When Jesus received news of Lazarus’ illness, John was careful to note that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed on where He was for two more days” (John 11:5-6, The Message). Finally declaring Lazarus to be dead (vv. 11-14), He then proceeded with His disciples to Bethany “only a couple of miles away” – exactly fifteen furlongs (v.18, KJV) or approximately two miles – but somehow by the time Jesus got there, Lazarus had already been buried for four days! Jesus’ delay seems orchestrated for a reason. Earlier He had said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (v.4), and again when Martha pointed out why the stone could not be moved from the grave, He reminded her, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (v.40). Jesus was up to something.
It took Jesus almost one week to get to Bethany. When He told His disciples that Lazarus was dead, He had also said, “And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing” (John 11:15, The Message). It was never a part of the divine plan for Jesus to heal Lazarus of his sickness. Obviously, His delay was deliberate, as was John’s emphasis on the four days Lazarus was dead. But why was this significant? Back in the day the rabbis, Jewish spiritual leaders qualified to expound and apply Jewish law, taught that resurrection of the dead was only possible within the first three days after death, and it was only the Messiah that could resurrect anyone that had been dead for longer. Lazarus’ resurrection was for the glory of God and the glorification of the Son, and so as Jesus called he who was dead by name and he came forth from the grave, it would affirm what Martha had confessed of Him – “thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (v.27, KJV).
During the course of His friend’s illness and subsequent death, for those looking on, Jesus was detached. Some even protested, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” (v. 37). Little did they know that God had something greater in mind, and for the most part, we are much like them. We look at our individual circumstances and feel that God has fallen asleep on us, or has lost our address, yet nothing could be further from the truth. In every situation, He is in control and if we believe, despite the evidence, we too shall see the glory of God. There is always a purpose behind what God is doing. Every delay or denial provides us with “new grounds for believing.” Paul reminds us, “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose” (Romans 8:28, AMP, emphasis added).
It is important to understand, however, that all of this happens in God’s time. His timing and purposes will not be hindered by our wishes for the immediate. The resurrection of Lazarus would do far more to advance the purposes of God, and the glorification of both the Father and the Son than his healing could. On that day in Bethany for God’s purposes to be fulfilled, time, as we know it, had to pass. Lazarus had to die. He needed to have been buried for more than three days. Could it be that even as you wait, God is putting things in place for your answer to the prayers you have prayed? Be encouraged; nothing is over until He says it is over. Equally important, He is never late. He may not come when we want Him to, but He will be there right on time. He is our on-time God. What we consider late, dead, and buried is His playground, and it is in those situations that His glory is best displayed. Lest we forget, everything is all for His glory. Do you have the faith to trust Him that He knows what He is doing?