VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
Lazarus. See on Luke xvi. 20.
For the glory (uper). Here, as elsewhere in John, in behalf of. Canon Westcott remarks: "The sickness is regarded in a triple relation; unto, in respect of the actual result; in behalf of, in respect of the suffering born; in order that, in respect of the divine purpose."
Goest (upageiv). Dost thou withdraw from this safe retreat? See on vi. 21; viii. 21.
Awake him out of sleep (exupnisw auton). Only here in the New Testament.
That I was not there. Bengel's comment is beautiful and characteristic. "It accords beautifully with divine propriety that we read of no one having died while the Prince of life was present. If you suppose that death could not, in the presence of Jesus, have assailed Lazarus, the language of the two sisters, vv. 21, 32, attains loftier meaning; and the Lord's joy at His own absence is explained."
Unto him (prov auton). Most touching. To him, as though he were yet living. Death has not broken the personal relation of the Lord with His friend.
Fellow-disciples (summaqhtaiv). Only here in the New Testament.
We may die. "He will die for the love which he has, but he will not affect the faith which he has not" (Westcott).
To Martha and Mary (prov tav peri Marqan kai Marian).
Literally, to those about Martha and Mary; a Greek idiom for Martha and Mary and their companions, or attendants. Compare oiJ peri Paulon, Paul and his companions (Acts xiii. 13). Somewhat analogous is our familiar idiom when we speak of going to visit a household: I am going to Smith's or Brown's, by which we include the head of the household with its members. Westcott and Hort and Tregelles, however, read prov thn Marqan k. M., to Martha and Mary. So also the Revisers' text.
Went and met (uphnthsen). The verb means to go to meet.
The life. The life is the larger and inclusive idea. Resurrection is involved in life as an incident developed by the temporary and apparent triumph of death. All true life is in Christ. In Him is lodged everything that is essential to life, in its origin, its maintenance, and its consummation, and all this is conveyed to the believer in his union with Him. This life is not affected by death. "Every believer is in reality and forever sheltered from death. To die with full light, in the clear certainty of the life which is in Jesus, to die only to continue to live to Him, is no longer that fact which human language designates by the name of death. It is as though Jesus had said: In me death is certain to live, and the living is certain never to die" (Godet). On zwh, life, see on i. 4.
He were dead (apoqanh). The aorist denotes an event, not a condition. Hence, much better, Rev., though he die.
Is come (parestin). Literally, is present. Rev., is here.
To weep (ina klaush). Rev., in margin, wail. The word means loud weeping. See Matt. ii. 18; Mark v. 38; and on Luke vi. 21; vii. 32.
(1) Tw pneu.mati, the spirit, is regarded as the object of Jesus' inward charge or remonstrance. This is explained variously: as that Jesus sternly rebuked the natural shrinking of His human spirit, and summoned it to the decisive conflict with death; or that He checked its impulse to put forth His divine energy at once.
(2) Takes in the spirit, as representing the sphere of feeling, as xiii. 21; Mark viii. 12; Luke x. 21. Some explain the feeling as indignation at the hypocritical mourning of the Jews, or at their unbelief and the sisters' misapprehension; others as indignation at the temporary triumph of Satan, who had the power of death.
The interpretation which explains tw pneumati as the sphere of feeling is to be preferred. Comp. ver. 38, in himself. The nature of the particular emotion of Jesus must remain largely a matter of conjecture. Rev. renders, in margin, was moved with indignation in the spirit.
Was troubled (etaraxen eauton). Literally, troubled Himself. Probably of the outward manifestation of His strong feeling.
"The gods ordain The lot of man to suffer, while themselves Are free from care." "Iliad," xxiv., 525.
So Diana, when appealed to by the wretched Hippolytus for sympathy, replies:
"I see thy love, but must not shed a tear." Euripides, "Hippolytes," 1396.
The Roman satirist unconsciously bears witness to the profound truthfulness and beauty of this picture of the weeping Savior, in the words: "Nature confesses that she gives the tenderest of hearts to the human race by giving them tears: this is the best part of our sensations" (Juvenal, "Satire" xv. 131-133).
Have caused, etc. This saying of the Jews may have been uttered ironically, in which case it throws light on the meaning of groaned in the spirit (ver. 33) and of groaning in Himself in the next verse. But the words may have been spoken sincerely.
Take ye away. The stone was placed over the entrance mainly to guard against wild beasts, and could easily be removed.
The sister of him that was dead. An apparently superfluous detail, but added in order to give point to her remonstrance at the removal of the stone, by emphasizing the natural reluctance of a sister to have the corrupted body of her brother exposed.
Stinketh (ozei). Only here in the New Testament. Not indicating an experience of her sense, which has been maintained by some expositors, and sometimes expressed in the pictorial treatment of the subject, 38 but merely her inference from the fact that he had been dead four days. He hath been dead four days (tetartaiov estin). A peculiar Greek idiom. He is a fourth-day man. So Acts xxviii. 13, after one day: literally, being second-day men, The common Jewish idea was that the soul hovered about the body until the third day, when corruption began, and it took its flight.
It is interesting to compare this Gospel picture of sisterly affection under the shadow of death, with the same sentiment as exhibited in Greek tragedy, especially in Sophocles, by whom it is developed with wonderful power, both in the "Antigone" and in the "Electra."
In the former, Antigone, the consummate female figure of the Greek drama, falls a victim to her love for her dead brother. Both here, and in the "Electra," sisterly love is complicated with another and sterner sentiment: in the "Antigone" with indignant defiance of the edict which refuses burial to her brother; in the "Electra" with the long-cherished craving for vengeance. Electra longs for her absent brother Orestes, as the minister of retribution rather than as the solace of loneliness and sorrow. His supposed death is to her, therefore, chiefly the defeat of the passionate, deadly purpose of her whole life. Antigone lives for her kindred, and is sustained under her own sad fate by the hope of rejoining them in the next world. She believes in the permanence of personal existence.
"And yet I go and feed myself with hopes That I shall meet them, by my father loved, Dear to my mother, well-beloved of thee, Thou darling brother" (897-900).
And again, "Loved, I shall be with him whom I have loved Guilty of holiest crime. More time is mine In which to share the favor of the dead, Than that of those who live; for I shall rest Forever there" (73-76).
No such hope illuminates the grief of Electra.
"Ah, Orestes! Dear brother, in thy death thou slayest me; For thou art gone, bereaving my poor heart Of all the little hope that yet remained That thou wouldst come, a living minister Of vengeance for thy father and for me" (807-812).
And again, "If thou suggestest any hope from those So clearly gone to Hades, then on me, Wasting with sorrow, thou wilt trample more" (832-834).
When she is asked, "What! shall I ever bring the dead to life?" she replies, "I meant not that: I am not quite so mad."
In the household of Bethany, the grief of the two sisters, unlike that of the Greek maidens, is unmixed with any other sentiment, save perhaps a tinge of a feeling bordering on reproach that Jesus had not been there to avert their calamity. Comfort from the hope of reunion with the dead is not expressed by them, and is hardly implied in their assertion of the doctrine of a future resurrection, which to them, is a general matter having little or no bearing on their personal grief. In this particular, so far as expression indicates, the advantage is on the side of the Theban maiden. Though her hope is the outgrowth of her affection rather than of her religious training - a thought which is the child of a wish - she never loses her grasp upon the expectation of rejoining her beloved dead.
But the gospel story is thrown into strongest contrast with the classical by the truth of resurrection which dominates it in the person and energy of the Lord of life. Jesus enters at once as the consolation of bereaved love, and the eternal solution of the problem of life and death. The idea which Electra sneered at as madness, is here a realized fact. Beautiful, wonderful as is the action which the drama evolves out of the conflict of sisterly love with death, the curtain falls on death as victor. Into the gospel story Jesus brings a benefaction, a lesson, and a triumph. His warm sympathy, His comforting words, His tears at His friend's tomb, are in significant contrast with the politic, timid, at times reproachful attitude of the chorus of Theban elders towards Antigone. The consummation of both dramas is unmitigated horror. Suicide solves the problem for Antigone, and Electra receives back her brother as from the dead, only to incite him to murder, and to gloat with him over the victims. It is a beautiful feature of the Gospel narrative that it seems, if we may so speak, to retire with an instinctive delicacy from the joy of that reunited household. It breaks off abruptly with the words, "Loose him, and let him go." The imagination alone follows the sisters with their brother, perchance with Christ, behind the closed door, and hears the sacred interchanges of that wonderful communing. Tennyson, with a deep and truly Christian perception, has struck its key-note.
"Her eyes are homes of silent prayer, Nor other thought her mind admits But, he was dead, and there he sits! And He that brought him back is there. Then one deep love doth supersede All other, when her ardent gaze Roves from the living brother's face And rests upon the Life indeed." "In Memoriam."
What do we? The present tense, indicating an emergency. This man is at work teaching and working miracles, and what are we doing?
That year. This has been cited to show that John is guilty of a historical error, since, according to the Mosaic law, the high priesthood was held for life. The occurrence of the phrase three times (vv. 49, 51) is significant, and, so far from indicating an error, goes to connect the office of Caiaphas with his part in accomplishing the death of Christ. It devolved on the High Priest to offer every year the great sacrifice of atonement for sin; and in that year, that memorable year, it fell to Caiaphas to be the instrument of the sacrifice of Him that taketh away the sin of the world. Dante places Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas, far down in Hell in the Bolgia of the Hypocrites:
"to mine eyes there rushed One crucified with three stakes on the ground. When me he saw, he writhed himself all over, Blowing into his beard with suspirations; And the friar Catalan who noticed this, Said to me: 'This transfixed one whom thou seest, Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet To put one man to torture for the people. Crosswrise and naked is he on the path, As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel, Whoever passes, first how much he weighs; And in like mode his father-in-law is punished Within this moat, and the others of the council, Which for the Jews was a malignant seed." "Inferno," xxiii., 110-129..
Dean Plumptre suggests that the punishment described by the poet seems to reproduce the thought of Isa. li. 23.
Ephraim. The site is uncertain. Commonly taken as Ophrah (1 Samuel xiii. 17), or Ephraim (2 Chron. xiii. 19), and identified with el-Taiyibeh, sixteen miles from Jerusalem, and situated on a hill which commands the Jordan valley.
55.-57. xii. 1-11. Compare Matt. xxvi. 6-13; Mark xiv. 3-9.