11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
These things He said,
“These things” are things found in verses 9 and 10. It is important to trust the providence of God.
and after that He said to them,
The two words for “said” here imply that Jesus allowed His disciples time to think between His two statements.
“Our friend Lazarus sleeps,
Lazarus was the friend of both Jesus and His disciples.
Sleep is a metaphor for physical death in the New Testament (Acts 7:60; 1 Co 15:20; 1 Th 4:13-18). This is not the false doctrine of soul sleep. It is the body here that is sleeping, not the soul. “To be absent from the body is to be present [face-to-face] with the Lord” (2 Co 5:8). The physical body sleeps in the ground, but the person (the soul) goes instantaneously into the presence of God. Ultimately, God will raise the body to rejoin the person one day.
The New Testament uses the verb translated “sleep” 18 times; in 15 of these instances, it refers without question to physical death.
but I go that I may wake him up.”
Jesus would wake Lazarus from physical death. Jesus broke up every funeral He ever attended by raising the dead.
Then His disciples said, “Lord, if [assumed true] he sleeps he will get well.”
The disciples did not understand Jesus’ portrayal of sleep. They took Jesus’ statement at face value rather than with His intended meaning. The disciples assumed that meant that Lazarus had not died. To them he was merely sleeping physically. Their idea was: “If he is going to live, why go to Judea?”
However, Jesus spoke of his death,
John clarified here that the idea of “sleeps” was physical death.
but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Jesus was often misunderstood in the gospel of John.
Physical death is only a temporary break in human relationship for believers.
Physical death for the believer is only a temporary situation. The body will be raised at the rapture (1 Th 4:14-18). Physical death is only a temporal situation.
Spiritual death separates man from God forever. Those who reject Christ as Savior will experience a “second death,” which is eternal separation from God (Re 20:14-15).