By Scott Fiddler
The Word: John 11:1-16
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
7 Then after this He *said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
8 The disciples *said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.
10 “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
11 This He said, and after that He *said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”
13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.
14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. (v. 5) But when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was for two more days. (v. 6) We can infer from the rest of the account that Lazarus must have died just after the first messenger left to get Jesus because by the time Jesus arrived after delaying two days, Lazarus had been dead four days. (v. 39) By delaying two days, it meant Martha, Mary, their friends and relatives mourned and suffered for two more days.
That Jesus would allow this seems unthinkable to a generation that has been saturated with reassurances of Jesus’ love for people. It’s easy when one hears that over and over and over again to start to the think we are the center of the universe and that there is nothing more important than us and our happiness. And that makes this passage all the more strange. Why would Jesus allow his friends to suffer for two more days when He could have gone to them earlier and raised Lazarus from the dead? The simple answer is that there are things more important than our happiness.
In this instance, that thing was the opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate through a miracle that He was indeed the Son of God. Had Jesus gone to Lazarus immediately and raised him from the dead, people could have said Lazarus had not really died but had simply gone into a coma-like state from which he awakened. After four days, no credible argument could be made against the fact that Lazarus had indeed died and Jesus brought him back to life. This was solid proof Jesus was who He said He was. The price for this proof? A couple days of sadness and suffering for those who knew and loved Lazarus.
We won’t always understand those situations where Jesus seems to delay in answering prayers, particulary when there is sadness and suffering in the interim, but those times make more sense when we realize that while Jesus loves us, ultimately it is not about us and our happiness but about Him and the advance of His kingdom.