“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.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:4–6 ESV)
Wow! Jesus said the illness would not lead to death, but Lazarus died. Jesus knew that God was going to use the physical death of Lazarus to bring Himself more glory by raising him from the dead. The interesting thing is that verse 6 tells us that he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus so he decided to stay where he was for two additional days. What? If you love me, come and deliver me! If you love me, spare me from this pain! If you love me, help me now! Jesus loved them, so He let Lazarus die and let Mary and Martha grieve and mourn? Yes. This is hard for our western minds to comprehend! Then He says, ““Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”” (John 11:14–15 ESV). Jesus knew that allowing Mary, Martha and the disciples to go through such heart wrenching pain would lead them to a deeper and more abiding truth. Deeper faith that leads to joy is in focus here, not their immediate comfort. Suffering has a way of moving us in to closer proximity to Jesus because it causes us to depend upon Him more; it often times reveals our complete lack of control over our lives and world. Martha, Ms. Type “A”, meets Jesus before He even made it into town and said “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (John 11:21–22 ESV) She has real faith as she proclaims “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27 ESV).
In one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament, we see Jesus “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33), weeping (verse 35) and again in verse 38 He is described as being “deeply moved.” He felt deeply and strongly. Jesus mourns over the pain and difficulty of loss of His friend and for Mary and Martha. This passage is encouraging because He did not tell them to “have faith,” “suck it up,” “stop crying,” or “just trust.” No, he entered in and wept with them. What a great pattern for us to model when we are engaging others in deep despair. Sometimes, we just need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Undoubtedly, Jesus was thinking “this is not how I created things to be; death and the separation and grief that it causes was not part of the design!” Lazarus’ died because sin entered the world and the harmonious rhythm of the perfect paradise of Eden was fractured (Genesis 3). God’s original design was broken and we now are forced to mourn deeply because of this fracture, because of sin. But, Jesus came to destroy death (1 Corinthians 15:23-28), “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Revelation 21:4) and “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). No more pain, no more brokenness, no more agony. Jesus came to remake the perfect paradise of Eden. There is coming a day when this world, and all of its brokeness will pass away. Suffering helps us to recalibrate our heart’s affections and the object of our hope!