The last in a short series on John chapter 11.
Because we know that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, it can be easy to miss the amount of suffering he and his family endured. Whatever Lazarus’s illness was, it was debilitating enough that he could not journey to see Jesus in person for healing. It was also serious enough that they sent word to bring Jesus to heal him before he died.
Lazarus had to suffer some sort of pain up until he perhaps lost consciousness and slowly drifted off. He would have been confined to his bed for at least a few days, if not longer. His sisters would have tried to care for him the best they could. They knew Jesus could heal the sick and after sending word to Jesus they would have anxiously waited for Jesus to appear as their brother’s condition worsened and he eventually died before Jesus showed up.
Grief stricken both sisters told Jesus that this wouldn’t have happened if He just had been there. He could have healed Lazarus. Lazarus wouldn’t have had to go through all of that pain and eventually die. The sisters would not have had to watch, unable to do anything as their brother passed away. If Jesus had just been there, all this pain could have been avoided.
Martha’s witness in the face of losing her brother to a sickness they knew Jesus could have stopped was a powerful testimony, especially since she said it while Lazarus was dead and before she knew Jesus was going to raise him.
“I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” – John 11:27
But there was purpose to this pain. There was a reason for all their suffering.
“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” – John 11:41-42
“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” – John 11:45
God used the pain of Lazarus and the heartache of his sisters to bring glory to God and people to belief in Christ. What must have been one of the worst–if not the worst–experiences in their lives was used as one of Jesus’s most powerful signs. As great as their pain and sorrow was, even greater was the glory God received and the spiritual impact made by bringing others to faith in Jesus.
As I said before, even though Jesus had a greater purpose behind their suffering and eventually turned it into joy, He still hurt with them (11:35). We are not left to walk through the valley alone.
God has a purpose in our pain and suffering. Whether that pain is physical, emotional, or spiritual. He can use it in ways we can’t even imagine. One of the most powerful ways to be a witness for the gospel is in the midst of our suffering. God may bring about the easing of our pain here on earth the same way He did when He raised Lazarus or we may have to wait until heaven. Either way, He is using our pain and grief now and it will be turned to joy one day.