John 11 marks the turn of Jesus’s public ministry to His private ministry. Jesus states that the purpose for the death and resurrection of Lazarus is the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified (John 11:4). The response to this miracle by the Jews and the religious leaders is the focus of the remainder of this chapter. Though some Jews believe in Jesus because of this miracle (John 11:45), many who were eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Lazarus do not believe in Him (John 11:46). We see unbelief acknowledge the miracle but resist submitting to the lordship of Christ.
Many scholars have called the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’s seventh sign and last public sign, the climax of Jesus’s ministry and the greatest of His public signs. In this chapter, John is preparing the reader for the cornerstone of our faith in Jesus Christ, which is the resurrection of the dead. We cannot have Christianity without the resurrection, and there cannot be resurrection without Jesus having authority over death.
For approximately 90 days between the events of John chapters 10 and 12, Jesus ministers in the Perean area. John 10 contains Jesus' last public invitation for the Jews to believe in Him, and John 11 contains Jesus' most powerful self-proclamation and most dramatic miracle.
John writes more than thirty years after the other gospel writers with the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ as the Son of God so that all would believe in Him and have life through His name. The feeding of the 5000 is considered the last miracle of Jesus’s Galilean ministry. About a year has passed between John chapters 5 and 6, and Jesus is about a year from His death on the cross at the beginning of chapter 6. Jesus has already been rejected in Judea, while others plot to take His life. The religious unbelief of Jerusalem has formally rejected the very purpose for which Jesus has come. With great compassion, Jesus continues to perform miracles so that people will believe that He is God and have life through His name. By the end of chapter 6, He is fully rejected by Galilee.
In today's world, with computer-generated images and photo editing applications, seeing is no longer believing. But in Jesus’ day there was no photoshopping. When we look back into the Old Testament, the children of Israel literally saw God take them out of Egypt through the use of 10 plagues, then they saw the parting of the Red Sea. They saw, witnessed, and participated in these events, and yet, there was unbelief. As we read the Gospel of John, remember that John was an eye-witness of what we are reading. The Jews also saw Jesus’ miraculous works, yet they didn’t believe it.
Jesus modeled for us perfectly how to trust and obey the Father with divine purpose. Philippians 2 explains how Jesus was obedient even unto death on the cross. Even the beginning of His public obedience had as its aim His duty on the cross of Calvary. This model of obedience unto gospel purpose is for each believer to follow from the moment of conversion until the point of heavenly transformation.
The earliest of the five books written by the Apostle John, the gospel of John was written primarily to a Greek-speaking, Jewish audience, highly influenced by the Greek culture. Most of the people in John’s audience would have been unsaved, needing to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. John omits many of the words, parables, actions, and miracles of Jesus which the other three gospels include. John’s themes are different than the other gospel writers. The material in chapters 1-5 of the book of John is unique and not found in the other gospels. The healing miracles in chapters 9 and 11 are also exclusive to John. Similarities between the book of John and the other three gospels include the Spirit's anointing of Christ, Jesus feeding the five thousand, Jesus walking on water, Jesus’s sonship to the Father, and Jesus’s authority over nature to name a few.
John is known as the most theological gospel writer, though his name is never mentioned in the book as the author. Luke calls John an apostle in Luke 6. Polycarp, a direct disciple of the Apostle John, testified to knowing that John had written this fourth gospel while in Ephesus. Six times within the book, John is referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Matthew tells us that John and his brother James were known as the sons of Zebedee. Jesus named them "sons of thunder" in the book of Mark. One of the three most intimate associates of Jesus during His earthly ministry, John writes of his own spiritually close relationship with Christ (1 John 1:1-4). After Christ’s ascension, John became a leader in the Jerusalem church (Gal. 2) and ministered with Peter all through the book of Acts. He was living in Ephesus when the gospel of John was written before Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. The Roman government exiled John to the island of Patmos where his final work, Revelation, was written.
Three Gospel writers record the narrative found in Mark 6:45-52. Mark writes with his theme in mind: Jesus as servant (Mark 10:45).
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