John 11 and 12.
unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou believedst,
thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40).
answereth them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of
man should be glorified" (John 12:23).
Chapters eleven and
twelve have to be taken together, for they are part and
counterpart. From the above citations from each it will
be seen that, once again, the governing factor is the
glory of the Son of Man as the Son of God.
Before we can rightly
understand the subject-matter of the chapters we need to
understand the meaning of glory.
the Glory of God Is
The glory of God is the
expression of the satisfaction of His nature. When and
where God's nature - His very being - is satisfied, that
satisfaction emanates, and there is a spirit of
inexpressible joy, peace, rest, beauty, wonder, harmony,
and life. All these elements are the components or
constituents of what is called "Glory." When
any person is filled with this spirit and experiences
something of these elements, almost the only suitable and
adequate exclamation is "Glory!"
what a foretaste of glory Divine!"
If our whole life was
gathered up into one particular object and concern, so
that we had nothing else to justify our existence, and
that object was a consuming passion, so that for it we
lived, thought, planned, sacrificed, suffered, worked,
and longed with an unutterable longing; and then that
object was realized, reached, possessed: if that
happened, we should be quite unable to shut it all in to
ourselves it would break out and affect all around us. In
its realm it would be what we would call
"Glory" we should exclaim, "Isn't it
Well, lift it all into
the so much greater and higher realm of Infinite God;
make it eternal and not of time; spiritual and not merely
temporal; immortal and not corruptible; and that - where
it exists - is Divine glory, and it is affecting and
God's nature craves for
that which corresponds to it. God's nature contains the
elements of His purpose and desire. Out of His very being
He has projected His purpose. To that purpose He has
committed Himself; has planned, laboured, thought,
sacrificed, suffered, longed; and for its sake He is
never resting. When He sees it, in its beginning or
increase, in its principle or growth, His "good
pleasure," satisfaction and joy are ministered to,
so that those concerned register and share His
satisfaction; and that is "Glory."
This, then, is the key
to John's "Gospel," and to these two chapters
in particular. Let us use the key.
- the Counter to Glory
Here is Lazarus. It is
a fair and beautiful human scene. Strong affection
between sisters and brother; a lovely home, to which
Jesus turned when He could, knowing of a warm welcome, a
deep understanding and appreciation - even if sometimes,
under peculiar stress, there may have been a little
domestic tension. This scene is broken into by sickness
and - death!
Death is the enemy of
all that is beautiful. Death is always death, whether it
be our death or the Lord's death. When it says of Him
that "He tasted death," it means that it was
the bitterest and most devastating cup that He drank.
Death is always the breakdown of Divine purpose, the
contradiction to God's will; the veil over the Divine
glory. Death - if it remains - is a closed door.
But more - death is no
mere hap, chance, accident; the natural termination
of a tenure of life! If the Bible is clear on anything,
it is certainly clear on this, that death was not
intended, but is the result of a wrongful exercise of
choice - the exercise of choice in a manner contrary to
the will of God. That exercise is called Sin, and its
wages are not the grateful emoluments of services
rendered, but judgment upon a state and position
altogether contrary to the Creator's mind.
Death declares that
there is something that does not, and never can, bring
satisfaction to God's nature. There is that which
declares a Divine halt, not a Divine purpose. There is no
glory in death! Some people may labor to sublimate
death; others declare, "There is no death"; but
the Bible just stands by its own definition and
declaration: "the last enemy... death,"
and it is for "abolition," not bowing out or
Such then is the
setting of John 11.
We must next see the
immediate implication of the Bethany scene and event; for
there is something of deliberateness, both in what Jesus
said about it, and in His strange behavior over it.
is... for the glory of God."
"Jesus... abode... where he was."
"Lazarus is dead."
That is the death side.
It had a twofold significance: the first is in chapter
11, and the second in chapter 12.
Lazarus as Representing Israel
It is significant that
this "Gospel" stands so largely in relation to
a Jewish background. See, for example, the references to
Jewish Feasts. Then see how everything is in contention
with - or by - Jewish Rulers and Teachers. We saw this in
our last chapter, in relation to the Shepherd and the
flocks and folds. It is not possible to separate the
"signs" (miracles) of John's Gospel from the
spiritual state of Israel at the time. Hence Lazarus
speaks of Israel's condition, need, and only hope.
We have to remember the
affectional side. It is clearly stated that "Jesus
loved... Lazarus." Lazarus was called "he whom
thou lovest," and when Jesus wept the comment of the
bystanders was: "Behold how he loved him."
Whatever may have been the stem and angry attitude of
Jesus toward the "blind leaders," and toward
the cold and deadly system which Judaism had become,
there is no question as to His love for Israel. See, for
example, His tears and hear His lament over Jerusalem. If
His way over Lazarus seems strange, it is not lack of
love, but rather love's clear discernment of the only way
of hope. Lazarus "is sick," and who will say
that Israel was not desperately sick in those days? So
desperately sick, and of such a sickness, that there is
no remedy, no cure, no healing, no patching up. There
will be no intervention to preserve and prolong that Israel.
Israel must die; that is the only way of any hope
or glory at all.
So Lazarus dies. But
more - he is left in death until the verdict of nature
is: "he stinketh." There is an Old
Testament word which says that a consequence of
disobedience in Israel - if persisted in - would be that
they would become a byword among nations - metaphorically
they would stink in their nostrils. How true that has
become! So Lazarus sets forth God's estimate of, and
verdict upon, Israel. "The wound has become
We leave that for the
moment, and go to the second aspect.
Lazarus as Representing Mankind
"Gospel," and with Israel as an illustration,
the state and need of mankind as a whole is revealed.
There is a very significant change of title from chapter
11 to chapter 12. In 11 it is "Son of God"
several times. In 12 that title is not used, but
"Son of Man" is. There is a sense in which the
former title was peculiarly the challenge and test to
Israel at that time. Of course it is always so, in every
realm, but Israel's day was closing and it would close on
this issue peculiarly. The world's day is not yet at its
close - although it may very nearly be. But it will be
governed by the same issue as was Israel's.
The point here is that
the transition from the immediate emphasis upon Son of
God to Son of Man is just the widening of the circle to
the whole race, for Son of Man is a racial designation,
not only a national. What was true of Lazarus as
representing the state and need of Israel is true of the
whole human race. Incurable, sick unto death; dead, and
stinking. That is the true verdict; that is God's
attitude. The only hope is in resurrection, a new
beginning, and that by and with Jesus Christ. That
natural state of man can never bring satisfaction
to God, therefore there can never be any glory
there. It is a nature utterly different from God's.
So the events of
Bethany pass by swift and direct transition to 12:24: the
corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, in
order that a new organism may appear with a propagating
life. Connected with this are the explicit statements
concerning the Cross (verses 31-34).
Cross Is an End
What was it, and is it,
that necessitated the holding back of Jesus until Lazarus
had been in the grave four days? Why should it be a part
of the drama that, when there is true description and
admission made, the expression "he stinketh"
should be the only appropriate one? The answer is that
man at some time (we know when) became infected by a
fatal virus called "self," and the essence of
self is pride.
"God beholdeth the
proud afar off."
"Jesus... abode... in the place where he was."
"Pride is an abomination unto God."
It is the selfhood of
man, his self-sufficiency, self-importance, self-will,
self-occupation, etc., which will not allow Jesus to be
absolute Lord and God, that makes it necessary for the
Cross to engulf him. There is no hope for him until he
sees himself crucified with Christ and buried with Him!
When Paul followed the infinite descent of Christ from
the glory of equality with God as His right, down through
incarnation and emptying, he concluded the emptying
course with "Yea, the death of the
Cross," as though nothing could so completely
demonstrate the meaning of Christ's death; not a vestige
of honor or pride, or respect, or glory. "My God...
thou hast forsaken me."
It requires a true
apprehension of the meaning of Christ's death to come to
the place where it is not only a sentiment uttered, but a
course taken -
"When I survey the wondrous Cross On which the
Prince of Glory died,
[I] pour contempt on all my pride."
This nature governed by
the self principle is in the way of corruption, and is
ineligible for glory. Let it go where God has put it, and
let us look to and hope alone in Jesus - "the
resurrection and the life." There must be just as
real a crisis in our lives as there was in Bethany. The
state was incurable. Death was a terrible reality. Jesus
met it at its uttermost point and, through the power of
His own other and different life, completely overthrew
it. These are the truths represented in Bethany and
Lazarus - truths which are the substance of the Gospel,
both for the saved and the unsaved, and borne out by all
the subsequent New Testament teaching.
- The Ground of Glory
In resurrection God
starts all over again with a New Creation; and in a
spiritual and real way that New Creation will receive the
same verdict as that which was originally given
concerning the material and illustrative old creation.
"God saw that it was good." "God
rested." "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased." God, finding His nature satisfied,
expresses that satisfaction. And then there follows the
inclusive verdict: "We beheld his glory."
This can be put to the
test in the simplest ways. When one, knowing himself or
herself to be a sinner, hopeless and brokenhearted, with
God afar off, turns and, seeing in Jesus God's way, says,
"Lord, I believe!" - the issue is that the
heart is filled with such a sense of rest, satisfaction,
and joy, that the only suitable word to describe it is
The same is true when a
controversy has arisen between a child or servant of God
and his or her Lord. The glory goes out. But let that
whole matter be brought to the Cross and acknowledged to
be what it is - a reasserting of the natural life or self
- let that be put where God has put it, in the grave of
Jesus, and once more rest and unspeakable relief fill the
heart, and the glory returns.
So we note some other
features of the glory.
There is the quick
transition from the individual and personal to the
collective and corporate. The next scene after the
raising of Lazarus is the feast at Bethany. The feast is
made for Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. They
are eating and drinking together with Him on the ground
of a new life. His glory is manifested, not only in the
one, but in the many. This leads to a new act of worship.
Worship is always the very essence of glory.
From one corn of wheat
falling into the ground and dying there comes the
"much fruit," many corns and ears of corn; at
length a mighty harvest, of which Jesus was the
In relation to the corn
of wheat He said, "Now is the Son of Man
glorified," and it was so! From Calvary - the
Passover - came Pentecost, and who will say that
Pentecost was not glory?
But - and there is
always someone lurking in the shadows to spoil - it was
not long before reactions set in and Judas and all his
ilk set a counter-movement going. How the Devil hates
to see Jesus glorified! How his jealousy and
envy are stirred to overflowing hatred when he sees a
company bound together in one life, feasting with Christ
in worshipping love! Bitter, bitter is his spite at that,
and he will ruin it if he can! So it was, and so it will
"Behold, how good
and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
unity!" (Ps. 133:1). But Satan hates it, and sees in
it the undoing of all his work to rob Christ of His
inheritance. After the feast, Judas and the Pharisees.
After Pentecost, Herod and the world.
But the far end of all
is the glory - God's nature satisfied, and that
satisfaction displayed in the New Jerusalem -
"having the glory of God."