Lazarus is sick; really, really sick. His sisters send someone to Jesus to let him know that His friend is not doing well at all. And John 11 covers this amazing story. In the first 16 verses here, Jesus handles this whole situation in a way that is so completely and utterly different than us, it seems bizarre.
Consider what happens. Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, and declares that it won’t end in death. Lazarus is sick for one reason: so that God can be glorified through it. Not that Lazarus would grow stronger in his faith, not that he might be a light. In Jesus’ view, it wasn’t about Lazarus. It was about God. We don’t like to hear that. We are willing to suffer if we get to play a starring role, or if we gain from it. None of that is found here. Lazarus is sick, and God will get the reward from it.
Jesus responds by blowing off his friends. He doesn’t go. He loves them. Very much. Him not coming is going to cause them doubt and pain. They will be hurt and disappointed. He stays. Their feelings are not the ultimate decision in this. God’s glory and plan is what drives it all. So Jesus takes actions that put the ones He loves into pain and uncertainty.
Then He calls His disciples to go back to the place of danger. They don’t want to. He intentionally invites them to follow Him back into a place where they will likely be arrested, beaten, or killed. For no good reason. Jesus simply tells them that now is the time. There is only a window of time, and they need to go then. After two days of sitting by, suddenly they need to go right then.
Next, Jesus tells them that Lazarus is sleeping, and is speaking of his death. They think he is actually sleeping, because death for them was a terrifying thing. Christ here begins to change the way they understand death. He pushes them to reconsider the very basics of the world they know.
We hit verses 14 and 15 and Jesus says the most insensitive thing possible. “Lazarus is dead, and I’m glad I wasn’t there.” Why? So that they would comprehend God’s power. They would believe, and God would get the glory. Jesus was glad He wasn’t there to stop Lazarus’ death?
Thomas pitches in at the end, “Let’s go and die with him and get it over with”. The scene ends with this melodramatic statement by Thomas, leaving us hanging.
Do you see it? Jesus doesn’t act like we think He should, like we sometimes tell people He will, like we want Him to. He doesn’t run to the rescue, He doesn’t save us from pain, Mary and Martha are hurting, and He allows them to sit in it. Not because they lack faith, not because they are praying, but because Lazarus dying and them hurting will bring God glory. That is enough of a reason.
This seems crazy to us. But only because we fear pain and death. What if we didn’t? What if we knew what God knows, just how temporary and short the whole thing is? What if we knew what awaited us, how amazing it is, and how forever the beauty will be? The pain is inconsequential then. God isn’t mean, or selfish, or careless. He knows what the reality of life is beyond death, and how it completely destroys any of the shadows that we call joy or peace here in this life. So, yeah, He’s not afraid of us suffering or dying if it will point people to Him.
Tough, but true.