Jesus and His disciples were ministering on the east side of the Jordan, in the same area where John the Baptist baptized thousands of Jews. Miracles were happening and Jews were being converted when Jesus received the message from Mary and Martha, stating their brother Lazarus was extremely ill.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived in Bethany, which was a day’s journey from the Lord and His group. So, what does Jesus say?
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.” (John 11:4)
Most of the time when we study John 11, we reflect on how Jesus heard the voice of His Father and did not move unless the Father showed Him to do so, even in dire cases like this. This time, let’s not do that, but let’s instead think about what the messenger thought about Jesus’ words.
Now, I would suppose the messenger was a trusted friend, relative, or servant of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Maybe Jesus had even met the messenger when He visited Bethany earlier in His ministry. Maybe Jesus even had a close friendship with the messenger and that’s why he was chosen to carry the message. Scripture doesn’t reveal anything about the messenger, but I believe human nature has changed little over the centuries since this happened.
It’s my guess the messenger was stunned and dumbfounded when He heard Jesus’ reply. You see, there’s no doubt in my mind the messenger believed Jesus would drop everything and follow him to Bethany because otherwise why would Martha and Mary have sent him? After all, didn’t Jesus do exactly that when Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, implored him to come and heal his daughter. And also, Jesus was instantly ready to follow the centurion to his house for a sick servant.
These healing stories were known and repeated over and over throughout Judea, but in this particular case, Jesus did not move. He stayed on the other side of the Jordan.
Can you imagine how sad and confused the messenger felt on the twenty-five mile return trip to Bethany? Their last hope to heal Lazarus was gone. Jesus would not come!
Then for the next day or so, the messenger watched Lazarus get sicker and sicker until he finally died. Wouldn’t you think the messenger thought Jesus had failed them?
Okay, this is only the beginning as we consider why believers suffer and how the Lord may use it for His glory.
(Continued in Part 2)