Are you familiar with the story of Lazarus (John 11) and his sisters, Mary and Martha? I encourage you to read it, and read it again.
It’s a picture of how Jesus interacted with some of his closest, dearest, most beloved friends. The three of them held a special place in Jesus’ heart. That’s why it’s surprising that when he hears about Lazarus’ illness he chooses to do nothing. In fact he lets Lazarus die before going to the town where the sibling trio live.
I find it very hard to reconcile Jesus’ love for his friends with his decisions and delay. I equate love from friends, good friends, to mean something different then what is demonstrated in this story.
Here are some additional thoughts and questions:
1. When the story first begins, Lazarus only has an illness. Word gets to Jesus, perhaps with the expectation that Jesus will go at once to heal his beloved friend.
2. “If you’d been here ….” Mary and Martha say the same thing. They had faith that Jesus could have healed their brother, preventing his death.
3. Many people came to mourn Lazarus’ death and comfort Mary and Martha in their grief. Some of them said what most were thinking: If he can heal the blind, he could have kept Lazarus from dying. It’s much like our complaint about ineptitude when “they can put a man on the moon.”
4. Lazarus wasn’t just dead, he was really dead. Four days dead. There could be no mistake that he was dead, and that Jesus returned him to life.
5. Other than “come out!” there’s no indication of what Jesus said to his friend Lazarus whom he let die and then raised from the dead. What did Jesus say to him about the decision to let him die? Did his explanation make the situation all right with Lazarus? What did this do to Lazarus’ trust in Jesus? Was Lazarus okay with being a dramatic object lesson?
6. Everyone experienced Jesus in a new way. He was no longer just a friend, he was their source of life and resurrection. Jesus didn’t just give life; he demonstrated he is life. It’s giving what you are rather than what you have.
7. So too with us. When things go inexplicably wrong, we may be experiencing a Lazarus event. The particular circumstances aren’t an indictment about us or proof that the Lord doesn’t care.
As Jesus says in John 11:4, the events in Lazarus’ life are for God’s glory. The events in our lives are for God’s glory, too. As stated in the Westminster Catechism, what is the chief end of man? It is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.