John 11:6 – So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
God’s timing is always right and purposeful. We see in the Gospel of John where a messenger is sent from Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha, to find Jesus because Lazarus, their brother, is very ill. When the messenger reaches Jesus, he tells Him, “Lord, he [Lazarus] whom you love is ill.” Throughout the Gospels, we have seen Jesus’ relationship with this family. Jesus loves Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They love Jesus as well, and He spends much time with them as they only live 2 miles from Jerusalem. Yet, as we read John 11:6 we must ask ourselves the question, “why does Jesus delay?” In fact, He waits two days before He even begins the day journey to Bethany. As we ask this question may we never loose sight of the words we see in John 11:4 where Jesus says: “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.” The purpose of this miracle (and all miracles) is the glory of God.
We must understand the timeline to see the perfection of God’s timing. The messenger is sent from Bethany while Lazarus is still ill. The journey from Bethany to Jesus [the region of Perea on the Easter shore of the Jordan] is long enough to constitute a whole days travel. So let’s put this together. Day 1 – Messenger travels to Jesus. Days 2-3 – Jesus stays where He is. Day 4 – Jesus travels to Bethany. Why so many details? It is in the details when we see the perfect timing of God. In John 11:17, we see Jesus arrives at Bethany and finds that Lazarus has been in the tomb for 4 days. This timeline shows Lazarus died not long after the messenger left to find Jesus. Jesus does not wait 2 days to travel for Lazarus to die and for Him then to show His power over sin and death. Again, we ask why Jesus waited two days?
During the incarnate life of Jesus, it was Jewish thought that when someone dies their soul stays close to the body for 3 days. It is in those three days when the soul may enter back into the body and the person could come back to life. The 4th day is the day the deceased individual is (for lack of a better phrase) really dead. Jesus enters Bethany on the 4th day Lazarus was in the tomb and calls Lazarus to walk out of the tomb. Jesus gave life to the really dead Lazarus. If Jesus had resurrected Lazarus any earlier, the Jewish people who watched the miracle unfold could have attributed the resurrection to something other than Jesus. Yet, the glory of God is being made known through the resurrection of Lazarus and only God will receive the glory for no one else could do such a mighty miracle.
Siblings in Christ, we are tempted to wonder why God works when He does. We have the sinful tendency to think God should do what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it. However, we only see a microscopic portion of time. God sees all. His timing is right and purposeful. When you are crying out to God questioning His timing and His provision, may we never forget that all things work as John 11:4 says, “for the glory of God.” What may seem like a delay to us is God moving in a mighty way. We may understand after it is finished or may never understand until we enter into Heaven. Whatever our understanding is or is not, to Him be the glory!