C. S. Lewis, reflecting on the death of his wife, Joy, wrote: “Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible would be good for her. . . . Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?”
Nobody would want to face the pain and separation of physical death twice. So why didn’t Jesus heal Lazarus and prevent His friend’s death? Jesus was clearly grieved (vv. 33, 35). And certainly Jesus could have healed Lazarus from afar, just as He had done in the past (v. 37). But the resurrection of Lazarus occurred for a purpose not immediately evident to Mary, Martha, or Jesus’ disciples, who had questioned His decision to return to Bethany in Judea where angry people were waiting to stone Him.
Lazarus was raised to demonstrate Jesus’ power over death and to allow onlookers to witness the glory of God Himself. In past miracles, Jesus had healed the sick and even restored sight and mobility. But here He goes even further. Lazarus was in the grave for four days when Jesus performed this miracle (v. 39). Martha worried about moving the stone due to the odor from the deceased.
Enough time had elapsed that there could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lazarus was physically dead. There was no trickery; this was clearly an act of God Himself. As a result, many more believed in Jesus (v. 45). Lazarus faced life and death once again so that others might live forever.
Have there been times when you felt frustrated with unanswered prayers? Know that God’s timing is perfect. Be assured that He has heard you, He has not forgotten your request, and He cares for you. Ask for His will to be done and for others to see His glory through your circumstances.