John 11:38 Commentary - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New TestamentIn these verses we find our Lord addressing himself to the miracle of raising Lazarus from the grave.
First, he commands them to take away the stone. But could not that voice which raised the dead, remove the stone? Yes, no doubt; but it is always the will of Christ that we put forth our utmost endeavours, and do what we can in order to our own deliverance. To remove the stone, and untie the napkin, was in their power; this therefore they must do; but to raise the dead was out of their power; this therefore Christ will do alone. Our hands must do their utmost, before Christ will put forth his help.
The stone being thus removed, his eyes begin; they are lifted up to heaven, his Father's throne, from whence he expects to derive his power: his tongue seconds his eyes, and prays unto his Father. Christ, as God, wrought this miracle by his own power. Consider him as a Mediator, and so he looks up to his Father by prayer, yet we hear of no prayer, but a thanksgiving only. Christ's will was his prayer; whatever Christ willed, God granted Christ and his Father having one essence, one nature, and one will. Neither was it fit for Christ to pray vocally and audibly, lest the unbelieving Jews should say, he did all by entreaty, nothing by power.
Observe farther, That as Christ, when he spake to his Father, lifted up his eyes; so, when he spake to dead Lazarus, he lifted up his voice, and cried aloud. This Christ did, that the strength of the voice might answer the strength of the affection, since we vehemently utter what we earnestly desire; also that the greatness of the voice might answer to the greatness of the work; but especially that the hearers might be witnesses, this mighty work was performed, not by any magical enchantments, which are commonly mumbled forth with a low voice, but by an authoritative and divine command.
In a word, might not Christ utter a loud voice at the raising of Lazarus, that it might be a representation of that shrill and loud voice of the last trumpet at the general resurrection; which shall sound into all graves, and raise all flesh from the bed of dust?
Observe next, At the manner of our Lord's speaking with a loud voice, so the words spoken by him: Lazarus, come forth.
Mark, Christ doth not say, Lazarus, revive: but, as if he supposed him already alive, he says, Lazarus come forth; to let us know that they are alive to him, who are dead to us.
Mark also, What a commanding word this was, Come forth. Not that it was in the power of these loud commanding words to raise Lazarus, but in the quickening power of Christ which attended these words.
O blessed Saviour! it is thy voice which we shall ere long hear sounding into the bottom of the grave, and raising us from our bed of dust. It is thy voice that shall pierce the rocks, divide the mountains, and echo forth throughout the universe saying, Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment.
Observe lastly, How readily obedient Lazarus was to the call and command of Christ: He that was dead came forth: and if Lazarus did thus instantly start up at the voice of Christ in the day of his humiliation, how shall the dead be roused up out of their graves by that voice which will shake the powers of heaven, and move the foundations of the earth, in the day of his glorification!
Question, But where was Lazarus's soul all that while that he was dead? If in heaven, was it not wrong to him to come from thence? if not, doth it not prove that the soul sleeps as well as the body.
Answer, Souls go not to heaven by necessitation, as the fire naturally and necessarily ascends upwards; but are disposed of by God as the supreme Governor; those that hath served him to go to heaven, and those that have served the devil go to hell, and those that are not adjudged to either place, but are to live presently again upon earth, as Lazarus was, are reserved by God accordingly: whether shut up in the body as in a swoon, or whether kept in the custody and hands of an angel not far form the body, waiting his pleasure either to restore it to the body, or to return it to its proper place of bliss or misery, the scripture has not told us whether; and it would be too great curiosity to inquire, and greater presumption to determine.
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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.