5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.—John 11:5–6
Jesus loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, so, He stays. Jesus stays. Why? Because He loves them. Jesus staying is given a fourfold emphasis. Note all the time references: “He stayed, two days longer… then, after this,” vv. 6–7. Marvel at the peculiar logic of the Lord’s love. Why does Jesus stay? Because He loves.
“How is this love?” you might object. If so, ask yourself, “What does my objection or puzzlement say I love?” We love our health and wellbeing and ease and comfort and peace. If Jesus loved us, He would work for these things, so we think. It is telling to place Jesus’ motivations for staying alongside those of the disciples (v. 8). Jesus’ motivation puzzles us. The disciples’ make sense. “Oh yeah, they’re seeking to kill Jesus. Perhaps they should stay.” When the first puzzles us, and the second doesn’t, it reveals that our real objection to Jesus’ actions is our selfishness, not Jesus’.
How is this love? Jesus said this illness was not for death, but for the glory of God (v. v. 4). The most loving thing God can do for us is to make much of Himself. The most loving thing God can do to us is to lead us not to a shallow puddle of joy, but to the infinite ocean of delight. The most loving thing God can do for us is shatter our mirrors and move us to look out the window. The most loving thing God can do for us is not to make much of us, but much of Himself. It is more loving for God to display His glory to and through us than to spare us from all suffering. This is for the glory of God, and so, because He loves them, He waits. John Piper writes,
“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. And if people today saw that this was motivated by Jesus’ desire to magnify the glory of God, how many would call this harsh or unloving! 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.”
Oh the peculiar and glorious logic of the Lord’s love. Oh how He loved Job and Jacob and Joseph. Oh how He loved David and Daniel. Oh how He loved Martha and Mary. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Understanding this kind of love puts this kind of steel in one’s spine, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
When the peculiar providence of God works suffering into your life, remember the logic of the Lord’s love. This is for glory.