Summary: The death of Lazarus gave Jesus the opportunity to reveal Himself as the resurrection and the life. From what I see, there were seven purposes for Lazarus’ death.
We are going to spend 6 weeks in the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John. There are 6 great lessons that we can learn from Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from the dead.
The death of Lazarus gave Jesus the opportunity to reveal Himself as the resurrection and the life. From what I see, there were seven purposes for Lazarus’ death. Let’s look at these purposes as we work our way through the first 16 verses of chapter 11.
READ 1-3. So we find that Lazarus was sick. At this particular time Jesus was being rejected by almost everyone. It seems that He was an unwelcome guest in most homes. He was walking around preaching and proclaiming that He was One with God, the Son of God himself.
Making these kinds of claims, some thought He was crazy or demon-possessed. His own family was even having difficulty with Him at this time. They were apparently so embarrassed by His claims and the rumors of His insanity that on one occasion they traveled a great distance to bring Him home before He was harmed.
But there was one family who always opened their home to Jesus when He was in and around Jerusalem—the family of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, who were brother and sisters. They lived in Bethany, a suburb about two miles outside Jerusalem. Their closeness to Jesus is the reason the sisters felt so free to interrupt His evangelistic tour with the request to help their sick brother. Note Jesus’ great love for this family throughout this passage.
READ v. 4. Here’s the first purpose of Lazarus’ sickness—it was to glorify God and to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God. Lazarus’ sickness was not for death. He was to die for the glory of God and Christ. He was sick, and he was to die so that the works of God could be demonstrated. So Lazarus died so that God could be glorified. How could his death glorify God?
• By showing God’s desire for man to have life.
• By showing God’s power to give life.
• By showing His approval of Christ by which He proved that He really did love the world enough to send His Son to save the world.
Lazarus also died so that Christ could be glorified. How so?
• By having the opportunity to do the work of God.
• By demonstrating God’s power.
• By showing compassion.
• By strengthening the faith of believers.
• By leading unbelievers to believe.
So in raising Lazarus from the dead, both Jesus and His Father were glorified as the Life of the world. Do you remember that in dealing with the blind man, both God and Jesus were glorified as the Light of the world.
READ v. 5. The second purpose of Lazarus’ sickness was to show Jesus’ great love. Each member of the family is mentioned separately. He loved the family, but He also loved each one individually. Each one of these family members had a need and each one received help from Jesus. Lazarus’ death gave Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate His great love not only for the families of the world but for each individual in the world.
READ v. 6. Here’s the third purpose of Lazarus’ sickness—to show the necessity for waiting upon God in great crises. Jesus wasn’t waiting two days so that Lazarus would die and He could perform a great miracle. He knew that Lazarus was either already dead or that Lazarus was going to die on the very day the person brought word of Lazarus’ illness. We know this because Lazarus had already been buried four days when Jesus arrived in Bethany.
Jewish burial immediately followed death. The four days would be counted from:
• One day of travel by the messengers in bringing word to Jesus.
• Two days needed for Jesus to complete His ministry.
• The day or two needed by Jesus to travel to Bethany. The reason I say day or two for Jesus to travel is that crowds were always around Jesus, which prevented Him from traveling rapidly. It is possible that He completed His ministry in one day and took two days for travel to Bethany. He always ministered as He went along so there could be an overlap in ministry days and travel days. Nonetheless, Lazarus was in the tomb for 4 days.
The point is this: Martha and Mary were learning to wait on God throughout the whole experience. That tells us that when we ever find ourselves facing severe illness or death, there is no answer except to wait on God. Jesus knows when to act. He knows the exact moment, the best time:
• For us to bear the trial.
• For us to stand and be helped, to learn the most.