The I AM Statements of John - 11 17-27

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The Resurrection and the Life

John 11:1--44

A.     The sickness of Lazarus (11:1–3) Lazarus, Martha and Mary were brother and sisters. This Lazarus is mentioned no where else in the New Testament. Martha & Mary are the sisters spoken of in Luke 10:38-42. Mary was the woman who anointed the Lord with perfumed ointment in Mark 14:3-9 Matt 26:6-13, John 12:1-8. The Scripture teaches that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters. The sisters sent a messenger to tell Jesus that Lazarus was ill. The name Lazarus means God is my help, and is the same name as Eleazar.

1.     The background (11:1–2): Lazarus, beloved friend of Jesus and brother of Mary and Martha, lies sick in Bethany.

2.     The beckoning (11:3): The sisters notify Jesus of this sickness.

B.     The summary concerning Lazarus (11:4–16): Jesus uses this sad event to overview the purpose for his earthly ministry.

1.     The declaration (11:4): He says Lazarus’s sickness and death are allowed to bring about God’s glory!

2.     The devotion (11:5): Jesus loves Lazarus and his sisters.

3.     The delay (11:6): Jesus remains where he is for two days. He needed to give Lazarus not only time to die, but to be dead over three days when He arrived. The Jews believed that the spirit hung around the dead body for three days after death. It was important to prove to those that witnessed the miracle that Lazarus was really dead.

4.     The decision (11:7): He announces his plans to visit Bethany.

5.     The dialogue (11:8–15): Jesus and his disciples now discuss this issue.

a.     Their concern (11:8): The disciples protest that it’s too dangerous for Jesus to go to Bethany.

b.     His commitment (11:9–11): They will, however, go there, for he intends to awake Lazarus from his sleep!

c.     Their confusion (11:12–13): They think Jesus is referring to natural sleep.

d.     His clarification (11:14–15): He tells them Lazarus has died!

6.     The despair (11:16): Thomas agrees to go but prepares for the worst!

C.     The sorrow over Lazarus (11:17–37)

1.     The sorrow of the Jews (11:17–19): Many come from Jerusalem to pay their respects. In order to visualize this scene we must first see what a Jewish house of mourning was like. Normally in Palestine, because of the climate, burial followed death as quickly as possible. The Jews normally buried their dead before sun down on the same day that they died.

In the house of mourning there were set customs. So long as the body was in the house it was forbidden to eat meat or to drink wine, to wear phylacteries or to engage in any kind of study. No food was to be prepared in the house, and such food as was eaten must not be eaten in the presence of the dead. As soon as the body was carried out all furniture was reversed, and the mourners sat on the ground or on low stools.

On the return from the tomb a meal was served, which had been prepared by the friends of the family. It consisted of bread, hard-boiled eggs and lentils; the round eggs and lentils symbolized life which was always rolling to death.

Deep mourning lasted for seven days, of which the first three were days of weeping. During these seven days it was forbidden to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to engage in any kind of study or business, and even to wash. The week of deep mourning was followed by thirty days of lighter mourning.

2.     The sorrow of Martha (11:20–28)

a.     Martha’s meeting with Jesus (11:20–27): She waits for him outside of Bethany.

(1)     Her frustration (11:20–21): “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. Here is one of the most human speeches in all the Bible, for Martha spoke, half with a reproach that she could not keep back, and half with a faith that nothing could shake. “If you had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died.” Through the words we read her mind. Martha would have liked to say: “When you got our message, why didn’t you come at once?

 (2)     Her faith (11:22–27). And now you have left it too late.” No sooner are the words out than there follow the words of faith, faith which defied the facts and defied experience: “Even yet,” she said with a kind of desperate hope, “even yet, I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered: “I know quite well that he will rise in the general resurrection on the last day.” Now that is a notable saying. One of the strangest things in scripture is the fact that the saints of the Old Testament had practically no belief in any real life after death. In the early days, the Hebrews believed that the soul of every man, good and bad alike, went to Sheol. Sheol is wrongly translated Hell; for it was not a place of torture, it was the land of the shades. All alike went there and they lived a vague, shadowy, strengthless, joyless ghostly kind of life.[1]

(a)     In the word of God (11:22–24): She believes in the Old Testament promises regarding the resurrection as demonstrated in Job 19:25-27:

25     “As for me, I know that  my Redeemer (Vindicator, defender; lit kinsman) lives,

And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.

     26     “Even after my skin is destroyed,

Yet from my flesh I shall see God;

     27     Whom I myself shall behold,

And whom my eyes will see and not another.

My heart faints within me!

(b)     In the Son of God (11:25–27): She accepts Jesus’ statement that he is the resurrection! When Martha declared her belief in the orthodox Jewish belief in the life to come, Jesus suddenly said something which brought to that belief a new vividness and a new meaning. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” he said. “He who believes in me will live even if he has died; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” What exactly did he mean? Not even a lifetime’s thinking will reveal the full meaning of this; but we must try to grasp as much of it as we can. One thing is clear—Jesus was not thinking in terms of physical life; for, speaking physically, it is not true that the man who believes in him will never die. The Christian experiences physical death as any other man does. We must look for a more than physical meaning. [ζάω] is to (1) to be alive physically, live; (2) to live in a transcendent sense, live, of the sanctified life of a child of God (ζῆν in the sense of a higher type of life than the animal; of supernatural, spiritual life, including resurrected life for the body and eternal life for the soul (JN 11.25, 26);  (3) to conduct oneself in a pattern of behavior, live

(i) Jesus was thinking of the death of sin. He was saying: “Even if a man is dead in sin, even if, through his sins, he has lost all that makes life worth calling life, I can make him alive again.”  Cf Romans 6:11

(ii) Jesus was also thinking of the life to come. He brought into life the certainty that death is not the end. The last words of Edward the Confessor were: “Weep not, I shall not die; and as I leave the land of the dying I trust to see the blessings of the Lord in the land of the living.” We call this world the land of the living; but it would in fact be more correct to call it the land of the dying. Through Jesus Christ we know that we are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise; we know, as Mary Webb put it, that death is a gate on the sky-line. In the most real sense we are not on our way to death, but on our way to life

Jesus is Lord of both physical and spiritual life. Belief in Jesus infuses a spiritual life in us that persists even though the physical body dies.The greatest miracle of Jesus was not raising Lazarus to physical life again, for Martha’s brother would again die. The greatest miracle was and is in Jesus’ power to give endless spiritual life to us who believe in Him.[2]

John 11:26

Shall never die (οὐ μη ἀποθανῃ εἰς τον αἰωνα [ou mē apothanēi eis ton aiōna]). Strong double negative οὐ μη [ou] with second aorist active subjunctive of ἀποθνησκω [apothnēskō] again (but spiritual death, this time), “shall not die for ever” (eternal death). Believest thou this? (πιστευεις τουτο; [pisteueis touto?]) Sudden test of Martha’s insight and faith with all the subtle turns of thought involved.[3]

b.     Martha’s ministry for Jesus (11:28): She informs Mary of his presence.

3.     The sorrow of Mary (11:29–32): Martha went back to the house to tell Mary that Jesus had come. She wanted to give the news to her secretly, without letting the visitors know, because she wanted Mary to have a moment or two alone with Jesus, before the crowds engulfed them and made privacy impossible. But when the visitors saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they immediately assumed that she had gone to visit the tomb of Lazarus. It was the custom, especially for the women, for a week after the burial to go to the tomb to weep on every possible occasion. Mary’s greeting was exactly the same as that of Martha. If only Jesus had come in time, Lazarus would still be alive.

4.     The sorrow of Jesus (11:33–37)

a.     He weeps (11:33–35). Jesus saw Mary and all the sympathizing crowd weeping. We must remember that this would be no gentle shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking, for it was the Jewish point of view that the more unrestrained the weeping, the more honor it paid to the dead.

33     When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and athe Jews who came with her also weeping, He bwas deeply moved in spirit and 1cwas troubled, (NASB)

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. (KJV)


1690 βριμάομαι, ἐμβριμάομαι [embrimaomai /em·brim·ah·om·ahee/] v. From 1722 and brimaomai (to snort with anger); GK 1102 and 1839; Five occurrences; AV translates as “straitly charge” twice, “groan” twice, and “murmur against” once. 1 to charge with earnest admonition, sternly to charge, threatened to enjoin.

Why was Jesus upset? Cf Luke 10:36-42. Mary had more faith than Martha and yet had greeted Him with same words that Martha used. This grieved Jesus no doubt. So instead of explaining it her as he had to Martha, He demonstrated it.

b.     The mystery of our Lord’s incarnation is seen by His question in John 11:34. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died (John 11:11), but He had to ask where he was buried. Our Lord never used His divine powers when normal human means would suffice.[4]

c.     They wonder (11:36–37): Those watching this ask why Jesus, who can heal the blind, couldn’t keep his friend from dying. The spectators saw in His tears an evidence of His love. But some of them said, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He not prevent his death?” Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus is weeping because He was unable to do anything. They are tears of deep regret.” In other words, nobody present really expected a miracle! For this reason, nobody could accuse Jesus of “plotting” this event and being in collusion with the two sisters and their friends. Even the disciples did not believe that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead![5]

D.     The summons to Lazarus (11:38–44)

1.     The preparation by Jesus (11:38–40)

a.     The Savior’s request (11:38–39a): He tells some men to remove the stone covering the cave where Lazarus is buried.

b.     The sister’s reluctance (11:39b): Martha is hesitant, telling Jesus her brother’s body had been in there four days already! 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.[6]

c.     The Savior’s reminder (11:40) : “Didn’t I tell you that you will see God’s glory if you believe?”

2.     The prayer of Jesus (11:41–42): He thanks his Father for what is about to happen!

3.     The power from Jesus (11:43–44)

a.     The order (11:43): “Lazarus, come out!”

b.     The obedience (11:44): Lazarus comes out!

What is the purpose of chapters 11–12? While the Synoptics at this point expand on Jesus’ teachings in Jerusalem during his final spring visit (cf. Matt. 21–26), John has chosen a miracle story that epitomizes Christ’s mission and fate. With superb dramatic form the Lazarus story (11:1–44) sums up Jesus’ career. It is the ultimate sign. Jesus, the source of life (10:28; 11:25), now gives life to one man. But even this ultimate revelation is condemned, leaving Jesus judged as worthy of death (11:50).

Moreover, woven into this story are hints of Jesus’ own passion. He too will die and come forth. The Lord of life will lay down his life and return from the grave like Lazarus. Later in the same town of Bethany, Mary will anoint Jesus—figuratively preparing him for burial (12:3–8).[7]


[1]The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (91). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

[2]Richards, L. O. (1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). The Bible readers companion (electronic ed.) (688). Wheaton: Victor Books.

[3]Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Jn 11:26). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

a John 11:19

b John 11:38

1 Lit troubled Himself

c John 12:27; 13:21

[4]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Jn 11:17). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[5]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Jn 11:17). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.


[7]Elwell, W. A. (1996, c1989). Vol. 3: Evangelical commentary on the Bible. Baker reference library (Jn 11:1). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

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