Joh 11:32, which

proves that these sisters had not a complete knowledge of the

omnipotence of Christ: they thought he could cure at hand, but not

at a distance; or they thought that it was because he did not know

of their brother's indisposition that he permitted him to die. In

either of these cases it plainly appears they had not a proper

notion of his divinity; and indeed the following verse proves that

they considered him in no other light than that of a prophet.

Query-Was it not proper that Christ should, in general, as much as

might be, hide the knowledge of his divinity from those with whom

he ordinarily lodged? Had they known him fully, would not the

reverence and awe connected with such a knowledge have

overwhelmed them?

Verse 22. I know, that even now] She durst not ask so great a

favour in direct terms; she only intimated modestly that she knew

he could do it.

Verse 23. Thy brother shall rise again.] That is, directly; for

it was by raising him immediately from the dead that he intended

to comfort her.

Verse 24. I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection]

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was then commonly

received; and though it was our Lord who fully exemplified it by

his own resurrection, yet the opinion was common, not only among

God's people, but among all those who believed in the God of

Israel. The Jewish writings after the captivity are full of this

doctrine. See 2 Macc. 7:9, 14, 23, 36; 12:43; 14:46; Wisd. 5:1, 7,

17; 6:6, 7. See also Josephus and the Targums, passim.

Verse 25. I am the resurrection, and the life] Thou sayest that

thy brother shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day;

but by whom shall he arise if not by ME, who am the author of the

resurrection, and the source of life? And is it not as easy for me

to raise him now as to raise him then? Thus our blessed Lord

raises her hope, animates her faith, and teaches her that he was

not a mere man, but the essential principle and author of


Though he were dead] Every man who has believed or shall believe

in me, though his believing shall not prevent him from dying a

natural death, yet his body shall be re-animated, and he shall

live with me in an eternal glory. And every one who is now dead,

dead to God, dead in trespasses and sins, if he believe in me,

trust on me as his sole Saviour, he shall live, shall be quickened

by my Spirit, and live a life of faith, working by love.

Verse 26. Shall never die.] Or, Shall not die for ever. Though

he die a temporal death. he shall not continue under its power for

ever; but shall have a resurrection to life eternal.

Believest thou this?] God has determined to work in the behalf

of men only in proportion to their faith in him: it was necessary,

therefore, that these persons should be well instructed concerning

his nature, that they might find no obstacles to their faith.

These sisters had considered him only as a prophet hitherto; and

it was necessary that they should now be farther instructed, that,

as God was to exert himself, they might believe that God was


Verse 27. Yea, Lord: I believe] πεπιστευκα, I have believed.

Either meaning that she had believed this for some time past, or

that, since he began to teach her, her faith had been considerable

increased; but verbs preter, in Greek, are often used to signify

the present. Martha here acknowledges Christ for the Messiah

promised to their fathers; but her faith goes no farther; and,

having received some hope of her brother's present resurrection,

she waited for no farther instruction, but ran to call her sister.

Verse 28. The Master is come] This was the appellation which he

had in the family; and from these words it appears that Christ had

inquired for Mary, desiring to have her present, that he might

strengthen her faith, previously to his raising her brother.

Verse 30. Jesus was not yet come into the town] As the Jewish

burying places were without their cities and villages, it appears

that the place where our Saviour was, when Martha met him, was not

far from the place where Lazarus was buried.

See Clarke on Lu 7:12.

Verse 31. She goeth unto the grave to weep there.] It appears

that it was the custom for the nearest relatives of the deceased

to go at times, during the three days of weeping, accompanied by

their friends and neighbours, to mourn near the graves of the

deceased. They supposed that the spirit hovered about the place

where the body was laid for three days, to see whether it might be

again permitted to enter, but, when it saw the face change, it

knew that all hope was now past. It was on this ground that the

seven days of lamentation succeeded the three days of

weeping, because all hope was now taken away. They had traditions

that, in the course of three days, persons who had died were

raised again to life. See Lightfoot.

Mr. Ward says: "I once saw some Mussulman women, near Calcutta,

lying on the new-made grave of a relation, weeping bitterly. In

this manner the Mussulman females weep and strew flowers over the

graves of relations, at the expiration of four days, and forty

days, after the interment."

Verse 33. He groaned in the spirit, &c.] Here the blessed Jesus

shows himself to be truly man; and a man, too, who,

notwithstanding his amazing dignity and excellence, did not feel

it beneath him to sympathize with the distressed, and weep with

those who wept. After this example of our Lord, shall we say that

it is weakness, folly, and sin to weep for the loss of relatives?

He who says so, and can act in a similar case to the above

according to his own doctrine, is a reproach to the name of man.

Such apathy never came from God: it is generally a bad scion,

implanted in a nature miserably depraved, deriving its nourishment

from a perverted spirit or a hardened heart; though in some cases

it is the effect of an erroneous, ascetic mode of discipline.

It is abolishing one of the finest traits in our Lord's human

character to say that he wept and mourned here because of sin and

its consequences. No: Jesus had humanity in its perfection, and

humanity unadulterated is generous and sympathetic. A particular

friend of Jesus was dead; and, as his friend, the affectionate

soul of Christ was troubled, and he mingled his sacred tears with

those of the afflicted relatives. Behold the man, in his deep,

heart-felt trouble, and in his flowing tears! But when he says,

Lazarus, come forth! behold the GOD! and the God too of infinite

clemency, love, and power. Can such a Jesus refuse to comfort the

distressed, or save the lost? Can he restrain his mercies from the

penitent soul, or refuse to hear the yearnings of his own bowels?

Can such a character be inattentive to the welfare of his

creatures? Here is God manifested in the flesh! living in human

nature, feeling for the distressed, and suffering for the lost!

Reader! ask thy soul, ask thy heart, ask the bowels of thy

compassions, if thou hast any, could this Jesus unconditionally

reprobate from eternity any soul of man? Thou answerest, NO! God

repeats, NO! Universal nature re-echoes, NO! and the tears and

blood of Jesus eternally say, NO!

Verse 35. Jesus wept.] The least verse in the Bible, yet

inferior to none. Some of the ruthless ancients, improperly styled

fathers of the Church, thought that weeping was a degradation of

the character of Christ; and therefore, according to the testimony

of Epiphanius, Anchorat. c. 13, razed out of the Gospel of St.

Luke the place (Lu 19:41) where Christ is said to have wept over


Verse 36. Behold how he loved him!] And when we see him pouring

out his blood and life upon the cross for mankind, we may with

exultation and joy cry out, Behold how he hath loved US!

Verse 37. Could not this man, which opened the eyes, &c.]

Through the maliciousness of their hearts, these Jews considered

the tears of Jesus as a proof of his weakness. We may suppose them

to have spoken thus: "If he loved him so well, why did he not heal

him? And if he could have healed him, why did he not do it, seeing

he testifies so much sorrow at his death? Let none hereafter vaunt

the miracle of the blind man's cure; if he had been capable of

doing that, he would not have permitted his friend to die." Thus

will men reason, or rather madden, concerning the works and

providence of God; till, by his farther miracles of mercy or

judgment, he converts or confounds them.

Verse 38. It was a cave, &c.] It is likely that several of the

Jewish burying-places were made in the sides of rocks; some were

probably dug down like a well from the upper surface, and then

hollowed under into niches, and a flat stone, laid down upon the

top, would serve for a door. Yet, from what the evangelist says,

there seems to have been something peculiar in the formation of

this tomb. It might have been a natural grotto, or dug in the side

of a rock or hill, and the lower part of the door level with the

ground, or how could Lazarus have come forth, as he is said to

have done, Joh 11:44?

Verse 39. Take ye away the stone.] He desired to convince all

those who were at the place, and especially those who took away

the stone, that Lazarus was not only dead, but that putrescency

had already taken place, that it might not be afterwards said that

Lazarus had only fallen into a lethargy; but that the greatness of

the miracle might be fully evinced.

He stinketh] The body is in a state of putrefaction. The Greek

word οζω signifies simply to smell, whether the scent be good or

bad; but the circumstances of the case sufficiently show that the

latter is its meaning here. Our translators might have omitted the

uncouth term in the common text; but they chose literally to

follow the Anglo-Saxon, [A.S.], and it would be now useless to

attempt any change, as the common reading would perpetually recur,

and cause all attempts at mending to sound even worse than that in

the text.

For he hath been dead four days.] τεταρταιοςγαρεστι, This

is the fourth day, i.e. since his interment. Christ himself was

buried on the same day on which he was crucified, see Joh 19:42,

and it is likely that Lazarus was buried also on the same day on

which he died. See Clarke on Joh 11:17.

Verse 40. If thou wouldest believe, &c.] So it appears that it

is faith alone that interests the miraculous and saving power of

God in behalf of men. Instead of δοξαν, the glory, one MS. reads

δυναμιν, the miraculous power.

Verse 41. Where the dead was laid.] These words are wanting in

BC*DL, three others; Syriac, Persic, Arabic, Sahidic, AEthiopic,

Armenian, Vulgate, Saxon, and in all the Itala. Griesbach leaves

them out of the text.

Father, I thank thee] As it was a common opinion that great

miracles might be wrought by the power and in the name of the

devil, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and invoked the supreme

God before these unbelieving Jews, that they might see that it was

by his power, and by his only, that this miracle was done; that

every hinderance to this people's faith might be completely taken

out of the way, and that their faith might stand, not in the

wisdom of man, but in the power of the Most High. On this account

our Lord says, he spoke because of the multitude, that they might

see there was no diabolic influence here, and that God in his

mercy had visited his people.

Verse 43. He cried with a loud voice] In Joh 5:25, our Lord had

said, that the time was coming, in which the dead should hear the

voice of the Son of God, and live. He now fulfils that prediction,

and cries aloud, that the people may take notice, and see that

even death is subject to the sovereign command of Christ.

Jesus Christ, says Quesnel, omitted nothing to save this dead

person: he underwent the fatigue of a journey, he wept, he

prayed, he groaned, he cried with a loud voice, and commanded the

dead to come forth. What ought not a minister to do in order to

raise a soul, and especially a soul long dead in trespasses and


Verse 44. Bound hand and foot with grave-clothes] Swathed about

with rollers-κειριαις, from κειρω, I cut. These were long

slips of linen a few inches in breadth, with which the body and

limbs of the dead were swathed, and especially those who were

embalmed, that the aromatics might be kept in contact with the

flesh. But as it is evident that Lazarus had not been embalmed, it

is probable that his limbs were not swathed together, as is the

constant case with those who are embalmed, but separately, so that

he could come out of the tomb at the command of Christ, though he

could not walk freely till the rollers were taken away. But some

will have it that he was swathed exactly like a mummy, and that

his coming out in that state was another miracle. But there is no

need of multiplying miracles in this case: there was one wrought

which was a most sovereign proof of the unlimited power and

goodness of God. Several of the primitive fathers have adduced

this resurrection of Lazarus as the model, type, proof, and pledge

of the general resurrection of the dead.

Loose him, and let him go.] He would have the disciples and

those who were at hand take part in this business, that the

fullest conviction might rest on every person's mind concerning

the reality of what was wrought. He whom the grace of Christ

converts and restores to life comes forth, at his call, from the

dark, dismal grave of sin, in which his soul has long been buried:

he walks, according to the command of Christ, in newness of life;

and gives, by the holiness of his conduct, the fullest proof to

all his acquaintance that he is alive from the dead.

Verse 45. Many of the Jews-believed on him.] They saw that the

miracle was incontestable; and they were determined to resist the

truth no longer. Their friendly visit to these distressed sisters

became the means of their conversion. How true is the saying of

the wise man, It is better to go to the house of mourning than to

the house of feasting! Ec 7:2. God never permits men to do any

thing, through a principle of kindness to others, without making

it instrumental of good to themselves. He that watereth shall be

watered also himself, Pr 11:25. Therefore, let no man withhold

good, while it is in the power of his hand to do it. Pr 3:27.

Verse 46. But some of them went their ways] Astonishing! Some

that had seen even this miracle steeled their hearts against it;

and not only so, but conspired the destruction of this most

humane, amiable, and glorious Saviour! Those who obstinately

resist the truth of God are capable of every thing that is base,

perfidious, and cruel.

Verse 47. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a

council] The Pharisees, as such, had no power to assemble

councils; and therefore only those are meant who were scribes or

elders of the people, in conjunction with Annas and his son-in-law

Caiaphas, who were the high priests here mentioned. See

Joh 18:13, 24.

What do we?] This last miracle was so clear, plain, and

incontestable, that they were driven now to their wit's end. Their

own spies had come and borne testimony of it. They told them what

they had seen, and on their word, as being in league with

themselves against Jesus, they could confidently rely.

Verse 48. All men will believe on him] If we permit him to work

but a few more miracles like these two last (the cure of the blind

man, and the resurrection of Lazarus) he will be universally

acknowledged for the Messiah; the people will proclaim him king;

and the Romans, who can suffer no government here but their own,

will be so irritated that they will send their armies against us,

and destroy our temple, and utterly dissolve our civil and

ecclesiastical existence. Thus, under the pretense of the public

good, these men of blood hide their hatred against Christ, and

resolve to put him to death. To get the people on their side, they

must give the alarm of destruction to the nation: if this man be

permitted to live, we shall be all destroyed! Their former weapons

will not now avail. On the subject of keeping the Sabbath, they

had been already confounded; and his last miracles were so

incontestable that they could no longer cry out, He is a deceiver.

Both our place and nation.] Literally, this place, τοντοπον:

but that the temple only is understood is dear from Ac 6:13, 14;

2 Macc. 1:14; 2:18; 3:18; 5:16, 17; 10:7; where it is uniformly

called the place, or the holy place, because they considered it

the most glorious and excellent place in the world. When men act

in opposition to God's counsel, the very evils which they expect

thereby to avoid will come upon them. They said, If we do not put

Jesus to death, the Romans will destroy both our temple and

nation. Now, it was because they put him to death that the Romans

burnt and razed their temple to the ground, and put a final period

to their political existence. See Mt 22:7; and the notes on chap.


Verse 49. Caiaphas being the high priest that same year] By the

law of Moses, Ex 40:15, the office of high priest was

for life, and the son of Aaron's race always succeeded his

father, But at this time the high priesthood was almost annual:

the Romans and Herod put down and raised up whom they pleased, and

when they pleased, without attending to any other rule than merely

that the person put in this office should be of the sacerdotal

race. According to Josephus, Ant. xviii. c. 3, the proper name of

this person was Joseph, and Caiaphas was his surname. He possessed

the high priesthood for eight or nine years, and was deposed by

Vitellius, governor of Judea. See Clarke on Lu 3:2.

Ye know nothing] Of the perilous state in which ye stand.

Verse 50. Nor consider] Ye talk more at random than according to

reason, and the exigencies of the case. There is a various reading

here in some MSS. that should be noticed. Instead of ουδε

διαλογιζεσθε, which we translate, ye do not consider, and which

properly conveys the idea of conferring, or talking together, ουδε

λογιζεσθε, neither do ye reason or consider rightly, is the

reading of ABDL, three others, and some of the primitive fathers.

Griesbach, by placing it in his inner margin, shows that he thinks

it bids fair to be the true reading. Dr. White thinks that this

reading is equal, and probably preferable, to that in the text:

Lectio aequalis, forsitan praeferenda receptae.

That one man should die for the people] In saying these

remarkable words, Caiaphas had no other intention than merely to

state that it was better to put Jesus to death than to expose the

whole nation to ruin on his account. His maxim was, it is better

to sacrifice one man than a whole nation. In politics nothing

could be more just than this; but there are two words to be spoken

to it: First, The religion of God says, we must not do evil that

good may come: Ro 3:8. Secondly, It is not certain that Christ

will be acknowledged as king by all the people; nor that he will

make any insurrection against the Romans; nor that the Romans

will, on his account, ruin the temple, the city, and the nation.

This Caiaphas should have considered. A person should be always

sure of his premises before he attempts to draw any conclusion

from them. See Calmet. This saying was proverbial among the Jews:

see several instances of it in Schoettgen.

Verse 51. This spake he not of himself] Wicked and worthless as

he was, God so guided his tongue that, contrary to his intention,

he pronounced a prophecy of the death of Jesus Christ.

I have already remarked that the doctrine of a vicarious

atonement had gained, long before this time, universal credit in

the world. Words similar to these of Caiaphas are, by the prince

of all the Roman poets, put in the mouth of Neptune, when

promising Venus that the fleet of AEneas should be preserved, and

his whole crew should be saved, one only excepted, whose death he

speaks of in these remarkable words:-

"Unum pro multis dabitar caput."

"One life shall fall, that many may be saved."

Which victim the poet informs us was Palinurus, the pilot of

AEneas's own ship, who was precipitated into the deep by a

Divine influence. See VIRG. AEn. v. l. 815, &c.

There was no necessity for the poet to have introduced this

account. It was no historic fact, nor indeed does it tend to

decorate the poem. It even pains the reader's mind; for, after

suffering so much in the sufferings of the pious hero and his

crew, he is at once relieved by the interposition of a god, who

promises to allay the storm, disperse the clouds, preserve the

fleet, and the lives of the men; but,-one must perish! The reader

is again distressed, and the book ominously closes with the death

of the generous Palinurus, who strove to the last to be faithful

to his trust, and to preserve the life of his master and his

friend. Why then did the poet introduce this? Merely, as it

appears to me, to have the opportunity of showing in a few words

his religious creed, on one of the most important doctrines in the

world; and which the sacrificial system of Jews and Gentiles

proves that all the nations of the earth credited.

As Caiaphas was high priest, his opinion was of most weight with

the council; therefore God put these words in his mouth rather

than into the mouth of any other of its members. It was a maxim

among the Jews that no prophet ever knew the purport of his own

prophecy, Moses and Isaiah excepted. They were in general organs

by which God chose to speak.

Verse 52. And not for that nation only, &c.] These, and the

preceding words in Joh 11:51, are John's explication of what was

prophetic in the words of Caiaphas: as if John had said, He is

indeed to die for the sins of the Jewish nation, but not for

theirs alone, but for the sins of the whole world: see his own

words afterwards, 1Jo 2:1, 2.

Gather together in one] That he should collect into one

body;-form one Church out of the Jewish and Gentile believers.

Children of God that were scattered abroad.] Probably John only

meant the Jews who were dispersed among all nations since the

conquest of Judea by the Romans; and these are called the

dispersed, Joh 7:35, and Jas 1:1; and it is because he refers

to these only, that he terms them here, the children of God, which

was an ancient character of the Jewish people: see De 32:5;

Isa 43:6; 45:11; Jer 32:1. Taking his words in this sense,

then his meaning is this: that Christ was to die, not only for the

then inhabitants of Judea, but for all the Jewish race wheresoever

scattered; and that the consequence would be, that they should be

all collected from their various dispersions, and made one body.

This comports with the predictions of St. Paul: Ro 11:1-32. This

probably is the sense of the passage; and though, according to

this interpretation, the apostle may seem to confine the benefits

of Christ's death to the Jewish people only, yet we find from the

passage already quoted from his first epistle, that his views of

this subject were afterwards very much extended; and that he saw

that Jesus Christ was not only a propitiation for their sins (the

Jews) but for the sins of the whole world: see his 1st epistle,

chap. 2. ver. 2. 1Jo 2:2 All the truths of the Gospel were not

revealed at once, even to the apostles themselves.

Verse 53. They took counsel together] συνεβουλευσαντο, they were

of one accord in the business, and had fully made up their minds

on the subject; and they waited only for a proper opportunity to

put him to death.

Verse 54. Walked no more openly] παρρησια, He did not go as

before through the cities and villages, teaching, preaching, and

healing the sick.

Near to the wilderness] Some MSS. add, of Samphourein, or

Samphourim, or Sapfurim.

A city chilled Ephraim] Variously written in the MSS., Ephraim,

Ephrem, Ephram, and Ephratha. This was a little village, situated

in the neighbourhood of Bethel; for the scripture, 2Ch 13:19, and

Josephus, War, b. iv. c. 8. s. 9, join them both together. Many

believe that this city or village was the same with that

mentioned, 1 Macc. 5:46; 2 Macc. 12:27. Joshua gave it to the

tribe of Judah, Jos 15:9; and Eusebius and Jerome say it was

about twenty miles north of Jerusalem.

And there continued] Calmet says, following Toynard, that he

stayed there two months, from the 24th of January till the 24th of


Verse 55. The Jews' passover was nigh at hand] It is not

necessary to suppose that this verse has any particular connection

with the preceding. Most chronologists agree that our Lord spent

at least two months in Ephraim. This was the last passover which

our Lord attended; and it was at this one that he suffered death

for the salvation of a lost world. As the passover was nigh, many

of the inhabitants of Ephraim and its neighbourhood went up to

Jerusalem, some time (perhaps seven or eight days, for so much

time was required to purify those who had touched the dead) before

the feast, that they might purify themselves, and not eat the

passover otherwise than prescribed in the law. Many of the country

people, in the time of Hezekiah, committed a trespass by not

attending to this: see 2Ch 30:18, 19. Those mentioned in the text

wished to avoid this inconvenience.

Verse 56. Then sought they for Jesus] Probably those of Ephraim,

in whose company Christ is supposed to have departed for the

feast, but, having stayed behind, perhaps at Jericho, or its

vicinity, the others had not missed him till they came to the

temple, and then inquired among each other whether he would not

attend the feast. Or the persons mentioned in the text might have

been the agents of the high priest, &c., and hearing that Christ

had been at Ephraim, came and inquired among the people that came

from that quarter, whether Jesus would not attend the festival,

knowing that he was punctual in his attendance on all the Jewish


Verse 57. Had given a commandment] Had given order; εντολην,

positive order, or injunction, and perhaps with a grievous

penalty, that no one should keep the place of his residence a

secret. This was their hour, and the power of darkness; and now

they are fully determined to take away his life. The order here

spoken of was given in consequence of the determination of the

council, mentioned Joh 11:48-53.

CHRIST'S sympathy and tenderness, one of the principal subjects

in this chapter, have already been particularly noted on

Joh 11:33. His eternal power and Godhead are sufficiently

manifested in the resurrection of Lazarus. The whole chapter

abounds with great and important truths, delivered in language the

most impressive and edifying. In the whole of our Lord's conduct

in the affair of Lazarus and his sisters, we find majesty,

humanity, friendship, and sublime devotion, blended in the most

intimate manner, and illustrating each other by their respective

splendour and excellence. In every act, in every word, we see GOD

manifested in the FLESH:-Man in all the amiableness and charities

of his nature; GOD in the plenitude of his power and goodness. How

sublime is the lesson of instruction conveyed by the words, Jesus

wept! The heart that feels them not must be in the gall of

bitterness, and bond of iniquity, and consequently lost to every

generous feeling.

On the quotation from Virgil, on the 50th verse, a learned

friend has sent me the following lines.

My dear Sir,-I have observed that in one part of your Commentary

you quote these words of Virgil, Unum pro multis dabitur caput;

and you are of opinion that Virgil here recognizes the doctrine of

atonement. There is a passage in Lucan where this doctrine is

exhibited more clearly and fully. It is in the second book, v.

306. Cato, in a speech to Brutus, declares his intention of

fighting under the standard of Pompey, and then expresses the

following sentiment:-

O utinam, coelique Deis Erebique liberet,

Hoc caput in cunctas damnatum exponere poenas!

Devotum hostiles Decium pressere catervae:

Me geminae figant acies, me barbara telis

Rheni turba petat: cunctis ego pervius hastis

Excipiam medius totius vulnera belli.

Hic redimat sanguis populos: hac caede luatur,

Quidquid Romani meruerunt pendere mores.

O, were the gods contented with my fall,

If Cato's life could answer for you all,

Like the devoted Decius would I go,

To force from either side the mortal blow,

And for my country's sake wish to be thought her foe.

To me, ye Romans, all your rage confine,

To me, ye nations from the barbarous Rhine,

Let all the wounds this war shall make be mine.

Open my vital streams, and let them run;

O, let the purple sacrifice atone,

For all the ills offending Rome hath done!


A little after, v. 377, Lucan portrays the character of Cato

with a very masterly hand; but he applies expressions to a mortal

which are applicable to Christ alone.

Uni quippe vacat, studiisque odiisque carenti,

Humanum lugere genus.

The golden mean unchanging to pursue;

Constant to keep the purposed end in view;

Religiously to follow nature's laws;

And die with pleasure in his country's cause,

To think he was not for himself design'd,

But born to be of use to all mankind.


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