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Luke 17:11-18:14; John 11:1-57 Listen
In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:
1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
4 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.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9 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.
10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
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.
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, 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.
When they send word to Jesus, Lazarus is just sick. In the preceding chapter, Jesus went over the Jordan into Perea (John 10:40, see notes). If that is where Jesus is at the time of this emergency, that's about 30 or so miles from Bethany where Lazarus is, a little far to travel by foot in one day. That being the case, by the time the messenger arrives to the place where Jesus is staying, a day or so has already passed. However, Jesus waits two more days before leaving for Judea. Before he goes, he tells his disciples that Lazarus is now dead.
Apparently Jesus plans to travel by day rather than by night, even though the disciples point out that the Jewish leaders want him dead. There appears to be a double meaning to Jesus' reply in verses 9-10, both practical and spiritual, regarding walking in the daytime rather than at night.
Upon arrival, Lazarus is good 'n dead - four days' worth of good 'n dead. Jesus had healed sick people many times; everyone expected him to be able to do that. As a matter of fact, Jesus had raised the twelve-year-old girl from the dead back in Mark 5:38-43 (see notes). It's still interesting that everyone on this occasion seems to think that Lazarus' best odds for a healthy lifestyle would have been if he had been healed from sickness rather than raised from the dead. I guess they all figured that dying just sort of takes something out of you. As I indicated, the disciples were not crazy about the idea of going back to Judea to see a dead man - Jesus was almost stoned there earlier. I think I see sarcasm from Thomas in verse 16, don't you? "Yeah...let's just go on back there so they can kill us too!" The vicinity around Jerusalem was considered a danger zone for Jesus and his disciples.
Meanwhile...back in Bethany (John 11:18-46)
18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that 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.
32 Then when Mary was 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.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
We see in verses 18-19 that this could not be a covert operation. Being only about 1.5 miles from Jerusalem, Martha and Mary were receiving Jewish visitors from Jerusalem upon the death of Lazarus. Two sisters agree (verses 21 and 32), if Christ had been there, Lazarus would not have died. It's obvious that they had gotten accustomed to the idea that Jesus could heal, but there seemed to be some doubt as to whether or not he could do something after a person had already died. I've always found verse 39 amusing. When Christ commands that the stone be rolled away, Martha (the pragmatist) points out that a body that has decayed for four days smells funny when she says, "...Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." Of course, that's the incredible part of this miracle, and why Jesus delayed coming after he heard that Lazarus was sick. If you want to make a point that you have power over death, make certain everybody understands how dead he really is - four days worth of dead! It was also a nice way to make the point to have Lazarus come forth still bound in burial clothing. The way they bound dead bodies back then, Lazarus must have been hopping because his hands and feet were bound...unless Christ floated him out. He also had his face wrapped with the burial cloth; that must have left Lazarus kind of speechless (just guessing). I wonder if Martha was right - did he stink? The bottom line that day is this: Jesus has power over death! Oh...and those Jewish visitors who had come to visit Mary and Martha, they head back to Jerusalem to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done.
Caiaphas, the unsuspecting prophet (John 11:47-54)
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore 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.
Word of the Lazarus resurrection gets back to the Jewish big wigs. Jesus was giving these Jewish leaders fits. "What are we going to do?" the Jewish leaders wondered. Their conversation divulges their own selfish interests in this passage. It's obvious they weren't interested in any Messianic implications; they just wanted to retain their power over the Jewish people. Then Caiaphas, the high priest who didn't believe in the supernatural (the Sadducees did not), reveals the whole problem in their minds when he says essentially, "Better him than us!" Actually he said in verse 50, "Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." Caiaphas, you just said a mouthful. John points out (verses 51-52) that Caiaphas unknowingly prophesied that the death of Jesus Christ would serve as the propitiation for the sins of the world. From that day forward the Jewish leaders made it a point to find and arrest Jesus.
At this point, we are told that Jesus and his disciples left the Jerusalem area and headed "unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim." We're not certain where that city was located, but it was undoubtedly north of Jerusalem some distance...away from the long arm of the religion police, the Sanhedrin.
Jewish leaders: Get Jesus! (John 11:55-57)
55 And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
56 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?
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.
These three verses lead right into chapter 12. After Caiaphas (the High Priest) had declared that Jesus must be removed, they now look for an opportunity to find and eliminate him. Jesus had not gone to Jerusalem on the preceding Passover (the third of his ministry). He was in Bethsaida up in Galilee at that time (John 6:4, see notes). However, Jesus did go to Jerusalem after that for the Festival of Booths (John 7:10, see notes). During that trip to Jerusalem, Jesus had some major confrontations with the Jewish leaders. That was just six months or so before this Passover that is coming up in Jerusalem, which turns out to be the Passover on which Jesus was crucified. So, here the Jews are looking for Jesus to appear in Jerusalem for the Passover so that they might seize him and eliminate him. Make no mistake about it: These Jewish leaders saw Jesus do the inexplicable miracles, but rather than believe on him, they determined that he must be eliminated. There is no way to sugar coat their intent; their intent was truly diabolical.
11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
We are not told the exact location of this healing - just that it was in "a certain village" somewhere on his journey through Samaria and Galilee. Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one of them, a Samaritan, returns to thank him. The nine others, presumably Jews, were obviously just plain ol' greedy; they thought of themselves and their plight only, lacking consideration for others. According to Leviticus 14 (see notes), there was an established procedure of going to the priest after being cleansed of leprosy. In verse 18 the Samaritan is referred to by Jesus as a "stranger." That's the term reflecting the Greek word ("allogenes") meaning "not a Jew." Presumably, the Samaritan was not headed to the same destination to show his leprosy-free skin to the priest since he was a Samaritan and not welcome in Jewish circles. Once he realized he was healed, he returned to Jesus to give thanks; the other nine just continued to make their way to the priest.
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
32 Remember Lot’s wife.
33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
I know this passage sounds to Christians like a description of the events accompanying the rapture of Believers, but it is definitely not. To be scripturally accurate, while I Thessalonians 4:15-18 (see notes) and I Corinthians 15:51-53 (see notes) are clearly references to a yet-future event when Believers are caught away and taken to Heaven (aka rapture), this passage is NOT A DESCRIPTION of that same event.
So, you might ask, what is the event described by Jesus in this passage? Without question, Jesus is describing the second coming when Jesus actually comes back to earth and sets up the long-anticipated rule of the Messiah over the entire earth. As a matter of fact, that's the exact question in verse 20 when the Pharisees query him on "when the kingdom of God should come." That's a question about the millennium aka the kingdom rule of the Messiah. Consider the following prophetic timeline.
First of all, let me point out that NO SIGNS must be evident prior to the rapture of the church (Believers). This event takes place seven years prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. When Jesus raptures the church, we who are Believers go to Heaven with him. When he returns after the tribulation period of seven years, he sets up the Kingdom prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. This event is properly called the "second coming," not the "rapture" of Believers.
Now, let's deal with this passage. To get our perspective, let's pay close attention to verse 20, "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:" These Pharisees are not asking about the rapture; that was a concept completely foreign to them. As a matter of fact, no such doctrine (the rapture of Believers) had been revealed up to this point. They want to know specifically when the Old Testament prophecy of the Davidic rule on earth is going to be established. Click here to see the article on the Davidic Covenant. They understand that Jesus is proclaiming himself to be that Messiah; they want to know if he intends to establish that Kingdom right now...or when? Jesus points out that it will not come with the evidences they anticipate. In verses 21-24 he further explains that it will not come indiscreetly, but as lightning, a good description of the second-coming events of Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes). In Luke 17:21 Jesus is saying that this Kingdom is within their grasps, but we know now what Jesus knew then (and was prophesied by Isaiah, Daniel and others); they would reject Jesus as the Messiah, thus passing on the immediate realization of the Davidic Kingdom on earth. In verse 25 Jesus reveals that he (the Messiah) must "suffer many things" first. That was a prophecy of his crucifixion, prophesied also in Isaiah 53 (see notes).
Now notice two illustrations of the second coming given by Jesus here. The first is that of Noah. In that scenario, who left the earth, and who stayed behind? The wicked were swept away by the flood leaving the righteous family of Noah. Secondly, with regard to Lot and his family, who left the earth, and who stayed behind? The wicked were burned up, and Lot's family survived on the earth. Neither of these illustrations are compatible with the rapture when just the opposite happens - the righteous are caught up to Heaven and the wicked stay behind. However, at the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation, the wicked are caught away (destroyed) and the righteous are left behind to populate the Millennium. Now for the twos - two men in a bed, two women grinding, two men in a field - one is taken and one is left. Who is taken? The wicked is swept away to judgment and the righteous stays to populate the Millennium. See? This is not the rapture, but the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation just prior to the Millennium Kingdom about which the Pharisees were asking in verse 20.
Humorous addendum: A lady pointed out to me that while the two men were sleeping in verse 34, the two women were working in verse 35. That just goes to show you that different folks pick up on different aspects of a passage.
NOTE: Later on, in Jerusalem, Jesus would once again deal with the issue of the Second Coming (aka the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom) using much the same terminology and analogies. While similar, that is definitely a separate, later occasion when Jesus was teaching. Click here to see the notes on Matthew 24:1-31, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-28.
Now notice Luke 17:37, "And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." At the Battle of Armageddon, there will be unprecedented death of the wicked. The Greek word translated "eagles" there is "aetos," which merely means "something that flies." Jesus uses the same phrase later on in Jerusalem when he teaches on the second coming and the Battle of Armageddon (Matthew 24:1-31, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-28). Notice the comparison between the passages:
Matthew 24:28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Luke 17:37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
It is quite clear that Jesus intends for the disciples to understand the "something that flies" following the Battle of Armageddon to be vultures over dead bodies.
Parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8)
1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Verse 8b makes it clear that this parable ties in with the comments made by Jesus regarding the Messianic Kingdom when he says, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Jesus gives this short parable to make a point. God will answer the persistent prayers of His people when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. If persistence in petitioning works on an unjust judge, how much more effective will that same persistence be with a just God?
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Here's another parable, and Jesus frames it with these words in verse 9, "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." So, going back to the two men sleeping and two women working in 17:34-35, who's righteous here? Is it the Pharisee who boasts of all the righteous-looking things he is doing (tithing, fasting, etc.), or is it the common man who stands before God in prayer and simply says, "God be merciful to me a sinner." You see, it's always been about trusting (believing faith) God for forgiveness, and it's never been about doing righteous-looking things.
The word "publican" comes from the Greek word "telonace." To the Jews, these were among the worst kind of sinners; they were Jewish tax collectors. More appropriately, they were "tax farmers." These publicans contracted with the Roman government (having secured the contract with the highest bid) for the right to collect taxes from the people in their assigned region. They paid a lump sum to the Roman government in advance for this contract and added a markup to the individual taxes they imposed upon the people to provide themselves with a nice profit. It was up to them how much markup they added, and they had the full force of Roman law behind them to facilitate their collections. You can see why, though they were wealthy and Jewish, they were despised by...almost everyone.
Incidentally, Matthew (disciple of Jesus and author of the Gospel account that bears his name) was one of these publicans before he followed Jesus. His call is found in Matthew 9:9 (see notes).