Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 11:1-46
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2017
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.
Bede. (non occ.) After our Lord had departed to the other side of Jordan, it happened that Lazarus fell sick: A certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany. In some copies the copulative conjunction precedes, to mark the connection with the words preceding. (ἢν δέ τις, now a certain man.) Lazarus signifies helped. Of all the dead which our Lord raised, he was most helped, for he had lain dead four days, when our Lord raised him to life.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 1.) The resurrection of Lazarus is more spoken of than any of our Lord’s miracles. But if we bear in mind who He was who wrought this miracle, we shall feel not so much of wonder, as of delight. He who made the man, raised the man; and it is a greater thing to create a man, than to revive him. Lazarus was sick at Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. The place was near Jerusalem.
Alcuin. And as there were many women of this name, He distinguishes her by her well-known act: It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
Chrysostom. (Greg. Hom. lxii. 1.) First we are to observe that this was not the harlot mentioned in Luke, but an honest woman, who treated our Lord with marked reverence.
Augustine. (de Con. Ev. ii. lxxix.) John here confirms the passage in Luke (Luke 7:38), where this is said to have taken place in the house of one Simon a Pharisee: Mary had done this act therefore on a former occasion. That she did it again at Bethany is not mentioned in the narrative of Luke, but is in the other three Gospels.
Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) A cruel sickness had seized Lazarus; a wasting fever was eating away the body of the wretched man day by day: his two sisters sat sorrowful at his bedside, grieving for the sick youth continually. They sent to Jesus: Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 5.) They did not say, Come and heal; they dared not say, Speak the word there, and it shall be done here; but only, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. As if to say, It is enough that Thou know it, Thou art not one to love and then to desert whom Thou lovest.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) They hope to excite Christ’s pity by these words, Whom as yet they thought to be a man only. Like the centurion and nobleman, they sent, not went, to Christ; partly from their great faith in Him, for they knew Him intimately, partly because their sorrow kept them at home.
Theophylact. And because they were women, and it did not become them to leave their home if they could help it. Great devotion and faith is expressed in these words, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. Such was their idea of our Lord’s power, that they were surprised, that one, whom He loved, could be seized with sickness.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 6.) When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death. For this death itself was not unto death, but to give occasion for a miracle; whereby men might be brought to believe in Christ, and so escape real death. It was for the glory of God, wherein observe that our Lord calls Himself God by implication, thus confounding those heretics who say that the Son of God is not God. For the glory of what God? Hear what follows, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby, i. e. by that sickness.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) That here signifies not the cause, but the event. The sickness sprang from natural causes, but He turned it to the glory of God.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) He is sick, they sorrowful, all beloved. Wherefore they had hope, for they were beloved by Him Who is the Comforter of the sorrowful, and the Healer of the sick.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii non occ. v. lxii. 3.) Wherein the Evangelist instructs us not to be sad, if sickness ever falls upon good men, and friends of God.
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 Judæa 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.
Alcuin. Our Lord heard of the sickness of Lazarus, but suffered four days to pass before He cured it; that the recovery might be a more wonderful one. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the place where He was.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) To give time for his death and burial, that they might say, he stinketh, and none doubt that it was death, and not a trance, from which he was raised.
Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) Where He had just escaped being stoned; for this was the cause of His leaving. He left indeed as man: He left in weakness, but He returns in power.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) He had not as yet told His disciples where He was going; but now He tells them, in order to prepare them beforehand, for they are in great alarm, when they hear of it: His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again? They feared both for Him, and for themselves; for they were not yet confirmed in faith.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 8.) When men presumed to give advice to God, disciples to their Master, our Lord rebuked them: Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? He shewed Himself to be the day, by appointing twelve disciples: i. e. reckoning Matthias in the place of Judas, and passing over the latter altogether. The hours are lightened by the day; that by the preaching of the hours, the world may believe on the day. Follow Me then, saith our Lord, if ye wish not to stumble: If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) As if to say, The upright need fear no evil: the wicked only have cause to fear. We have done nothing worthy of death, and therefore are in no danger. Or, If any one seeth this world’s light, he is safe; much more he who is with Me.
Theophylact. Some understand the day to be the time preceding the Passion, the night to be the Passion. In this sense, while it is day, would mean, before My Passion; Ye will not stumble before My Passion, because the Jews will not persecute you; but when the night, i. e. My Passion, cometh, then shall ye be beset with darkness and difficulties.
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 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.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) After He has comforted His disciples in one way, He comforts them in another, by telling them that they were not going to Jerusalem, but to Bethany: These things saith He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep: as if to say, I am not going to dispute again with the Jews, but to awaken our friend. Our friend, He says, to shew how strongly they were bound to go.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 9.) It was really true that He was sleeping. To our Lord, he was sleeping; to men who could not raise him again, he was dead. Our Lord awoke him with as much ease from his grave, as thou awakest a sleeper from his bed. He calls him then asleep, with reference to His own power, as the Apostle saith, But I would not have you to be ignorant, concerning them which are asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13) Asleep, He says, because He is speaking of their resurrection which was to be. But as it matters to those who sleep and wake again daily, what they see in their sleep, some having pleasant dreams, others painful ones, so it is in death; every one sleeps and rises again with his own account.a
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) The disciples however wished to prevent Him going to Judæa: Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Sleep is a good sign in sickness. And therefore if he sleep, say they, what need to go and awake him.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) The disciples replied, as they understood Him: Howbeit Jesus spake of his death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But if any one say, that the disciples could not but have known that our Lord meant Lazarus’s death, when He said, that I may awake him; because it would have been absurd to have gone such a distance merely to awake Lazarus out of sleep; we answer, that our Lord’s words were a kind of enigma to the disciples, here as elsewhere often.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He then declares His meaning openly: Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But He does not add here, I go that I may awake him. He did not wish to anticipate the miracle by talking of it; a hint to us to shun vain glory, and abstain from empty promises.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He had been sent for to restore Lazarus from sickness, not from death. But how could the death be hid from Him, into whose hands the soul of the dead had flown?
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that ye might believe; i. e. seeing My marvellous power of knowing a thing I have neither seen nor heard. The disciples already believed in Him in consequence of His miracles; so that their faith had not now to begin, but only to increase. That ye might believe, means, believe more deeply, more firmly.
Theophylact. Some have understood this place thus. I rejoice, He says, for your sakes; for if I had been there, I should have only cured a sick man; which is but an inferior sign of power. But since in My absence he has died, ye will now see that I can raise even the dead putrefying body; and your faith will be strengthened.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) The disciples all dreaded the Jews; and especially Thomas; Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. But he who was now the most weak and unbelieving of all the disciples, afterwards became stronger than any. And he who dared not go to Bethany, afterwards went over the whole earth, in the midst of those who wished his death, with a spirit indomitable.
Bede. The disciples, checked by our Lord’s answer to them, dared no longer oppose; and Thomas, more forward than the rest, says, Let us also go that we may die with him. What an appearance of firmness! He speaks as if he could really do what he said; unmindful, like Peter, of his frailty.
17. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
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.
Alcuin. Our Lord delayed His coming for four days, that the resurrection of Lazarus might be the more glorious: Then when Jesus came, He found that He had lain in the grave four days already.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Our Lord had stayed two days, and the messenger had come the day before; the very day on which Lazarus died. This brings us to the fourth day.
Augustine. (Tract. xlix. 12.) Of the four days many things may be said. They refer to one thing, but one thing viewed in different ways. There is one day of death which the law of our birth brings upon us. Men transgress the natural law, and this is another day of death. The written law is given to men by the hands of Moses, and that is despised—a third day of death. The Gospel comes, and men transgress it—a fourth day of death. But Christ doth not disdain to awaken even these.
Alcuin. The first sin was elation of heart, the second assent, the third act, the fourth habit.
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Two miles. This is mentioned to account for so many coming from Jerusalem: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. But how could the Jews be consoling the beloved of Christ, when they had resolved that whoever confessed Christ should be put out of the synagogue? Perhaps the extreme affliction of the sisters excited their sympathy; or they wished to shew respect for their rank. Or perhaps they who came were of the better sort; as we find many of them believed. Their presence is mentioned to do away with all doubt of the real death of Lazarus.
Bede. Our Lord had not yet entered the town, when Martha met Him: Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Martha does not take her sister with her, because she wants to speak with Christ alone, and tell Him what has happened. When her hopes had been raised by Him, then she went her way, and called Mary.
Theophylact. At first she does not tell her sister, for fear, if she came, the Jews present might accompany her. And she did not wish them to know of our Lord’s coming.
Then saith Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She believed in Christ, but she believed not as she ought. She did not speak as if He were God: If Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Theophylact. She did not know that He could have restored her brother as well absent as present.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Nor did she know that He wrought His miracles by His own independent power: But I know that even now, whatsoever Thou will ask of God, God will give it Thee. She only thinks Him some very gifted man.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 13.) She does not say to Him, Bring my brother to life again; for how could she know that it would be good for him to come to life again; she says, I know that Thou canst do so, if Thou wilt; but what Thou wilt do is for Thy judgment, not for my presumption to determine.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) But our Lord taught her the truths which she did not know: Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Observe, He does not say, I will ask God, that he may rise again, nor on the other hand does He say, I want no help, I do all things of Myself; a declaration which would have been too much for the woman; but something between the two, He shall rise again.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 14.) Shall rise again, is ambiguous: for He does not say, now. And therefore it follows: Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day: of that resurrection I am certain; of this I am doubtful.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She had often heard Christ speak of the resurrection. Jesus now declares His power more plainly: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life. He needed therefore none to help Him; for if He did, how could He be the resurrection. And if He is the life, He is not confined by place, but is every where, and can heal every where.
Alcuin. I am the resurrection, because I am the life; as through Me he will rise at the general resurrection, through Me he may rise now.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) To Martha’s, Whatsoever Thou shall ask, He replies, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: shewing her that He is the Giver of all good, and that we must ask of Him. Thus He leads her to the knowledge of high truths; and whereas she had been enquiring only about the resurrection of Lazarus, tells her of a resurrection in which both she and all present would share.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) He that believeth in Me, though he were dead: i. e. though his flesh die, his soul shall live till the flesh rise again, never to die more. For faith is the life of the soul.
And whosoever liveth, in the flesh, and believeth in Me, though he die for a time in the flesh, shall not die eternally.
Alcuin. Because He hath attained to the life of the Spirit, and to an immortal resurrection. Our Lord, from Whom nothing was hid, knew that she believed, but sought from her a confession unto salvation: Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ the Son of God, which should come into the world.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She seems not to have understood His words; i. e. she saw that He meant something great, but did not see what that was. She is asked one thing, and answers another.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) When I believed that Thou wert the Son of God, I believed that Thou wert the resurrection, that Thou wert lifeb; and that he that believeth in Thee, though he were dead, shall live.
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. And 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.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Christ’s words had the effect of stopping Martha’s grief. In her devotion to her Master she had no time to think of her afflictions: And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) Silently1, i. e. speaking in a low voice. For she did speak, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She calls her sister secretly, in order not to let the Jews know that Christ was coming. (non occ.). For had they known, they would have gone, and not been witnesses of the miracle.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) We may observe that the Evangelist has not said, where, or when, or how, the Lord called Mary, but for brevity’s sake has left it to be gathered from Martha’s words.
Theophylact. Perhaps she thought the presence of Christ in itself a call, as if it were inexcusable, when Christ came, that she should not go out to meet Him.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) While the rest sat around her in her sorrow, she did not wait for the Master to come to her, but, not letting her grief detain her, rose immediately to meet Him; As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) So we see, if she had known of His arrival before, she would not have let Martha go without her.
Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He went slowly, that He might not seem to catch at an occasion of working a miracle, but to have it forced upon Him by others asking. Mary, it is said, arose quickly, and thus anticipated His coming. The Jews accompanied her: The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she arose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) The Evangelist mentions this to shew how it was that so many were present at Lazarus’ resurrection, and witness of that great miracle.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) She is more fervent than her sister. Forgetful of the crowd around her, and of the Jews, some of whom were enemies to Christ, she threw herself at her Master’s feet. In His presence all earthly things were nought to her; she thought of nothing but giving Him honour.
Theophylact. But her faith seems as yet imperfect: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Alcuin. As if to say, Lord, while Thou wert with us, no disease, no sickness dared to shew itself, amongst those with whom the Life deigned to take up His abode.
Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) O faithless assembly! Whilst Thou art yet in the world, Lazarus Thy friend dieth! If the friend dies, what will the enemy suppose? Is it a small thing that they will not serve Thee upon earth? lo, hell hath taken Thy beloved.
Bede. Mary did not say so much as Martha, she could not bring out what she wanted for weeping, as is usual with persons overwhelmed with sorrow.
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.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) Christ did not answer Mary, as He had her sister, on account of the people present. In condescension to them He humbled Himself, and let His human nature be seen, in order to gain them as witnesses to the miracle: When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in His spirit, and was troubled.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) For who but Himself could trouble Him? Christ was troubled, because it pleased Him to be troubled; He hungered, because it pleased Him to hunger. It was in His own power to be affected in this or that way, or not. The Word took up soul and flesh, and whole man, and fitted it to Himself in unity of person. And thus according to the nod and will of that higher nature in Him, in which the sovereign power resides, He becomes weak and troubled.
Theophylact. To prove His human nature He sometimes gives it free vent, while at other times He commands, and restrains it by the power of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord allows His nature to be affected in these ways, both to prove that He is very Man, not Man in appearance only; and also to teach us by His own example the due measures of joy and grief. For the absence altogether of sympathy and sorrow is brutal, the excess of them is womanly.
Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. s. lii) And said, Where have ye laid him? He knew where, but He asked to try the faith of the people.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He did not wish to thrust the miracle upon them, but to make them ask for it, and thus do away with all suspicions.
Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. lxv.) The question has an allusion too to our hidden calling. That predestination by which we are called, is hidden; and the sign of its being so is our Lord asking the question: He being as it were in ignorance, so long as we are ignorant ourselves. Or because our Lord elsewhere shews that He knows not sinners, saying, I know you not, (Matt. 7:23) because in keeping His commandments there is no sin.
They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He had not yet raised any one from the dead; and seemed as if He came to weep, not to raise to life. Wherefore they say to Him, Come and see.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 20.) The Lord sees when He pities, as we read, Look upon my adversity and misery, and forgive me all my sin. (Ps. 25:18.)
Alcuin. Because He was the fountain of pity. He wept in His human nature for him whom He was able to raise again by His divine.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) Wherefore did Christ weep, but to teach men to weep?
Bede. It is customary to mourn over the death of friends; and thus the Jews explained our Lord’s weeping: Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 21.) Loved him. Our Lord came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. 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? He was about to do more than this, to raise him from death.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) It was His enemies who said this. The very works, which should have evidenced His power, they turn against Him, as if He had not really done them. This is the way that they speak of the miracle of opening the eyes of the man that was born blind. They even prejudge Christ before He has come to the grave, and have not the patience to wait for the issue of the matter. Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, cometh to the grave. That He wept, and He groaned, are mentioned to shew us the reality of His human nature. John who enters into higher statements as to His nature than any of the other Evangelists, also descends lower than any in describing His bodily affections.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) And do thou too groan in thyself, if thou wouldest rise to new life. To every man is this said, who is weighed down by any vicious habit. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. The dead under the stone is the guilty under the Law. For the Law, which was given to the Jews, was graven on stone. And all the guilty are under the Law, for the Law was not made for a righteous man.
Bede. A cave is a hollow in a rock. It is called a monument, because it reminds us of the dead.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) But why did He not raise him without taking away the stone? Could not He who moved a dead body by His voice, much more have moved a stone? He purposely did not do so, in order that the miracle might take place in the sight of all; to give no room for saying, as they had said in the case of the blind man, This is not he. Now they might go into the grave, and feel and see that this was the man.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 22.) Take ye away the stone; mystically, Take away the burden of the law, proclaim grace.
Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. 61.) Perhaps those are signified who wished to impose the rite of circumcision on the Gentile converts; or men in the Church of corrupt life, who offend believers.
Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. serm. lii) Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, though they had often seen Christ raise the dead, did not fully believe that He could raise their brother; Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.
Theophylact. Martha said this from weakness of faith, thinking it impossible that Christ could raise her brother, so long after death.
Bede. (non occ. [Nic.]) Or, these are not words of despair, but of wonder.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) Thus every thing tends to stop the mouths of the unbelieving. Their hands take away the stone, their ears hear Christ’s voice, their eyes see Lazarus come forth, they perceive the smell of the dead body.
Theophylact. Christ reminds Martha of what He had told her before, which she had forgotten: Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii.) She did not remember what He said above, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. To the disciples He had said, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby; here it is the glory of the Father He speaks of. The difference is made to suit the different hearers. Our Lord could not rebuke her before such a number, but only says, Thou shalt see the glory of God.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Herein is the glory of God, that he that stinketh and hath been dead four days, is brought to life again.
Then they took away the stone.
Origen. (tom. in Joan. xxviii.) The delay in taking away the stone was caused by the sister of the dead, who said, By this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days. If she had not said this, it would not be said, Jesus said, Take away the stone. Some delay had arisen; it is best to let nothing come between the commands of Jesus and doing them.
41. 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.
Alcuin. Christ, as man, being inferior to the Father, prays to Him for Lazarus’s resurrection; and declares that He is heard: And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.
Origen. (tom. xxviii.) He lifted up His eyes; mystically, He lifted up the human mind by prayer to the Father above. We should pray after Christ’s pattern, Lift up the eyes of our heart, and raise them above present things in memory, in thought, in intention. If to them who pray worthily after this fashion is given the promise in Isaiah, Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am; (Isa. 58:9) what answer, think we, our Lord and Saviour would receive? He was about to pray for the resurrection of Lazarus. He was heard by the Father before He prayed; His request was granted before made. And therefore He begins with giving thanks; I thank Thee, Father, that Thou hast heard Me.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) i. e. There is no difference of will between Me and Thee. Thou hast heard Me, does not shew any lack of power in Him, or that He is inferior to the Father. It is a phrase that is used between friends and equals. That the prayer is not really necessary for Him, appears from the words that follow, And I knew that Thou heardest Me always: as if He said, I need not prayer to persuade Thee; for Ours is one will. He hides His meaning on account of the weak faith of His hearers. For God regards not so much His own dignity, as our salvation; and therefore seldom speaks loftily of Himself, and, even when He does, speaks in an obscure way; whereas humble expressions abound in His discourses.
Hilary. (lib. x. de Trin.) He did not therefore need to pray: He prayed for our sakes, that we might know Him to be the Son: But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. His prayer did not benefit Himself, but benefited our faith. He did not want help, but we want instruction.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He did not say, That they may believe that I am inferior to Thee, in that I cannot do this without prayer, but, that Thou hast sent Me. He saith not, hast sent Me weak, acknowledging subjection, doing nothing of Myself, but hast sent Me in such sense, as that man may see that I am from God, not contrary to God; and that I do this miracle in accordance with His will.
Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. Serm. lii) Christ went to the grave in which Lazarus slept, as if He were not dead, but alive and able to hear, for He forthwith called him out of his grave: And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. He calls him by name, that He may not bring out all the dead.
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He does not say, Arise, but, Come forth, speaking to the dead as if he were alive. For which reason also He does not say, Come forth in My Father’s name, or, Father, raise him, but throwing off the whole appearance of one praying, proceeds to shew His power by acts. This is His general way. His words shew humility, His acts power.
Theophylact. The voice which roused Lazarus, is the symbol of that trumpet which will sound at the general resurrection. (He spoke loud, to contradict the Gentile fable, that the soul remained in the tomb. The soul of Lazarus is called to as if it were absent, and a loud voice were necessary to summon it.) And as the general resurrection is to take place in the twinkling of an eye, so did this single one: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Now is accomplished what was said above, The hour is coming, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. (5:25)
Origen. (t. xxviii.) His cry and loud voice it was which awoke him, as Christ had said, I go to awake him. The resurrection of Lazarus is the work of the Father also, in that He heard the prayer of the Son. It is the joint work of Father and Son, one praying, the other hearing; for as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. (5:21)
Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv.) He came forth bound, that none might suspect that he was a mere phantom. Besides, that this very fact, viz. of coming forth bound, was itself a miracle, as great as the resurrection. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, that by going near and touching him they might be certain he was the very person. And let him go. His humility is shewn here; He does not take Lazarus about with Him for the sake of display.
Origen. (t. xxviii. 10.) Our Lord had said above, Because of the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. It would have been ignorance of the future, if He had said this, and none believed, after all. Therefore it follows: Then 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 way to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. It is doubtful from these words, whether those who went to the Pharisees, were of those many who believed, and meant to conciliate the opponents of Christ; or whether they were of the unbelieving party, and wished to inflame the envy of the Pharisees against Him. The latter seems to me the true supposition; especially as the Evangelist describes those who believed as the larger party. Many believed; whereas it is only a few who go to the Pharisees: Some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Although according to the Gospel history, we hold that Lazarus was really raised to life, yet I doubt not that his resurrection is an allegory as well. We do not, because we allegorize facts, lose our belief in them as facts.
Augustine. (Tr. super Joan. xlix. 3.) Every one that sinneth, dies; but God, of His great mercy, raises the soul to life again, and does not suffer it to die eternally. The three miraculous resurrections in the Gospels, I understand to testify the resurrection of the soul.
Gregory. (iv. Moral. c. xxix.) The maiden is restored to life in the house, the young man outside the gate, Lazarus in his grave. She that lies dead in the house, is the sinner lying in sin: he that is carried out by the gate is the openly and notoriously wicked.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 3.) Or, it is death within; when the evil thought has not come out into action. But if thou actually do the evil thing, thou hast as it were carried the dead outside the gate.
Gregory. (v. Moral.) And one there is who lies dead in his grave, with a load of earth upon him; i. e. who is weighed down by habits of sin. But the Divine grace has regard even unto such, and enlightens them.
Augustine. (lib. lxxxii. Quæst. q. lxv.) Or we may take Lazarus in the grave as the soul laden with earthly sins.
Augustine. (in Joan. Tr. xlix.) And yet our Lord loved Lazarus. For had He not loved sinners, He would never have come down from heaven to save them. Well is it said of one of sinful habits, that He stinketh. He hath a bad report1 already, as it were the foulest odour.
Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Well may she say, He hath been dead four days. For the earth is the last of the elements. It signifies the pit of earthly sins, i. e. carnal lusts.
Augustine. (Tract. in Joan. xlix. 19.) The Lord groaned, wept, cried with a loud voice. It is hard for Him to arise, who is bowed down with the weight of evil habits. Christ troubleth Himself, to signify to thee that thou shouldest be troubled, when thou art pressed and weighed down with such a mass of sin. Faith groaneth, he that is displeased with himself groaneth, and accuseth his own evil deeds; that so the habit of sin may yield to the violence of repentance. When thou sayest, I have done such a thing, and God has spared me; I have heard the Gospel, and despised it; what shall I do? then Christ groaneth, because faith groaneth; and in the voice of thy groaning appeareth the hope of thy rising again.
Gregory. (xxii. Moral.) Lazarus is bid to come forth, i. e. to come forth and condemn himself with his own mouth, without excuse or reservation: that so he that lies buried in a guilty conscience, may come forth out of himself by confession.
Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) That Lazarus came forth from the grave, signifies the soul’s deliverance from carnal sins. That he came bound up in grave clothes means, that even we who are delivered from carnal things, and serve with the mind the law of God, yet cannot, so long as we are in the body, be free from the besetments of the flesh. That his face was bound about with a napkin means, that we do not attain to full knowledge in this life. And when our Lord says, Loose him, and let him go, we learn that in another world all veils will be removed, and that we shall see face to face.
Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Or thus: When thou despisest, thou liest dead; when thou confessest, thou comest forth. For what is to come forth, but to go out, as it were, of thy hiding place, and shew thyself? But thou canst not make this confession, except God move thee to it, by crying with a loud voice, i. e. calling thee with great grace. But even after the dead man has come forth, he remains bound for some time, i. e. is as yet only a penitent. Then our Lord says to His ministers, Loose him, and let him go, i. e. remit his sins: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)
Alcuin. Christ awakes, because His power it is which quickens us inwardly: the disciples loose, because by the ministry of the priesthood, they who are quickened are absolved.
Bede. By those who went and told the Pharisees, are meant those who seeing the good works of God’s servants, hate them on that very account, persecute, and calumniate them.