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J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, Eerdmans, 2010.

(Reviewed by Jim West)

III. Jesus’ Self Revelation to the World (4:1-12:50)

No portion of the Gospel of John illuminates Jesus‟ self revelation to the world quite as clearly
as the episode of the raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:17-54). As we have seen several times
now, Michaels is tremendously insightful but as we have also seen, he sometimes skirts the more
difficult questions. Indeed, in the previous section of the present review we saw that he bypassed
the thorny historical question of the placement of the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of
John‟s Gospel while the Synoptics have that event at the end. Similarly, here, when it comes to
discussing the „four days‟ in which Lazarus is in the tomb, Michaels writes

The best explanation for the accent on „four days‟… is that this is
simply the way the story was remembered and handed down‟ (p.

That‟s doubtless true- but it had to have been remembered that way for a reason. That reason
seems fairly important and yet isn‟t explored in any detail.

Still, Michael‟s powers of observation are on display in his linking of the raising of Lazarus with
the triumphal entry of Jesus and his expected return to raise the dead at the end of time. His
exposition of vv. 20-32 are profoundly engaging and quite deserving of meticulous attention.

When we arrive at v. 33 and the question of exactly why it is that Jesus became angry receives a
good deal of discussion. The usual answers to that question are addressed and then dismissed as
inadequate. Instead of the traditional reasons, Michaels asserts that Jesus became angry because
he and Mary were not allowed privacy because „the Jews‟ were present. So, for that reason, and
because he „…wished for …intimacy here – with a family he knew far better – and because it
was not to be, he „got angry in the spirit and shook himself‟‟ (p, 639).

He reinforces this interpretation in his exposition of vv. 35-37-

That the presence of the Jewish mourners is the reason for Jesus‟
anger is evident from what happens next (p. 639).

But I have to say, as ingenuous as this solution to the question of Jesus‟ anger is concerned, it
doesn‟t really seem accurate. Those familiar with the text will remember that Mary and Martha
come out to meet Jesus. Between the one‟s departure and the other‟s arrival, Jesus remains put.
If he had really been desirous of privacy, he simply could have gone to their house. He knew
where it was. He had been there before- apparently on numerous occasions. And it‟s not as
though Jesus would have been unwilling to cross any sort of social boundaries in terms of men
and women being in unchaperoned proximity. He‟s broken all sorts of barriers to this point.

No, it simply seems to me that had Jesus really wanted privacy, he could have gotten privacy.
Michaels‟ brilliantly handles the old canard „if Jesus hadn‟t said „Lazarus, come forth‟ the
graveyard would have emptied (v. 43). Instead he shows that „Here for the first time the
principle that a true shepherd “summons his own sheep by name and leads them out” comes to
graphic expression…‟ (p. 645).

Similarly brilliant is Michaels‟ observation (in connection with v. 52)

The striking aspect of the two passages, yet one which is entirely
consistent with the theology of John‟s Gospel, is that Jesus‟ sheep
are already his sheep before he brings them into one flock, and the
children of God are his children even before they are gathered into
one. Behind both passages is a strong sense of divine election (p.

Michaels‟ is a genuinely gifted exegete who also is a genuinely insightful theologian. A rare
thing indeed these days.

The next segment of the review will appear in due course.