1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
John tells this story as proof that Jesus has power over even death.
Throughout the book of John, John has tried very hard to present the clear credentials of Jesus. In chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, John presents Jesus as being rejected by a significant portion of the people, including the Jewish leaders. Specific examples:
Chapter 2) (v.24) “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.”
Chapter 3) (v. 32) “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
Chapter 5) (v. 46, 47) “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
Chapter 6) (v. 26, 27) “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
Chapter 7) (v. 1) “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.”
Chapter 8) (v. 59) “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
Chapter 9) (v. 40, 41) “And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
Chapter 10) (v. 19,20) “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
Chapter 11) (v. 57) “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
I note that only chapter 1 and chapter 4 omit either Jesus statements of men’s lack of faith, or of the fact that many were actively opposing Jesus to the point of wanting His death. Chapter one is dealing very closely with the calling of the disciples, and I find it interesting that the Bible never states about how Judas was chosen. I know that Jesus chose him: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (J. 6:70) But I am never told of the calling of Judas, as I am told of the calling of John, Peter, Andrew, and Bartholomew. Jesus says he called Judas, knowing that Judas would betray Him. At any rate, chapter 1 deals with the calling of his disciples. Curiously chapter 4 also is very positive, teaching about the calling of the one-half Jewish people, the Samaritans. I think this is a way that John has that is of further shame to the Jews, since Jesus found a favorable reception from the Samaritans, even to the point of being asked to stay extra time, and because of it, the Word says: (v. 41) “And because of His words many more became believers.” In a way, perhaps the first chapter might also be viewed as an insult to the Jewish leaders because of the station in life of those chosen. Who did Jesus choose? Fishermen! Tradesmen, and a tax-collector too! It is only the last apostle chosen, and not in the gospels at all, that we find a Pharisee, the recognized religious leaders of the day. Saul of Tarsus, as educated and smart as he was (Some scholars recognize in Paul one of the ten best minds in all of history), was the only Pharisee, and was not chosen until after the ascension.
But it is also a fact that John emphasizes the many who have believed:
Chapter 1- (v. 49) Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.”
Chapter 2- (v. 23) “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.”
Chapter 3- (v. 23) “. . . because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.”
Chapter 4- (v. 41) “And because of his words many more became believers.”
Chapter 5- no example
Chapter 6- no example
Chapter 7- (v. 41) “Others said, ‘He is the Christ.’”
Chapter 8- (v. 30) “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.”
Chapter 9- (v. 38) “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.
Chapter 10- (v. 42) “And in that place many believed in Jesus.”
Chapter 11- (v. 45) “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.”
In conclusion, what I see from this short study is that there were two movements going on. One, opposed to Jesus, opts to kill him. The other movement was a genuine movement of faith in the Son of God, and it moved from the uncertain remark at the end of chapter 2, to the very positive statements at the end of chapters 10 and 11. Many of the people sought to kill Jesus; many also received him as the Son of God, the Savior of the World.
At the Cross
1. Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
2. Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut His glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man, the creature's sin.
4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
While Calvary's cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
5. But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Lyrics: Isaac Watts; Chorus: Ralph Erskine Hudson