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.
The NIV renders verse 6 of this passage, “Yet, when he heard that Lazarus was sick.” However, this is a mistranslation of the original Greek. The real text gives us an interesting look into the nature of suffering. Jesus had just heard that his good friend Lazarus was sick, and instead of hurrying straight to him to bring healing, He waited where He was for an extra two days, costing Lazarus his life. The ESV, capturing the meaning of the original Greek, makes this startling claim: Jesus did not delay in spite of the fact that Lazarus was sick; He delayed BECAUSE of it. Lazarus was on his deathbed, so Jesus waited, and Lazarus died. This doesn’t seem to make any sense. Why would Jesus willingly let his friend die when He had the power to heal him? Putting our preconceptions aside, let us look at the text to see what we find.
Jesus loved Lazarus, so he waited until Lazarus had died. That’s what the text says, but to our minds that doesn’t seem very loving. The key to understanding this apparent contradiction lies in verse 4. Jesus waited so that He would be glorified, and God’s Word says that He did this because He loved Lazarus.
We were created to see, experience, treasure, and reflect the glory of God. Anything that God can do to cause us to draw closer to Him is ultimately loving, because He is the highest good that there is. Jesus waited for Lazarus to die so that He could show him His glory. And just like the death of Lazarus, answers to our own prayers don’t seem very forthcoming. Don’t worry- trust that God loves you and has a purpose to accomplish in your pain. He loves you, and He wants to show you how truly spectacular He is by wooing you away from the world. To better understand this challenging and liberating truth, read today’s Extended Readings to see how closely Scripture links suffering, joy, and glory.
Dear God, Show me Your glory. You are so much greater than anything this world could offer me; be my greatest joy and treasure. Bring anything into my life that You want, if only it will bring me closer to You. Bring happiness if it makes me praise You, and bring pain if it will make me run into Your arms. I want to be with You, and I want to see Your glory.
“Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating Him to scrutinize himself.” ~John Calvin
This post is written by Brendan Beale, author of Cross Connections