The Gospel of John Commentary Chapters 1-11 (by chapter)

John 11:1-44 - “Lazarus - come forth” - Part 2

John 11:1-44 Lazarus, Come Forth (Part 2)

The prophetic significance of the Sign of Lazarus. When Jesus said: “Lazarus, come forth!” it was in a loud voice and with great authority. Literally it means: “Lazarus, come out!” He was commanded to come out of Paradise (in Hades) into his body, and then to come out of the grave. If Jesus had not specified ‘Lazarus’ by name, all the dead would have been called to come out of their graves and one day that’s exactly what Jesus will do, for the raising of Lazarus is a prophetic picture of the resurrection of all believers (unbelievers will also be raised at a later time).

And at this time the spirit-soul of Lazarus would have been in Paradise (which was then under the earth) for four days, together with all the other Old- Testament saints, who had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to come and take them to heaven. Lazarus, along with others who had died during Jesus’ ministry, would have told the saints there: “The Messiah has come, He is fulfilling all the prophecies, He has been healing the sick and raising the dead. I saw Him, I saw what He did. He is Jesus, the Messiah.”  There would have been great expectation and anticipation. Then came the powerful proof. Suddenly they heard the voice of authority booming down, resounding into the spiritual world of Paradise: “Lazarus, come forth, come out of Hades into your body and then come out of the grave.” Lazarus had been with them four days. They had settled him in. No one had come to Paradise for so long, only to leave again. He was at home. Lazarus said: “Sorry guys, I’ve got to leave you now, I told you the Messiah was here and He is my friend!” Who else could raise someone from the dead after 4 days! So, Lazarus left Paradise with great excitement in his wake. They knew the time 
was coming soon, when they also would be delivered and be carried into heaven, because of the redemption Messiah would make for them. 

“And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go" (v44). They prepared the dead by wrapping him around with clothes, and covering his face with a separate cloth. So, he came out from the tomb like a ‘mummy’, with his movement greatly limited by the wrappings around his arms and legs. As well as the miracle of his resurrection, it seems that God’s power had to propel him out to the entrance of the cave. Such was the power of Christ’s command: “Lazarus, come out!”

The raising of Lazarus is a representation of what will happen to us when Jesus returns, when He will do the same for us:

“Do not marvel at this, for the (future) hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice (speaking their name) and they will come forth: 
(1) those who have done good to the resurrection of life, 
(2) and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28). As with Lazarus, your body will be lying in the grave, and you will hear Him say your name, followed by: “Come forth! Come forth out of the grave!” Your spirit will be reunited to your body, which will be transformed into an incorruptible body, and you will rise up out of the grave. This will happen at the Return of Christ when you will be resurrected along with all other believers. The unbelievers will also be raised, but only after the 1,000 year reign of Christ in a separate resurrection (Revelation 20).

The raising of Lazarus is also a picture of the spiritual resurrection of all believers, as they are made alive through the New-Birth. We have seen that spiritual and physical death are connected and parallel events. First came man’s spiritual death then his physical death. Likewise our spiritual and physical resurrections are similar. Believers are first resurrected spiritually, and then later on physically. These two events are mentioned together as parallel events in John 5:24-29. Both miracles are brought about by the word of Jesus. Those who are dead (spiritually or physically) will ‘hear the voice of the Son of God’ and are raised to life. 

Then in John 11:25,26, Jesus claims to be both: 
(1) the Resurrection and (2) the Life, that is, He is the Author of both our physical and spiritual resurrections:
 “(1) He who believes in Me, though he may die (physically), he shall live (physically) and (2) whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (but have eternal spiritual life in Christ)” 

 It is this dual claim that He proves by raising up Lazarus. So, Lazarus in the grave is also a picture of all mankind dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-3). We were helpless and hopeless to raise (save) ourselves (Eph 2:8). Only God can raise us out from this death. In His love for us, He called us by name through the Gospel. We heard (believed) the voice of the Son. He spoke into our spirits saying: “Come forth out of sin, out of death, out of the kingdom of darkness, and come alive in Me.” 
And just as Lazarus came forth out of death into life, we came forth out of spiritual death into spiritual life; we were made alive, born-again, our spirit transformed from darkness to light (Eph 2:4-6); and as Lazarus came out of the tomb’s darkness into the light of day, so we came forth out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. 

All this was accomplished by the power of His word spoken into us: “the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Corinthians 4:6). The same God who, at Creation, spoke into the darkness: “Light be!”, bringing forth light and life where there was only darkness, has done the same miracle in our spirits. He has spoken into our hearts: “Light be!” and ‘there was light.’ We came to life; our spirit was reborn. 2Corinthians 4:6 and John 11:43 both describe the new-birth, and they agree that we were made alive by God’s word of faith, by a Divine Command calling us out of death into life. As He brought forth the original creation (Genesis 1), so He also brings forth the New-Creation by the power of His word.

Because we were brought forth by His word and by His life, our spiritual being consists of His resurrected, victorious life and holy nature, and is sustained by this eternal, everlasting life. Our life is in Christ. He is now our life. We live by His life within (John 4:14, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27; 3:3,4). He said: "Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). 

The 4 DAYS of Lazarus are prophetic of 4000 YEARS. Lazarus represents all mankind who died spiritually in Adam. For 4000 years (4 Days) man lay in spiritual death. But after the 4 Days, Jesus came in God’s perfect timing, and defeated spiritual and physical death. Through His death and resurrection, all who believe in Him are raised to spiritual life (reborn). Thus Lazarus is a picture of man, dead 
in sins for 4 Days (4,000 years), without hope, raised up to new-life by 
the personal appearance and life-giving word of Jesus! 

 “Loose him and let him go” Lazarus is a picture of someone newly born-again.  Like him, we were reborn when Jesus spoke into our spirit saying: “Come forth, out of darkness into the light, out of death into life.” He spoke and our spirit was made alive. Notice what Jesus said next to those who were already alive in the light (who represent other believers): “loose him and let him go” (v44). 

You see, the liberation and transformation of Lazarus was not yet complete. Yes, when we are reborn our spirit (the inner-man) is made alive, but our outer life (our thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds) needs changing. Lazarus was “bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.” 

We are like Lazarus, with our soul wrapped around with the grave-clothes of stinking ways of thinking and habits, things that belonged to our state of spiritual death, 
to our old life as an unbeliever in the darkness. Lazarus was alive inwardly, but (1) he could not see properly, because of the facecloth and (2) wasn’t free to move, because of the binding grave-clothes. Likewise believers are alive in the spirit and in the kingdom of light, but (1) they are mentally blind to the truth, through ignorance of the Word (John 8:32-36), and (2) they are not free to walk and move in the Spirit.  

Notice that Jesus did what He alone could do (raise Lazarus), but He expected the people to do what they could do (free Lazarus from his wrappings so that he could see and walk). He did not instantly free Lazarus from his bindings, but told his friends to ‘loose him and let him go.’ (He expects us to do what we can do, and to trust Him to do what we can’t do). 

This speaks of our vital ministry to others, especially new believers. Does Jesus say: “Go condemn the new Christian, because he is wrapped around with so many problems and faults”? No! He says: “Loose him and let him go.” That is what we should do for a new Christian, who has just been raised up out of the tomb of spiritual death. Inwardly, he is now a new-creation in Christ (2Cor 5:17), but (outwardly) he may still be blinded and bound by things from his past (wrong attitudes and ways of thinking, mental strongholds, emotional hurts, demonic oppressions, and physical addictions). As a new-born babe in Christ, who does not know much, who can’t see where to go and is not able yet to free himself from the things that bind and entangle him, he needs our help and guidance to start living out the new-life he has been given, so that he can follow Christ and walk in the fruit of the Spirit. A process begins of stripping off the things from the old-life, so that the real reborn ‘Lazarus’ can be seen, so that he can see with his recreated eyes the 
light (truth) of God and His Kingdom, and so that he can be freed to walk in the ways of God, to worship God and serve God in Spirit and truth.

His mind, attitudes, habits need changing, but we are not to say: “You shouldn't be like that, you are no good.” Jesus tells us to have a ministry of love and grace, to loose people and to let them go. 

He says to us: “Don’t condemn them, but loose them and let them go. Help take their grave-clothes off, so that they can be free to walk in My ways, in faith, walking in the power of God by My Spirit.” 

This ministry to believers (that Jesus Himself calls us to), involves the Word of God and prayer. We teach them God’s ways, renewing their minds by the Word of God to who they are in Christ and what they can do in Him, and how they can walk by faith under (in) the grace, power, love and wisdom of God. We also pray for them and minister God’s love, healing, the Holy-Spirit and perhaps deliverance to them. 

As a result of this ministry, the cloth (the blindfold of unbelief) comes off his eyes and he sees the light (the truth of the Word) clearly. As the things from his old-life that bound him and held him back (from walking in the Spirit, moving forward in God and doing His work) are removed, he discovers the new life of freedom (from sin, satan, fear, worry and curse) for which Christ has set him free. 

As the wrappings (from the old-life) come off, so the real ‘Lazarus’ is revealed, the new-man who walks in the newness of the resurrection life of (imparted by) Christ. As he is released from the power of what had bound him, he finds he has been set free with the ability to walk with God in newness of life by the power of the Spirit. He is loosed to live in Christ! As with Lazarus, his new life will be an undeniable 
testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to save a man and raise him from the guttermost to the uttermost!

John 11:45-57 - The Plot to Kill Jesus.
The after effects of the miracle: “Then (having witnessed the raising of Lazarus) many of the Jews who had come to Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him (because it was such a clear Messianic sign)”(v45). 

Imagine the drama of Christ coming 4 days after a burial, (with many sceptics and enemies present) declaring He is the Resurrection and the Life and then proving it, saying: ‘Lazarus, come Forth’!

“But some of them 
(unbelievers, who included spies left at the funeral to look out for Jesus for it was well known the leaders wanted Him dead) went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did” (v46). 

So, as a result of this miracle many believed, but also many more other turned against Jesus and reported Him to the Pharisees. So, the Jewish leaders had the firsthand testimony of their own people, that Lazarus was dead four days and was raised up by Jesus. Thus they knew of this conclusive Messianic Miracle. Some won’t believe whatever proof they have, because they don’t want to! God gives you the evidence that you need (in the Bible, in history, through people who testify to changed lives), but ultimately whether you believe or not is your decision. Some will not believe against all the evidence and they will have to account to God for that. Any one who truly wants to know God will find Him. 

But the unbelieving Jewish leaders could not deny the miracle:
Then the Chief Priests and the Pharisees gathered a Council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs 
(they could not deny the miracles). If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him (as the Messiah) and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation" (v47,48). 

They saw the many miracles of Jesus, and the many people turning to Jesus in faith through Lazarus. Their authority and position was threatened by the popularity of Jesus. They could see the whole nation believing in Jesus as the Messiah-King of Israel and uniting under Him against the Romans. Notice they believed more in the power of Rome than God’s Messiah, because they expected Him to fail, resulting in the loss of (1) their place of leadership and (2) Israel’s nationhood. Notice they were more worried about their status and position, than the nation, which was added as an afterthought to sound less self-serving. 
  
“And one of them, Caiaphas, being High Priest that year, said to them:  "You know nothing at all (getting their attention). You do not realise that it is expedient (better) for us that one man (Jesus) should die for (instead of) the people, than that the whole nation should perish" (v49,50).  
By this he was telling them to murder Jesus, and justifying it, by saying it would save Israel from the judgement of Rome - in fact he was rejecting Israel’s salvation and Rome destroyed Israel in AD 70 anyway). 

God overruled the words he spoke, so that they were prophetic (God can even speak through an ass!). There might be a preacher you just don’t like, but listen to God, He can still speak to you through his words): “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being High Priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (Israel), and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together into one, the children of God who were scattered abroad (a prophecy of the Church). (v51,52). He prophesied that Jesus would die for all the people to avert judgement, in other words He would suffer the judgement of death, in the place of (instead of) us, so that we might all live.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (v53). 
They had made the final decision based on Caiaphas’ ruling. John 12:10 says they planned to killed Lazarus too, because of his powerful testimony! 

“Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples” (
v54). The last few weeks were spent preparing His disciples and touring through Samaria, Galilee and Perea (with the ultimate aim of reaching Jerusalem before Passover) choosing His route in order to catch the crowds travelling down through Perea (to avoid the hated Samaritans) to Jerusalem for Passover. 

“And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the Temple, "What do you think - that He will not come to the Feast?" They all knew there was a contract out for His life: “Now both the Chief Priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him” (v55-57). The final phase of Jesus’ ministry, the last week leading up to His death at Passover in Jerusalem, starts in John 12:1.

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