Jesus arrived in Bethany four days after Lazarus had died and placed in the tomb. By this time the decomposing body was stinking.
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17. “Either a cave or rock area would be hewn out, the floor inside being leveled and graded to make a shallow descent…A rock was rolled in front to prevent wild animals or grave robbers from entering. The evangelist (John) made special mention of the fourth day in order to emphasize the magnitude of the miracle, for the Jews did not embalm and, by then, the body would have been in a state of rapid decomposition.” (MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. [Nashville, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005], 1395)
“Lazarus had been dead four days. The notation was extremely important to those familiar with Jewish burial customs. The general belief was that the spirt of the deceased hovered around the body for three days in anticipation of some possible means of reentry into the body.” (Borchert, Gerald L., The New American Commentary Volume 25A, John 1-11. [Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002], 354)
“On the third day it was believed that the body lost its color and the spirit was locked out. Therefore the spirit was obliged to enter the chambers of Sheol (the place of the dead). The passing of the third day, therefore, signaled the conclusion of the last modicum of hope for the mourners.” (Borchert, 354)
This is the reason that Jesus did not come until the fourth day.
18. “Bethany is about two miles from the Golden Gate at Jerusalem.” (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume IV: Nashville: [Thomas Nelson, 1983], 439)
19. “The mention of the Jews also heightens the reader’s awareness of the great risk that Jesus took in coming so close to Jerusalem, which was seething with the leaders’ hatred for Him.” (MacArthur, 1395)
20. This “clarifies the fact that Jesus had arrived in the vicinity of Bethany (perhaps the outskirts of Jerusalem) but had not yet come to the house of the sisters itself. Having heard of Jesus’ nearness, Martha arose and went out to meet him.” (Borchert, 354)
Mary was sitting in the house [NKJV] “The custom was for the bereaved to remain seated in the house and for guests to come and sit in silence and periodically support the grieving parties with sympathetic tears and moans.” (Borchert, 355)
“Reading Ruth 1:6-14 will provide some sense of the feelings that probably were present in that room.” (Borchert, 355)
21. “Martha expressed the pathos of that experience: ‘Lord…if you had been here.’” (Borchert, 355)
I remember reading that no one had died when Jesus was nearby. No, I don’t remember where I read it and looked for it but could not find it.
22. “Martha was quick to affirm her faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus responded to that faith by promising her that her brother would rise again.” (Wiersbe, 335)
23-24. “When Martha heard Jesus say that her brother would rise again, her thought immediately fastened on the end of time (‘the last day).” (Borchert 356)
“Although Martha knew from the Old Testament that there would be a resurrection from the dead, she didn’t believe that Jesus could help her now.” (McGee, 439)
25. “If we have Jesus, we have life.” (McGee, 439)
26. Jesus “looks into the future and says that the one who has trusted Him shall never die. Life begins at the moment a person accepts the Savior.” (McGee, 439)
27. “Martha gives the same confession that Peter gave. She understands that He is the Messiah.” (McGee, 440) (Matthew 16:16)
28. “Why did Martha call Mary ‘secretly’? Possibly because of the danger involved: they knew that the Jewish leaders were out to arrest Jesus. (Wiersbe, 336)
29. “When Mary arose to go to meet Jesus, her friends misunderstood her action and thought she was going to the tomb to weep.” (Wiersbe, 336)
30. Jesus was waiting where He was talking to Martha.
31. “Mary’s hasty departure was noted by the mourners, who considered it their duty to follow her and support her in her mourning, presumably at the tomb.” (Borchert, 358)
32. “Mary’s only recorded words in the Gospels are given in John 11:32, and they echo what Martha had already said (John 11:21).” (Wiersbe, 336)
33. He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. [KJV] “The phrase here does not mean merely that Jesus was deeply touched or moved with sympathy at the sight. The Greek term ‘groaned’ always suggest anger, outrage, or emotional indignation (cf. Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:43; 14:5).” (MacArthur, 1396)
“Most likely, Jesus was angered at the emotional grief of the people because it implicitly revealed unbelief in the resurrection and the temporary nature of death. The group was acting like pagans who had no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).” (MacArthur, 1396)
34. “Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, but He had to ask where he was buried. Our Lord never used His divine powers when normal human means would suffice.” (Wiersbe, 337)
35. “‘Jesus wept’ is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners.” (Wiersbe, 337)
36. “The Jews missed the point here. He wept, not because He loved Lazarus—He was not weeping for the dead—He wept for those who were living.” (McGee, 440)
37. “You notice that the Jews go back to the incident of healing the blind man. That obviously made a great impression on them.” (McGee, 440)
38. “Each vault would generally be covered by a flat stone slab that sealed the grave. The entrance to this type of a tomb-chamber normally was closed by a large circular stone that rolled across the entry trough. This type of tomb apparently served not only the body of Lazarus but also that of Jesus (cf. 19:41-42; 20:1-12).” Borchert, 361)
39-40. “The one person who declared her faith was Martha (John 11:27), and she failed at the last minute. ‘Open the tomb? By now he smells!’ Jesus gently reminded her of the message He had sent at least three days before (John 11:4), and He urged her to believe it. True faith relies on God’s promises and thereby releases God’s power. Martha relented, and the stone was rolled away.” (Wiersbe, 337)
41-42. “Remember that the whole incident is for the glory of God. Jesus prays audibly to let the people know that what He is going to do is the will of the Father so that the Father will get the glory. He voices His prayer for the benefit of those who are present.” (McGee, 441)
“The point of this text, however, is that the world was about to receive a taste of God’s matchless power and grace that would conclude Jesus’ public acts of power and point beyond the event to his own resurrection.” (Borchert, 362)
43. “A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not names Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery!” (Wiersbe, 337)
44. “When Lazarus came struggling forth, he was bound in the grave wrappings.” (Borchert, 362)
“Jesus wants us to be free from those grave-clothes.” (McGee, 441)
Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. [KJV]
“The Jewish practice of wrapping the body was not like the Egyptian practice of wrapping a mummy, but it was equally effective. A long, narrow sheet was folded in half, and the body was inserted between the folded halves. Then the wrap was bound together, and the body was thus secured. The head was wrapped separately, which explains the note both in the Lazarus situation (11:44) and the separate head wrapping in the case of Jesus’ grave clothes (20:6). When Lazarus came struggling forth, he was bound in the grave wrappings.” (Borchert, 362)
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Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
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New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In this article Scripture quotations taken from KJV.
Borchert, Gerald L., The New American Commentary Volume 25A, John 1-11. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume IV: Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983
MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005
Wiersbe, Warren W, The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament Volume 1 Matthew-Galatians. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2004