John 11 For His Glory rev

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For His Glory


“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.” Verse 4, “When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through it.’ ‘Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.’” [1]

John 11:1, 4 – 6



Dr. Kenneth Meyer tells about flying into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on a certain occasion. As the big plane passed over the expressway, Meyer noticed a colossal traffic jam. He also saw that many people were getting out of their cars. Some were standing on their bumpers, straining to see what was going on. As Dr. Meyer glanced northward, he saw what they could not possibly see—the telltale flash of red lights. Meyer knew the problem would be taken care of quickly, so after the plane landed at O’Hare and he proceeded towards his car, he had a completely different perspective from the average traveler on the expressway. He knew he would soon be home. Perspective makes all the difference. We are earthbound creatures, but if we could somehow look down upon the traffic jams in our lives, we would react much differently.

Perspective brought a turning point in the prophet Habakkuk’s life and it can be an amazingly wonderful thing for us as well. As Habakkuk looked at his own people Israel, he saw oppression and ethical impropriety. It looked as if God’s sense of justice was gone. O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. “Help! Murder!” I cry, but no one comes to save. Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me?[2]  Then, by faith, he met God, and he then had the divine perspective. Therefore, he concluded his great book by saying: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.[3] [4]

Our perspective makes all the difference! Do we see our problems from above or from ground level?

In the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection in John 11, both perspectives are evident. We see the ground-level perspective in Mary and Martha and the divine perspective in our Lord. This passage is good medicine for our hearts because Lazarus’ death is symbolic of the extremities we encounter in life, the difficulties that come to all of us, whether the death or divorce from a loved one, the loss of our position or the erring of a child. Lazarus’ death symbolizes all of these things. Our Lord’s approach also shows us how our heavenly Father deals with us in the midst of the problems we face. This story teaches us about perspective.

Lazarus’ sisters send word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” This was not an invitation or even a request. They did not say, “Lord, please come.” They just assumed that as soon as the Lord learned of the situation, he would hurry there. They knew Jesus. They understood his wonderful compassion. The word they used for “love” is the word for friendship. They were saying, “Your good friend whom you love is sick.” Of course Jesus would come—to think otherwise was inconceivable. But Jesus’ answer in verse 4 gives us a hint of what was going to happen. When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through it.”

In other words, death would not prevail and become the ultimate tragedy here. Something was about to happen, and it would bring Christ glory. The heart of this vignette comes later where John tells us, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”

The word translated “loved” here is a different word than the sisters used. It is the word agape—that unstoppable, highest type of love, the love of God. Christ loves us with that kind of love. Knowing this, we might expect Scripture to say, “Jesus, upon hearing that Lazarus was sick, went to one of his disciples, found a horse, and rode as fast as he could to be with Lazarus!” But that is not what our text says. Our text says he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus so much that he stayed away. Incredible!

From ground level it sometimes appears to us that even though we are Christ’s children and we love him, he does not care about us anymore. At times, humanly speaking, our circumstances seem to admit no other interpretation than that. I think about Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery. He ended up in Potiphar’s household, and by hard work, integrity, and devotion he rose to the top—only to be toppled because he would not compromise himself with Mrs. Potiphar. As a result, he ended up in a foul Egyptian jail. From ground level it appeared that God had forsaken him. Joseph had honored God as a young man, but it seemed God did not care about him any longer. When a child dies in his mother’s arms as she cries to God for help and the ambulance lies stalled two blocks away, we wonder if God cares. When a Christian is falsely accused and pleads with God to bring the evidence to clear him, and it is only after his reputation is ruined that the evidence comes, we wonder if God cares. We must be honest and admit that at ground level there are times when it is very difficult to keep believing in the goodness of God.

But this account of Lazarus’ elevates our perspective. It explains to Christ’s praying, devoted children that no matter how it may appear, these inexplicable delays are delays of love. The principle is this: Christ delayed coming to his faithful, loving followers in Bethany in order to strengthen their love and their faith. For two days our Lord calmly went about his work far away from his anguished ones. They probably went outside each hour to see if their Lord was approaching, then went back in to Lazarus, whose life was ebbing away, then went out again to look for Jesus. After two days the Lord decided it was time to respond to the sisters’ urgent message. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” [5]

For many years I have sought to understand how the God-centeredness of God relates to His love for sinners like us. Most people do not immediately see God’s passion for the glory of God as an act of love. One reason for this is that we have absorbed the world’s definition of love. It says: You are loved when you are made much of.

The main problem with this definition of love is that when you try to apply it to God’s love for us, it distorts reality. God’s love for us is not mainly His making much of us, but His giving us the ability to enjoy making much of Him forever. In other words, God’s love for us keeps God at the center. God’s love for us exalts His value and our satisfaction in it. If God’s love made us central and focused on our value, it would distract us from what is most precious; namely, Himself. Love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God. Therefore God’s love labors and suffers to break our bondage to the idol of self and focus our affections on the treasure of God.

In a surprising way we can see this in the story of Lazarus’s sickness and death. Jesus chose to let Lazarus die. There was no hurry. His intention was not to spare the family grief, but to raise Lazarus from the dead. This is true even if Lazarus was already dead when the messengers reached Jesus. Jesus either let him die or remained longer to make plain that He was in no hurry to immediately relieve the grief. Something more was driving Him. [6]

He was motivated by a passion for the glory of God displayed in His own glorious power. In verse 4 He 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.”  Nevertheless both the decision to let Lazarus die and the motivation to magnify God were expressions of love for Mary and Martha and Lazarus. John shows this by the way he connected verses 5 and 6: “Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”


Oh, how many people today—even Christians—would murmur at Jesus for callously letting Lazarus die and putting him and Mary and Martha and others through the pain and misery of those days. What this shows is how far above the glory of God most people value pain-free lives. For most people, love is whatever puts human value and human well-being at the center. So Jesus’ behavior is unintelligible to them. But let us not tell Jesus what love is. Let us not instruct Him how He should love us and make us central. Let us learn from Jesus what love is and what our true well-being is. Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God in Christ forever and ever. Love keeps God central. Because the soul was made for God.

Jesus confirms that we are on the right track here with all that has gone before by praying for us in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” I assume that this prayer is a loving act of Jesus. But what does He ask? He asks that, in the end, we might see His glory. His love for us makes Himself central. Jesus is the one being for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. This is because the most satisfying reality we could ever know is Jesus. So to give us this reality, He must give us Himself.

The love of Jesus drives Him to pray for us, and then die for us, not that our value may be central, but that His glory may be central, and we may see it and savor it for all eternity. “Father, I desire that they … be with me … to see my glory.” That is what it means for Jesus to love us. Divine love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God in Christ. That we might see His glory—for that He let Lazarus die, and for that He went to the cross. [7]

In His love & grace,

Tim McMillian

Open Arms Ministries


[1]The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 11:1, 4 – 6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The Living Bible, Habakkuk 1:2

[3] The Living Bible, Habakkuk 3:17 – 18

[4] Warfield, B. B. (2008). Faith and life (5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] Hughes, R. K. (1999). John : That you may believe. Preaching the Word (279). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway   Books.

[6] [6]Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John : An expositional commentary (Pbk. ed.) (687). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

[7] Piper, J. (2003). Pierced by the word: 31 meditations for your soul (12). Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers.

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