One of the biggest stumbling blocks to reconciling God’s goodness with the existence of suffering is a misunderstanding of God’s love. It’s assumed that if God were loving and powerful, He would care about our good and therefore prevent our pain. Too often, the question is never asked: what is the goal of God’s love for His people? That is, what is our greatest good? Only by answering this question can we know how God’s love would act in order to accomplish His goal for us.
It was love that moved Jesus to let Lazarus die. It was the love of Jesus for this family and for his disciples—and for you, reading this text—that caused him to choose to let Lazarus die.
Look again at the connection between verse 5 and 6: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore [because of this love], when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” He did not hurry to his side.
And in writing John intends—and Jesus intends—for everyone seeing this to ask: How is that love? John has gone out of his way to set this up. Jesus loves them. He loves them. He loves them. Therefore, he does not heal him but lets him die. Why is this love?
Jesus has given the answer loud and clear and will give it again in verse 15. He said in verse 4: “This illness does not lead to death [in other words, the point is not death]. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” This illness will turn out for the glory of God, and the glory of the Son of God. This illness will put the glory of God on display. It will make Jesus look amazing.
Therefore (verse 6) love lets him die. Love lets him die because his death will help them see, in more ways than they know, the glory of God.
So what is love? What does it mean to be loved by Jesus? Love means giving us what we need most. And what we need most is not healing, but a full and endless experience of the glory of God. Love means giving us what will bring us the fullest and longest joy. And what is that? What will give you full and eternal joy? The answer of this text is clear: a revelation to your soul of the glory of God—seeing and admiring and marveling at and savoring the glory [of] God in Jesus Christ. When someone is willing to die—or let your brother die—to give you (and your brother) that, he loves you.
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