Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 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.” 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 11:1-6 (ESV)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited two days before he began his journey to Bethany? It must have been common knowledge that he loved Lazarus and his sisters. The messenger that came to him with news of Lazarus’ condition knew it as well as John who wrote of the story in his gospel. Jesus certainly had the power to heal Lazarus; he had healed countless other people. In fact some of the people voiced that fact when Jesus arrived in Bethany. John recorded, But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37 ESV)
Jesus purposefully waited until Lazarus was dead before he went Bethany. And he did it because he loved Lazarus and his sisters. He did it for the sake of his disciples as well, so that they might believe (John 11:14-15). His reason for waiting in his own words: For the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified. Jesus not only made his reason clear to his disciples but to Martha as well. When Martha protested that there would be an odor if they took away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 ESV)
It seems that the main reason Jesus waited before going to Bethany until Lazarus had died was to display the glory of God. Jesus knew that to glorify himself was to glorify God. Though he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11), he was more concerned with displaying the glory of God than he was of immediately relieving the pain of those whom he loved. But how was that loving?
God is more concerned with revealing his glory that he is our comfort or immediately relieving us of our pain. Such a statement tends to portray God to be a mean old man waiting to inflict pain on us at his pleasure. It lends itself to the interpretation that God gets pleasure from causing or allowing our afflictions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jeremiah wrote, For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:31-33 ESV)
God’s glory is everything that makes God, God. God knows that when we get a revelation of who he is that it will bring us everlasting joy. In fact, God’s glorification is the only thing that will bring us everlasting joy. So, he is more concerned with our eternal joy than our temporary comfort. So, God will cause or allow afflictions in our lives to reveal his glory to us and conform his glory in us so that he will be glorified and our joy will be full. That is a loving act. And with that God gets pleasure.
Concerning our afflictions Paul wrote, For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV) The eternal is infinitely more important than the temporary.
We know from scripture that Jesus was very compassionate. His compassion was the trait that moved him to heal the crowds that came to him (Matthew 14:14). Jesus displayed his compassion by weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and weeping with Mary and Martha (John 11:33-35). So, how did he show his love for Lazarus and his sisters by not immediately going to Bethany? He did so by revealing himself as the resurrection and the life, glorifying himself and God that those present at the tomb would see his glory and have everlasting fullness of joy.
Do you trust God during times of affliction? Have your afflictions caused you to be bitter? Do you believe God is working all things together for your good?
Scriptures for meditation:
Romans 5:3; 8:28-29