Chapter eleven is not specifically dated, but it took place during the four months between the feast of the Dedication and the following Passover (John 12:1). Jesus was still “hiding out” on the other side of the Jordan River when he received word that his dear friend Lazarus was deathly ill (John 11:1-16). Rather than going right away, Jesus decided to wait for two days, declaring to his disciples, “This sickness will not lead to death, but to God’s glory.” After those two days, Jesus intended to visit his friends, but his disciples tried to stop him because of the death threats the last time he was there. After a few back and forth comments, and seeing that Jesus was not going to be stopped, the disciples agreed to go, with Thomas woefully stating, “Let us go too, so that we may die with him” (John 11:16).
The rest of the chapter can be divided into three sections, all responses to Jesus’ arrival: Martha’s and Mary’s response (John 11:17-37); Lazarus’ response (John 11:38-44); and the people’s response (John 11:45-53). Martha’s and Mary’s response was based in grief and their incredulity that Jesus did not come right away. They believed that, if he had come, he could have prevented Lazarus from dying (John 11:21, 32). In their grief, they limited his power only to the living. This set up his fifth great declaration – “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) – and his greatest question, relevant for all people and all time – “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)
Going to the tomb, Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the mouth of the cave. Then offering a prayer of thanks that God always heard him, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of his grave. It should not be overlooked that only Lazarus, the dead man, responded immediately and obediently to the Savior that day. With new life, Lazarus came out of the tomb.
The crowd responded to this miracle variously, as did the crowds in Jerusalem. Some believed in Jesus (John 11:45). Others relayed the story to the religious leaders (John 11:46). In council together with the priests and Pharisees, Caiaphas (unknowingly) made his great prophetic statement that he intended to have Jesus die “for the people” (John 11:50). John clarified that Jesus indeed would die, not just for Israel but for all people (John 11:51-52). From this point on, Jesus stayed away from Jerusalem for the remainder of the time leading up to Passover as he prepared himself for what was to come (John 11:54-57).