John 11:17 Commentary - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New TestamentObserve here, 1. The length of time which Christ designedly delayed before he would come to Lazarus's grave; he was not above six miles off Bethany, being within two miles of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem within four miles of Bethabara, where Christ now was, and yet our Saviour comes not of four days; doubtless, that the miracle of Lazarus being sick, as have raised him being dead, and as easily have raised him the first day, as the fourth day; but that had not carried along with it such a full conviction of Christ's almighty power. Therefore, that he might draw the eyes of their faith more stedfastly to behold and admire his almighty power, our Saviour defers his coming till Lazarus had been dead four days.
Observe, 2. The civil usage of mourning with those that mourned for the dead: anciently they mourned thirty days, and sometimes forty, for a dear relation, Num 20:29. During which time, neighbours and friends came to visit and relieve them in their sadness, with such consolatory arguments as they had. Christian religions doth not condemn natural affection: human passions are not sinful, if not excessive; to be above the stroke of passions is a condition equal to angels; to be in a state of sorrow without the sense of sorrow is a disposition beneath the beasts: but duly to regulate our sorrows, and set boundaries to our grief, is the wisdom, the duty, the interest, and the excellency, of a Christian. As to be above all passions will be our happiness in heaven, so to regulate and rectify our passions is a great part of our holiness on earth.
Observe, 3. Although Martha was a true mourner for the death of her brother, yet she doth not so far indulge to grief, but, upon the first notice of Christ's approach, she arises to go forth to meet him, with a mournful moan in her mouth, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But then her infirmity appeared in limiting Christ both to time and place; to place, If thou hadst been here: as if Christ could not (if he had pleased) save his life, absent as well as present.
Then to time, Now he stinketh; as if she had said, "You are come, but, alas! too late: you have staid too long, he is past recovery, the grave hath swallowed him up." As if death would not deliver up his prisoner at the command of Christ:
Oh! the imperfect compostiion of the best of saints! what a mixture of faith and infirmity is found in the holiest and best of Christians! This also farther appears in her next words, I know, that whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, he will give it thee Joh 11:22 : she seems not to believe that Christ was able to raise him by his own immediate power, but must obtain power of God to do it, as the prophets were wont to do that raised the dead. She thought Christ a person highly in God's favour, but scarce believed him able to raise Lazarus by his own power; had her faith extended to a belief that Christ was equal with the Father, and that the fulness of the godhead dwelt in him, whe would not have questioned his power to raise him from the grave; for though Christ as Mediator did apply himself by prayer to God at the raising of dead Lazarus, an almighty power communicated with his essence from the Father, by an eternal and ineffable generation.
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Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament
William Burkitt (1650 - 1703) was a Church of England clergyman, bible expositor, and devotional writer.
Volume 1: Matthew - John, was published in 1700.
Volume 2: Acts - Revelation was published 1703.