32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
(1) Throughout this incident--the narration of which begins at John 11:1, Jesus will be upbraided or condemned. People believe that He has the capacity to work miracles. (Though they don't believe--or trust in--Him as Lord and God.) They think Him heartless--and some, powerless--because He failed to come to Bethany in time to prevent Lazarus' death. Here, even Mary, the one who in Luke's Gospel is commended by Jesus for choosing to listen to Him and His Word while she had the chance, seems to chide Jesus for His tardiness. (Check out John 11:21-22, here in v. 32, and John 11:37.)
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
(1) Raymond Brown writes of the first set of italicized words:
This translates two Greek expressions. The first...is the aorist middle of the verb embrimasthai, which also appears in vs. 38; here the verb is used with the expression to pneumati, "in spirit," while in 38 it is used with en heauto, "in himself"--these are Semitisms for expressing the internal impact of the emotions. The basic meaning of embrismasthai seems to imply an articulate expression of anger...He goes on to point out that the same verb is used to describe Jesus' reaction to the plight of ill and afflicted people, His anger aimed not at the people, but their afflictions. It seems apparent that something similar is happening here: Jesus is upset not only by the grief His friends, Martha and Mary, are enduring in the wake of Lazarus' death, but also their apparent hopelessness. His entire ministry was about bringing hope to the hopeless!
Brown continues to write of the second set of italicized words:
The second expression...is tarassein heauton. Tarassein...implies deep disturbance; here...it means literally "he troubled himself"...(2) Jesus was, of course, Himself a Jew. The word rendered Jew here would better be translated as Judean, people of Judea, what was in Old Testament times, after the splitting of God's people into Samaria to the north and Judea to the south. Judea's religious life remained centered on Jerusalem.
34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
(1) The use of the phrase come and see is ironic in this Gospel. Elsewhere, this invitation is used by Jesus or His disciples in completely different ways. In 1:39, 46, Jesus and then Philip invite people to see the way to life, through Him. The people in Bethany invite Jesus to come and see death. The only thing which life without Christ can invite us to see is death and decay. We who follow Christ have something else to share with people, life forever.
(2) What is "seen" is very important in John's gospel:
And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)John wrote his gospel, he says, so that those who haven't been privileged to see Jesus walk the earth will be able to believe. To Thomas, in John's Gospel, the risen Jesus speaks of the particular blessed status those of us enjoy who haven't seen Him and still believe. Our faith is a special gift from God!
35Jesus began to weep.
(1) A different verb is used of Jesus' weeping than was used in v. 31 of those in the house wailing with Mary and what's used of this group twice in v. 33. The word used in those other places--klaio--refers to ritualistic wailing. (In fact in those days, it was not unknown for there to be professional weepers for just such occasions.) The verb used of Jesus' weeping is dakruo. No doubt John wanted to draw a distinction between the nature of Jesus' reaction to Lazarus' death, born as it was not of a sense of loss so much as a sense of frustration with people who go through the motions of mourning and can't seem to hope.
(2) The custom in first-century Judea, as it continues to be in that part of the world, was for the dead to be buried immediately. Their bodies would be heavily bound in layers of cloth, each layer saturated in perfume and spices meant to combat the stench of death. (Embalming was not practiced by the Judeans.) The body was allowed to decay until, reduced to bones and powder, it would later be transferred to an ossuary.
36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
(1) Here is the third example of condemnation of Jesus for failing to go to Bethany in time to prevent Lazarus' death. Of course, as readers of John's gospel, we know that Jesus deliberately delayed going to Bethany in order to form this seventh and next-to-the-last sign of His lordship over sin and death. (I explain why I call the raising of Lazarus the penultimate--or next-to-the-last- sign here.)
38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
(1) The phrase greatly disturbed translates the same word translated the same way in v. 33 above.
(2) Brown notes:
Vertical shaft tombs were more common for private burial than horizontal cave tombs. The stone kept animals away. The burial place was outside the town because otherwise the living might contract ritual impurity from contact with the corpses of the dead.39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
(1) We have no record of Jesus telling Martha what He says in v. 40. But Chris Haslam suggests that it's implied in His words to her John 11:23-26.
(2) After four days, Lazarus was, as we say, dead as a doornail.
41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
(1) The signs--semeia--that Jesus performed were always meant to point to His power over humanity's enemies of sin, decay, and death and His capacity to give us new life.
44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(1) There is no doubt a figurative, as well as a literal, meaning in Jesus' order. Lazarus would have, as we've already pointed out, been bound tightly and virtually unable to move. But more than that, Jesus was ordering that Lazarus be allowed to live.
(2) I talked about the difference between resurrection and resuscitation here and here.