Around the world today many Christians are suffering from one thing or another, and many have tragically died. There’s a sea of pain. We can wonder whether Jesus loves us, and question why these things are happening. We can be tempted to fall into despair. However, like much of the Bible, Lazarus’s experience teaches us that rough trials will come to Christ’s beloved and even if we feel forsaken, God loves us, and He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and for His own glory. Our lives are to be lived for the glory of God, which often comes about through suffering.
This stands out when looking at our church family in places like Afghanistan, China and Iran. Many witnesses have spoken out about the intense suffering and persecution of the believers in such places, but in the midst of all the pain, God is being glorified; Christians are shining the light of Christ, God is working miracles, and many are coming to Jesus in the most challenging and hostile locations.
We also see this idea clearly with Lazarus in the Bible. Jesus loved him. He loved his family too, and took time to hang out with them at their home. Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in Bethany (about 2 miles from Jerusalem). Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. So, what would we have expected to happen if Lazarus got sick? We know that Jesus healed heaps of people. There were times where great multitudes followed Him and He healed them all! It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that if Lazarus became sick, Jesus would heal him too. We might assume that when Martha and Mary sent to Jesus to tell Him the one He loved was sick, He would promptly deliver him, but Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus of his sickness.
Lazarus got worse, and soon he was dead. Now, imagine how you might feel in Lazarus’s situation. You know that your Lord heals, delivers and is full of compassion. He’s so good and kind and nothing is impossible for Him. You also know that He loves you. Now, you’re sick and your condition is worsening. You begin to wonder where Jesus is. Is He not coming after hearing the news? If He can’t make it to Bethany, why has He not rebuked the sickness from where He is? The situation is confusing, upsetting. Your sisters are doing all they can, but… you feel the life beginning to leave your body. You’re going to die. Your thoughts assail you; has Jesus stopped loving me? Why would a person like Lazarus whom Jesus loved so much, get sick and die, when all around him people are being healed?
Jesus explains why: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).
For the glory of God, that’s the reason. It’s why He stayed away two more days when He heard Lazarus was sick. It’s why He didn’t speak a word of healing over Lazarus from where He was. For the sake of His disciples, Jesus was glad that He wasn’t there when Lazarus died that they might truly believe in Him when they saw His great power over death.
A little while later, amidst all the sadness and confusion, Jesus prayed aloud thanking His Father for hearing Him as always. He did this for the sake of the people, that they might believe that the Father had sent Him. Then, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” A man emerged from out of the cave. He was bound and wrapped in grave clothes, his face was covered, but he was now alive. Lazarus was back from the dead! Many believed in Jesus.
Jesus’ dramatic resurrection of Lazarus assures us of the truth of His statement to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25). No matter what the trial, Christians have the sure hope of everlasting life through the blood of Jesus Christ.