So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “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.”
Think about that for a minute. Lazarus was a dear friend to Jesus, yet he was stricken with a grave illness and even died from it. Spurgeon noted that, “The love of Jesus does not separate us from the common necessities and infirmities of human life. Men of God are still men.” We all know that, don’t we? Sadly, the prosperity gospel movement has chosen to ignore this reality and routinely sets people up for the fall that this life always provides:
Trouble. Sickness. Death.
Faith in Jesus Christ does not grant us immunity in the here and now, but it does grant us God’s favor forever and ever. It is important to understand and accept the difference, and the temporary (first) death of Lazarus is a great example. But not Lazarus alone. God’s favor also rests on the people that surrounded this historic event, from Lazarus’ own family to his neighbors and fellow countrymen. Additionally, and even more amazingly, God’s favor has shone through this event to millions upon millions—perhaps billions—as a result of it being captured in John’s Gospel and preserved for the ages. The Son of God has certainly been glorified through it…to say the least.
There is always a bigger picture at play. That can be hard to remember, or even to accept, but it is a reality, nevertheless. The sovereignty of God is on full display in this story from John’s gospel account and we would do well to study it. God’s sovereignty is always controlled by God’s character, so we can rest in the fact that God always has His glory and our ultimate good at the forefront (Rom. 8:28). That being said, sometimes both of those lie at the end of a difficult path, or they are obscured by the circumstances we face. Certainly, this was the case for all of the players in this story:
Did Lazarus wonder if his powerful friend would come to his rescue? Did Mary and Martha assume Jesus would come and heal him before it was too late? What did the disciples think when Jesus chose to delay for two days? I wonder what Lazarus’ friends thought. I’m sure they knew of his close tie to Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle-worker.
We will unpack this story scene-by-scene over the next few days, but we would all do well to remember that WE are NOT the center of the narrative. Jesus is. He always has been, and he always will be…but we are not merely bit players. We are his children, and a good father never leaves his children behind, and he never neglects to take care of them…even when they die.