Summary: Suffering always precedes glory
“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel ends like this:
“And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” Many believed in Him there.”
I begin by drawing those verses to your attention, because I think we should try to put ourselves in the place of Jesus for just a moment and imagine the emotions He must have been experiencing.
He has had His final confrontation with the Jews and left Jerusalem to avoid their grasp until the Father’s time comes to be fulfilled in His death on the cross.
So Jesus has gone back to the place where His earthly ministry began; back to the place the forerunner, John, was baptizing and telling people to repent and be made ready for the coming of God’s Promised One; and while there Jesus has had not only a time of rest and peace but a time of success insofar as many who saw Him and heard Him teach while there believed in Him.
Then comes this runner from His friends Mary and Martha to give Him news that He didn’t really need to hear because He knew it was coming. But even though the report of Lazarus’ illness didn’t take Jesus by surprize – and this is the part I wanted you to think about – there must have been just a fleeting moment when Jesus felt, and possibly even thought to Himself, ‘This is it. It’s time’.
Kind of a rude interruption of the peace and tranquility He had so briefly enjoyed in this region beyond the Jordan, but the beginning of the end, so to speak, in that He knew this miracle He was about to perform in Bethany – the raising of Lazarus – would be the final straw for the Phrisees in Jerusalem and they would be stirred like a nest of deadly hornets, redoubling their resolve to lay hands on Jesus and kill Him.
So let’s go into this chapter now, hopefully taking a couple more weeks to cover it, and begin the walk with Jesus through these final days of His earthly life as He glorifies the Father and is in turn glorified.
AN URGENT PLEA – vs 1-3
John takes special care in the opening lines of this chapter to establish for us that Jesus loves these friends of His. There is good reason for his efforts. Without this carefully inserted information it would be easy for us to be left with the impression that Jesus didn’t care much for them at all.
On the surface of it Jesus hears the news of the illness of Lazarus and seems to receive it with very little concern expressed, then delays going to him for two more days.