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The fact of this miracle being past over altogether by the first three Evangelists,-a miracle so memorable in itself, so weighty too in its consequences, since the final and absolute determination to put the Lord out of the way resulted immediately from it,--this must ever remain a mystery: the utmost that can be hoped is to suggest some probable solution of the omission. The following among the explanations which have been offered have found most favour. First, It has been said by some that the three earlier Evangelists, writing in Palestine, and while Lazarus was yet alive, or at least while some of his family yet survived, would not willingly draw attention, and it might be, persecution upon them; but that no such causes hindered St. John, who wrote at a much later period, and out of Palestine, from bringing forward this miracle. The omission on their part, and the mention upon his, will then be a parallel to a like omission and mention in
high priest's servant. Only St. John mentions that it was Peter who did it. (xviii. 10.) This is Olshausen's view, and that of Grotius before him, who refers to John xii. 10, in proof of the danger that ensued to Lazarus from being this living witness of Christ's power. But how far-fetched a theory is this! At the furthest it would apply only to the Gospel of St. Matthew ; that of St. Mark was probably written at Rome, and for the Gentile Christians, certainly not in Palestine; as little was that of St. Luke, which was addressed to his friend Theophilus, whom many intimations in that Gospel would make us conclude to have lived in Italy. Moreover, the existence of that danger, and of those snares against his life, while the miracle and the impression of the miracle were yet fresh, is no proof of their existence long
years after. The tide of things had swept onward; new objects of hostility had arisen :—not to say that if there was danger, and if the danger would have been thus augmented, yet Lazarus was now a Christian, and would not have shrunk from that danger, nor would those who truly loved him have desired to save him from the post of honourable peril. For what else would it have been, but to have shrunk from confessing Christ, for him to have desired that a work which revealed so much of the glory of the Lord should remain untold, lest some persecution or danger might from the telling accrue to himself ?
Others again, feeling this explanation to be insufficient, have observed how the three earlier Evangelists have confined themselves almost entirely to the miracles that the Lord wrought in Galilee, leaving those wrought in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood nearly untouched, and that so they came to omit this*. It is perfectly true that they did so. But this is not explaining, it is only stating in other words the fact which has to be explained; and the question still remains, Why they should have done so ? and to this it is difficult to find now the satisfactory answer,
In the house of Martha at Bethany, for St. Luke (x. 38) speaks of her as if alone the mistress of the house, the Lord had often found an hospitable reception; and not in the house only; he had found too a place in the hearts of the united and happy family which abode under that roof; and he loved with a peculiar human affection “ Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus f." It was to Bethany, after the day's task was over in the hostile city, that probably he was often wont to retire for the night; (Mark xi. 11–19 ;) its immediate nearness to the city,—it was not more than fifteen furlongs distant, allowing him to return thither betimes in the morning. And in the circle of this family, with Mary, who “sat at his feet and heard his word,” with Martha, who was only divided between this and the desire to pay as much outward honour as she could to her divine guest, with Lazarus his friend, we may think of him as often wont to find rest and refreshment, after a day spent amid the contradiction of sinners, and among the men who daily mistook and wrested his words.
* Thus NEANDER, Leben Jesu, p. 357.
+ Here, as throughout the Evangelical history, there is an exceeding scantiness in all the circumstantial notices concerning the persons mentioned; that only being related which was absolutely necessary to make the history intelligible; and all attention being directed to the pourtraying the spiritual life and what bore upon this. Whether Martha was an early widow, with whom her sister, and Lazarus, a younger brother, resided, or what other
But now there has fallen a cloud upon this happy household of love; for not they even whom Christ loves are exempt from their share of earthly trouble and anguish ; rather are they bound over to it the more surely. Lazarus is sick; and the sisters in their need turn to him, whom, it may be, they have themselves proved to be an helper in every time of trouble, whom at any rate they have beheld to be such in the extremest needs of others. He is at a distance, beyond Jordan, probably at Bethabara, having withdrawn thither from the fury of his adversaries ; (John x. 39, 40; cf. John i. 28;) but the place of his concealment, or retirement rather, is known to the friendly family, and they send a messenger with these tidings, “ Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Very beautiful is it to observe their confidence in him; they take it for granted that this announcement will be sufficient, and say no more; they do not urge him to come; they only
may have been the constitution of the household, it is impossible to determine.— I cannot at all consent with Mr. Greswell's ingenious essay, On the village of Martha and Mary, (Dissert., v. 2, p. 545,) of which the aim is to prove that in St. John's designation of Lazarus, anò Bndavías means one thing, the present place of his residence, and έκ της κώμης Μαρίας και Μάρθας another, the village of his birth, which he accounts to have been some Galilæan village, where the Lord had before been entertained by the sisters, (Luke x. 38,) and from whence they had migrated to Bethany, during the later period of his ministry ;-well worthy as the essay is of perusal.
tell their need, as being sure that this will be enough; he does not love, and forsake them whom he loves *. It is but a day's journey from Bethabara to Bethany, so that they securely count that help will not tarry long.
The words with which the Lord receives the message, and which we are to take as spoken, in the hearing indeed of the apostles, yet primarily to the messenger, and for him to bring back to them that sent him, “This sickness is not unto death +,” are purposely enigmatical, and must greatly have tried the faith of the sisters. For by the time that the messenger returned, it is probable that Lazarus was already dead. Sorely therefore must this confident assurance that the issue of the sickness should not be death, have perplexed them. Could it be that their divine friend had deceived them, or had been himself deceived? Why had he not made the issue certain by himself coming, or, if aught had hindered that, by speaking that word which even at a distance was effectual to heal, that word which he had spoken for others, for those that were well nigh strangers to him, and they had been saved ? But as with so many other of the divine promises, which seem to us for the moment to come to nothing and utterly to fail, and this because we so little dream of the resources of the divine love, and are ever limiting them by our knowledge of them, so was it with this word,-a perplexing riddle, till the event had made it plain. Even now, in the eyes of him who saw the end from the beginning, that sickness was not unto death; as they too should acknowledge that it was not, when they should find that death was not to be its last issue, but only a moment of transition to a restored, and an higher life than any which yet Lazarus had lived ; -an higher life, for when Christ declares the meaning of that sickness, that it was " for
the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby,” he certainly includes in this "glory of God” the perfecting for Lazarus of his own spiritual being, as we cannot doubt that it was perfected through these wondrous events of his existence. This was his hard yet blessed passage into life. That which was the decisive crisis in his spiritual development was also a signal moment in the gradual revelation of the glory of Christ unto the world. The Son of God was first glorified in Lazarus, and then on him, and through him to the world. (Compare the exact parallel, John ix. 2, 3.)
It has been sometimes proposed to connect ver. 5 with what goes before, so making it to contain an explanation of the message, and of the ready confidence which the sisters show in the Lord's help; or sometimes, as by Olshausen, with the verse following; and then St. John will be bringing out into the strongest contrast the Lord's love to the distressed family at Bethany, and his tarrying notwithstanding for two days where he was, even after the message claiming his help had reached him. The Evangelist will in that case be suggesting to the thoughtful reader all that is involved in this love which waited so long, ere it would step in to save. But I am inclined to think that Maldonatus has caught a truer view of the sequence of thought, when he connects this verse not with the one, but with the two which follow. He understands St. John to say, Jesus loved Martha and the others; when therefore he heard that Lazarus was sick, he abode indeed two days where he was, but “then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again.” To conceive any other reason for his tarrying where he was those two days, than that he might have room to work that great miracle, is highly unnatural. Sometimes it has been assumed that he had in hand some great work for the kingdom of God where he was, some work which would not endure to be left, and which therefore he could not quit for the most pressing calls of private friendship. (See x. 41, 42.) But he could have healed with his word at a distance as easily as by his actual