The text here reads literally as follows: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, he abode at that time two days in the place where He was.”
It is not very probable that there is anyone of the readers of these lines who is not acquainted with the account of John, as given here in this chapter, concerning the sickness, death and raising of Lazarus from the dead. Who has not been told this account repeatedly from the days of his childhood? To ask this question is to answer it.
However, not all will immediately perceive, that the chief point of the Holy Spirit through John is not at all to give us a mere human account of the raising of a man from the dead, but that we here are dealing with the revelation of the Son of God in our flesh and blood. Not all will immediately perceive this, I say. Yet, this is the very evident intention of the writer.
This is perfectly clear in the first place from the fact that John gives us the entire message of his Gospel in the well-known “Prologue”, the first 18 verses of chapter 1. In this section it is clear, that John is speaking of the Son of God, the eternal Word in the flesh, whose glory he had seen, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. As such this Son is He in whom grace and truth have become a reality for all of God’s people, whether Jew or Gentile. We all have received from His fullness, yea, grace for grace. The fact that John places this so emphatically on the foreground in his Gospel, which he writes to the believers out of the Gentiles, should tell us to look for this truth in each chapter of the Gospel-account. Does John not write in the last chapter “but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing ye might have life in His name”?
If such is the case, then John gives us the key to understand the point of his Gospel account. It is:
1. That we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
2. That believing in Him we might have life in His name.
Surely we do well therefore in seeking to see this also in the words of our text; in our text as it stands in the immediate and in the more remote context. We shall, therefore, insist that our text reveals to us the Son of God in our flesh, as He came into this world to save His people from their sins. None of us shall He lose, but He will perform the will of God to the very utmost, namely, raise us from the dead in the last day.
In our text we see Jesus performing the will of the Father, that is, Jesus is performing the will of the Father while He tarries beyond Jordan, while He tarries He is hastening to the help of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
Let us read the text. John writes: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, He abode at that time two days in the place where He was.”
It is quite evident that the reason for Jesus’ tarrying at that time is to be seen, (not merely sought) as told us by the evangelist, in His great love.
In the first place this is evident from the construction in the original Greek of this sentence. The particle “now” is explanatory. It explains why Jesus abode still at that time in Perea, the place where He was. This is for us a very conclusive and revealing detail. Did we say: detail? Well, that will pass if we only remember that this is not seriously meant. It really is not a detail, but a fine touch of John as we so often find in his Gospel account. In these fine points John always lets the light of heaven fall on the event he is speaking of. And then, what we call details, are nothing less than the fundamental pattern of the work of Christ in which He brings all things in heaven and on earth to their divinely appointed end. The motive, that moves Christ here to abide still at that time in the place where He was, is: Jesus’ love.
This is the love of Christ that passes all understanding. It will take eternity to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and breadth, the height and depth of it. Of this love John speaks and again gives us a “fine touch” in having loved His own He loved them to the end.” This is the love of God in Jesus, it is the law of God in His inward parts, as He comes to perform the will of God for all of His own. Compare and ff., where we read the meaningful verse, “Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father,
If we bear this in mind, namely, that it is the love of the Son of God in our flesh, that we here see in operation in our text, then many matters come to stand before our eye in bold relief. In the first place, a new light falls on the seeming great disappointment of Martha and Mary. When we read this account of the sickness and of the subsequent death and burial of Lazarus, the thought will not down, that somehow the saying “a friend is born in the hour of need” in this case is not true. Here we would then be inclined to say: This friend left his friends in the lurch in their extreme moment. Is that not the natural yet sinful and wicked speech of the Jews at the grave: “Could not this man that opened he eyes of him that was born blind, have caused that this man also should not die?”
Oh, to be sure, there is disappointment and grief in the hearts of Martha and Mary. Had they not in the moment of their trial at the sick-bed of Lazarus thought of Jesus? Had they not put all their confidence and hope in Him, who was wont to meet at their home. Yes, He is now not in Judea for the fury of the Jews’ sake, but if He does come to Jerusalem, does He not lodge under their friendly, hospitable and believing roof. Surely they trusted in Him in this hour. Mary who loved to sit at Jesus’ feet, and who understood so very much of the Gospel, that she even anointed Jesus in view of His burial—this Mary surely set all her hope in Him. Ah, there was also Martha, who, indeed, had been reprimanded by Jesus for being concerned about many things. But this Martha too believed in Jesus. Just listen to her when Jesus asks her the well-known question recorded in verse 26 “believest thou this”. Hear her confession of faith. Says she, “Lord I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world.” There had never been any doubt in her soul concerning His being the Christ, Messiah, the anointed of God. She believed, had always believed that He was the chief Prophet, our only High Priest and eternal King
And so at the bed-side of Lazarus they look unto Jesus for help. They send a messenger unto Him, saying: Lord, He whom thou befriendest (lovest) is sick. An appeal is made to the tie of the love that friends have for each other. And what friend does not under similar circumstances hasten to the aid of his friend. But Jesus remained yet at that time—at the time of Lazarus illness—in the place where He was! He did not hasten to Bethany. Nor does He speak His word of authority to heal Lazarus as He had done in the case of the son of the Centurian. Compare John 4:46- 50. He does nothing of the kind.
However, Jesus does do something!
He performs the will of the Father as Prophet, Priest and King in obedience, in the state of humiliation even unto the death of the cross.
Listen! Jesus opens His mouth to speak. And what He says is not a detail that we may gloss over with impunity. It is the highest wisdom that is spoken. The light of the more sure prophetic word falls into the “dark place” of the sick-room in Bethany. This sickness is not unto death, but in behalf of the glory of God. ..” Heaven’s light falls in the darkness of earth. It is the beacon light of prophecy shining more and more unto the perfect day.
Let us try to understand this a little better.
When Jesus thus stands here and opens His mouth surely He is the Prophet spoken of by Moses in people (laos in Greek) and not the whole nation perish by the hand of the Romans. These steps Jesus sees as the Prophet.. He is the Prophet by whose Spirit the prophets of old were anointed so that they searched out the time and the manner of the time of the suffering that would come upon Jesus and the glory to follow afterward. And now He, who had spoken His own word of old through the prophets, stands on earth to bring this word to realization as the Christ, the great officebearer. He is the prophet who receives the Spirit not with measure, so that He fully understands the will of God and is able to perfectly read the will of God, and each step of the way consciously walks the way prophetically to the cross. And the way to the cross is connected with the sickness of Lazarus, The chain of events will be: Lazarus’ sickness, Lazarus’ death, Jesus’ return to Judea, His raising of Lazarus from the dead, the final and ripened outburst of the hatred of the Jews, which will lead to their ripened and unmoved determination to kill Him. Yes, Caiaphas will speak of the expedience of one man dying for the
His still remaining at this time is therefore, the “time” of Lazarus’ death as this again is taken up into the times and seasons that the Father has put into the prophetic agenda of the Son in humiliation. And Jesus will read these steps in the agenda of the Father and die according to the Scriptures.
Yes, He is here too the High Priest. He loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He saw them not as some friends at a lodging place in Bethany, but rather did He behold them as engraven in the palms of God’s hand, as being ever before the Lord as His “own”. And thus He loves them. It is the love here of the merciful High Priest, who bears all His own in love upon His heart. He loves them as the anointed of God. Surely, this will necessitate the momentary disappointment of all appeal to the friend. But this is necessary to lay the eternal and new foundation of the Testament in His blood. And so momentary disappointment is eternal gain. The “friend” is proven to be a complete Saviour!
Here we see in golden letters: Greater love hath no man, than that a man lay down his life for his friends. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet, per- adventure for the good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
But Jesus is here also the King. He is King Priest in humiliation. He is not merely King of glory. He is also King when He possesses His soul in patience, when He speaks the Word authoritatively. In so doing He is King in subjection, the perfect candidate for the King in glory. Faithful in all things He is set over all things.
Jesus saw all things. He knew when the hour had come, but also knows what leads to this hour. And this knowledge is the perfect sacrifice of Christ. The Prophet, Priest and King are one!
Now it is clear what John means when he says: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, he abode at that time two days in the place where He was.”
Jesus tarries. It is true. But He does this simply because He loved them so.
Here are the thoughts that are deeper than out thoughts and the ways that are higher than our ways. Christ works our complete salvation. He brings about the complete salvation of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. All things work together for their salvation here.
Yes, while tarrying here in Perea, Jesus lays the new and eternal foundation of our salvation. And the reason: Simply because He loved us with the love wherewith He also loved Matha, her sister and Lazarus.