Our reading today begins with Jesus in conversation with the Pharisees. He uses the metaphor of a sheepfold (10:1-5). A sheepfold was a large outdoor area surrounded by a wall. There would be only one gate in or out, always guarded. This is because multiple shepherds would rent the same sheepfold. The gatekeeper would know who those shepherds are, and allow them in to the sheepfold. The shepherd would then call his sheep, who would recognize his voice, and follow him out. Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are the thieves who try to steal sheep from the true Shepherd (see Matt 23:15). But the true sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him out. The Pharisees did not lead according to the truth, or according to God’s will, which Jesus did. And as usual, the Pharisees don’t understand what Jesus is saying (v. 6).
So Jesus changes the metaphor a bit. He says that He is the sheep door – or the truth (v. 7). His sheep (God’s spiritual people) have not been fooled into following liars (v. 8). Instead, through Jesus, they are saved and provided for (v. 9) and have abundant life (v. 10). Now Jesus says that He is also the good Shepherd Who lays down His life for His sheep (v. 11), a prediction of His suffering and death. And it has to be Him that does this, because He is the owner of the sheep (v. 12). He knows Who are His and they know Him (v. 14). Implied throughout is that the Jewish leaders don’t know Him (or the Father). And there are other sheep (Gentiles) not of this fold (Israel) that will be joined together with the believing Jews as one flock (v. 16). To do this, Christ will die and rise again (v. 17) of His own accord (v. 18). And the crowds are still split (vv. 19-21).
Verse 22 moves us ahead in time a few months (it reads literally: “then the Feast of Dedication happened”). The Feast of Dedication is what became modern day Hanukkah, which celebrates the restoration of divine worship in the Temple. Jesus is in the Temple (v. 23) and is surrounded by the Jewish leaders who demand He tell them whether He is the Christ or not (v. 24). Jesus tells them that He has already told them (v. 25). How? Through His miraculous works. The reason this isn’t plain to them is because they cannot hear the truth (vv. 26-27). Jesus then explains that the Father has given His sheep to Him (v. 29) And that He and the Father are One (v. 30). This is a clear claim to deity. The Jews know this and want to stone Him (v. 31).
When Jesus asks them for what sin they are going to stone Him (v. 32), they charge Him with blasphemy (v. 33). The Jews could not understand how a man could be God. Jesus then points out how the Old Testament talks about the existence of other gods, citing Psalm 82:6 (v. 34). Note that Jesus includes the Psalms in the “Law.” The term “Law” was often used of the entire Old Testament. But note that Jesus is speaking of angels here – heavenly beings other than God. God (Elohim) is speaking to gods (elohim). These are the gods that God sent into the world and to whom he turned the nations over to at Babel (v. 36). If God called these evil heavenly beings – who did wickedness (go read Psalm 82) – gods, and if Christ has not done any wickedness, then why is it blasphemy for Him to claim Himself equal with Elohim? Especially considering He does things only God can do (vv. 37-38)?
Chapter 11 records the raising of Lazarus. He falls sick (11:1) and his sisters send for Jesus (v. 3). Jesus says in verse 4 that “this illness does not lead to death.” This is a prediction of Lazarus’s resurrection. But it is also speaking of the spiritual versus the physical. Just as the blind man was blind from birth for God’s purposes (9:1-3), so was Lazarus going to die physically (temporarily) to reveal the glory of God in the Son. Again, while we have no guarantees of physical health as God’s people, we do have two other guarantees. First, we will not die spiritually. Second, our physical suffering is for the glory of God.
Jesus waits until Lazarus dies before going to Bethany (vv. 6-7). The disciples warn Jesus about going there since it is in Judea where His life would be in danger (v. 8). Jesus again refers to the work that needs to be accomplished before He goes to the cross (vv. 9-10 – see 9:4-5). Jesus then tells His disciples that Lazarus has “fallen asleep” – meaning physical death for those in Christ (v. 11, 13). They don’t understand (v. 12) so Jesus tells them clearly that Lazarus died (v. 14). Jesus says that He is glad that He was not there to heal Lazarus, because the miracle He was about to perform would increase the faith of His disciples (v. 15). Note that the disciples really were convinced going to Judea would be a death sentence for Jesus, and Thomas says he is ready to die with Him (a little more foreshadowing – v. 16).
By the time Jesus gets to Bethany, Lazarus is dead for four days (v. 17). Martha is often remembered as the one who is anxious over worldly things (see Luke 10:38-42), but here we see that she was a woman of great faith. She knows Jesus could have healed her brother (v. 21), and even now believes that Jesus can heal Him (v. 22)! Jesus promises that Lazarus will rise (v. 23). Martha’s reaction shows us that there was a strong Jewish belief in a final resurrection already (v. 24). And here, Jesus fills in the piece of the puzzle that was not obvious in the Old Testament promises of resurrection: He is the resurrection (v. 25). Those who believe in Him will never die spiritually, and will even be raised physically (vv. 25-26). And Martha believes what the Pharisees (who believe in the final resurrection, remember) do not. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Who was sent into the world (v. 27). John is playing off of Jesus’s exchange with the Pharisees about His coming into the world and His works proving Who He is (10:34-38) to contrast them with believers like Martha.
When Mary comes to Jesus, she also tells Him that she knows He could have healed Lazarus (v. 32). So He asks to be brought to the tomb (v. 34). When Jesus gets there, He weeps (v. 35). He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised, and yet He weeps. This perhaps shows the humanity of Jesus more than anything else besides His own suffering and death. Even for believers, physical death hurts. It isn’t the way it should be. Death should remind us that it is sin that brought death into the world, and we should mourn over sin. But we can – and should – mourn the loss of those we love, even those we know will rise again.
Jesus then commands to have the stone removed from the tomb entrance (v. 39). This prefigures a stone rolling away from another tomb. This whole event is an act prophecy pointing to Christ’s resurrection. When Martha objects, Jesus reminds her of what He said in verses 25-26. He was about to show her what He was talking about. Jesus then prays for the benefit of those around Him (vv. 41-42). They want them to know that the Father hears Him. This shows the unity between Him and the Father He has spoken about, and also that the Father and He work as One (see 5:19-21). And then Jesus calls out to Lazarus to live (v. 43). And His sheep hears His voice, and follows His command (v. 44).
We see that some believed because of this miracle (v. 45 – see v. 42). We see that some didn’t (v. 46). In fact, their hearts were hardened and they opposed Jesus. The Jewish leaders feel that Jesus now presents a real problem. These miracles draw a crowd, and if this goes much further, Rome is going to notice (vv. 47-48). Note that they are worried first about their own place before the good of the nation (v. 48). Then Caiaphas, the High Priest, unknowingly prophesies (vv. 49-51). He is saying that the solution to their problem is to put Jesus to death (v. 53). He is prophesying, though, that them putting Jesus to death is the solution to the greatest problem of the whole world (vv. 51-52). Verse 55 jumps us forward to Jesus’s final Passover. Once again, we see that everyone was focused on Jesus (vv. 56-57).
Chapter 12 begins with Jesus in Bethany (12:1). The house of Lazarus was Jesus’s lodging place for the last week of His life. We see the wealth of the family in the ointment Mary uses to anoint Jesus (v. 3). Once again, John is drawing a contrast between the religious leaders and true believers, once again represented by this family Jesus was friends with. Whereas Caiaphas prophesied unknowingly about Jesus’s death thinking he was doing good for himself (11:49-53), here, Mary knowingly pours out what she has for Christ likely knowing that His death was coming. First, nard was used (usually mixed with other oils) to anoint the bodies of the dead. Second, Jesus’s “so that she may keep it…” can be translated “that she establishes this for the day of my burial.” When people find out that Jesus is in Bethany, a large amount of them come there seeking Him (v. 9). Note that Lazarus had gained some fame because of his miraculous resurrection, and his life was now in danger, too (v. 10), because of how many believed because of the miracle.
The next day is Jesus’s Triumphal Entry (vv. 12-15). We are told here that the disciples didn’t understand what was happening until after the resurrection (v. 16). Note that it is in large part because of the raising of Lazarus that the crowds believed (v. 18). And the Triumphal Entry was the realization of the Pharisees’ fears (v. 19 – see 11:48).
Among those in Jerusalem for the feast were some Greeks (v. 20). When Philip and Andrew tell Jesus He is being sought by them (v. 22), Jesus responds by predicting His death and resurrection (vv. 23-24). The “much fruit” that Jesus talks about are all the “whoever” of verse 25 and all the “anyone” of verse 26. Note, this is Jesus’s response to non-Jews seeking Him. That the world was ready to believe meant for Jesus that “the hour has come” (see 2:4). And we again see the humanity of Jesus. He is troubled by what He knows is coming (v. 27). But He is not backing down from it. He calls on the Father to be glorified through His death and resurrection (v. 27) and the Father audibly responds (v. 28). But the crowd cannot hear God’s voice for what it is (v. 29).
Jesus now tells everyone what His death and resurrection will accomplish (vv. 31-32). The world is now judged. He is going to take on the judgment of the world that was disinherited at Babel so they can be restored to God. Those who are not restored through Christ will be judged themselves. The ruler of this world (Satan) is now cast out. This refers to the defeat of Satan and his permanent expulsion from heaven (see Rev 12:7-12). It also means that he is now bound (see Matt 12:29, Rev 20:2-3) and the church can reclaim the world for God. God’s salvation is now going to be opened to all nations (v. 32 – see 3:14).
The crowds don’t understand what Jesus is saying (v. 34). Jesus tells them (the Jews) that while He is right there among them, they need to believe. If they don’t believe now, how will they when He is gone (vv. 35-36)? And we see that they did not believe (v. 37). They were those with eyes who could not see (vv. 38-40 – see 9:39). Note that after the quotation of Isaiah 6, John says Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him (v. 41). In other words, Isaiah saw Christ on the throne and prophesied of Him. We see that there were many secret believers who were afraid to openly confess their faith (vv. 42-43).
The chapter ends with Jesus again pointing out that His salvation is for the whole world. Note all the “whoever” and “anyone” and “the one” references in verses 44-48. Salvation is by faith (v. 44). Faith reveals the truth (v. 46). Faith is not judged (v. 48). Faith brings eternal life (v. 50).