1 ¶ Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. 7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
A certain man or a certain woman are particularly interesting phrases in the Bible denoting God’s focus on an individual person, as my wife, Beth, pointed out to me. You can search for those phrases and for the word certain. It is an interesting study. The God who created the stars which are as numerous as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17; Hebrews 11:12), who defied someone to even try to count their number (Genesis 15:5), not only can count them and has names for all of them (Psalm 147:4), but is aware of every sparrow that falls from the sky (Matthew 10:29). God lives in eternity, unbound by time (Isaiah 57:15), and sees each and every created being and thing.
The phrase a certain man or a certain woman reveals God’s knowledge of each individual. Your prayers, your thoughts, your concerns, your sins, your joys, and your failures are all revealed before an eternal God who simply is, with past, present, and future blended into one, I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14). He knows you from inside by your spirit (Proverbs 20:27), from your presence before Him as an angel or appearance (Matthew 18:10), and probably a million different ways all the way down the smallest microscopic cell function. The God who created the furthest nebula in entire universe was focused on a certain man named Lazarus.
Mary will perform her act of devotion listed in verse 2 in the next chapter of John. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. Jesus, who is said to have loved Lazarus and his two sisters, promised that this sickness would not result in death but in glory to God that His, Jesus’, power and relationship to God the Father would be manifested. Jesus waited and did not go to Lazarus’ side immediately.
Jesus announced to His disciples that they were to return to Judea, a plan to which they objected because of the danger. Then, Jesus explains that there are 12 hours in the Jewish day and 12 hours in the night. We read from the first chapter of Genesis and see that a 24 days begins in the evening (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23 & 31). We see from the gospels that the hours of the day are marked from 6am to 6pm in our thinking (Matthew 20:3; 15:25; 15:33; 27:45; Acts 2:15 etc. etc.).
Jesus isn’t talking about a regular day, though. He is referring to the time in which He walks the earth, when people could know Him personally and in the flesh as the day. He is the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). He is saying that if a person does not know Him, the light of the world, then he is walking in the dark and stumbling as his way is not sure and his path is unsafe. This makes an analogy with death and life that is to come.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The night is significant because it is spiritually day while Jesus walked on the earth.
John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Again, repeating from my comments on chapter 9.
John 13:26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
1Thessalonians 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
2Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
As Christ’s resurrection was revealed in the morning, we are waiting for Christ’s return for us, for the morning light to peek over the horizon;
Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Psalm 30:4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 130:6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
2Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Jesus was the particular and special light of the world of men while He was in the world as He is now. No one living then, other than Him, could have forseen the power over human civilization that His presence was to have. Without His existence in the form of a human we would be lost. It was that visitation that set the stage for our salvation.
John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Additionally, in this set of verses we find sleep used as a euphemism for death. Paul will also use this figure of speech. Notice the position of sleep in contrast to died in the following verse;
1Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
In the following verses sleep is used for spiritual lethargy and apathy as Paul calls believers to “WAKE UP!” in a manner of speaking.
Romans 13:11 ¶ And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
1Thessalonians 5:6 ¶ Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
So, whatever spiritual state you’re in, as long as you are a believer, as in Paul’s us Christ died for you and you will live together with Him.
But, in these verses sleep’s contrast as a type of death is apparent.
1Corinthians 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
1Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Thomas, of course, as the disciples and we often do, does not understand what Jesus’ is saying.