When he heard this, Jesus said, “This illness will not result in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
. . . So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:4, 14-15, 37)
Good question. Why would Jesus wait until His friend Lazarus was dead before going to him? Why let his sisters go through this grief when they had eagerly sought His help before it was too late?
The question was good, but it came from a very narrow perspective. The answer was best, because it came from the breadth of God’s eternal viewpoint.
There is a crucial difference between a good thing and a God thing.
Healing Lazarus before he died would have been a good thing. It would bring joy to his sisters and friends, and spare them grief. It would further validate Jesus as a healer.
But God had purposes that went far beyond those good things. Healing a desperately sick man was remarkable, although skeptics would say he must have been getting better anyway. But the resurrection of a man who had died four days earlier was something no mere human being could do. Aside from the deterioration of the corpse, Judaic law taught that the spirit remained in the body for three days after death, and there was still hope of resuscitation. After four days, all hope was lost.
During the first week of mourning a loved one, the Jewish family had a steady stream of visitors to support them. This ensured many independent witnesses to the miracle of Lazarus walking out of his own tomb. Two things happened as a result:
Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. . . . So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:45-6, 53)
Both of these results served to advance God’s purposes: the salvation of those who would believe in Jesus, and the means of bringing about His sacrifice for their sakes. Jesus must go to the cross; they helped to pave the way.
“Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Absolutely. Would that have brought the optimal result? Not this time. It’s further evidence that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts; His thoughts are higher. His purposes are beyond our horizons.
That’s why trust is so crucial. To trust God is to know that He sees so far beyond our vision, that His purposes are eternal and not temporal. His ultimate purpose is that all who are willing will come to believe, and have the gift of spending eternity with Him. Bringing about that purpose may involve some pain here, but it is pain that is never wasted. When Jesus arrives on the scene, He is never late. His timing is perfect, no matter what our calendars may tell us.
Raising Lazarus did at least one more important thing. Jesus told his disciples He was glad Lazarus had died so they would believe. Surely they already believed? To an extent, but as events would unfold, it was hard for them to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. The example of Lazarus was a precursor to His own resurrection. The difference was that Lazarus was raised to life here, while Jesus was raised to ascend to heaven. Lazarus pointed to the new life we have on earth as a result of our faith; Jesus to the eternal life we will share with Him after our own death.
That’s both a good thing and God thing!
Father, I pray that if my trust falters, You will resurrect it as surely as Lazarus moved from death to life. When my perspective is limited, may it be limited to You, and so be flooded with Your peace. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.