The One You Love Is Ill

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Reading the Word

John 11:1–16 (ESV)

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 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.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus received word that his close friend, Lazarus, was very ill. We get a sense of the closeness of the relationship from both verse three and verse five, where we read of Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters. Does it seem strange to read that Jesus stayed two more days in the place where he was before going to see Lazarus (cf. John 11:6)? Why did Jesus remain so long? Why did he not go immediately to Lazarus?

The reason for Jesus’ delay is given in this passage. Jesus told the sisters, “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.” The illness that Lazarus was dealing with was for the purpose of glorifying God and bring glory to Jesus Christ. Jesus went on to tell the disciples that it was for their sake that he was going to wake Lazarus from his sleep (John 11:15). The faith of the disciples was going to be strengthened through the coming events.

For the believer, all of life is about bringing glory to the Lord. In sickness or health, in times of plenty or times of need, we glorify God by continuing to trust in him. We know that he is able to fulfill his plans and purposes in our lives and we know those plans are good. And we know that in the end, we have an eternal home without pain or suffering or death, so our deliverance is guaranteed because of what Jesus has done for us. He bore our sins and died in our place and then rose victorious from the grave to give us life. May we live to glorify him!

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