Delays for the glory of God
If you heard that someone you cared about was sick and was about to die wouldn’t you immediately go to see him if you could? And wouldn’t that be even more true if you were able to prevent him from dying? Jesus didn’t react this way when he heard that one of his friends was near death.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
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.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Finally Jesus did go to Bethany. When he arrived Lazarus had died and been buried.
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Jesus waited two days before beginning the trip to Bethany. Lazarus had been dead four days. If Jesus had started immediately on hearing the news Lazarus would still have been dead two days when he arrived. If he had raised Lazarus then some skeptics might have questioned the resurrection and claimed that Lazarus had only been in a coma. Jesus eliminated the possibility of that explanation by waiting until the body had begun to decay.
The illness didn’t lead to death but it did lead through death. The resurrection brought greater glory to God than a healing would have.
All Christians experience what Mary and Martha did. We ask God for help and he seems to ignore us. The problem we are praying about gets worse and reaches a point where no solution seems possible. Then God intervenes and answers our prayers in a way that we could never have imagined. We sometimes forget just how powerful God is and need to be reminded.