11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
(John 11:1-16 NIV)
At the end of chapter 10, John records that Jesus retreats to the wilderness on the other side of the Jordan, where John the Baptizer ministered. As we begin chapter 11, an indeterminant amount of time has passed, and Jesus is still in the wilderness.
John introduces a new character into the story, namely Lazarus. We don’t know anything about Lazarus, but John quickly connects the dots to Lazarus’ sister Mary, the unnamed woman in Luke 7:36-50 who worships Jesus in the Pharisee’s home. John also mentions Lazarus’ other sister Martha. John shares the story of Mary, as he knows his readers have read and are familiar with the other three synoptic Gospels already.
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, he tells His disciples that what is about to happen is for the glory of God. The disciples don’t understand and think that Jesus is saying that Lazarus will get better on his own.
When Jesus says it’s time to see Lazarus, His disciples protest and remind Jesus that there are people there that want to kill Him. Jesus knows it’s not His time yet, and in so many words tells them it will be OK this time, but also predicts that there will be a time when it will be His time, and it will not be safe.
When they are ready to begin their journey, Jesus prepares His disciples by telling them Lazarus is asleep. In verse 13, John fills us in that the disciples think that Jesus is talking about sleep, not death. In verse 14, Jesus explains what He means. Lazarus is dead, and this is another opportunity for Jesus to show His disciples that He is indeed the Son of God, and they can believe He is the Messiah.
At the end of today’s passage, John records Thomas’ words to his fellow disciples. Thomas is saying that Jesus is putting Himself in danger to visit Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and he and the other disciples should do the same. Thomas’ words are not words of excitement, but words of duty, being willing to count the cost of following Jesus.
While we would love for everything that happens to be good to us or for us, not everything is that way. We live in a broken and hurting world, with disease, pain, and death at every turn. And yet, as Jesus stated in today’s passage, God can still redeem the brokenness and suffering and even death for His glory. No social programs or science or any other human-contrived ideas can redeem mankind. All they can do is relieve the pain.
Only God can redeem humanity. Thank You, Jesus.