When Jesus heard Lazarus, his friend, had become seriously ill (John 11:1-3) and was near death he waited in Bethabara, beyond Jordan (John 10:40; cp. John 1:28) until Lazarus had died. He had retreated there to avoid the leaders at Jerusalem who sought his life (John 10:31, 39). Then, after Lazarus had died, he made his journey toward Jerusalem and Bethany.
It seems odd that Lazarus would be living in his sister’s home (Luke 10:38; cp. John 12:1-2). If he had a wife, she is never mentioned. The Scriptures speak of him only with Martha and Mary, his sisters, and then only in Martha’s home in Bethany (Luke 10:38; cp. John 11:18-19; 12:1-2). Since Lazarus became sick and died (John 11:2, 14), it is quite possible that he was a weak man, and Martha cared for him in her home. The Scriptures aren’t clear about such an idea, but it is a possibility. So, if Lazarus had a health problem, why didn’t Jesus heal him during one of his several visits to Martha’s home? Jesus healed many people in the course of his 3 ½ year ministry, but only two others were raised from the dead (Luke 7:14; 8:54). Because Jesus healed these two people so soon after their deaths, some could have thought both of these miracles were not raising the dead at all, but cures of some kind. However, in Lazarus’ case there could be no question, because he was dead for four days (John 11:39).
Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the idea of Lazarus being a weak person all his life is true. Why wouldn’t Jesus have healed him earlier? Jesus told his disciples Lazarus’ life was meant to glorify God (John 11:4). I wonder if God asked me, would I be willingly to choose ill health all my life, probably having to be dependent upon the grace of a relative for daily care, just so God could finally and suddenly be glorified in my life through a wonderful miracle? While it may be nonsense to think of such things, in a sense we are all like this image of Lazarus. I am certainly not strong enough to sustain my life for any real length of time? Compared with eternity, even a life of 1000 years would be short. Yet, Jesus says, “This sickness (viz. my own weakness due to sin) is not unto death, but for the glory of God” (John 11:4). Is it not to the glory of God to cover a matter (Proverbs 25:2)? He says further that this sickness (viz. my sinfulness) is “…that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4; cp. John 12:23-27; 1Corinthians 1:30-31; Galatians 6:14).
It seems odd, almost blasphemous, to say such a thing or to even think it, i.e. that God could be glorified because of sin. Nevertheless, I believe this is what Paul taught and was therein misunderstood and misrepresented (Romans 3:8; 6:1, 15). I think of how I led my wife and children away from the Lord years ago and how I treated them when I was not abiding in Christ. I had no right to expect them to forgive me, yet they have. To forgive or cover a matter glorifies God (Proverbs 25:2). Would it make sense for me to say I’ll begin treating my wife and children as I did before, so they could go on forgiving me and glorifying God? That would be ridiculous. Neither should it be misunderstood, if I should say my sin had brought out or revealed what is the very best about God.
The Love of God is never more lovely than it is when it confronted my sin. Grace is never more desirable than it is when I need forgiveness. The glory of God was never more glorious than how it appeared on the hill called Golgotha. May I never out-live my appreciation of the Grace that poured out from him on that day to cover not only my sins but the sins of the whole world (2Corinthians 5:14-19). Praise him, oh my soul. Praise his holy Name!