When the Lord suggested returning to Judaea to help Lazarus (v.7) the apostles pointed out they recently tried to kill Him there (v.8). Somehow He must convince them of the importance of going back anyway, and so He speaks to them about walking in light and not stumbling (v.9,10). John defines these words as speaking of a love for your brother (IJo.2:9-11) even to the point of dying for them (IJo.3:11-16). You see, He was willing to die to help Laza-rus, and is trying to teach the apostles to feel the same way.
This was part of their training. Remember, when the Lord realized they were going to kill Him, He stopped preaching to the crowds and began to train the apostles to carry on after He was gone. This was training they would need for the Tribulation, which they would have entered had the dispensation of grace not interrupted the prophetic pro-gram. In that day, believers won’t be able to buy food without the mark of the beast, and other believers must help them even if it costs them their life (Luke 11:3-8 cf. I John 3:16,17). If they didn’t learn to walk in this light now, they would stumble later.
They weren’t just afraid the Jews would kill Him if they returned to Judaea, they were afraid they’d be killed too. We know this because the Lord reminded them that Lazarus was their friend too (John 11:11), so they too should be willing to die for him (John 15:13).
The Lord could have raised Lazarus from the dead from a distance (cf. John 4:46-50), but said “I go, that I may awake him.” When He spoke of going in the gospel of John, it was always a reference to dying and rising and going to His Father (John 7:33; 13:33,36; 14:12; 16:5,7,10, 16,17). Since Lazarus was a type of Israel, going to raise Lazarus from the dead was symbolic of how He had to die and go to His Father to someday raise Israel from the dead.
If Lazarus’ sisters had to tell the Lord he was sick (11:3), showing He was not omniscient while He was here on earth, how did the Lord now know he was dead without being told (11:12-14)? He was a prophet (Deut.18:15), and prophets knew things that other men could not know.
The Lord was glad He wasn’t there when Lazarus died (11:15) for had He been there, he would not have died. No one ever died in the presence of the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15). But how was it good for their sakes (John 11:15) to let Lazarus die if they loved him as a friend too? The Lord always does what is best for us spiritually. Without any heartache or sorrow you’d be a mess (Rom.5:3,4). When it says He was glad for their sakes that they might believe (John 11:15), they already believed He was Christ (2:11), they just didn’t know the extent of His power (Lu. 8:24,25).
Thomas’ statement of faith (John 11:16) contrasts with his later unbelief (20:24,25), but he was living up to his name. “Thomas” was the Hebrew word for twin (Gen.25:24), and Didymus was Greek for twofold or twain, speaking of his split personality. He was two men in one—kind of like us, sometimes strong in faith, sometimes not. His faith wavered because like the two on Emmaus Road, he didn’t believe the Lord when He said He’d die and rise again (Luke 24:17-21), so when He died they thought He couldn’t have been their Messiah. Failure to believe God’s Word always results in wavering faith! Believing Acts 14:22 will keep your faith strong when you are troubled.
Resurrection is usually associated with the 3rd day (Hos.6: 2) not the 4th, but Lazarus’ 4th day resurrection represented the delay that must now come in Israel’s scheduled resur-rection due to their unbelief. Of course, corruption starts on the 4th day (cf. Acts 2:31), so this represents the corruption that Israel lies in to this day. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The Lord raised someone who just died (Mark 5:22), then one on the way to the grave (Luke 7:14), now Lazarus, symbolizing their progressive corruption.
Finally, the Jews gathered for a funeral for Lazarus, a type of how Jews today mourn the death of their nation, and how God doesn’t seem to work miracles for them any more. But when Israel dies because of her sin, God doesn’t want her mourned (Jerm.16:5).