John 11:13 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 11:13, NIV: "Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep."

John 11:13, ESV: "Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep."

John 11:13, KJV: "Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep."

John 11:13, NASB: "Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about actual sleep."

John 11:13, NLT: "They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died."

John 11:13, CSB: "Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep."

What does John 11:13 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus often spoke of spiritual ideas using metaphors which were taken too literally. This is seen in His comments about the destruction of the temple (John 2:19–22), about spiritual rebirth (John 3:4), living water (John 4:11), and spiritual freedom (John 8:31–33). Sleep is a common Christian metaphor for death, when applied to those who die with faith in God (Acts 7:60; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

The disciples assumed Lazarus was merely sleeping to recover from illness (John 11:1–3). After all, Jesus sent back an encouraging reply to the messenger (John 11:4), then waited two days to decide to visit Lazarus (John 11:6–7). They're not keen on returning to Judea, since the local religious leaders want to kill Jesus (John 5:18; 11:8). When Jesus seemingly reiterates the idea that Lazarus is "sleeping," they're baffled as to why it's necessary to go there to wake him up.

What they don't understand, Jesus will partially explain in His reply, shown in the next verse.