9 August 2014

John 11:1-16

“For your sake, I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” (v. 15)


Although we do not know how Jesus met the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it is clear from the context that they are very close to him. Verse 2 reminds us of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with costly perfume (John 12:1-8).

Jesus receives the message that Lazarus is ill, but delays travelling to be with them for two days (verse 6). We do not know the reason for this. One suggestion is that this ensured Jesus' arrival when Lazarus was truly dead and his soul had departed (believed to be four days later; see John 11:17). Another view might be that Jesus was occupied with other matters. Perhaps the most human view would be in response to the danger of which the disciples speak: the journey would take them back through Judea where there were people who wanted to stone Jesus (verses 7-8).

Jesus' discussion of Lazarus' death seems strangely unemotional and almost disconnected. He speaks of Lazarus as having fallen asleep (verse 11) and then criticises the disciples for misunderstanding that (verse 12). He almost seems pleased that Lazarus has died so that it may become a sign to the disciples and to others. The contrast with the Jesus who weeps in John 11:35 is striking. Jesus goes to Lazarus (verse 15), and Thomas calls on the others to go too (verse 16), expecting to die with Jesus: presumably by being stoned.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think Jesus stayed where he was for two more days?
  • How do you respond to times when God doesn't seem to act?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mark Rowland

Mark Rowland is originally from Aberystwyth and was ordained in 2011. In September 2014 he will begin a new appointment in the Coventry and Nuneaton Circuit, serving Coventry Central Hall and Woodside Avenue Methodist Church.