Lessons from John 11: Lazarus’ Death
Jesus’ Delay and Lazarus’ Death – John 11:1-16
Let’s open up our Bibles and begin in John 11:1 where we read, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick.” He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, John states, whose brother now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.
Since John doesn’t give us much information about Lazarus other than that he was ill and was from Bethany, and that Mary and Martha were his sisters, I want to stop here. I want to unfold a few more details so we might have greater insight into the scene.
Bethany was two miles from Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. If we were to compile a bit of information, we would learn that the family was probably very well off. Clues to this include the fact that they were able to afford a private tomb (verse 38). Also, as we will see in next week’s lesson, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a very precious and expensive bottle of perfume.
It was a sign of her deep affection for Jesus and a symbol of His own death.
We are also told in verses 31-33 that there were many mourners at their home and present at the grave. It was a common practice at that time to hire professional mourners. And then we also have the gathering of many friends. These were also the same sisters from Luke 10 where Martha was busy fixing food for Jesus and Mary sat content at Jesus’ feet.
So it’s apparent that Jesus knew them and they knew Jesus. In fact, from verse 3 we learn that not only did they love Jesus, they also knew Jesus loved them and their brother. And so when Lazarus became so ill, to the point of death, these two sisters sent a messenger to notify Jesus of the situation.
That message simply stated, “Lord, the one whom you love is sick.” The two sisters didn’t ask for healing. They didn’t even ask Jesus to come. They simply made Him aware of the situation and leaving the matter in His hands and tender care!
What a tender picture of the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and His sheep know Him!
When Jesus received this message, verse 4 tells us He was confident that, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
At first, Jesus’ answer and actions might seem a little strange, if not a little indifferent. It was anything but that, though no one really understood that at the time, including the disciples and the two sisters. Yet Jesus would prove His Word to be trustworthy and true!
We read in verse 5 that Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Yet, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, Jesus delayed going to his rescue.
Do you ever feel like that? You know that God loves you and yet the very thing you ask of Him is either delayed or denied?
Jesus sometimes, if not often, delays in bringing relief to His children when their needs appear great.
If you remember, Jesus waited until the fourth watch of the night before coming to rescue the disciples on the stormy sea. The same is true here. Jesus waited two more days before making His journey back to Bethany. And in fact, the crowd in verse 37 argued that if He could heal a blind man, why did He not prevent Lazarus from dying?
Yet, I think it is safe to say that though Jesus may not come when we desire Him to, He will come when the timing is right. He does this to accomplish His greater good!
God assures us in His Word that He is never too far to hear our requests and that He also has the power to answer them. Yet the true test of our faith comes when we continue to believe that He is still at work even when we don’t see it.
It is in these times that we should focus on the character of God. We can know that He always has our best interests in mind. When the time is right, He will come and deliver us. And it will either be through or out of whatever difficulty we find ourselves in. In the meantime, we as His children and servants are to be busy doing His business. We should not be whining and wallowing in self-pity!
Jesus’ delays, disappointments, or denials are greater opportunities for His glory to be displayed.