<< John XI: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
This chapter teaches some of the sublimest lessons contained in the gospel of our Lord and Saviour. It teaches, representatively as well as actually, that life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel. The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead represented the raising up of a church among the Gentiles; for all the miracles wrought by the Lord, as being divine, involved spiritual states of the church. But Lazarus may be considered as representing the Gentiles within the church; for Bethany was in Judea, and, as the home of the loving family of which Lazarus was a member, was a spiritual oasis in the desert of the Jewish church. In its personal application, it teaches the nature of the death in which all men are included, all being included under sin, and the means and the power of their resurrection.
1. The evangelist begins his narrative by saying, Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. The brother of Martha and Mary bears a name which means ” whom God helps.” The spiritual significance of the name may be inferred from the Lord’s having used it in his beautiful parable of the rich man and the beggar. Dives there signifying the Jews, rich in possessing the revealed “Word as the treasury of saving knowledge, and Lazarus signifying the Gentiles, poor in being destitute of that source of the true riches. The Gentile state of those, among whom the Lord was now about to establish his church, is further indicated by Lazarus being of the town of Bethany. The palm tree, which gave its name to this village, afterwards rendered so illustrious by the Lord’s ascension from it into heaven, is the emblem of spiritual goodness. But Bethany was a village, and as such signifies the external things of faith and consequently of the church, cities signifying the internal things of the church, which are eminently meant by Jerusalem, not very remote from which Bethany was situated. This suburban village of the holy city is called the town, not of Lazarus, but of Mary and her sister Martha. Both Lazarus and his sisters represented the Gentile church; but he represented its intellectual, they, its voluntary principle. More specifically, Lazarus was a type of the understanding of truth, Mary and Martha were types of the internal and external, or spiritual and natural affections of which truth is the object. Lazarus may be considered as the Jacob, and Martha and Mary the Leah and Rachel, of the New Testament—with the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. Lazarus only was sick, intimating that among the Gentiles the intellectual life was that which was ill and ready to die, the affections being in a condition of healthy activity—not absolutely but relatively. Among the Gentiles the affections were essentially sound; it was the thought that fell under disease, not having certain truth to inform and guide it. The healthy affections of the mind were the good ground in which the seed of the kingdom could be sown, the medium through which the diseased and the dead intellect could be restored to life and health, as Mary and Martha were the means of bringing divine help to their brother. Lazarus and Mary and Martha were brother and sisters. The relation of sisters and brother is expressive of a less internal spiritual relationship than that of husband and wife j it implies affinity but not conjunction, at least not that intimate conjunction which constitutes oneness. These three, therefore, represent the three principles of spiritual life, love, charity, and faith, harmonious but not united—three, not one. Of these three loving ones Lazarus was sick. The sickness, ending in death, is the subject of the whole of this interesting history, which serves as the vehicle of so much spiritual instruction. The soul sickens as well as the body. Spiritual sickness arises from evil or error counteracting the operation of goodness and truth—from the activity, in fact, of principles opposite to, and destructive of, true life. Such is the sickness represented by that of Lazarus; and as evils are excited into activity by evil spirits, infestation from such enemies is also included in the meaning of sickness. But although Lazarus was sick even unto death, there was one especially who was near and dear to him, through whom he had connection with the Author of health and life.
2 It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. This act of devotion to Jesus was not performed till after Lazarus was raised from the dead, and the pure love and profound humiliation which it signifies were the effect of this restoration to life. “We shall speak of this when we come to the next chapter. Mary is here mentioned alone as the loving one whose brother was sick. And for the purpose; of intimating that it was the intellectual life, considered in its relation to the spiritual affection of the mind, which was diseased and threatened with death, she is called that Mary who anointed the Lord’s feet with ointment, to distinguish her from another Mary who followed the Lord, and to intimate that the affection she represented was that which afterwards made to the Saviour an offering of profound love and gratitude. The present state of Mary and of her sister Martha was one of affliction for the sickness of their brother.
3 The sisters in their affliction sent to Jesus, who was not then in Bethany. In tribulation the Lord appears absent, away from the soul, and distant in proportion to the severity of the trial. But the affliction which produces an appearance of the Lord’s absence, causes the suffering soul to seek his presence. Therefore Mary and Martha sent unto Jesus, saying, Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick. A sense of the Lord’s love in states of tribulation is the foundation of hope and the spirit of prayer. Precious is this sense of love in times of trial. But to have a sense of his love towards us his love must have a place in us. It is his love in our hearts that turns our affections and thoughts to him, to seek the salvation which he only possesses. We have an instance of this described in the first chapter of Revelation, in the beautiful language of correspondence. John heard a voice behind him, saying, I am Alpha and Omega; and when he turned to see the voice that spake with him, he saw the Son of man in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. The Lord’s love flows into the will, and the influence of love on the will turns the understanding to him, to receive his wisdom.
4 It is almost unnecessary to say that Jesus knew of this sickness before he heard the message of Martha and Mary. Spiritually, the Lord hears our prayers, when our expressed desires are in accordance with his will. There is no direct petition in the sisters’ message, but one is implied; for their object in sending to Jesus was to receive his aid. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. The Lord expresses himself in language similar to that which he used relative to the man who was born blind. The sickness, he says, is not unto death, yet Lazarus died. He meant that it was not unto permanent death. It was only unto a death that should result in life. The death of Lazarus was analogous to the death which the righteous die. They die to sin, but by so doing they live to righteousness. They lay down their own life that they may receive life from the Lord. The righteous die daily, yet they never die. Every death unto sin is a resurrection unto the life of righteousness; and even death to the body is resurrection to the spirit. The sickness of Lazarus was also for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Whatever furnished the occasion for the Lord’s divinity acting through his humanity was a means of his glorification. The glory of his divinity shone forth in the act, and the glorification of his humanity was advanced by means of it. But not only was the Lord’s humanity glorified in itself; it was glorified also in those who were the subjects of his operations, for the Lord is also glorified in the salvation of his creatures.
5-7. The evangelist tells us that Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. Delay may seem inconsistent with his love. It is one of the silent rebukes of his love. , “Whom the Lord loves he rebukes and chastens.” His love exposes us to rebuke and chastening. It is the Lord’s love in us that rebukes our self-love, and the chastisement that we undergo is the result of the conflict between them. Those who have not the love of God in their hearts have nothing that rebukes or resists their evils. They have consequently no spiritual temptations (Ps. lxxiii. 5). But neither have they any spiritual triumphs. Although the Lord is a very present help in time of trouble, the tempted soul has no sense of his presence. Temptation is a time of tribulation and darkness, during which the Lord seems far away from the desolate heart. But he is there, though unfelt, and is active, though he seems to withhold his aid. Present in and acting through the hidden springs of spiritual love in the soul, he controls and overrules the conflict so as to make it end in the greatest possible good. The grand end of temptation is the conjunction of goodness and truth,. first in the mind, then and thence in the life. This conjunction is signified by the number two. The Lord abode two days where he was, to represent that in states of temptation he abides, though remote from man’s consciousness, in the interior of the mind, till he has effected the conjunction of good and truth there, that he may come and complete it in the exterior of the mind also. The Lord as the supreme good and truth, effects his entrance into the inferior region of the mind through the goods and truths of the Word. These are meant by his disciples, to whom he now proposes to go into Judea again. He had left Judea on account of the violence of its people, and had gone to the place on the other side Jordan, where John at first baptized. The other side Jordan was principally the region of the Gentiles, the place where John baptized denoting where there is entrance into the church through the baptism of repentance. From this place the Lord now proposes to depart to go into Judea. This going is called again; because spiritual life is a successive ascending and descending from the external to the internal, and from the internal to the external, that by reciprocal and mutual action both may be perfected, and finally conjoined.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee ; and goest thou thither again ? This describes an inquiry suggested by the truths of the Word, which the disciples represent, whether falsities originating in evils, meant by the stones of the Jews, which had opposed the divine truth in the interior of the mind, were not still in hostile opposition to them, and whether the holy truth of the Lord would not be in danger of suffering violence.
9, 10. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. The answer which the Lord now gives does not, in the literal sense, afford any clear meaning in relation to what goes before. Spiritually understood, the connection is clear. When the true church apprehends danger to the truth of good from the falses of evil, as the disciples apprehended danger to Jesus from the disposition of the Jews to stone him, then is the church instructed, that no danger is to be feared while men live according to the truth, meant by walking in the light. Independently of its connection, the Lord here teaches an instructive lesson by beautiful and expressive imagery. The day and the night, the light and the darkness, are, as every one can see, expressive of the two opposite states of knowledge and ignorance, and of truth and error. Every one can see also that ignorance and error cause us to stumble, and that knowledge and truth enable us to walk securely. One of the great uses of truth is that it enables us to know and see the way that leads to goodness and heaven, and to walk with certainty and safety in it. The Lord asks, ” Are there not twelve hours in the day?” The day of probation is long enough to enable us to prepare for heaven. Yet the regenerate life is not attained by one act or in a moment of time, but is perfected by successive states, attained by means of truth. The successive states do not consist in advancing degrees of the knowledge of truth, although these are necessary degrees of the life of truth. We must not only have the light, but must walk in it. And the light that guides us must be in us ; for if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. In the midst of light, we may be in darkness. It is the light that shines, not around us but within us, not in our memories and words but in our hearts and works, that enables us to glorify God in doing good to men, and that thus saves our own souls. The Lord calls this light the light of this world, because though divine in its origin and spiritual in its nature, it enters into and enlightens the natural mind, leading the natural thoughts, and through them the natural affections, in the paths of truth and righteousness.
11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. In the literal sense death is here called sleep, but in the spiritual sense there is a distinction between them. As sleep is the suspension, and death is the extinction, of sensible life, sleep represents a natural state of the intellect, and death a natural state of the will; for when naturalism invades the understanding, the functions of spiritual life are suspended, but when it invades the will, they perish. This distinction is seen in death itself, in which respiration of the lungs ceases before the pulsation of the heart; and the respiration of the lungs corresponds to the life of the understanding, and the pulsation of the heart to the life of the will. Spiritual death proceeds in the same order as natural death; first the life of. the intellect ceases, then the life of the will. When intellectual life, or the life of truth ceases, man sleeps; when voluntary life, or the life of good ceases, he dies. This is the distinction meant by sleep and death in the Lord’s words respecting Lazarus. And the same distinction is meant by the Lord’s going to awaken Lazarus out of sleep, and raising him from, the dead. The act indeed was one, but the life which he imparted was twofold, intellectual and voluntary, the life of good and of truth, of faith and of love.
12 When the Lord said Lazarus was asleep, the disciples answered, If he sleep, he shall do well. They thought not of the sleep of death, but of that which ministers to life and health, of that sleep which the Lord gives, and of which the living say, ” I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep : for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. iv. 8); the sleep into which unfallen Adam was cast, during which the hard intellectual selfhood was taken out of him, and built up into a living form of life and beauty. This recreative sleep existed on earth when as yet there was no death, as it exists in heaven, where they know not what death is. Spiritual like natural sleep is a state in which man is passive and God alone is active, in which the Divine life supplies the waste which human energy has expended, and restores the equilibrium which it has disturbed. Had such been the sleep of Lazarus, he would have done well; but his sleep was something more than this.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. To those who die while they live, death is the extinction of their carnal life. The disciple of the Lord dies daily. Every act of self-denial is a dying to sin, and these daily acts lead to a full and final laying down of the life of the corrupt selfhood. Yet on the part of the self-hood this is not a voluntary act. Our Lord’s own case affords the highest example of this. He laid down his life, no one took it from him; yet even he shrank from the last agony, and prayed that the cup might pass from him; his life also was taken by his enemies, and in them it was a wicked deed. The death of the selfhood is an agony, and is effected by the agency of evil spirits, who excite it into activity. Their purpose is the destruction of the whole man; but when the conflict is over, they find themselves only in possession of the body of sin ; the soul of righteousness, which had lived in it, is safe in the hand of the Lord, who is the Conqueror of hell and of death.
14 Then Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. He announced the end of the conflict, even to the giving up of the life of the old man, though not yet to the taking up the life of the new. This is another act.
15 It is because even this kind of death is the gate of life, that the Lord said to his disciples, And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe. The Lord is intimately present with the Christian in states of temptation, without whose power he would utterly fail; but he is present in the final ends and tranquil affections of the inner life, not in the tumult of conflicting passions in the outer man. We are ruled by our ends, and on these the result of temptation depends. If the Lord is in our ends of life, he is then in all the conflicts of life, working out a happy issue; but his presence is not perceived; he even seems to be far away. If his presence were perceived in times of tribulation, the temptation would be arrested, and the evil in which it originated would remain unsubdued. If the Lord’s presence be perceived, there can be none of the tribulation of temptation. The presence of the one implies the absence of the other. The Lord is not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the still small voice which is heard when all the noise and tumult of temptation is past (1 Kings xix. 11, 12). The children of the bride-chamber cannot fast so long as the bridegroom is with them. Jesus was glad that he was not there when Lazarus was sick; and he was glad for the sake of his disciples, that they might believe. Temptation is permitted, and is allowed to go on to its end, for the purpose of confirming our faith, for that which removes evil removes obstructions to faith and to every other grace. In. the historical sense, the death of one is here permitted for the benefit of others; and no doubt every such dispensation is for use to the living as well as to the dead, but in the spiritual sense all the persons concerned are members of one body, who suffer and rejoice together—principles in one person, which, however distinct, participate in the common good or ill. The disciples represent all the principles of goodness and truth which constitute the church or the kingdom of the Lord in the human mind. How then could they require to be confirmed in faith? These principles are confirmed in faith when they are confirmed in the human mind. They believe when they are believed. Truth itself cannot doubt or disbelieve, yet there can be no doubt or disbelief without it. What is doubt or disbelief, but doubt or disbelief of the truth ? Doubt comes between a state of knowledge and a state of faith. As perfect love casteth out fear, so perfect faith casteth out doubt j and doubt and disbelief must pass through a death, that faith may experience a resurrection. A new faith was to be begotten in the disciples at the tomb of Lazarus. Therefore said our Lord, Let us go unto him.
16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Literally, this refers to the death of Jesus. which the disciples apprehended from the violence of the Jews(V. 18). Spiritually, willingness to die with Jesus is willingness to die his death, that we may obtain his resurrection. The apostle Paul speaks of us dying with Christ, that we may rise with him. This dying is proposed by Thomas. That apostle, who refused to believe in the Lord’s resurrection till he had put his fingers into the prints of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side, represented sensuous faith, or, in reference to that which is believed, the truth which addresses itself to the senses. What then do we learn from this proposal coming from Thomas ? We learn that even the most external truths of the Word teach the necessity of following the Lord unto death; and that the most external faith-necessarily includes it. And that which is included, in the lowest truth is contained in and is the concurrent testimony of all truth, meant by Thomas saying unto his fellow-disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 Then, when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Four, like two, signifies conjunction. Death, in regard to the evil, is the conjunction of evil and falsity, as life is of goodness and truth; but in respect to the regenerating man, it signifies the laying down of the life of the selfhood, as to everything evil and false. But Lazarus had not only been dead, but had lain in the grave four days. There is a difference between death and burial, between being dead and in the grave. Death is the extinction of life, burial the rejection of that which is dead. The grave therefore signifies a state of deeper temptation than death itself; so that to bring one up from the grave, is expressive of deliverance from a deeper state of spiritual death, or spiritual temptation, than simply restoration to life. In the “Word we find death and the grave mentioned together; and one of the most impassioned predictions of the Lord’s coming represents him as exclaiming, ” I will ransom them from the power of tho grave ; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hosea xiii. 14). Death and the grave, or death and hell, are the two evils opposed to life and heaven, which the Lord came to conquer.
18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off. The history now turns from the dead to the living, and first to the place where they reside. Bethany already mentioned as the place of Martha and Mary, is now spoken of as to its distance from Jerusalem. Bethany being nigh to Jerusalem teaches us that the state of the Gentiles within the church was but little removed from that of the church itself. The relative state is more exactly described by the measured distance of the village from the city—about fifteen furlongs. Furlongs, like the ways measured by them, signify progression by successive stages from one state to another. The number fifteen derives its signification from its components, ten and five. Ten signifies remains, and five a little. Thus understood, the distance of Bethany from Jerusalem tells us that, even with those within the church who were in a Gentile or simple state, the ” remains ” of truth were so few that hardly anything of intellectual spiritual life existed. The spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak, and even dead. Affection for good and truth remained in the inward man, but there was no corresponding living truth and good in the outward man. And when this is the case, man is practically dead; for spiritual life consists in the united and harmonious action of affection and thought, and of charity and faith. There is this, however, to be observed, that where there is inward affection, there is not only the capacity but the desire for new life ; which is not the case when affection itself is dead. The sisters of Lazarus survived him, and through them the dead was restored to life.
19 Before Jesus arrived, many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. The Jews are those who belong to the church; abstractly, they are the principles of the church. The principles of the church, even when the church is in a perverted state, afford comfort and support to the affections in states of desolation. And even when the truths of the Word are perverted, the single-minded can see and receive them without the perversion. For truths are not perverted in themselves, but in human minds, and in their explanation and application of them; and in the simple who receive them without the subtle reasoning which falsifies them, find many that comfort them in their affliction, and that comfort them as the Jews comforted Martha and Mary, “concerning their brother.” The brother of the affections of charity, which belong to the inner man, is the good of faith and charity in the outer man; and even in regard to this, the loving always find many truths which administer comfort and inspire hope.
20 But another and higher comforter was now approaching. Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Hearing of the Lord’s approach, Martha did not take time to inform her sister, but went at once to meet him. Comparatively external, the natural affection of truth receives the first notice of the Lord’s approach, and first goes forth to meet him; the spiritual affection, which is more interior, remaining for a time unconscious and inactive in the will, which is its house, except that its influence extends to the lower faculty, which it aids in its perceptions and determinations.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Whether we regard the death of Lazarus as representing the end of the church or the crisis of individual temptation, the presence of Jesus would prevent that death; but Jesus withheld his presence, because in each case there must be death that there may be life, an end that there may be a beginning.
22 But (continues Martha) I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Martha evidently desired and looked to the restoration of her brother. Martha, it may be supposed, had at this time no very just idea of the divinity of the Lord, but she evidently thought him, endowed with more than human power, or had power with. God, otherwise she could not have thought that whatever he asked of God, even to the revival of her brother to life, would be granted to his prayers. But whatever may have been her own ideas, she speaks the spiritual faith of those who are being regenerated, when they approach the Lord’s divinity through his humanity, and feel entirely satisfied that whatsoever the Lord’s divine truth approves, his divine love will bestow; for when God is mentioned in relation to Jesus, the Lord’s divinity or his divine love is meant.
23 In answer to this expression of Martha’s confidence in the Lord’s ability to procure whatever he saw good to ask, Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Spiritually understood, this is significative of a hope and belief, inspired by the Lord into the minds of the faithful after temptation, that its result will be the restoration to life of that which has died in the conflict, and that, according to the Lord’s own promise, the life that is laid down shall be received again, so that every trial in which one is faithful unto death shall receive a crown of life.
24 On receiving this assurance, Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Naturally considered, this affords an instructive instance of the form which divine truth takes in the minds of men, according to the particular notion they happen to entertain on any subject of religious belief. When the Lord spoke of the resurrection, Martha understood his words in her own way, different from the meaning of him who uttered them. And so it is still in this and many other subjects of doctrine. God’s truth is often very different in the human mind from what it is in the divine mind, and declared in the divine Word. When it enters the understanding, it is moulded by the preconceived notion or belief. On the subject of the resurrection, how much do the words of Scripture assume, in the minds of men, the form that the Lord’s words took in the mind of Martha. The men of the church, when the rising from the dead is mentioned, very generally think as Martha spoke, that the dead will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. On the contrary, if the language of inspiration be allowed to express its own divine meaning, it will be found to teach, what our Lord intended to teach Martha, that the resurrection takes place now—immediately after the death of the body. In the present instance, indeed, the resurrection of Lazarus was but a natural and temporary restoration; but it was the symbol of the true resurrection, both from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, and from the dead body into the eternal world. Spiritually, the words of Martha express the first impressions that the words of promise make upon the mind after temptation, that renewal is only to be expected when all the states of life have run their course and come to their final conclusion; and that faith, or rather the good of faith, which is the brother, shall only be restored to the affections of truth and good, which are the sisters, when the last state of the life of reformation has come.
25, 26. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life. One of the greatest and most blessed of the truths revealed in the gospel is that which our Lord now announces, that he is the resurrection and the life. He is the resurrection, as the first begotten from the dead. To understand and see the force of this divine attribution, we must divest our minds of the idea that the Lord’s was the first of a universal resurrection of bodies “at the last day of this world.” Jesus, it is true, rose with his body; but his resurrection was identical with his glorification; and his glorification answers to our regeneration. That from which the Lord came to deliver us was spiritual death. He took upon himself human nature as it was degenerate and even dead; and he made it not only living hut Life, not only perfect but Perfection. Natural death was not the fruit of sin. The Creator never intended to bestow natural immortality upon man. Man was made for another and higher state of existence. To this, natural death and the grave were the necessary passage. The body, once removed, can never be resumed; it can never rise from the dead. Far more stupendous was the Lord’s resurrection, and far more beneficent its design, than to be the first-fruits of a resurrection of dead material bodies. By his divine work the Lord became the resurrection and the life, as the author of our resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. He indeed, raised up the body of Lazarus, but this was only a temporary, and a type of the true, resurrection. This is evident from the Lord’s own words on this occasion. For when calling himself the resurrection and the life, he adds, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die. Only of the spiritually dead could this be said. They only, being dead, can believe, and being alive, can never die. And well may the Lord demand of us, as he did of Martha, Believest thou this? This belief brings salvation, for it brings us into living connection with him who is to us the resurrection and the life; but what spiritual profit could there be in believing that, because Jesus rose from the grave, we shall rise likewise? No; it was to give life to our souls, not to our bodies, that the Lord became the first-begotten from the dead, the first -fruits of them that slept.
The subject requires little difference of treatment or application. As the Lord himself passed this death to become the resurrection, so must his disciples : he by his own power, they by his power in them. Dying to sin is the death of the righteous; living to Christ is their resurrection. And when the Lord’s resurrection life is wrought into the affections, then it is that, through them, life is communicated to the natural or external thoughts, and that the believer is raised into newness of life. His demand to Martha is therefore an appeal to all the spiritually dead. It is obvious that the dead who can hear the voice of the Son of man, and can believe in him, must have the faculty of hearing and believing. However dead in sin a man may be, the faculty of believing and loving never dies; and in all minds something of affection for goodness and truth, insinuated into every mind in early life, is providentially preserved. Thus then the Lord addresses us; through these he raises us up. These are the Martha and Mary, through whose belief and love the dead soul is raised to life.
27 To the question of the Saviour, Believest thou this? Martha answers, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. Whatever phases her faith had passed through respecting her brother’s death and the Lord’s power to restore him; her belief had now reached its culminating point, or at least it came out in all its fulness, as if she felt that everything that Jesus could be to her and her sister, or could demand of them, was included in this, that he was the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world. It has been remarked on this part of the narrative, that Martha shows some degree of vacillation, as if she hardly knew what to believe or hope. After temptation there is fluctuation, as, in ordinary circumstances, after a storm at sea, there is an agitation of the waters before they subside into repose. This state of fluctuation takes place between death and resurrection, and is the state here described. In this state there is an alternate looking backwards and forwards, as Martha looked back to her brother’s death, as a catastrophe which might have been prevented, and then forward to something that Jesus might still do for the sisters in their calamity, even to the restoring of Lazarus. There is also a fluctuation in the state of one’s faith; but this is substantially at an end when the soul is able to end all reasonings and doubts, in the full assurance that he on whom, we have to lean is the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world. The Lord is to us the Christ, when he is the divine Truth, that enlightens our darkness and dissipates our unbelief; he is the Son of God to us, when we not only see that he is the omnipotent Truth, but when we know that, as the eternal Truth, he proceeds from infinite Love, and that both- are embodied in Ms divine humanity. And he comes into the world practically to us, when the power of his truth and the influence of his love are manifested in our experience, in ruling and sanctifying the affections and thoughts of our natural mind.
28 “When the faith of Martha is thus called into action and fixed by confession, she goes away and calls Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. The good natural affection excites the spiritual affection. Martha is said to tell her sister secretly or privately, to express the spiritual idea that our affections act upon each other imperceptibly; and that spiritual affections themselves are to receive these impressions and communications apart from all other extraneous affections, such as were represented by those who came to comfort the sisters concerning their brother. The joyful announcement is made, ” The Master is come.” The Comforter, the Restorer, is here. He who in the dark hours of tribulation had been absent; who was sent for and longed for, but had never appeared, he is now come. What joy to the tempted soul, sitting in desolation, to be made sensible of the presence of him who himself has known all our tribulations, though he seemed willing to leave us in our affliction. But he has not only come, but ” calleth for thee.” There is still greater cause to rejoice. The Lord’s call is general and particular. The general call is given to every human being. Spiritually, Ms general call is to those who know him, Ms particular call is to those who love him. These are they whom he calls by name, whose character is in harmony with his own, and whose affections and thoughts are admissive of his love and truth. In this simple relation we see the nature and purpose of the Divine operation upon our souls. The Lord comes to us by influx into our affections, and his purpose is to draw those affections to himself, and by their means to turn our thoughts to him as their life and light.
29 Mary, who rejoiced in her Saviour’s presence, was not slow to answer his call. As soon as she heard, she arose quickly, and came unto him. To hear is to perceive from affection, as to see is to perceive from thought. A sense of the Divine presence produces elevation of heart, which is spiritually to rise, and when the affection is ardent, this is done quickly, for ardency of feeling produces celerity of motion, and is therefore represented by it. When quickness is predicated of the divine Being, as when the Lord promises to come quickly, it means certainly; but this can be only conditionally promised as the result of human action. Mary, when she had risen up, came to Jesus : and the practical way of coming to the Lord is to do his will. All elevation is of the will, all progression is of the life. These are real changes of state, which bring us nearer to Jesus, because they make us more like him.
30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. Martha, as representing the natural affection, went out to meet Jesus before he entered the town, while Mary sat still in the house. A house in a town is comparatively as the will in the understanding, the will being the home of those principles which are the objects of our life’s love, and the understanding being the dwelling-place of those principles which are the objects of our general affections and perceptions. Jesus had not entered into the town, much less into the house, but was without. In our states of spiritual affliction, Jesus, to our own consciousness at least, is out of our hearts and even of our understandings. Our love for him has not indeed died out, but he seems not to be there ; we have a sense of want and desolation. The signs of renewing life are manifested in our going out to meet him, when we become aware of his approach. He comes to us ; and we should go out to meet him -, and if we do so, he will return with us into the heart and mind, where he desires to be with us as our Saviour and friend. The state of those who are being regenerated, when the Lord has visited them in their temptations, but has not yet entered, as the Healer and Restorer, as their Saviour and Comforter, into their understandings and hearts, is representatively described in Jesus, who had come to the aid of the sisters, not yet having come into the town, but being in the place where Martha met him.
31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. In the Word the Jews have the same signification as Judah, from whom they were descended, and denote principles of good, or, in the opposite sense, of evil. It is no doubt on account of their representative character that the people are generally called Jews in the gospel of John, where the name occurs much more frequently than in all the other gospels together. John is eminently the evangelist, as well as the apostle, of love and goodness. In the internal historical sense, these Jews were those of the old who had attached themselves to the new Church which was about to be raised up by the Lord, or had come under the influence of the affection by which it was distinguished. Their following Mary further expresses the willingness of such adherents to act and live under the influence of the spiritual affection of good and truth. In the internal sense, they represent good principles existing in the mind as knowledges, that trial and temptation have called into action and brought into sympathetic connection with the spiritual affection of good and truth in the heart, and which follow where it leads. These Jews were, however, under the impression that Mary was going to the grave to weep there, being yet unaware that she was going, not merely to lament for the dead, but to meet him that liveth and giveth life. This they had yet to learn.
32 Then when Mary had come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Mary expresses the same regretful sentiment that had been uttered by Martha; but in Mary it is accompanied with a more profound humiliation : she falls down at the Lord’s feet and worships him. The sight of Jesus was sufficient to produce this prostration. And this sight was evidently, in her case, an act of true faith, which it also represented, faith looking upon its supreme and beloved Object through the eye of sense as well as through the eye of the mind. Mary came, and saw, and worshipped. This was to be expected of her who sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word. The higher the love, the deeper the humiliation. And when Mary had thrown herself at her Saviour’s feet, she uttered the lamentation, which spoke of her confidence in the divine power of Jesus, ” Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” It is much to know that Jesus can preserve from death, it is more to know that he can restore to life. This Mary and Martha were about to see with their eyes; as all may with the eye of faith, if they will but rely on the Lord for new and eternal life.
33 And now we come to one of the most touching manifestations which the gospel records of the human character of our blessed Lord. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. The scene on which we now enter exhibits the great, instructive, and consolatory truth, that the Lord and Saviour has a fellow-feeling with the sufferings and sorrows of the objects of his saving mercy. This truth is well expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews. ” For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (iv. 15). The Lord knew the infirmities of our nature, and commiserated our condition, and was as willing to relieve and help us before, as he was after, his incarnation. It maybe said that before his incarnation he felt for us, that since his incarnation he feels with us. The advantage, in this respect, that we derive from the Lord’s manifestation in the flesh is, that having, as a man, passed through all human sorrow, suffering, and temptation, he can now, through his humanity, enter into all these states in our human experience, with the power to support us under them, and bring us through them, into states of spiritual and heavenly life, in which all sorrow and suffering shall cease. The Lord having been in all points tempted as we are, but without sin, he entered into all the feelings of humanity apart from their impurity, and consecrated all human affections to the service of his Divinity. The Lord’s Humanity pervades all humanity as a quickening spirit, ready to spiritualize and sanctify all human sorrows. We have a manifestation of the sympathy or fellow-feeling of the Lord with men in the circumstance, which is here recorded, of Jesus, when he saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, “groaning in the spirit, and being troubled.” “Weeping is the effect of love and sorrow. Sorrow is bereaved affection; we only grieve where we love. But in death there is joy as well as sorrow—joy that a man is born into the eternal world. Weeping for the dead is expressive of the first, not exclusive of the second; the Christian does not sorrow as those who have no hope. Spiritually, that now treated is the state which intervenes between death and resurrection, when the old man has died, and the new man does not yet live, when the soul has a returning sense of the divine presence, though not yet of the divine power. It is then that Mary weeps, and the Jews that are with her; that spiritual affection, bereaved of the truth which had been the object of its attachment, and on which it leaned for support and protection, has sorrow, which, for the moment, is increased by a sense of the divine presence, as our great sorrows are by the sight of a beloved friend, which calls up the remembrance of our calamity, and most when that friend most deeply sympathizes with us. And not only is the ruling affection thus moved, the attendant affections are moved with it, as Mary’s Jewish friends wept with her. But the most striking and important circumstance in this part of the narrative is the influence which the sorrow of the sister of Lazarus and those who followed her had upon Jesus. When he saw Mary weeping, and the Jews that were with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled. In regard to the Lord when on earth, his indwelling Divinity produced in his frail humanity the same feelings and the same modes of giving vent to them that he now does in us. The human feelings of Jesus might be partly emotional, but essentially they were the outbirth of his divine love, as tender mercy and compassion, clothed in the susceptibilities of the human nature, in which his divinity, with all its attributes, dwelt. Even in the literal sense of the present passage this idea is expressed, for it reads, not that he was troubled, but that he troubled himself. This finiteness of these human feelings was, however, removed when the Lord glorified his humanity. Yet those Scriptures which ascribe these merely human feelings to the Lord are still true. They cannot be true absolutely, but they are true, and will ever remain true, relatively. According to the letter of Scripture, the Lord is moved by the tears and prayers of his creatures. This is an appearance, the real truth being, that the Lord’s love is moved in us, when our hearts are touched by its divine influence. The Lord never groans in spirit or is troubled in himself, but he groans and is troubled in us, when in spirit we groan and are troubled on account of our sinfulness, and pray to him for deliverance. The Lord’s groaning and tribulation of spirit at the grave of Lazarus were, as we afterwards learn, inward prayers, which he addressed to the Father. Such human prayers were offered by him in Ids states of humiliation; now, he only prays in us, or enables us to pray, in our states of humiliation. The same truth is expressed, though not by the same word, by the apostle, where he says, that ” the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. viii. 26). It may be evident to every one that the Spirit of the Lord can neither intercede nor groan, except in and through the human mind. The idea of personal intercession by a divine Spirit, agitated by human emotions, is inconsistent with every just conception of the nature of an infinite and unchangeable Being. Only in the finite mind can the infinite Spirit assume finite human feelings, and express itself by them; and only through the finite mind can there be intercession with God. So with the groaning of Jesus. The Lord still groans in spirit and is troubled, when he inspires the loving and devout mind with a deep sense of its infirmities and unworthiness, and with an earnest desire to receive from him the blessing of eternal life.
34 The Lord now asks, where have ye laid him? Here again is an apparent truth. Jesus, who at a distance knew when Lazarus died, could not but know where he was buried. Yet he asks, as if he needed to be informed; but he asks for our sake. The question Where? has an important meaning for us. We may call to remembrance the mournful complaint of Mary. ” They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” In the present case, Jesus himself is the speaker. As place is the symbol of state, the Lord’s question, Where have they laid him ? is designed to lead us to reflect on the state of deadness which exists in our own minds, and as we ourselves have left it. But the Lord asks that we may answer him. What we seem to reveal to the Lord, is in truth a revelation from the Lord to us. So with the answer of those to whom he addressed his inquiry, Lord, come and see. The Lord comes and sees, when he enables us to come and see. All progression and perception which the Word predicates of the Lord is to be understood of the Lord in us. When his love is increased in our hearts, he comes; when his wisdom is increased in our understanding, he sees. To ask the Lord to come and see where Lazarus was laid, is to desire that the influence of the Lord’s love and the light of his truth may be brought to bear upon the natural mind, and upon the principle of faith which lies buried in it, having died because of the absence of him who is both its life and light, for Martha herself testified, ” If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
35 Jesus wept. How solemn, impressive, and significant! Jesus weeping was Divine love grieving. When the Son of man wept, it was not for Lazarus alone, who had fallen asleep that he might be awakened again, who had died that he might be restored to the temporary enjoyment of natural life. The Lord wept over the spiritual condition of those whom Lazarus represented. In the largest sense, he was a type of the human race. Death had seized upon them, the grave had swallowed them up. Such was the state of mankind at the time of the Lord’s coming, as described by prophets and apostles. It is evident from his words to Martha, that Jesus then looked through the scene presented at the grave of Lazarus, to one of immeasurably greater importance. He looked through the temporary death and resurrection of Lazarus to the spiritual death and resurrection of mankind—to the death in which he found them at his coming, to the resurrection which he came to provide for them. Such a view of the subject makes the occasion worthy of the tears of him who came to save his people from their sins. And when thus contemplated, how significant and precious do the tears of Jesus become ! Most real and expressive are they when known to have been shed over the spiritual condition of the human race. Had Jesus been nothing more than man, his tears might have been an appropriate tribute of natural affection for the death of a friend. But regarded as God-Man, whose love embraced the whole human race, whom he had come to seek and to save, we can hardly conceive it possible that the case of Lazarus could demand or deserve such a manifestation of feeling. When the whole race of sinful men in their lost condition was before the mind of the Saviour, we can see that his tears, were not the eifect of mere human feeling for the transient death, or suspended animation, of a single human being, but the effect and expression of infinite love for the spiritual death and eternal ruin of the whole human family. More eloquently than words do the Lord’s tears tell of his tender mercies towards the race of fallen men, dead in trespasses and sins. If the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears received for her much love forgiveness of her many sins (Luke vii. 47), how much more must human sinfulness have been washed away by the tears of Jesus himself, which flowed from the fountain of his tender and unchangeable love. But Jesus wept over us that he might weep in us. His tears of sorrow for sinners were designed to become in sinners tears of sorrow for sin. Thus only can his tears blot out their transgressions, and prepare the mind for the reception of new life.
36 When they saw Jesus weeping, Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! Much more may we say, behold how he loved mankind, then sitting in darkness and the shadow of death! But the Lord’s love for Lazarus was not for his person. The Lord loves, as he respects, not the persons of men, but that in them which is lovable, by a Being who is himself pure love. It is true that, while his love is infinite and impartial, he is yet said to love some more than others. He loved John more than the other disciples. He loves those more who have more of his love in them. This is the only kind of partiality of which divine love is capable. The Lord loves the good qualities of men, and the men on account of them. We utter the exclamation of the Jews, but from a higher view of the subject, when we have some perception of the nature of the Lord’s love, which was manifested in the redemption of the human race, and which is still manifested in the salvation of all who come to him that they may have life.
37 Some of the Jews said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the Mind, have caused that even this man should not have died. The Lord once said, Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk ? Both are alike easy to him who is the bestower of natural and spiritual life. He who opened the eyes of the blind could have prevented the death of Lazarus, but it was not the Lord’s purpose to prevent his death, but to restore him to life. Considering Lazarus as a type of humanity, the question of the Jews is sometimes asked by others: could not the Lord have caused that mankind should not have died spiritually ? If this could have been done, consistently with the nature of God and of man, it would not have been left undone. The Lord did not interpose to save Lazarus from natural death; he had not interposed to prevent man from spiritually dying. Human freedom stood in the way of compulsory sinlcssness. God cannot forcibly prevent sin nor secure righteousness. He who bestowed free-will, cannot forcibly oppose it. To do so would be to contradict himself, which is impossible. “When sin had entered into the world, and death by sin, they were permitted to reign till the fulness of time, when God came into the world to redeem men from death, and to provide for their salvation in a way consistent with the freedom he had bestowed upon them as an inalienable gift. Indeed, redemption consisted in the restoration of human freedom, which the preponderance of the power of hell over that of heaven, and the power of evil over that of good, had partially destroyed.
38 After recording what the Jews said on seeing Jesus weep, the evangelist proceeds : Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. The ardency of the Lord’s love thus again expresses itself, when brought, by the medium of the humanity, into immediate connection with the spiritual state of man, as represented by the natural condition of Lazarus. As the grave is the house of the dead, it denotes the mind itself, especially the natural, sensual, and corporeal degree of the mind, in which every thing spiritual lies as it were dead and buried, till awakened into life by the Lord’s regenerating power. In this case, we may justly say that the man himself is dead and buried. Not the sensual but the rational nature is the man; and where the rational is immersed in the sensual, the man is, in the Scripture sense, dead and buried. The grave in which Lazarus was laid was a cave ; and this expresses obscurity of the mind in respect to spiritual things. A cave is frequently mentioned in the “Word, and signifies obscurity of mind in regard to truth; as the cave in which Elijah hid himself when he fled from Jezebel, representing that the Word itself, which the prophet represented, was hid from the church during the evil reign of Ahab. On the cave, in which Lazarus was laid, was a stone. In a good sense, a stone is the symbol of truth, such as it is in the letter of the Word, and therefore also of the appearances of truth, of which the literal sense for the most part consists. The dead in a cave, with a stone upon it, presents a type of one who is in a natural state, and whose understanding is obscured and confined by the appearances of truth, the fallacies of the senses, and the false persuasions drawn from them.
39 To deliver the soul from death, at least from that which may be called intellectual death, the first thing to be done is to remove the appearances of truth, which have given rise to false persuasions, and have been used to favour the evils of the will and obscure the perceptions of the understanding. Therefore Jesus said, Take away the stone. But natural affection, or the affection of the natural mind, offers obstruction to the divine operation for removing the appearances of truth ; for to this affection it seems that restoration to life is hopeless, seeing that the object of its attachment, faith, with the good which proceeds from it, has not only ceased to live, but has gone to corruption. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. The objection to the removal of the stone by Martha, did not, however, arise from a negative spirit, but from a conviction that the case of Lazarus was a hopeless one. Not doubt, but despair, is expressed by the sister of Lazarus, when she said, By this time he stinketh. Sweet smells correspond to perceptions of goodness and truth, and unpleasant smells, to perceptions of evil and falsity. This is the source of spiritual corruption. Evil and falsity do not, however, produce offensive odours, or, to use Martha’s term, do not stink, to those who are in the love of them, but to those who are in the affection of goodness and truth, for the quality of evil and falsity is perceived from their opposites : therefore this remark is made by Martha, who represents a good affection, and those who possess it. But although this just remark of Martha’s expresses the truth according to the ordinary law, it does not follow that the body of Lazarus was in the state of decay which her words express. Lazarus had been dead four days, but his body may not have seen corruption. The separation of the soul from the body does not take place generally till the third day after death; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that in the case of Lazarus this separation had been prevented, so that, although in the ordinary sense of the term dead, he was really, as our Lord expressed it, in sleep—a sleep, however, from which he never could have awakened but for the exercise of the Lord’s power. This does not lessen but rather increases the magnitude of the miracle. It implies two miracles instead of one—the miracle of preserving him from corruption, and the miracle of raising him again from the dead. This view corresponds better, too, with the state of the Gentiles, and of those who are in the extremity of temptation, whom Lazarus represented. And here we may say that corruption represents, not the extinction, but the. profanation of goodness and truth; for the greatest corruption and most offensive of all spiritual odours arise from the profane mixing of good and evil. Now the Gentiles, though they were in evil and falsity, were not in profanation ; for those who do not know things holy, cannot profane them. Those who undergo temptation may indeed profane these holy principles; but profanation in their case is the result of falling in temptation ; and those who grievously fall in temptation, are seldom the subjects of spiritual resurrection. Those who obtain the resurrection, may have been in that state which was represented in Lazarus being dead four days ; but they are not in that state of corruption which implies the complete separation of soul and body—they are dead, but they still have within them that which can be recalled to life. There may be a conjunction of evil and falsity; but this state may not have been confirmed, much less may profanation have ensued : the affection, which is the soul of truth, may still be there; and divine power can enable it to reanimate the body, and make the soul spiritually live again.
40 To Martha’s conviction of corruption, Jesus presented the alternative of belief as the hope of glory. Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou wouldest see the glory of God ? But why should the resurrection of Lazarus be dependent on another’s faith ? This is an interesting question, and it is one that relates, not to the case of Lazarus only, but to that of others, many of the Lord’s cures having been performed through the faith, not of the persons cured, but of their relations. It teaches us that, spiritually, faith is an act of the living, not of the dead, and that its saving results reach the dead through the living. The living principle within us is that through which, by faith in the Lord, his life is communicated to whatever is dead. The affection is that living principle through whose faith life can be communicated to our thoughts and acts. The dead can indeed hear the voice of the Son of God, and hearing can live, as the Lord declared in a previous discourse (chap. v. 25), and as was exemplified in the case of the son of the widow, and in that of Lazarus ; but it is not that which is dead that hears, but that which retains some degree of life. Spiritual death is not the extinction of all life; it is the extinction of spiritual love and faith, which constitute spiritual and eternal life. But however dead in this respect a soul may be, the faculty of receiving new life remains, and through that faculty new life can be communicated. This is the faculty to which the Lord calls; this is the door at which he knocks; and every one is able to hear the call and obey it; to hear the knock and open the door.
41, 42. Then took they away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. The removal, by the command of Jesus, of the stone where the dead was laid, is the actual removal of the appearances of truth, which conceal the truth itself from the mind. When the stone was removed, Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. The prayers of the Lord are expressive of the inmost communion of the human nature with the Divine, of wisdom with love in the Lord; and this union in the Lord is the origin of the conjunction of charity and faith in us, through which his power saves us. But Jesus does not now pray, but gives thanks that his prayer had been heard. All true prayer, whatever its immediate object, has for its ultimate end the union-of love and wisdom, and all true thanksgiving is for that union effected. The eyes of the Lord, which he lifted up in giving thanks, are his Divine wisdom, and also his omniscience and providence. ” The eyes of the Lord are upon us, his ear is open to our cry.” His wisdom and his will are constantly over us for our eternal good. In respect to the Lord himself, the eyes of the Son were ever towards the Father, the ear of the Father was ever open unto the cry of the Son. Divine wisdom ever sees Divine love. Divine love ever hears Divine wisdom. Thus is described, in divine language, the reciprocal union of love and wisdom in the Lord, as the origin of the power of salvation, the raising into life of whatever in us is dead. Jesus, therefore, continues, And I knew that thou hearest me always. Jesus was always heard, on the same ground that he hears his creatures, because he asked nothing amiss, but asked for things that were agreeable to the divine will, or never desired anything but what was agreeable to the nature of divine love. It appears from our Lord’s words that his prayer on this occasion was not so much on his own account as for the sake of those that stood by, that they might believe that the Father had sent him. The Lord’s prayers must be designed to be of use, in this respect, to us also ; they teach us that the Father sent him, that he was divine in his origin, and therefore in his nature. He who comes from God is God. Whatever proceeds from the Divine is divine; and as the Divine is indivisible, the divinity of the Son and the divinity of the Father are one. The Father and the Son are indeed distinct, but only as soul and body, will and understanding ; distinct as essentials, but one in person and in operation. But there is a spiritual view of this subject. To believe that the Lord was sent by the Father is to believe that the divine Truth that came to redeem and save mankind proceeded from the divine Goodness, and was therefore filled with it, and acted from it; and we truly believe this when our faith is the faith of truth, grounded in love.
43. When he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. What a voice was that which called Lazarus from the tomb, a voice at once powerful and prophetic! Calling the dead to life is an act not only God-like but Divine. No one can impart life but him who is Life, Others besides Jesus have performed this great miracle, but none others by their own power. For although Jesus looked up to the Father as the source of his power, it was but the human looking to the divine which was one with it. But groat as this miracle was, what is calling the perishable body into life, to calling into life the immortal soul ? This is the great truth, of which the miracle was but the outward symbol. Resurrection from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness is that which the raising of Lazarus represented. This is the peculiar function of him who is the Resurrection and the Life. The divine voice is still uttered, and those who hear it still live, and come forth from the living tomb to which their sins have consigned them. As all human speech expresses both thought and affection—thought by the words, affection by the tone; so does divine speech; but in divine speech the thought is infinite wisdom, and the affection is infinite love. The words which Jesus uttered were the expression of his wisdom, the loud or great voice with which he uttered them was expressive of his love. This is called a loud or great voice, not simply to express the intensity or ardency of the divine love which is manifested in the salvation of men, but also to indicate that the voice of Jesus, which he uttered at the tomb of Lazarus, was the voice of divine love and wisdom? as manifested in human nature. By the incarnation the Divine Truth was brought down into ultirnates, and Divine Truth in ultimates is in its fulness and its power.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. The grave-clothes were to Lazarus what the stone was to the sepulchre; they enclosed and confined him. What garments are to the body, truths are to the mind; they invest it, so as to preserve the warmth of its love and give it a certain kind of adornment. More specifically, truths are to good what garments are to the body; for good is the body of religion, and truth is the raiment which it puts on. And as truths are the laws of right, garments are the symbols of righteousness, which is the beautiful garment that serves to invest and adorn the graces of the mind : and so white linen is the righteousness of saints. But the garments of the dead are like the truths that cover the body of religion from which life has departed, and which has the form of godliness without the power. Considered as a representative of the church, which Lazarus was, the grave-clothes are the appearances of truth and the ceremonials of religion, which, in the time of the end, take the place of genuine truths and works of righteousness. These formed into narrow creeds and a rigid ecclesiasticism, may serve as a suitable vesture for the dead, but they are entirely unfit to be a garment for the living. Brought up from the grave by the power of the Saviour, the living church comes forth bound hand and foot, the powers both of the inward and outward man restrained, and the perceptive faculty of the mind covered, like the face of Lazarus bound about with a napkin. Such also is the condition of him who is newly restored to spiritual life. The bonds of the world are still around him, restraining his powers and obstructing his vision. Loose him, and let him go, is therefore the divine command in respect to every one whom the Lord raises from the dead. First life, then liberty; these are gifts bestowed upon all who hear his voice, and come forth unto the resurrection of eternal life. They are not freed from all bonds; but they exchange the external bonds of the world for the internal bonds of him whose yoke is easy and his burden light.
45, 46. The effect of this miracle was, that many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. The unavoidable but beneficial effect of all divine operations is, that they act in the way of tests and judgments; they try the states of men, and separate the good and the evil, drawing the good into connection with the supreme Good, and leaving the evil to fall away into the prevailing evil. The same takes place when a new church is being raised up in the world; ‘some of the former church believe in the new principles, others become more confirmed in the old. Like the comforters of Martha and Mary, some can lament over the dead who cannot rejoice over the living. The truth, which is a rock of confidence to some, is a rock of offence to others. The divine operations serve also to separate good and evil in the minds of those who are favourably affected by them; and thus serve to draw forth the good, and bring it into conjunction with the Lord.
47, 48. Informed, by those who believed not, of this wonderful work of Jesus, then gathered the chief priests and Pharisees a council, and, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. The fears of the Sanhedrim seem now to have reached a crisis that required more than an attempt to entangle him in his speech. The raising of Lazarus was a miracle that might well fill. them with alarm, and lead them to exclaim, If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. The Pharisees were like those of their creed and class in every church and in every age. The selfish and the formal would fain arrest the progress of goodness and truth, with their life and light. Spiritually, in this we see the opposition which the natural man ever offers to the spiritual, when the Lord imparts new life to the soul. Every advance which the new man makes in the life of heaven excites the old man into greater hostility. Evil and falsity combine, and take counsel against goodness and truth, and do so in order to maintain their power, willing rather to be slaves to the ruling authority of the world than to be made free by the power of truth from heaven.
49-53. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation ; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. There can be no reasonable doubt that John understood this remarkable utterance of the high priest to be an inspired prediction. But how could one so wicked possess so great a gift? In the representative church of the Jews, a profane person could exercise a sacred function, because it was the function and not the man which represented. Besides, prophesying is a miraculous gift, which may be bestowed on a person in virtue of his office, independently of his moral character, as in the case of Balaam. The prophecy of Caiaphas, as high priest, was the very truth. He was divinely inspired to predict an event which was divinely appointed. It was expedient that one should die for the people, and that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. The Lord delivered the same truth respecting himself, as the good shepherd, gathering the scattered sheep, and uniting his two flocks into one fold. But the remarkable circumstance connected with the prophecy of the high priest is, that it should have been uttered at a meeting of the Sanhedrim, called for the purpose of devising some plan for arresting the progress of the Lord’s cause. Were it not for other testimony to the contrary, we might suppose that Caiaphas wished to restrain rather than excite the wrath of the council against Jesus. It is evident that his object was to induce them no longer to trifle with the growing evil, but to arrest it at once, by the destruction of its author. It had the desired effect. It led them to the determination to effect the fulfilment of what may be regarded as their own prediction. Then, from that day forth, they took counsel together to put him to death. Their understanding of the prophecy, compared with its true meaning, affords a striking illustration of the difference between the letter which killeth and the spirit which giveth life. They understood the people of the prophecy to be the Jews, and the scattered abroad to be the dispersed of Israel. How they expected their putting Jesus to death would secure the fulfilment of the prediction, and of the latter part in particular, is not very apparent. But they certainly did become the instruments of fulfilling the prophecy in its true sense. Their purpose was defeated by the success of their own plans.- Thus, the Lord, in his overruling providence, makes even the wrath of man to praise him, by turning the evil which the wicked intend into good. Eminently was this the case with the evil which the whole powers of wickedness directed against the Lord. Their power had a. limit, beyond which it could not extend, and a result which they could not contemplate. They were only able to kill the body; and when they had done this, there was no more that they could do. They performed the vile use of exciting, by their temptations, the hereditary evils of our nature, which Jesus bare in his own body to the tree, (1 Pet. ii. 24); but here their use ended. The heathen raged, the people were tumultuous; the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed. “When they had compassed his death, and had seen him laid in the tomb, where the earth with her bars was about him (Jonah ii. 6), they triumphed in their own success. But “the triumphing of the wicked; is short.” On the morning of the resurrection, when he loosed the-pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it (Acts ii. 24), and burst the gates of the sepulchre, he became the conqueror. He not only brake the bands of his enemies asunder and cast their cords from him; but he reduced them to subjection, and set bounds to their aggressive power against the kingdom of righteousness,, which he had now established for ever.
54 In consequence of the conduct of the Pharisees and chief priests, and their efforts to stir up enmity against him among the people, Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. For the third time in this gospel we are told that Jesus retired on account of the opposition of the Jews. In the two previous cases he left Judea and went into Galilee; in the present instance, he retires to the town of Ephraim, in or near the wilderness of, Judea. According to the literal sense, he retires for safety, although he possessed the power to resist or disarm all opposition. Spiritually, the Lord walks no more openly where he is openly assailed, but withdraws into some remote or secret part of the mind, that his divine truth may be, preserved from violence, and the soul saved from destruction. The country where lie retired was near the wilderness of Judea, a type of the desolate state of the church, hut also expressive of a state of obscurity and temptation. Ephraim, the city into which he went, signifies the intellectual principle of the church, or the intellect as the receptacle of the truths of the church. Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Joseph, and represented the new understanding and the new will, or the intellectual and voluntary principles of the spiritual church, which Joseph represented. The city of Ephraim was a symbol of the doctrinal form of the principle which was typified by Ephraim himself. Jesus there continued with his disciples, to represent that the Lord’s presence is preserved in the truths of his Word, in the interior of the intellectual principle, when he can no longer continue in the corrupt will, where his love is changed into hatred.
55-57. The Jews’ passover was nigh at hand. This passover was the last which our Lord celebrated, and signified his glorification, the redemption of mankind, and the establishment of his church. This was the passover at which the Holy Supper was instituted, when the Lord entered into an everlasting covenant with the church, which his disciples represented, and in connection with which the redemption of the world and the glorification of his humanity were accomplished. The completion of his great work now drew nigh: it was certain as well as near at hand. Everything was preparing, both on the good and the evil side, for the great event. Many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? 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. That purification, though ceremonial, represented the spiritual purification which the penitent seek, and who seek it from good by truth; for to go out of the country up to Jerusalem is to proceed from a state of good to a state of truth; and all purification is effected by truth, but only in those whose desire for it proceeds from a principle of good. Transferring this subject to our own minds, we here see what we too often feel, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. The Pharisaic principles either without or within us take occasion of the holiest times for the unholiest purposes. The very sphere of holiness excites their enmity and opposition. Among the multitude there were bands who doubted among themselves the Lord’s appearing at the feast, and who discussed the question of his coming. Thus there are some who inquire about the Lord as Truth, and who, as the terms of the question imply, believe that he will come. Many of these, as appears from the next chapter (xii. 12), were waiting for him as the Saviour, and for his salvation. And thus were the people divided, as the mind itself is, when the state is not yet fall. But while the people questioned among themselves, some of them at least from proper motives, whether Jesus would come to the feast, the chief priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that any who knew where he was should shew it, that they might take him. This was the mind of the ruling men in the church respecting the Holy One. Their purpose was accomplished, though not by the means they intended. But how should we be humbled by the reflection, that evil rulers present but too faithful an image of the enmity of the human heart and of the human race, which the Lord suffered to remove. While we were yet enemies Christ died for us. The treatment which Jesus received at the hands .of those whom he came to seek and to save, is a standing evidence, a perpetual memorial, of the degradation from which the Lord, in his infinite loving-kindness, came to .deliver those whom he had created in his image, but who had’ so sinfully departed from the integrity of their original condition.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum