John 11 and the Nature of Love
What is love? This is a question that has had philosophers busy for thousands of years. In our culture of “good feelings” and post-modernism, love is typically mutually exclusive with doing something that would cause pain, grief, and sorrow. Consequently, Evangelicals have been attacked for their insistence of preaching the Gospel whenever it includes A) the denial of another belief or B) when it points out the sin in an individual’s life. This can hurt a person’s feelings and consequently it is deemed “unloving”.
Can we find an example of Jesus loving? Let us examine John 11, the narrative of Lazarus’ death.
1Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Notice that Lazarus is sick. At this point he could be healed.
2It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
4But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it."
What is going to be the purpose, the end result, of this event? The Glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified.
5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
Now this is where things start to get strange. Apparently Jesus loves the two women and loves Lazarus, and therefore he decides to stay for two more days. The NIV renders the word as “yet” but this ignores the universal use of the Greek word which is to be translated as “therefore” or “so”. There is purpose here. Jesus loves these people and as a result he chooses to stay two days longer. Consequently, Lazarus dies and his sisters are distraught. Much pain is caused by Jesus not healing him immediately. This is evident when both of the sisters approach Jesus:
21Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
31Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,
Both of the women are clearly in pain and have been weeping. Notice also, Jesus could have prevented this death. Nevertheless, he let it take place that the Son (himself) would be glorified. However, Jesus still weeps with them. Jesus can bring something about passively (that is by lack of intervention) and yet still weep for them. This is key for those who would say that if God weeps for the lost he must also grant equal grace to them (that they have equal “chance” of being saved).
36So the Jews were saying, "See how He loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?"
Some apparently had trouble swallowing the fact that Jesus could have kept him from dying and still affirm that Jesus loved him.
39Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days."
40Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
Jesus is no reiterating why he did all of this: “will see the glory of God?” This is more important than Lazarus dying and creating a stench, causing grief, etc.
42"I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me."
Jesus also does this so that people may believe that He is sent by God.
45Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.
His goal is accomplished.
Now, we must remember what the impetus for all of this was. Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. True love is doing whatever it takes to guide a person to see the Glory of God revealed in His son, namely Jesus Christ, which brings about belief. This is not a popular definition of love. However, let us follow the example of Jesus (rather than the example of the world) and love our neighbors by boldly preaching the Gospel even when it could cause a little temporary pain. This light momentary affliction cannot compare to what is to come.
In Christ alone,
11This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."
12The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover."
13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.
14So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead…”
Jesus included this for our hyper-literal friends :)