Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was (John 11:1-6).We know the story. It's all quite clear. Lazarus, according to Jesus, was sick and, ultimately, dying "for the glory of God." And we, with the "aerial" view we have now, know exactly how that worked. Lazarus died and Jesus raised him from the dead and it became impossible to deny that Jesus was from God without flying into irrationality. Good. But look at the text and the language.
Notice, first, that Lazarus's sisters knew that Jesus loved Lazarus. "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." No question. No doubt. Nor did John doubt it. Lest you think that, possibly, they were mistaken, John states without equivocation, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." No question. No doubt.
The thing that struck me, then, was the word "so" and the text that followed. We have it clear that He loved them, "so ... He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was." Do you see the "cause and effect" here? Jesus stayed where He was because He loved them. He wasn't ambivalent. He wasn't tied up. He wasn't confused. He knowingly and intentionally stayed where He was for the purpose of loving them.
Well, of course, neither Martha nor Mary got that. Both said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32). They didn't see it as a kindness. It was no act of love from their perspective. But that's what the text says. "So ... He stayed." Nor was Jesus "warmed" by the act. He knew what He was doing. He knew it was for God's glory. He knew it was out of love. He knew that Lazarus would live again. All of that He knew. And, yet, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled" (John 11:33). He wept (John 11:35). He felt their pain. Of course He did; it was out of love that He inflicted it.
I come away with something important here. How many times have you prayed "Lord, I'm in trouble here"? How many times has there been a cry to God for help, a plea for rescue, a request for relief, only to have Him withdraw His hand? To conclude, as Mary and Martha did, that He failed would be a mistake. To think for a moment that He didn't feel your pain would be an error. The thing to keep in mind when troubles strike and God seems far away is "He loved them, so He stayed two days longer." He cares. Because He cares about God's glory first and foremost and about you, He may choose to stay away. In the end, however, He will be there to do what is needed. He cares, even when -- especially when -- He "stays away".