John 11:1-4

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Most of us know the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back from the dead. As it is multilayered —as is any story in John's gospel— I will break it up into small parts so that we can uncover as much as possible. However, it will help to know the background and what transpired.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus, and they knew each other very well. You might recall an incident in the gospel of Luke where the two sisters invited Jesus for a meal. While Martha busied herself with the preparation and serving, Mary sat at Jesus' feet, listening to him (see Luke 10:38-42). 

There is no mention in Scripture of Lazarus being present at the occasion or any other occasion. Still, it is obvious Jesus was close to him because his sisters sent a message to Jesus saying: Lord, the one you love is sick. Now, one would imagine Jesus would drop everything to go and heal his friend. But he doesn't go. Lazarus dies. Jesus still doesn't go. When he finally does, Lazarus has been dead and in a tomb for four days! Jesus brings him back to life.

Now, let's reflect on this passage. It introduces Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, highlighting their connection with Jesus. This context is crucial; it's not just a tale of a miracle but of personal relationships and the human experience of loss, grief, and hope.

Lazarus falls sick, obviously seriously, because his sisters sent word to Jesus about his condition. "Lord, the one you love is sick." This simple statement expresses faith not just in Jesus' ability to heal but in his capacity to care. It's a reminder that faith in God often involves trusting in his empathy and compassion, not just his power.

Jesus' response was strange because we know that Lazarus died. "This sickness will not end in death," he says before continuing. "No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." We know he brings Lazarus back to life, so we understand what he meant. 

But what does Jesus' response tell us? Jesus's speaking of an outcome beyond the immediate and apparent suggests that divine interventions in human history are not just about altering circumstances but about transforming understanding.

It also challenges the common perception of suffering. Instead of viewing Lazarus' illness as a tragedy, Jesus reframes it as an opportunity to reveal God's glory. This perspective invites us to rethink the problem of evil, suffering, and divine purpose.

We heard Jesus say something similar when he healed the man who was blind from birth. When his disciples asked him if the reason was his sin or his parent's sin, Jesus replied: "Neither … this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3).

These miracles serve not just as demonstrations of compassion but as revelations of Jesus' divine identity and mission, underscoring the concept that God's power and purpose are profoundly revealed in moments of suffering and human limitation. So, like Paul, let us declare: "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

God bless you.  

More in this category: « John 10:31-42 John 11:5-10 »
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