So. “So” is a word that indicates purpose. I am tired, so I take a nap. I am hungry, so I get a snack. My daughter is talking, so I listen (sometimes—she talks a lot).
John 11 turns on the word so. People brought Jesus word that His close friend Lazarus was deathly ill. You’d expect Him to drop everything and rush to Lazarus’s home, especially because Jesus could heal any illness. But He didn’t. The passage says, “So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was” (John 11:6). What? Why? That seems insane or negligent or insanely negligent—even more so when Jesus said that the sickness would not lead to death. Of course, it would if nobody healed him. But Jesus waited on purpose.
“This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v.4). Those are Jesus’s words. Except Lazarus did die. And dead is dead, final, life over. Jesus could have stopped it, and Lazarus’s sisters knew it. Yet He intentionally waited to show up and then had the audacity to say Lazarus had “fallen asleep” (v.11).
What was Jesus getting at? What did all this add up to? A display of both His full humanity and full deity, His deep connection to His friends and His power over all.
When Jesus arrived in the town where Lazarus had lived, He walked into the pain of loss. Martha and Mary, Lazarus’s sisters, met Him and—as people do when they are overcome with pain and are grasping for answers—asked why Jesus hadn’t been there to heal their brother. “If you had been here,” they said (v.21). If. Jesus had stayed away on purpose. He had let Lazarus die.
But Jesus wept. How could He weep when He had allowed the pain to occur? I believe Jesus wept over the loss of a friend and over the pain of death. That He wept over the pervasive evil that steals life from everyone and the devastating effects of sin on the world, for the pain of Martha and Mary. He wept because He was a man who was deeply hurt.
Then He showed why He’d waited, “Lazarus, come out!” He commanded (v.43). Jesus gave death an order to depart, and it did. For a moment He pulled back the curtain and gave a glimpse into the resurrection to come, the impending death He would bring about by laying down His own life.
In that moment, in the midst of mourning, Jesus proved the hope that all His followers have, a hope greater than death.