We are coming closer to the end of Jesus’s ministry. It has been a long journey, and we come to a surprisingly important story. I say surprisingly, because even though it is a well known story there is a surprising twist at the end that is often skipped. In the book of John, this is the last recorded miracle before Jesus’s own resurrection, and it serves as an important junction.
The whole story is all of chapter 11, and there is so much in this story that is amazing and puzzling. Amazement and puzzlement seem to go hand in hand in Jesus’s ministry. The first amazing thing was reading “Jesus loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus.” We don’t often read Jesus loved specifically named individuals. It sounds very personal as if he loved them specially. But that is how Jesus loves us – as individuals with our own name. It is amazing to read that.
But here comes the puzzling part. Right after we read Jesus loved them, we read he stayed where he was for two more days even though he heard Lazarus was sick. He doesn’t go to heal him, but he let’s him die. Why would he let his beloved die, and his beloved cry over the death of their sibling? The answer is right in the text. Jesus says that “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (v. 4) Even when we do not know why we are suffering, we must know that God loves us so much, and it is for God’s glory.
Another amazing part was how Jesus comforted the two sisters. The two sisters says the exact same thing to Jesus when they first meet him. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Even though they both say the same thing, Jesus has different ways to comfort them. With Martha, he proclaims the truth about himself. Jesus is the resurrection and life. You do not need to despair. With Mary, he does something so puzzling. He weeps. Jesus who is God, who is going to resurrect Lazarus in a few moments, weeps. He already knows he is going to raise him, and he has full power to do so, but that doesn’t minimize his intimacy and love for us. He weeps, because we weep. He doesn’t belittle our sorrows. He embraces all of our emotions. It is amazing how his love never ceases for a second.
Although there are many amazing things in this passage, I will mention one last one. Jesus resurrects Lazarus who was dead for four days, which means his body would have been reeking and decomposing. It is an amazing miracle bringing complete life to the complete dead. But the story doesn’t end there. There is a last section in the story that is the surprising part. Not all of the people believed in Jesus after this miracle. Some of them reported this to the Pharisees and chief priests, and from this time, they started to plot Jesus’s death. This miracle of resurrecting one person’s life started another’s death. It comes full circle when we now realize the true reason for Lazarus’ death in verse 4. “It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus’s death is for God’s glory. He will be glorified through his death and resurrection. This amazing miracle of raising a dead man does show God’s glory, but there is an even greater – the greatest – miracle coming, and that is in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
(It is a long chapter, so for younger children, you can just read the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus – John 11:17-44)