Lazarus of Bethany is dying. In desperation his sisters Martha and Mary send for Jesus.
He may hesitate to come – the local religious leaders are seething with hatred for him – they’re watching for him with stones in hand – so the sisters don’t ask him directly, but appeal to his love for their brother – “Lord, he whom you love is ill,” knowing Jesus would want to return to heal languishing Lazarus. But Jesus doesn’t come right away.
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).
How can Jesus know this illness won’t lead to death? He isn’t there. He can’t see Lazarus writhing and groaning on his deathbed. He doesn’t see Martha mopping the sweat on her brother’s brow or Mary helping him take a few precious sips of water.
Jesus knows because he’s God. He knows all things, past, present and future. And he knows what he will do in the future. From Martha and Mary’s perspective, it looks desperate. But Jesus has a different perspective – a divine perspective: ”This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through It.” Someday, something will lead to Lazarus’ final death, but THIS illness won’t. This illness will lead to an opportunity to glorify God and glorify the Son of God.
God has a greater perspective than we do.
We might only be able to see how evil a situation is, how gut-wrenchingly sad and burdensome it is. And God doesn’t deny that. We live in a fallen world pervaded with heartbreak, devastation and death. It is sad. Jesus doesn’t refute that.
He doesn’t say, “Oh, Lazarus isn’t that bad.” It’s just that Jesus, as God, sees a much more complete panorama than anyone else. He can see whole picture, the whole vista. He can see the future and knows what he is going to do. He’s going to take something evil – Lazarus’ death – and turn it to God’s glory.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
For his children, God takes all things, including genuinely evil things – sickness, injustice, sin, hurt, divorce, depression, accidents, hunger, pain, poverty – and triumphs over them, causing them to bring us good. He takes poison and transforms it into a cure. He takes a crucifixion and transforms it into salvation for multitudes.
Jesus answered Martha and Mary’s request – not in the way they expected, but in a far greater way.
He could have come immediately and healed Lazarus, which would have been wonderful. But instead, by delaying, he glorified himself in a much greater way by raising Lazarus from the dead – a much more amazing miracle. Jesus could answer your prayers immediately if he wanted to. If he hasn’t he’s got something far greater in mind for you.
Trust him. Wait for him.
photo by zaana