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John 11:37

ESV But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
NIV But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'
NASB But some of them said, 'Could this man, who opened the eyes of the man who was blind, not have also kept this man from dying?'
CSB But some of them said, "Couldn't he who opened the blind man's eyes also have kept this man from dying? "
NLT But some said, 'This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?'
KJV And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

What does John 11:37 mean?

Here, observers make the same point offered by both Martha (John 11:21–22) and Mary (John 11:32). The reason those sisters had sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell ill was in the hopes that He would arrive and cure him (John 11:1–3). The remarks from the sisters, however, had a different tone and different context to this verse. In those cases, especially with Martha, there was a sense of trust and faith in Jesus' decisions. Here, the point is being compared to Jesus' emotional reaction to seeing the mourners and making His way to Lazarus' grave (John 11:33–36).

That comparison makes this more of a puzzled, critical comment than prior remarks. Jesus' last major "sign" was to miraculously grant sight to a man born blind (John 9:1–7). Fallout from that event, and the arguments which ensued, was the reason Jesus had moved away from Jerusalem (John 10:38–40). The crowd here, clearly familiar with that event, makes the common-sense assumption that had Jesus wanted to, He could have prevented Lazarus from dying.

That conclusion is not wrong. What the crowd does not know is that Jesus has specific plans for this incident. Jesus' delay in arriving was not an accident: it was part of His plan (John 11:11–15). When He prays and calls out later, Jesus will directly state that what's happening is for the benefit of those who witness it. He certainly understands the pain this situation has caused. Yet He knows there is a greater good about to happen.

Here, again, Scripture confronts our natural habit of questioning God. The assumption behind the crowd's question is that Jesus didn't want Lazarus to live, or didn't care, since He let Lazarus die. The truth is that God has plans we can't always see or understand (Isaiah 55:8–9), but those plans have a purpose (Romans 8:28).
What is the Gospel?
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