Verses 1-8: The chapter division here (an artificial division not in the original text) makes us not see the connection between the end of Luke 17 and the beginning of 18. Might Luke have any particular prayers in mind in verse 1? How about the desire mentioned in Luke 17:22?
In verse 1, Luke tells us the teaching of the parable before he gives the parable. Why? After reading the parable ask yourself whether there are other ways to read it, perhaps ways that Luke wants to forestall.
We will later see that Paul particularly likes the language that Luke uses here, “pray always” (see, for example, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Romans 12:12, and Ephesians 6:18) and “do not faint” (the word translated “faint” means “to become weary or exhausted” and can mean “lose heart”—for places where Paul uses the term, see for example 2 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Corinthians 4:1 and 16, and Galatians 6:9). What kind of fainting or exhaustion do you think Luke has in mind?
What does constant prayer have to do with being a Christian? Does it have anything to do with seeing the world with Christ as the light that makes sight possible (John 9)?
What does not getting exhausted have to do with being a Christian?
In verse 2, we find that the judge neither fears God nor regards man. What does the second mean? Are the two phrases parallel, and if they are, does understanding the first help us understand the second?
The King James translation (verse 3) says that the woman “came unto” the judge, but a more accurate translation might be “she kept coming to him.” A better translation than “avenge” is “defend,” “plead my case.” What is the woman asking and why do you think she has to keep coming to the judge?
In verse 6 why does Jesus tell his listeners to pay attention to what the judge said?
The last part of verse 8 is poorly translated in the King James version. It says “though he bear long with them,” but most agree that something like “Will he be slow to answer them?” is more accurate.
What is the import of verse 7 and the first half of verse 8? How does the parable explain God’s defense of his elect? Why compare the Father to an unjust judge? Isn’t that blasphemous? How is the question in the second half of verse 8 related to the parable and its explanation?
This is the only parable that ends with an explicit question. Why? What is the answer to the question? How is that answer relevant to the context in which Jesus has told this parable?
Verses 35-43: When Mark recounted this story, he placed it immediately after James and John’s request to sit at the Lord’s right and left hand and his discussion with the apostles about what it means to be great in the Kingdom. Luke puts the event after Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man who could not give up his riches, the discussion with Peter about what things those who follow him are blessed with, and Jesus’ prophecy that he would soon be killed in Jerusalem. Do the different contexts into which Mark and Luke place this story give it different meanings?
How do Jesus’ “handlers” deal with the blind man? To whom might we compare those handlers in our own experience?
Are we ever among those who tell people crying for the mercy of God to hold their peace? If so, how do we do so?
To whom might we compare the blind man with his cry for mercy? Are we blind? Do we need mercy? What can heal our blindness?
The blind man calls Jesus “Son of David” (verse 39). What did he mean by that title? How is it relevant to the coming events, such as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?
Verses 1-10: The name “Zacchaeus” (“Zaccai” in Hebrew) means “pure” or “innocent.” Is that relevant to the story? Why does Luke tell us that Zacchaeus was the chief publican and that he was rich? Does that suggest anything about his character? When we hear his occupation, “rich tax collector,” how does Luke expect us to think of Zacchaeus? Which suggestion, that of his name or that of his occupation, turns out to be more accurate?
Compare this parable to that of the blind man. How are Zacchaeus and the blind man in the same position relative to their culture?
Do you think that Luke places this story near the story of the rich young man so that we can contrast the two? If so, in how many ways to you see a contrast?
Of what significance is it that Jesus calls someone to him whom it would seem impossible for him to know about (verse 5)?
Why was Zacchaeus joyful (verse 6)?
Who do you think murmured (verse 7)?
What does verse 8 tell us about Zacchaeus? Is he describing what he has done all along or what he will do from now on? How do you decide?
Compare Numbers 5:5-7, which gives the law of restitution. What does that tell us about Zacchaeus’s offer?
What does Jesus mean (verse 9) when he says “this day is salvation come to this house”? Is he referring to himself or to what has happened to Zacchaeus? If the latter, why does Jesus say “to this house (or household)” rather than “to Zacchaeus”?
Explain Jesus’ explanation of what has happened: “forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”
The language of verse 10 suggests that this event is related to the parables of the sheep, the coin, and the two sons (Luke 15). What specific connections can you see? (Notice, for example, the parallel between Luke 18:7 and Luke 15:2.) How does remembering that parable help us understand this event? How does understanding this event help us read that story?
Recall from the study questions for lesson 12 that many see the first part of the gospel of John as organized around seven miracles (or signs—the Greek word is the same; see John 2:11) and accompanying sermons:
Why do you think John uses miracles as the signs of Jesus’ ministry and of his teaching? Four of the seven miracles are healings. Why is healing such an important sign of Jesus’ ministry? The second part of John’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, trial, death, and resurrection. How do these seven signs and sermons prepare us for that story? As you read the story of the raising of Lazarus, ask yourself how Lazarus is a type for every person: in what various ways can we be said to be dead? brought back to life?
Verses 1-2: The name Lazarus (an abbreviation of Eleazar—“God has helped”) was a common name at the time. Its meaning seems irrelevant to the story; John doesn’t mention that meaning.
Why is it important that we know that Jesus has gone to the town of Mary and Martha? Why is it important that we know which Mary it is? (See John 12:3; it does not seem to be the woman in Luke 7:37-38.)
Verses 3-6: Verses 3 and 11 use the Greek word philein for “to love,” and verse 5 uses the word agapan. Some have seen an important distinction between philos (the noun form of philein) and agape (the noun form of agapan), assuming that they describe two different kinds of love. However, the use of the verbs that we see of the verbs here is evidence that the distinction is something we are reading into the text rather than a distinction important to the New Testament writers. As we see here, John uses the two verb more or less interchangeably.
What do the gospels mean when they describe a person as someone whom Jesus loved? Didn’t he love everyone? Does Jesus love the true Christian differently than he does the unrepentant person? If not, why not? If so, how?
Mary and Martha send Jesus a message, but they don’t send him a request (verse 3). Why do you think they make their request in this roundabout way? (Compare how Mary, the mother of Jesus, made her request at Cana, John 2:3.)
In verse 4 Jesus says “this sickness does not lead to death.” Since Lazarus does, in fact, die, what can Jesus have meant by that? To what does this sickness lead?
What would you normally think of someone who delayed coming to the bedside of an ill person whom he could heal? What would you think if that person said, “Waiting and letting him get worse before I heal him will show what a good doctor I am”? Is that what Jesus was doing?
How do you think a non-Christian might respond on hearing this much of the story? Why would John tell the story this way? (Notice that he is the only gospel writer who tells the story at all, though the other gospels tell of other persons restored to life.)
Why don’t we think the same things of Jesus that we might think of another person who acted in a similar way? Why is it important for Jesus to bring someone to life at this particular point in his ministry?
Verses 7-10: To what incident are the disciples referring in verse 8? How is what Jesus says in verses 9-10 an answer to the disciples’ worry in verse 8? How would you explain what Jesus is saying in verse 9? (Note that there were twelve hours in the day during Jesus’ time, regardless of the season. During the winter, hours daytime hours were shorter than they were during the summer.)
What does Jesus mean by “There is no light in him” (verse 10)?
Do you think that the disciples understood Jesus’ answer? Why or why not?
Verses 11-15: How do the disciples misunderstand Jesus? How is their misunderstanding nevertheless a kind of prophecy? Does that misunderstanding teach us anything about our relation to the Father and the Son?
According to Raymond Brown (The Gospel According to John (I-XII) 423), the metaphor of sleep for death was not used in secular Greek though it was used in Hebrew (and, presumably, Aramaic, Jesus’ native language). John may be using that metaphor here to help explain the disciples’ misunderstanding.
Verse 16: When Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” is he speaking of dying with Christ or with Lazarus? (See the footnote in the LDS edition.) Why does John put Thomas’s exhortation at this point in the story, where it seems out of place, rather than earlier?
Verses 17-19: There appears to have been a common belief at the time that the spirit of a person hung around its body for three days after death. The idea was that a person might die but revive during the first two or three days afterward. If that was a common belief, would that help us understand why Jesus waited as long as he did?
It seems that Jesus came to Bethany on the seventh day after learning of Lazarus’s illness? Are those seven days significant? If so, how?
Why is it important that we know how far it was from Jerusalem to Bethany? How far was it from the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, to Bethany? (See the map in the LDS edition of the Bible.)
Who are “the Jews” who came to comfort Martha and Mary? To whom does John often refer with that name? (See passages such as John 2:6, 3:25, 5:10-18, 6:41 and 52, 7:1 and 11-13, 8:48 and 52 and 57, and 9:18-22; also compare John 9:18 to John 9:13.)
It is important to recognize that in John’s gospel the term “the Jews” does not refer to all who were from the tribe of Judah. Rather, it refers to a specific group of people in Jerusalem at that time, a particular social caste or political power. (Failure to see that has caused countless death and horror: Christians killing and otherwise tormenting those whom they took to be among “the Jews.”)
What does the fact that many of the Jews came to comfort Martha and Mary suggest about the sisters’ social standing? How is that relevant? Why is their presence in the story important?
Verses 20-22: Compare Martha’s and Mary’s behavior in Luke 10:38-42 to their behavior here. Do Luke and John portray them the same or do you see differences? Why does Martha go to meet Jesus? Why do you think Mary stays in the house? Does Martha accuse Jesus in verse 21 or is she just stating her belief?
Verses 23-27: Why doesn’t Jesus tell her straightforwardly that he will bring Lazarus back to life?
Is Jesus giving this event a double meaning, showing two ways that the miracle will glorify the Father and, therefore, the Son (cf. verse 4)?
What are some of the purposes that this miracle serves? Do we see one of those purposes in these verses?
In verse 24 Martha confesses her belief in the resurrection and Jesus responds, “I am the resurrection.” How has she understood what Jesus said in verse 23? How would she have most likely understood his response in verse 25? What is Jesus telling her when he says what he does?
Why does verse 26 say “Everyone who is alive and believes in me shall never die”? Why do we need already to be alive? In verse 26, what does Jesus mean by “liveth”? How is the life referred to in verse 25 related to the life referred to in verse 26? Why is it important that Martha believe this? How is her belief related to the story as a whole?
Verses 28-32: Did Jesus call for Mary or was this Martha’s idea? What would the former suggest? What would the latter suggest? Why does Martha go to Mary secretly?
Can we see Mary as a type for the Christian in verse 28? If so, for whom is Martha a type?
Is Jesus waiting outside of the town? If so, why?
Is Mary accusing Jesus in verse 32?
Verses 33-37? What troubled (and a better translation is probably “angry in spirit and agitated”) Jesus about this event (verse 33)? If weeping for the dead is appropriate (D&C 42:45), what was wrong with the weeping of this group, if anything? After all, Jesus himself wept. Is 1 Thessalonians 4:13 relevant? Why did Jesus weep (verse 35)? Presumably he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus shortly, so what was there to weep about? Is his weeping a response to the lack of faith of those who weep, or is it a response to something else?
Why does Martha think that Jesus wants the tomb opened? Is John saying something about her faith in this verse?
When did Jesus tell Martha that if she would believe she would see the glory of God (verse 40)? If he is referring to what he said in verse 26, then “shall never die” and “shouldest see the glory of God” are parallel. Does that tell us anything about what he was saying in verse 26?
What kind of life was he promising those who believe? What does it mean to believe?
In verse 41, we see them take away the stone from the tomb, then we hear Jesus speak to the Father as if he has already said a prayer asking that Lazarus be returned to life. (Compare Psalm 118:21.) Is that what has happened? If so, why doesn’t John explicitly tell us about that previous prayer?
John shows us Lazarus coming out of the tomb (verse 44), but nothing of his reunion with his sisters and friends. Why does John end the story so abruptly and move on to a related topic?
Verses 47-48: The Pharisees as such had no official position in Jewish leadership, so they had no authority to convene the Sanhedrin (the literal translation of what the King James version translates as “a council”). They were something like a political party rather than a designated group of leaders, so the phrase “chief priests and the Pharisees” is roughly comparable to a phrase like “the governor’s office and the Republicans.” According to George R. Beasley-Murray, there were Pharisees within the Sanhedrin, probably exclusively scribes (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 36, 2nd ed. 196). What is John telling us by referring to group as “the chief priests and Pharisees” (verse 47)? At this time, what was the relationship like between the temple priests and the Pharisees (whether scribes or not)? What does knowing that tell us about the Sanhedrin’s actions with regard to Jesus?
Do the priests and the Pharisees believe that Jesus performs miracles (verse 47)? If so, why are they opposed to him?
What two things are the priests and Pharisees worried about losing (verse 48)?
Why would they believe that if people follow Jesus the Romans are likely to take over the rule of Judea? The Romans already oversaw the Judean government and had troops in Jerusalem and other cities to enforce their power. So what would it mean for them to “take away both our place and nation”? When did the priests and Pharisees lose their place and nation? What brought that about?
Verses 49-52: In verse 50 Caiaphas uses the same reasoning—and perhaps exactly the same wording—that the Lord used with Nephi when he told Nephi to kill Laban (1 Nephi 4:13). How do you explain that? What do you make of it? Would Caiaphas have seen the two circumstances as different?
When did the high priest ever die to save Israel? To think about that, consider that Hebrews speaks of Jesus as “the great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14). What Jewish ritual made that parallel explicit?
In verse 52, to whom would early Christians have thought “that nation” referred? the phrase “the children of God that were scattered abroad”?
How is Jesus’s death related to the gathering? Given the importance of the resurrection, why does John speak here only of Jesus’ death?
Verses 53-57: How is the raising of Lazarus related to the decision to kill Jesus? Luke doesn’t tell us explicitly what miracles brought out the leaders’ wrath (Luke 19:37), but John does. How does John exploit the raising of Lazarus in his story of Jesus’ last days?
Why does Jesus go to Ephraim to wait for Passover (verse 54)?
How was Passover a purifying festival? For what reason or reasons might Jesus’ passion and resurrection have taken place at Passover rather than at the fast commemorating the atonement, Yom Kippur?
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