“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
According to verse 55 the latter part of John 11 takes place just prior to the month of Nisan. This means that the events following the resurrection of Elazar happen four months further on (from Chanukah) [John 10:22] in the Biblical Jewish year and bring the text full circle to arrive at the month of Nisan just prior to Pesach. This is significant, given that the resurrection of Elazar (Lazarus) is a prefigure to the coming resurrection of the Messiah, and is the ultimate marker of a true prophet of God (e.g. (Elijah, 1 Kings 17:17-24; Elisha, 2 Kings 4:32-37).
This is now the third Pesach recorded in the gospel according to Yochanan, the focus on this festival is important to Yochanan’s identification of the “Lamb” of God, the King Messiah Yeshua. Later in the HaBrit Ha Chadashah the Rav Shaul (Paul) calls Yeshua “Messiah our Pesach (Lamb)” [1 Cor. 5:7].
1 Moreover a certain one [man] (tis[G]) was sick, weak, powerless (astheneo[G]), Elazar[H] (Heb. “one whom God helps” Aram. Lazar “to help”, Lazarus) of Beit-anya[A] (“house of answering”, Beit-hiyniy[H] “house of dates”, “house of misery”, “poor house”, Bethany), the village of Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary) and her sister Marta[H] (Mistress of myrrh, bitter mistress). 2 It was the Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary) who anointed the Lord (Kurios[G], Ha-Adon[H]) with perfumed resin (muron[G], probably myrrh), and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Elazar[H] (Heb. “one whom God helps” Aram. Lazar “to help”, Lazarus) was sick, weak, powerless (astheneo[G]).
Why did Yochanan (John the disciple) the author of this gospel, feel the need to identify Miryam with such precise detail? It’s true that there may have been several, if not hundreds of women named after the great woman of Israel (Miryam, Moses’ sister) among the residents of Judea, however it is unlikely that many, if any, had both a sister named Marta and a brother named Elazar (Lazarus).
We can be fairly sure Yochanan’s audience were almost a generation hence from the events being recorded, so it is most likely that he was using the now famous event of Miryam’s having anointed Yeshua as a way of illuminating both Miryam’s character and her relationship to the Messiah. It is interesting to note that the event Yochanan uses to clarify which Miryam he is speaking of is yet to occur in the chronology of his gospel (John 12:1-11.) From this some deduce that Yochanan assumes that his audience are familiar with the synoptic gospels.
The accounts of Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13 record the event taking place in the home of Shimon, making it likely that Shimon shared a home with Elazar and his sisters.
The village of Bethany was approximately half a day’s walk (100 km) from where Yeshua and His disciples were beyond the Jordan (John 10:40), and about 5 km east of Jerusalem.
3 So the sisters sent to Him (Yeshua), saying, “Lord (Kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), behold, now, pay attention (Hineih[H]) he whom You love as a dear friend (phileo[G], ahavta[H]) is sick, weak, powerless (astheneo[G]).”
Yochanan (author) only uses the phrasing, “whom You (Yeshua) love,” here and in relationship to himself as, “the disciple “whom Yeshua loved.” Primarily this indicates a special intimacy between Yeshua and those in question, a relationship which is set apart, different from the relationships He had with other disciples and family members. The point being that Elazar (Lazarus) was a very close friend of Yeshua, both Elazar’s death and the grief of his sisters would surely have been of paramount importance to Yeshua.
4 But when Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) heard this, He said, “This sickness, infirmity, weakness (astheneia[G]) will not be to the advantage (pros[G]) of death (thanatos[G], a Greek god), but in behalf of, for the sake of (huper[G]) the glory, judgement (doxa[G], likh’vod[H]) of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H]), in order that (hina[G]) the thoughts, glory, splendour (doxazo[G]) of the Son of the God (Ho-Uihos Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Ben Ha-Elohiym[H]) be throughout (dia[G]) [alt. made known by the means of it].”
Yeshua says, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Firstly, Yeshua is indicating foreknowledge, secondly, He is expressing knowledge of purpose. He’s speaking not only of physical death (as alluded to in the following verses) but also of eternal death. This is why He goes on to speak in metaphor, likening physical death to a temporary sleep state. This event is intended to be a platform, not only for Elazar’s (Lazarus’s) physical resurrection but also for the resurrection of Messiah and the filling of God’s promise for a final resurrection of all humanity: some to eternal life and some to eternal death. This is the glory that Yeshua is ultimately alluding to. The glory of God the Father and Yeshua the Son which reconciles repentant humanity.
The Talmud Bavliy tells us that the majority of lesser illnesses result in life “l’chayiym”, and the majority of major illnesses end in death “l’meiytah” (Talmud Bavliy Kiddushin, fol. 71. 2.).
In other words, there is a first century religious cultural precedent for the belief that certain illnesses were likely to lead to death, the present illness of Elazar was obviously one such illness, and yet Yeshua was saying that Elazar’s illness would not be “l’meiytah” for death.
Note that the Greek text says “This sickness will not be to the advantage of death but is in behalf of the God…” Death is personified as being the opposite to God, Who is Life, living. This is consistent with Yeshua’s statement in verse 25, “I AM the resurrection and the life!” Not only will the illness of Elazar end in either temporal or eternal death, it will also note afford death itself to exercise fear against others. Put simply, Yeshua is about to give a sign that prophecies the death of death in His own death and resurrection. The Scripture explains it this way:
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared the same humanity—so that through death He might break the power of the one who had the power of death (that is, the devil).” -Hebrews 2:14-15 TLV
Therefore, “This sickness will not be to the advantage of death” means that Yeshua has come to break the power of Satan, who seeded death into the world through sin. And “but is in behalf of the God…” means that Yeshua has come at the command of God in order to free all who would receive Him from bondage to death.
5 Now Yeshua[H] loved entirely (agapao[G], aheiv[H]) Marta[H] (Mistress of myrrh, bitter mistress) and her sister and Elazar[H] (Heb. “one whom God helps” Aram. Lazar “to help”, Lazarus). 6 So when He heard that he (Lazarus) was sick, weak, powerless (astheneo[G]), He (Yeshua) then stayed two days in the place where He was.
The text tells us that it is because Yeshua loved them that He stayed two more days in the place where He was. For most of us this seems counterintuitive but unlike Yeshua, most of us have very little idea of our own purpose or what we are capable of. Ultimately, “Because He loved them” means, because He knew that the resurrection of Elazar would strengthen their faith and benefit their eternal state. Therefore, in this case love meant allowing a dear friend to die.
7 Then after this He said to the disciples (talmidim[H]), “Let us go to Yehudah (the region of Judea) again.” 8 The disciples (talmidim[H]) said to Him, “Rabbiy[H] (My Teacher, My Great One), the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”
“Let’s go to Yehudah” means “Let’s travel from here on the east side of the Jordan [John 10:40] back to the territory of Judea where Bethany, the village of Elazar, Miriyam and Marta is…”
This decision of Yeshua’s is probably best likened to a situation where any Israeli-Jew today were to suggest that he and his friends make a trip to Bethany (currently under occupation by the Palestinian authority). In other words, “let’s go to a place where the authorities hate me and everything I represent and are willing to at very least attempt my murder.” Understanding it this way makes the disciples’ response seem more than justified. Some of the Judean religious leaders had only just attempted to stone Yeshua after His claim to deity in Jerusalem following the Chanukah celebrations recorded in John 10:22-42. From the disciples’ perspective there was a clear and present danger awaiting them throughout Judea. Not even love for a dear friend would have ordinarily compelled them to go into that region given the religious-political situation.
It’s important to note the use of the Greek transliteration rha-bbi for Rabbi. Later in this account Marta refers to Yeshua as ha Moreh the Teacher. Note just a Rabbi, but The Rabbi.
9 Yeshua[H] answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day (hemera[G], ba’yom[H])? If anyone walks in the day (hemera[G], ba’yom[H]), he does not strike against something (proskopto[G]), because he sees the all existing light (phos[G], nuhra[A], Or[H]) of this world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]). 10 And if anyone walks (holeikh[H]) in the night (balaylah[H]), he strikes against something (proskopto[G]), because there is no flame (nahira[A]) [all existing light] (phos[G], Or[H]) in him.”
Numerous Jewish sources affirm Yeshua’s assessment of the hours of daylight (T. Bab Sanhedrin, fol. 88. 2. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 2. Vid. Philo. de Somniis, p. 1143.)
There are several meanings that can be gleaned from this statement. Relative to Yeshua’s own ministry He is insisting here that He has a mission to complete and it will be completed in the appropriate time regardless of any attempts to thwart it. In other words, “They will not be allowed to kill me until I say so (I being I AM, ‘I and the Father are echad’).”
We could also observe in this an allusion to Messiah as light of the world. He will soon be gone, returned to heaven leaving behind His Spirit (Ruach ha-Kodesh) and a choice we all must make, choosing either to walk in His light or to stumble in the darkness of this fallen world. The key here is that the day He is speaking of doesn’t shine upon us, rather it shines from within us. Yeshua is that day, that all existing light (Or). Notice that the text says, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” This is true of those who don’t accept their position as purchased children of God. They are said to be devoid of the flame/light of God/Messiah: just as Yeshua has said elsewhere, “If the light inside you is darkness, how great is the darkness?” (Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:23).
May His light dwell in you richly as you choose to accept His atoning death and resurrection life, thus taking your place as a chosen child of God.
The Aramaic text makes a word play between nuhra (light) and nahira (flame), which is from the root nuhra (light). In other words the flame of Messiah has its origin in the all existing Light of God.
11 This He (Yeshua) said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend (philos[G], chaver[H]) Elazar[H] (Heb. “one whom God helps” Aram. Lazar “to help”, Lazarus) has fallen asleep (koimao[G]); but I go, so that I may awaken (exupnizo[G]) him.”
Yeshua now uses sleep as a metaphor for physical death. This is not without Scriptural precedence, the patriarchs of Israel are said to have, “slept with their fathers.” (1 Melakhim/Kings 2:10.), and the prophet Daniel uses sleep to describe those who have been dead and are resurrected at the latter day:
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake—some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting contempt.” -Daniel 12:2 TLV
However, it was probably not a colloquial expression in common use at the time. What is important to understand is that Yeshua is not saying that Elazar (Lazarus) is sleeping because of the knowledge that He will soon raise him from the dead, rather He is saying that all physical death (that is death prior to the Judgment) is sleep, that is, temporary. Elazar is sleeping because he is in transition, neither alive in the world nor yet present in Gan Eden (Paradise).
It’s interesting to note that Yeshua begins by saying, “Our friend Lazarus,” but ends by saying, “I will awaken him from sleep.” Yeshua is obviously emphasizing the fact that only He is able to raise Elazar (Lazarus). He may also be giving the disciples’ permission to stay behind. As disciples of Messiah we all find ourselves in situations where we are given a choice to remain behind or to follow Him into a terrifying situation, perhaps even at the risk of our very lives. It is important to remember that He is not giving us an ultimatum, rather He remains our Lord and redeemer regardless of whether we stay or go. However, if we go we may see His glory now in ways we might have missed if we had stayed.
12 The disciples (talmidim[H]) then said to Him, “Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), if he has fallen asleep (koimao[G]), he will recover (sozo[G]).” 13 Now Yeshua had spoken of his (Lazarus) death (thanatos[G], moto[H]) but they thought that He was speaking of reclining (koimesis[G]). 14 So Yeshua then said to them plainly, “Elazar[H] is dead (thanatos[G], meit[H]), 15 and I am (Aniy[H]) full of joy (sameach[H]) for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe, trust, be persuaded (pisteuo[G], ta’amiynu[H]); and now let’s go to him (Lazarus).” 16 Therefore Toma[H] (Tuma[A] “Thyme”, Thomas), who is called Didymus[G] (“a twin”, Ta’ama[A] “twin”), said to his fellow disciples (talmidim[H]), “Let’s also go, so that we may die (apothnesko[G]) with Him (Yeshua).”
How did Yeshua know Elazar (Lazarus) was dead? The messenger was sent with news of grave illness, not death. Clearly, despite the many commentaries to the contrary, Yeshua knew many things outside of time, either by intimate conversation with the Father or simply because He is God with us. Those who attempt to separate Yeshua’s deity and humanity have great difficulty explaining how Yeshua knew things only God could have known.
Yeshua is glad He did not rush to the aid of Elazar (Lazarus) because the coming miraculous sign will be a catalyst for the disciples’ belief, both in the witnessing of it and in the recollection of it, post Yeshua’s own resurrection. His comment “Elazar is dead and I am full of joy for your sakes…” may seem harsh at first but as we read on we can understand why Yeshua was glad. Many times, I’ve wondered at the seeming harshness of God, only to discover at a later date that what looked like cruelty within my situational experience is beheld as glory outside of time. Knowing this we can only ask that God grant us an unnatural ability in trusting Him beyond the grave, for there are some harsh realities for which we will not see a glorious end in this life.
Toma (Thomas) speaks from the heart here, the guy has some chuztpah that’s for sure and he’s not the doubting Thomas we all remember (take note, we’ve all doubted, there is no faith without doubt). Many have supposed a number of options for the, “him,” Thomas is referring to when he says “let’s go so that we might die with him.”: some say he is referring to Elazar (Lazarus) but I find that highly unlikely given that the context of this conversation relates to the danger threatening Yeshua upon His return to Judea.
The only realistic interpretation is that Yeshua is perceived to be taking His life in His hands by returning to Judea to comfort the mourning sisters and family of Elazar (Lazarus). If this is the correct interpretation then Thomas, far from doubting, has become a zealot for Yeshua and (perhaps caught up in the emotion of the moment) has decided to lay his life on the line alongside his Lord. Thomas doesn’t keep his passion to himself either, he excitedly invites all the disciples to do the same.
17 So when (Yeshua) came, He found that Elazar (he) had already been in the tomb/grave (mnemeion[G], bakaver[H]) four days.
It seems based on this time frame that Elazar (Lazarus) had died soon after the messenger had been sent to inform Yeshua and the disciples of Elazar’s illness.
The length of time that Elazar was in the grave is significant due to the fact that there was a first century Jewish belief (other religions like Zoroastrianism also have a similar superstition) that the spirit of a person stayed near the body for three days after death. After four days it was believed there was no chance of resuscitation or resurrection (Vayikra [Leviticus] Rabbah a. 18:1.)
At the four day point, given the lack of modern preservation techniques, the body of Elazar was already beginning to decay and would have stunk badly.
Yeshua raised other’s from the dead (Luke 7:11-17; 8:41-42, 49-56), and both Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead (Elijah, 1 Kings 17:17-24; Elisha, 2 Kings 4:32-37). There are numerous examples in extra Biblical Jewish literature of people being raised from the dead after three days (Midrash Raba Ruth 3:1; Semchos 8 ). Also, modern doctors bring people back from “clinical death”, minutes, sometimes hours after they are declared. However, neither in the Bible nor in all of human history has anyone other than Yeshua resurrected a person who has been dead for more than three days. The fact is that such a person has already begun to decay and is beyond the reach of medical science. What Yeshua was about to do was to bring back to life a four day old rotting corpse. This is why there was such an excited reaction from the people and the religious authorities following this miraculous sign. This kind of display of God’s manifest power was and is terrifying. It stands in opposition to the natural order of the sin affected creation, and that is precisely the point.
18 Now Beit-anya[A] (“house of answering”, Beit-hiyniy[H] house of dates, house of misery, poor house, Bethany) was near Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace, Jerusalem), about five kilometres away; 19 and many of the Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) had come to Marta[H] (Mistress of myrrh, bitter mistress) and Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary), to console them concerning their brother. 20 Marta[H] (Mistress of myrrh, bitter mistress) therefore, when she heard that Yeshua was coming, went to meet Him, but Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary) was sitting (kathezomai[G]) in the house (babeit[H]).
Being a religious Jewish family, it is certain that Miriyam and Marta would have observed some form of sitting shivah (a seven-day period of mourning), one of the requirements being that the immediate family members of the dead were to remain inside the house without footwear, seated on low stools close to the floor in sombre remembrance. The community is tasked with bringing food and providing for the needs of the bereaved and various localized customs are enforced. The Greek text infers the sitting of shivah by using the Greek kathezomai, meaning to sit rather than the Greek katecho (detain, hold back) or epecho (hold, attend), which would make more sense if Miriyam were simply staying behind and not involved in a religious rite.
"the mourner the first week does not go out of the door of his house; the second he goes out, but does not sit, or continue in his place; the third he continues in his place, but does not speak; the fourth, lo, he is as every other man. R. Judah says, there is no need to say, the first week he does not go out of the door of his house, for behold, all come to his house, לנחמו, "to comfort him".'' -Talmud Bavliy Moed Katon, fol. 23. 1.
"on the first day he (the mourner) did not wear his phylacteries; on the second, he put them on; on the third day, others come to comfort him.'' -Massech. Semachot, c. 6. fol. 14. 3.
Maimonides outlines the ancient tradition concerning the comforting of mourners as follows:
תנוחמו מן השמים Job 2:13 Job 2:13 Job 3:1 Job 4:1, and when he nods with his head, the comforters may not sit with him any longer, that they may not trouble him more than is necessary. If a man dies, and there are no mourners to be comforted, ten worthy men go and sit in his place all the seven days of mourning; and the rest of the people gather to them; and if there are not ten fixed every day, ten of the rest of the people gather together, and sit in his place:'' -Maimonides. in Mishnah. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.
The fact that Marta left the house, thus breaking the extra-Biblical rabbinic law, perhaps shows how impacted she had been by Yeshua’s words to her during His previous visit to the home of Miriyam, Marta and Elazar (Luke 10:41-42). At that time Marta had been more concerned with formalities and tradition, now she is willing to disregard religious norms in order to seek out Yeshua.
The, “Therefore,” here refers to the fact that because there were some present who might seek to take hold of Yeshua, Marta would leave quickly and avoid being seen.
Why did Miryam stay in the house? Aside from the fact that she was keeping Jewish religious law regarding sitting shivah (seven days of mourning), the most probable answer is that she hadn’t heard that Yeshua had arrived, after all, the text says that “Marta heard,” and later we read that when Marta secretly told Miryam that the Teacher was there, Miryam got up in a rush to go to Him. It seems likely that Marta had heard of Yeshua’s arrival in secret, due to the fact that to tell of it openly might have endangered Yeshua. Therefore, as soon as Miriyam did know of Yeshua’s arrival she too sought Him out.
21 Marta then said to Yeshua, “Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H]), God (Theos[G]) will give You.”
This seems a reasonable observation from a grieving family member upon the arrival of the physician who could have saved her beloved brother had He been on time (that is, according to human timing). Some read malice into this, I do not. At best I hear incredulity and desperation in Marta’s voice, perhaps confusion, not anger. I think the following line affirms this.
The Aramaic nukhama (arise, resurrect etc.) from the root nukh (rest) makes an intrinsic connection between resurrection and rest.
“Even now I know that whatever You ask of the God, God will give You.” Wow what faith, this is not the Marta we have been told about, she is not the control freak of church tradition (perhaps we all have our weaknesses nu!) Whatever her understanding was, and it clearly wasn’t full by any means, she believes in her Messiah, she desperately cleaves to what she knows her friend Yeshua can do, why? Because she has faith that God (Whom she worships) will give Yeshua (perhaps, in her current estimation merely a prophet but a much loved one) whatever He asks. I suspect that at very least she saw her friend and Rabbi Yeshua as a prophet like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and believed in His ability to do mighty acts for the sake of Israel.
23 Yeshua said to her, “Your brother will rise, recover, be revived, rest (anistemi[G], kum yakum[H], nukhama[A]).” [Heb. reads kum yakum, “rise, has risen”]. 24 Marta said to Him (Yeshua), “I know (yodatiy[H]) that he will rise (yakum[H] Heb. has risen) in the rising [resurrection] (bat’kumah[H]) on the last day (bayom haacharon[H]).”
In hindsight we say, “How could she not know He was referring to the imminent resurrection of Lazarus?” We are all about the instant miracle in the body of believers (Church) today, “Now Lord,” we demand. Perhaps we need to learn the opposite lesson to Marta, perhaps we need to learn to believe again in the Olam Haba (world to come) and the physical, yes I said physical, resurrection of the dead. We will not float in the ether friends, we will be raised to life and given renewed physical bodies for the purpose of living on a new physical earth in the presence of God eternally.
In fact, Marta’s answer is a very good Jewish answer for the time. Other than the Sadducees, almost every Jewish sect believed in the Olam Habba (world to come), the last day (Judgment day), and the physical resurrection of the dead (Daniel 12:2; ). Marta merely responded with the then current Jewish theological understanding (which was not a wrong understanding, it was just incomplete). It was missing the Haf-tarah (filling/completing of the Torah). Again, her proclamation shows great faith even though it lacks a full understanding.
The final resurrection is called "the days of consolation" by the 2nd Century Jewish writers (Targum Jon. in Gen i. 21. & in Hos. vi. 2.)
The P’rushiym (Pharisees) believed in the resurrection [Daniel 12:1-3; Antiquities of the Jews 18:1-4; 2 Maccabee 7:9]. The Saduciym (Sadducees) [Mark 12:18].
25 Yeshua said to her, “I Am (ego eimi[G], Anochiy[H]) the rising [resurrection] (hat’kumah[H]) and the life (hachayiym[H]) [Alt. Aramaic: Ena na nukhama w’khayeh, “I am the all existing resurrection, rest and the living”]; he who believes, trusts, is persuaded (pisteuo[G], hama’amiyn[H]) in Me will live (zao[G], yichyeh[H]) even if he dies [Heb. gam kiy-yamut, “also because he has died”]. 26 and everyone who lives (zao[G], hachay[H]) and believes, trusts, is persuaded (pisteuo[G], hama’amiyniy[H]) in Me will never die (apothnesko[G]). Do you believe, trust (pisteuo[G], hama’amiyn[H]) this?”
Yochanan (author) is again using the Greek language to affirm a living title for HaShem, “I AM that I AM.” This is an unmistakable reference to the Holy One of Israel. Yeshua is claiming to be God with us. In addition, He is identifying Himself to Marta as the past, present and future Resurrection. He is aware that the miraculous sign He is about to perform in the physical world will echo in eternity. The raising of Elazar (Lazarus) and the subsequent affect it has on the people of Judea will become the catalyst for the religious leaders plan to put Yeshua to death. This in turn will produce His resurrection, a resurrection that will take hold of the keys of hades and death and consume them with victory and life.
In addition to Yeshua’s “I AM” statements (John 4:26), Yochanan records seven qualified “I AM” statements:
1.)I AM the bread of life (6:35)
2.)I AM the light of the world (8:12, 9:5)
3.)I AM the gate (10:7)
4.)I AM the good shepherd (10:11, 14)
5.)I AM the resurrection and the life (11:25)
6.)I AM the way, and the truth, and the life (14:6)
7.)I AM the real vine (15:1)
Following His resurrection and ascent to the right hand of the Father Yeshua spoke to Yochanan via His Angel naming Himself as Aleph and Tav (Alpha and Omega) [Rev.1:8], and as the beginning and the Goal (first and last) [Rev. 1:17]. All are unequivocal statements of deity.
When Yeshua says, “and the life,” He is speaking of eternal life: this is the juxtaposition to the temporary sleep of the present physical death (this is not to say that eternal life will not be physical, it will simply be a new kind of physical devoid of the effects of sin: metaphysical in the truest sense). Those who believe in Him then, even when they die in this present life are assured of eternal life beyond the grave, and those who believe in Him and live until His return will simply be transformed. As it is written elsewhere, “We will not all sleep but we will all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51.)
27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]); I have believed, trusted (pisteuo[G], ya’amiyn[H]) that You are the Mashiyach[H] (Messiah, Christ, anointed one), the Son (Ho-Uihos[G], Ha-Ben[H]) of God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H]), He Who comes into the world (ha-olam[H]).”
Marta doesn’t really answer the question. Yeshua is asking if she believes He is the Resurrection, Marta clearly doesn’t understand what He’s asking (and neither would we) so she answers with what she does know, that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One Moses and the prophets had promised to Israel. Again, this shows great faith, however she is yet to understand the all-encompassing reality of what it means for Yeshua to be the Messiah, the Resurrection, and the Living.
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Miriyam[H] (from rebellion, Mary) her sister, saying secretly, privately (lathra[G]), “The Teacher (ho-didaskalos[G], ha-moreh[H]) is here and is calling for you.”
Marta probably says this secretly so as to protect Yeshua from danger. It seems obvious that Miryam had not been aware that Yeshua had come. While Yeshua’s personal request for Miryam is not stated it is inferred by the text. Marta calls Yeshua, Ha Moreh “The Teacher,” using the Greek word didaskalos rather than the religious title rha-bbi (rabbi). Marta is making a confession of her belief that Yeshua is not merely a Jewish Rabbi, He is The Teacher, the One above all others; she leaves no room for confusion here. Perhaps, like Miryam, The Teacher is calling you, drawing you near in your hour of deep grief.
29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. 30 Now Yeshua had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Marta had met Him. 31 Then the Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Miryam got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb/grave (kever[H]) to mourn (klaio[G]) there. 32 Therefore, when Miriyam came where Yeshua was, she saw Him (Yeshua), and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), if You had been here, my brother would not have died (apothnesko[G]).”
Miryam rushed to see Yeshua and in turn the other Judean mourners rushed to pursue her, thinking they were going to the grave site.
The, “therefore,” in the text tells us that it was as a result of Miryam’s rushing that she fell at Yeshua’s feet: exhausted from grief and the emotion fuelled exercise Miryam sees her close friend and Teacher Yeshua and falls at His feet, utterly spent. Miryam then repeats Marta’s question, probably for the same reasons but Yeshua, seeing her exhaustion from passionate grief does not enter into the same teaching dialogue He had shared previously with Marta, why? Because He connects with each person in the appropriate way to minister to their personality and position.
It is likely that given the lack of medical knowledge regarding the difference between the dead and the comatose, that first century Jews visited the grave for at least three days following the burial:
“We go out to the cemetery and examine the dead (to make sure they have not been buried while comatose etc.) for a period of three days, and do not fear being suspected of engaging in the ways of the Ammonites (witchcraft, necromancy and superstition regarding the dead). Once a man who had been buried was examined and found to be alive; he lived for twenty five years more and then died. Another such person lived and had five children and then died.” -S’machot 8:1
"they go to the graves and visit until three days.'' -Massech. Semachot, c. 8. fol. 15. 1.
2Ch 32:33, "they did him honour at his death"; that is, they made a sitting at his grave.” -Maimonides Hilchot Ebel. c. 14. sect. 25.
The post Talmudic tractate of S’machot means “joys” and is used in some sects of Judaism as a euphemism for mourning.
33 When Yeshua therefore saw her mourning, and the Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) who came with her mourning, He was deeply moved in spirit (pneuma[G], ruach[H]) and was indignant, angry, anxious, agitated, distressed (tarasso[G]), 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), come and see.” 35 Yeshua wept. 36 So the Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) were saying, “See what great (rabah[H]) love (phileo[G], ha-ahavah[H]) He (Yeshua) had for his dear friend!”
Some have suggested that Yeshua was angry due to the disbelief of Miryam and those with her, and that He was also angered by the professional mourners’ present (something that is presumed by scholars but not stated in the Scripture account). This seems ludicrous at best, an idea perpetuated by scholars who have never met the merciful and compassionate Messiah of our faith. How could Yeshua be angry with Miryam, who had merely implored Him with the appropriate question of grief? A woman whom the Scripture says, “He loved,” grieving with her friends for the tragic loss of her brother.
Some refer to the conversation with Marta saying that Marta angered Yeshua with her failure to understand: what nonsense, Yeshua is not angered by our inability to understand but rather by our arrogant resistance in the face of understanding. Even if this was the case, Marta is not mentioned here directly.
In fact, the text tells us what Yeshua is angry toward. It says, “Therefore,” that is, having seen what had come before, Miryam’s desperate rushing toward Him in hope of a miracle and “seeing her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was moved in spirit and was indignant, angry, anxious, agitated, distressed.” Yeshua was angry at the work of death itself, at the resulting suffering that death (born of sin, that is of the evil one) had brought to God’s children, and subsequently to Yeshua Himself. He would soon subject Himself to death on a cross for all our sakes.
The Greek word used to describe the weeping (klaio) of the Judeans means a loud wailing however the word used to denote Yeshua’s weeping (dakruo) refers to a quiet, intimate and intense form of weeping. It was this contrasting and authentic grief that those around Yeshua witnessed, therefore causing them to say, “See how He loved him.”
37 But some of them said, “Could not this man (Yeshua), who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying (apothnesko[G])?”
It is important to note that this statement does not have to be interpreted as being malicious. This is simply the valid public expression of the same question both Miryam and Marta had already asked. In addition, this was only spoken by some of those present.
38 So Yeshua, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb/grave (kever[H]). Now it was a cave, and a bolder was lying against it. 39 Yeshua said, “Remove the bolder.” Marta, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord (kurios[G], Adoniy[H]), by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
After four days a body is already aggressively decaying, the skin takes on a grey pallor and is devoid of the natural oils that would normally moisten it. In addition, the stench of decaying biological matter can cause those around the body to reach (vomit). This is compounded by that fact that modern techniques for preserving bodies were not available to the people of first century C.E. Therefore, Marta’s statement is perfectly valid (something that was on the mind of all who heard Yeshua). There is no reason to read anything more than incredulity and confusion into her query, those who do are looking to place blame are missing the point entirely.
Maimonides writes concerning the use of a cave for burial:
"he that sells a place to his friend to make in it a grave or that receives from his friend a place to make in it a grave, עושה מערה, "must make a cave", and open in it eight graves, three on one side and three on another, and two over against the entrance "into the cave": the measure of "the cave" is four cubits by six, and every grave is four cubits long, and six hands broad, and seven high; and there is a space between every grave, on the sides a cubit and a half, and between the two in the middle two cubits.'' -Hilchot Mecira, c. 21. sect. 6.
As explained earlier some religious Jews of the first century probably held an eastern esoteric and superstitious belief, that the soul stayed near the body for three days following death.
Job 14:22.'' -Bereshit Rabba, sect. 100. fol. 88. 2. & T. Hieros. Moed Katon, fol. 82. 2
One Jewish interpretation of Jonah’s time in the whale reads as follows:
"these are the three days a man is in the grave, and his bowels burst; and after three days that defilement is turned upon his face.'' -Zohar in Exod. fol. 78. 2.
Therefore, in first century Jewish terms one is considered to have been properly dead only after three days.
40 Yeshua said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, trust (pisteuo[G], ta’amiyniy[H]), you will see the judgement, glory (doxa[G], k’vod[H]) of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H])?”
What is the glory of God? Certainly, the miracle He is about to perform will bring glory to God and to Yeshua, but is this the ultimate form of the glory that will result from this event? Given that this event is the cause for the inception of the plan to put Yeshua to death I believe that Yeshua is looking past this event to His own death and resurrection. This is the fulfilling of the plan and glory of God relative to humanity.
41 So they removed the bolder. Then Yeshua lifted up (airo[G]) His eyes, and said, “My Father (Aviy[H]), I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I see, perceive (eido[G]) that You always hear Me; but because of the crowd (ochlos[G]) standing around I said it, so that they may believe, trust, be persuaded (pisteuo[G], ya’amiynu[H]) that You sent Me.”
“Lifted up His eyes” means He prayed with His eyes open, something that Jews continue to do today. Traditionally Jews pray standing and with eyes open.
Put in other words Yeshua is saying, “I could simply think this into being without any outward manifestation of power, but I want all these present to understand the relationship You and I have, so I’m going to say it all out loud for their sake.” Yeshua and the Father have been taking about this from before the birth of Moses, this whole event is a performance of grace and redemption, witnessed by the people of Judea.
43 When He (Yeshua) had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Elazar, arise, come out (kum tzei[H]).” 44 The man who had died came out, bound from head to toe with wrappings, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. Yeshua said to them, “loose him, and let him go.”
I see Yeshua here fierce with love for Elazar (Lazarus), screaming to His friend, ignoring death (which is desperately trying to hang on to Lazarus) and with the power of His own coming resurrection His words reach into the transitional grave (kever, NOT Sheol) like a hand wrenching Elazar (Lazarus) up into His light. Elazar (Lazarus), stumbles out of the tomb pulling at the grave cloth around his eyes, trying to see what’s going on, probably dazed and confused as a result of the experience, and perhaps thinking of heading to the mikveh to wash the stink off.
It’s here that I see the culmination of this wonderful miracle. Practically speaking Yeshua is asking that those present help Elazar (Lazarus) out of his grave clothes but there’s more: Yeshua, having raged against death itself is again speaking to death with final resolve, His voice brimming with fierce power, “Unbind my dearly loved friend and let him go!” He demands it. Yeshua speaks these same words on our behalf.
I am reminded of the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953):
“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
From the poem “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night,”by Dylan Thomas, written for his dying father.
45 Therefore many of the Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) who came to Miriyam, and saw what He (Yeshua) had done, believed, trusted (he’emiynu[H]) in Him. 46 But some of them went to the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees, chaste ones) and told them the things which Yeshua had done.
We note that among the Judeans that believed there were many who were religious leaders. We note further that there were also those who did not believe and reported the matter to the P’rushiym. However, we might just as well interpret that those who reported this miraculous sign to the P’rushiym (Pharisees) did so in order to convince them of Yeshua’s Messiahship. After all, the P’rushiym believed in the resurrection, while the Saduciym (Sadducees, many of whom were part of the priesthood) did not believe in the resurrection.
47 Therefore the heads of the priests (archiereus[G], rasheiy hakoheniym[H]) and the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees, chaste ones) convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs (otot[H]). 48 If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe, trust (pisteuo[G], ya’amiynu[H]) in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place (in the land) and our ethnicity (ethnos[G], Israel, Jews).”
The council may have been a meeting of the Sanhedrin (70 Elders, Religious rulers of Israel).
The concern of the religious leaders was primarily to do with the fact that they foresaw a genocide of the Jewish people if a Messianic figure arose. In fact, first century Israeli Jews witnessed an attempted genocide of the Jewish people when the Romans responded to a later Jewish rebellion in 70 C.E. Therefore, practically speaking their concerns were valid.
49 But one of them, Kayafa[H] (for beauty, Caiaphas), who was high priest (Kohen ha-gadol[H]) that year, said to them, “You see, perceive (eido[G]) nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die on behalf of the tribe (laos[G]), lest the whole (holos[G]) ethnicity (ethnos[G], Israel, Jews) perish.” 51 That thing moreover separated (apo[G]) him not to speak except as high priest (kohen ha-gadol[H]) that year, he prophesied that Yeshua was going to die for the ethnicity (ethnos[G], Israel, Jews), 52 and not for the ethnicity (ethnos[G], Israel, Jews) only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the offspring (teknon[G]) of the God (Ho-Theos[G], Ha-Elohiym[H]) who are dispersed (diaskorpizo[G]).
“who was high priest that year” denotes political intrigue in the mixed bloodline priesthood of the first century. Kayafa was high priest between 18 – 36 C.E. (Antiquities of the Jews 18:90-95). However, God honoured the position of high priest regardless of the moral character of that priest, and thus, Kayafa, intending his words to refer to the literal physical benefit to the people of Israel, none the less was prophesying unbeknownst to him, a spiritual truth that reflected the goal of God’s redemptive plan for Israel and the nations.
“We all like sheep have gone astray.
Each of us turned to his own way.
So Adonai has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” -Isaiah 53:6 TLV
53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him (Yeshua). 54 Therefore Yeshua no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]), but went away from there to the region near the wilderness, in the village Ephrayim[H] (double fruitfulness); and there He stayed with the disciples (Talmidim[H]).
This is a significant shift in the religious political leadership. The Sadducees (priests) and Pharisees were diametrically opposed and yet their fear of the potentially imminent annihilation of the Jewish people drove them to join forces in order to kill the man Whom they saw as the spark that would ignite the fury of Rome against them.
The village of Ephraim was located approximately 30 km northeast of Jerusalem.
55 Now the Pesach (Passover) of the religious Jews, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) was near, and many went up to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) out of the country before the Pesach (Passover) in order to ritually purify (hagnizo[G]) themselves.
We are now four months further on in the Biblical Jewish year and have come full circle to arrive at the month of Nisan just prior to Pesach.
Ritual purification prior to Pesach concerns those who may have become ritually unclean in regard to touching dead bodies. This has direct relevance in regard to the recent death and resurrection of Elazar. After all, were those who touched his dead body ritually unclean?
The Torah requires immersion for the purification of those who have touched dead bodies (Numbers 9:10, 13). In some cases purification took seven days (Numbers 31:19-20), which means the festival itself was probably still at least a week away.
56 Consequently they were seeking for Yeshua, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple (hieron[G], hamikdash[H]), “What do you think; that He will not come to the festival (ha-chag[H]) at all?”
The crowds of Jews who had made aliyah from all over Israel and the known world to observe the festival of Pesach (Passover), were all asking after the man who had raised a man from the dead. Why? Because resurrecting the dead was the ultimate sign of a prophet of God and potentially proof that Yeshua was the promised King Messiah and Redeemer of Israel (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37).
Essentially they were asking, “Is this miracle worker going to obey the Torah and make aliyah for this going up festival (Passover), or will He hide in fear rather than keep the Torah requirement?”
The answer is of course, “The Author of the Torah does not break the Torah!” Yeshua would soon be in Jerusalem attending Pesach.
57 Now the head priests (rosheiy hakoheniym[H]) and the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees, chaste ones) had given orders that if anyone knew where He (Yeshua) was, that one was to report it, so that they might seize Him (Yeshua).
Those in power in the religious leadership had made it known to all that Yeshua was a wanted man. The religious Jewish public were therefore obligated to report Him. However, given the many thousands that believed already and the many times they had assisted Yeshua in escaping the religious leaders, it seems likely that many would have refused to inform on Yeshua. What is certain is that as a result of His most recent miraculous sign (witnessed by numerous religious Judeans, both leaders and commoners) had caused great excitement and expectation among the people of Israel.
© Yaakov Brown 2020